Do you only have room for a day, or two in Dublin on your Ireland travel itinerary? We’ve put together a fabulous, manageable itinerary to help you make the most of a limited first visit to the Emerald Isle’s capital city. Picking the right location is critical for getting everywhere you want to go in the city with ease, so we’ll start there!
Where to Stay in Dublin:
Stay at The Morrison Dublin, part of Hilton’s Curio Collection – a boutique hotel across the Ha’Penny Bridge from the Temple Bar area. Its location puts all of the destinations on this 48-Hours in Dublin itinerary within a reasonable walking distance.
Bonus: If you’re a fan of literary and music references, chances are you’ll fall in love with this hotel at first sight. Behind the reception desk, you’ll spy James Joyce’s words, “They lived and laughed and loved and left.” In your room, you might find W.B. Yeats bottled water, or lyrics from The Script’s song Man Who Can’t Be Moved scrawled across the wall:
Thinking maybe you’ll come back here to the place that we’d meet
And you’ll see me waiting for you on the corner of the street.
It made my word-nerd heart melt.
Where to Eat in Dublin:
Travel Tip: When it comes to Afternoon Teas and dining out in Ireland, we recommend making reservations well ahead of time whenever possible.
If you’re staying at The Morrison Dublin Hotel, make afternoon tea reservations for the day you arrive. If you book your afternoon tea ahead of your check-in time, you can relax until your room is ready and you’re done enjoying tea time. That’s what we did and it worked out splendidly. As we traveled around Ireland, tea times at hotels became a habit for us.
One thing we absolutely love about tea time at The Morrison Dublin is that they offer a Gentleman’s Tea, which comes with savory eats like steak sandwiches, beef sliders, and smoked rasher scones; and sweets like whiskey chocolate truffles served on a sturdy, dare I say manly, looking tray. The tea even includes a bottle of Wicklow Wolf beer.
While Chris enjoyed the Gentleman’s Tea, I indulged in the Fancy Pants Tea with pretty tiers full of lovely little finger sandwiches and delicious little desserts: Raspberry Chocolate Nemesis, Butlers Pink Champagne & Wexford Strawberry Eton Mess, Indulgent Opéra Cake, and Baileys White Chocolate Mousse and Organic Berries with a Meringue Shard. And, my favorite – scones! If only I could have a scone a day without gaining a stone a year.
If you have food allergies or sensitivities, or if you are vegetarian, or vegan, there are Afternoon Tea options available for you.*
Dine in the 18th-century church that Guinness-founder, Arthur Guinness, married Olivia Whitmore in back in 1761. You might want to order a pint of the good stuff in his honor. Or, kick off your evening with Church Cafe’s signature Church Martini (vanilla vodka, passionfruit purée, pineapple juice, and vanilla-infused simple syrup, topped off with Prosecco). It’s divine!
We recommend making your reservations for the upstairs gallery on a Sunday – Thursday evening at around 6:30 so that you can take in a traditional Irish dance performance and live Irish music. Their menu offers an array of options from salads to steaks and oysters to vegan fried rice, so you and your travel companion(s) should all be able to find something you like. Chris and I both ordered and devoured their Char-Grilled 8-ounce Irish Tender Fillet Steak served with a roasted flat cap mushroom, crispy onions, black peppercorn sauce, and fries.
Dining at Wilde feels like a luxurious day away at a glamorous spa from a classy time, a world away from nearby Grafton Street, which is known for its buskers, busyness, and an array of shops from Dunnes to Dior. The restaurant is much calmer than I imagine its namesake, Oscar Wilde, was in his day and it is beyond charming. Enhancing the atmosphere is the spot-on attentive and kind service.
I would describe the options on their menu as elevated classics, varied enough for all types of eaters to enjoy, from the dedicated vegans to the Ron “You’ve accidentally given me the food that my food eats.” Swansons of the world . I recommend the Superfood Salad with Chicken. Chris thought the Wilde dry-aged beef burger was superb.
Offbeat Donut Company first opened in 2016. Now they have multiple locations in Dublin and one in Cork (opened in September 2022) – pretty solid evidence that they’re doing something right.
Their doughnuts are soft and fresh and not too heavy, although their toppings can add a bit of weight. Chris tried the Toffee Crispy Donut, which appears to be part of their regular menu. He loved every element of its chocolate-toffee-crispy-rice goodness. I gave the Raspberry Rhapsody a try: raspberry frosting, a little chocolate drizzle, and pink whipped cream that probably had a hint of raspberry, with, you guessed it, a raspberry on top.
My mouth is watering in want of the donut as I write this. I better move on to the experiences!
But first, a quick note on lunch: We did eat lunch during our time in Dublin, but didn’t manage to have a lunch worth writing about. I guess we’ll have to return someday and put more lunch spots to the test.
What to Do in Dublin:
Take a profound tour through Ireland’s history by booking a tour at Kilmainham Gaol.
Travel Tip: All tours here are guided and can sell out, so be sure to book ahead!
Kilmainham Gaol was opened in 1796 by the UK government and closed as a gaol for good in 1929. On a tour, you’ll learn about those imprisoned during The Great Famine (1845-1852), and see some of the cells of Kilmainham’s political prisoners from the Easter Rising (April 24, 1916), War of Independence (1919 – 1921), and Civil War (1922 – 1923) .
Before we went, we watched Michael Collins starring Liam Neeson. While I’ve read that the film contains some significant historical inaccuracies, we felt it deepened our experience at Kilmainham, where several of the historical film’s scenes take place.
When you go, be sure to visit the nearby Proclamation Sculpture as well. It honors leaders of the Easter Rising and the authors of the Irish proclamation of Independence. Each has an execution order, or verdict carved into its base and bullet holes that represent where they were hit by the firing squad. It’s quite moving.
Locals tend to turn up their noses at touristy spots, but not so when it comes to the Guinness Storehouse! My Dublin-born-and-raised stylist* in Vancouver told me to go there when I told her we were heading to Ireland. My Kinsale, Ireland stylist told me to go there when I told him we were heading to Dublin for a couple of days. Both recommended going to the Gravity Bar on the Storehouse’s top floor for the best views of Dublin.
We leaned into being tourists and opted for the Stoutie experience. It includes a self-guided tour of the Guinness Storehouse’s seven floors full of interactive displays on the history and science behind the brand, a lesson on how to properly taste a Guinness, a pint of Guinness with your selfie printed on top of it, and one more pint of Guinness or another of the beers owned by Guinness up at the Gravity Bar. Chris drank another Guinness. I opted for a Rockshore Cider.
NOTE: Don’t lose the ticket you’re given when you enter the Guinness Storehouse. The only way to purchase a beer at the Gravity Bar is with that ticket! They don’t take cash or card.
TRAVEL TIP: If you’re in a location for long enough, get your hair done at a good, local salon and ask questions. I get my hair blown out once per week by a pro and it does wonders for our travels.
The Book of Kells, a manuscript of the Four Gospels, is an iconic symbol of Irish culture and is included in the Memory of the World Register compiled by UNESCO. Its large pages are adorned with elaborate illustrations meant to impact a mostly illiterate congregation. During your visit, you’ll be able to get an in-depth understanding of how the book was made and what it contains. When it comes to the book itself, you’ll only be able to view the page it’s open to that day. No photography or video is allowed in the room the Book of Kells resides.
At 65-meters in length, The Long Room at Trinity College is the longest single-chamber library in the world. When it was originally built, it had a flat ceiling, but in 1860 the barrel ceiling was added to create an upper gallery with space for more books. More than 200,000 books line the library’s shelves.
Bridges and Streets To Walk
Walk along Grafton street for the lively atmosphere. You can listen to buskers, shop most any store you like, and tuck into a restaurant or grab a fast-casual bite.
The Ha’Penny Bridge was opened on May 19th, 1816. As the first dedicated footbridge over the River Liffey, Ha’Penny is Dublin’s oldest pedestrian bridge. It became known as Ha’Penny Bridge because when it first opened it cost a ha’penny to cross. We recommend catching a sunrise on or near it for some lovely views.
Travel Tip: To sound like a local, make like the Muppets and pronounce Ha’Penny properly, hay-penny.
If you’re a literature lover, this is the bridge for you. O’Connell Bridge is the setting of Liam O’Flaherty’s short story, The Sniper, about one of the major perils of fighting in a Civil War. It’s also referenced in several other works, including James Joyce’s novel, Ulysses.
Cross O’Connell Bridge and visit the Daniel O’Connell Monument. O’Connell is known as the liberator or the Great Catholic Emancipator because he secured the right of Irish Catholics to become Members of Parliament. At the base of his statue are four-winged victories that represent his virtues: courage, fidelity, patriotism, and eloquence. Look for the bullet holes in it from both the Easter Rising and the Irish Civil War.
And there you go! Your 48-Hours in Dublin are planned. To see what this itinerary looks like in action, check out our Did Our Dublin Itinerary Disappoint Us video.
Looking for more Ireland travel inspiration? Check out our 7 Tips to Help You Plan You Best-Ever Trip to Ireland and our playlist.
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*We’ve decided to strive to share allergy-friendly and special diet dining options whenever we can. Watch for similar info in future posts!