You will not believe how much we got done today with zero sleep! I feel like we’ve been in Dublin for days but as I write this it hasn’t even been 24 hours yet.
One of the first positive impressions we got of Ireland came from our informative taxi driver who offered his advice on the best places to visit in Dublin as a first-timer. Unlike other countries where being cordial is expected, the Irish we have encountered have gone far beyond usual pleasantries. Everyone here wants to talk to you about their country and their favorite places to visit. (Galway seems to be coming out as a favorite so we may need to change our plans slightly!)
I’m not sure what my initial expectations of Dublin were but I felt very surprised to see how well the old blended with the new both in architecture and culture. We heard locals talk in a mix of English and Gaelic, which reminded me of my immigrant family speaking a mix of English and Italian to each other. All of the road signs and many of the business names are in Gaelic and have an English translation underneath.
The tallest buildings in downtown Dublin seem to be the old churches. There are no imposing skyscrapers or modern business buildings. But you could be walking down an alley with semi new buildings and turn a corner to see some of the oldest structures in Ireland (namely Trinity College!) This city isn’t like any other that I have visited before and so I was taken aback at first, but then slowly realized how much I appreciated being surprised by its uniqueness.
We quickly realized that getting around Dublin by car is insanity. They have horrible traffic due to the city outgrowing its infrastructure decades ago. They now have trams, trains and buses to ease congestion but as our taxi driver pointed out, there are more cabs in Dublin than in New York City! (And they drive like complete maniacs).
After a very long and expensive drive from the airport to the hotel we decided to try to stick with walking or public transport to get around. We broke that within hours because it turns out it would take almost an hour to walk around the entire city.
Dublin is infuriatingly expensive when it comes to travel accommodation. Hotels average around $150 a night during peak season, and could easily get booked up. So before we traveled here we booked an “apartment” for $159. It’s important to come with low expectations when you’re traveling somewhere new. You don’t want to be that spoiled American who has to have everything their way. Embrace the culture!
When we arrived at our “apartment” office we were escorted to the back of a building in this old little shed where we were told that we could not get into our room until 3pm. We were done with the airport and in the city by 10am. Thankfully they were more than willing to keep our bags in a room.
We didn’t end up getting into apartment until 5pm that day after we had completed all of our activities. We were under the impression that our apartment would be in the same building where check-in was but the business owner proceeded to walk us across the river, at least a mile away from their office, to an apartment in the Temple Bar district.
This is what this awesome apartment looks like for $159 a night! It’s complete with a bedroom, bathroom, washer/dryer, free wifi and kitchen. Not bad eh?
Anyway, after we trustfully left our stuff at their office that morning we walked across the road to a department store that had free wifi. I looked up a 3 Mobile store location, we walked over, got prepaid sim cards and had working unlimited data and cell service for Ireland within 30 minutes.
Amazingly Ireland has free wifi everywhere so you could get away with not having cell service if you were more interested in just using your smart phone for social media. Even the tourist attractions had wifi. +1 for Dublin!
Trinity College & The Book Of Kells
It is a miracle that we somehow checked off everything we had planned today with time to spare. We had our tours for the Jameson Distillery and Guinness Storehouse booked at 1pm and 4pm respectively so we decided to spend the morning visiting Trinity College and the Book of Kells.
First, Trinity College has to be one of the most beautiful parts of Dublin. We took many photos of the campus before heading over to the Book of Kells exhibit. No pics allowed here
Impressive as this medieval manuscript is, I was more excited to move beyond this exhibit and into the famous Long Room library.
The library is truly a historical landmark and my favorite thing that we did in Dublin. You don’t have to be a book nut to appreciate the beauty of this impressive room lined with thousands of stocked bookcases.
There’s nothing much to do in this room except marvel at the architecture and take photos but somehow I feel like I didn’t get to spend enough time here.
Oscar Wilde Statue & House
We walked from Trinity College to Merriam Square and easily found the statue of Oscar Wilde. There wasn’t an immediate entrance to the park so we just gawked from the gates. The house was a bit harder to find. We saw the original house where Oscar Wilde was born but apparently there’s another house near the square too. We’ll have to find our way back here sometime!
Old Jameson Distillery
When a place like Dublin gets thousands of tourists a day it’s understandable that the hot spots are going to streamline their process to cater for as many people as possible. The Old Jameson Distillery tour and Guinness Storehouse “tour” were two examples where tourism has stripped away the authenticity of a true Dublin experience.
In this tour you see the whole distillery process, from grain to whisky, but only through televisions and carefully built sets. They stopped making Jameson here a long time ago, so it’s understandable why you don’t get to see the real process.
I felt disappointed because you could literally replicate this tour anywhere and not know the difference. A tour of some of the genuine old buildings would have been far more interesting. In any case we got some nice tastings and had a delicious lunch at the restaurant.
Between Jameson and Guinness we stopped for a pint at the oldest pub in Ireland – The Brazen Head. It was a tourist trap but still a nice one to check off the list!
If you love Hershey World in Hershey, PA, then you will love the Guinness Storehouse. Despite actually booking a “tour” we arrived 30 minutes early to find that it was a self-guided tour, in the massive building that used to be where Guinness was made back in the day.
There’s 7 floors of history, interactive exhibits, tastings, restaurants and gift stores. This place operates like a well-oiled machine. It has to be one of the best “tourist” places to visit if you’re want something worth your dollar.
I was disappointed that the only “authentic” thing left of the Guinness Storehouse was the building. Everything else was put together to milk money from tourists.
Addam’s favorite part was the “Guinness Academy” experience where you learn how to pour Guinness like a pro. My favorite part was the gorgeous views of Dublin from the 7th floor Gravity Bar. I probably wouldn’t want to visit again but worth it for a first time trip to Dublin.
Late Night Eats
We passed out after this in our comfy apartment. But we woke up around midnight (5-6pm U.S. Central Time) and I was hungry. We headed down cobbled alleys to a late night Iranian/Persian restaurant open until 4am. It was convenient, cheap and incredibly delicious.