A day or two or three in Dublin
Famed in songs and stories, Dublin is blessed with a richness of architectural, historical, artistic and literary heritage as well as easy access to natural environments rich in wildlife. This can make choosing how to spend your day in Dublin a challenge. We hope this information will help you to enjoy the city and what it has to offer. You can walk, take a Dublin Bike, or hop on and off the Dublin Sightseeing Tour bus. Or you can avail of guided walking tours that start on Bernardo’s Square. Regardless though of what you do during the day make sure in the evenings to visit one of Dublin’s many great restaurants and to take in a play in one of the city’s many theatres: the Gate or the Abbey, The Beckett Theatre (Trinity College Dublin), The Project Arts Centre or Smock Alley Theatre.
Trinity College – the starting point
Situated in the heart of Dublin, Trinity College is steeped in history. Founded in 1592 it is a perfect starting point to exploring Dublin’s cultural heritage. Be inspired by the long room in the Old Library. Admire the Book of Kells, a masterpiece of Celtic Art which is considered to be one of the world’s greatest illuminated manuscripts. On a sunny day sit on a bench on the one of the squares and imagine the students who down the centuries have walked Trinity’s corridors including the writers Oliver Goldsmith, Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett , political philosopher Edmund Burke and Physicist Ernest Walton who won the Nobel Prize for his work on the atom.
When you leave Trinity exiting onto College Green, continue your Dublin odyssey in any number of directions. You can go north up to North Georgian Dublin (O’Connell Street, Parnell Square, Mountjoy Square, Henrietta Street) or south towards South Georgian Dublin (Merrion Square, Fitzwilliam Square). You can head westwards up Dame Street towards the old city, to the Liberties around Thomas Street and beyond to Kilmainham. Alternatively you could cycle on a Dublin Bike east out the Pigeon House Road and South Bull Wall and marvel at the views of Dublin Bay. A another touring option is to head northeast towards Bull Island for bird-watching or strolling along the North Bull Wall passing as you go Herbert Simm’s iconic Art Deco concrete bathing shelters.
The Medieval City, and The Liberties
Heading westward from Trinity College beginning at College Green. The Parliament House (Bank of Ireland) on College Green, is a building of profound significance in Dublin. Inside, you can visit the old House of Lords and look at the 19th century cash office which replaced the House of Commons.
Proceed up Dame Street towards Dublin Castle and you will pass the Central Bank, by Sam Stephenson one of Irelands most famous 20th century Architects. The Castle itself was established by King John in 1204. It was the seat of British Colonial Rule in Ireland and the centre of military political and social affairs for several centuries. The strength and quality of its architecture is a visual expression of British dominance in Ireland. We recommend you do the tour of the State Apartments and the 10th century defense bank which is visible at the undercroft. While there visit the Chester Beatty Library which is housed in the Clock Tower Building and contains the world renowned collection of Oriental manuscripts including 300 copies of the Koran, a number of 6000 year old Babylonian stone tablets, and some of the earliest known fragments of the Bible.
By now you may have reached cultural saturation so consider refreshments in the Chester Beatty restaurant then linger in the castle garden, an oasis of calm in a bustling city. When your batteries have been recharged go to Dublinia located nearby on Winetavern Street (beside Christchurch Cathedral). There you can experience three exhibitions on Viking Dublin, Medieval Dublin and Hunters in Dublin. You can also access Christchurch Cathedral, pictured below, and marvel at its interior, its relics and the tomb of Stongbow and Aoife. Have a look at the dramatic stretch of the City Wall on Cook Street before paying a visit to Saint Audoen’s Church, where you will be able to see a 12th century baptismal font, the 15th century Portlester Tomb, or the early 17th century Seagrave Monument.
From here you can visit Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and Marsh’s Library (five minutes away on foot) or follow the ancient Slí Mhór by heading west down Thomas Street and go to the Guinness Storehouse. Along the way you can pay a visit to the National College of Art and Design (formerly Power’s Distillary) or pop into SS. Augustine and John Church, Pugin’s splendid parish church. Its scale is closer to that of a cathedral and its rich interior includes Harry Clarke stained glass windows. West again (and within easy reach) is the Irish Museum of Modern Art and Kilmainham Gaol.
South Georgian Dublin
From Trinity College you can head south for some retail therapy to Grafton Street, where Molly Malone forever wheels her wheelbarrow. If shopping is not your thing head for a stroll through Stephen’s Green, memorably described by Joyce in Ulysses: “the trees in Stephen’s Green were fragrant of rain and the rainsodden earth gave forth its mortal odour“. Or stroll into the Iveagh Gardens (accessed from Harcourt Street), another little known freely accessible place of serenity in Dublin City. On Stephen’s Green you can visit Newman House at 85-86 Stephen’s Green a pair of outstanding early to mid 18th century town houses. Or visit the Little Museum of Dublin where you can see interesting artefacts relating to 20th century Dublin.
Continue your expedition down Merrion Street past the Heugenot Cemetery. If you want to sample a pint of the black stuff pop into O’Donoghue’s where the ballad group The Dubliners began performing in the 1960s. Having quenched your thirst you now have a chance to go to one of the city’s finest Georgian squares, Merrion Square and stroll around the park. While there you can visit the Irish Architectural Archive, who always have interesting exhibitions, or No. 29 Fitwilliam Street, a Georgian house museum. You can view Carravagio’s Taking of Christ in the National Gallery of Ireland (main entrance Clare Street) and admire one of the world’s most extensive collections of Bronze age gold in the National Museum (accessed on Kildare Street).
At the east end of Trinity College on Pearse Street you can visit the Science Gallery, which is free of charge though donations can be made. We are blessed in Dublin because many of our cultural institutions (Chester Beatty, National Gallery, National Museum) are free of charge!
North Georgian Dublin
From Trinity College you can head north over O’Connell Bridge to take in North Georgian Dublin. The upper part of O’Connell Street was laid out by Luke Gardiner from 1749. In the first quarter of the 20th century the street became the stage on which the Irish state was born. As befits its role in the creation of contemporary Ireland it is studded with monuments to important public figures. In the General Post Office you can visit an exhibition called Letters, Lives and Liberties.
Close by is Moore Street, one of the most distinctive and authentic places in Dublin to savour traditional street trading. While there you should ponder on the two-day occupation of a number of houses (including Nos. 14-17) by Padraig Pearse and the rebel forces during the final two days of the 1916 Easter Rising after evacuating the General Post Office.
Northwards again head to Parnell Square where you can walk around the solemn Garden of Remembrance. Across the road are the Dublin Writers Museum and the Hugh Lane Gallery. The gallery houses a fine collection of 19th century art and the studio of Dublin born artist Francis Bacon studio. The room was bequeathed to the State by Bacon’s brother and transported, dust and all, by archaeologists from London. Nearby is North Great George’s Street, one of the finest and most intact late Georgian streets in the city. There you can visit the Joyce Centre, or Darc Space Gallery (where interesting exhibitions on Dublin’s architecture are displayed). East from here you will find Mountjoy Square, which is a late 18th-early 19th formal Georgian Square.
West of Parnell Square you can head to Henrietta Street, Dublin’s earliest Georgian Street. When finished it was in effect a street of palaces where many of its early residents being among the most prominent in Irish society. Following the establishment of the Kings Inns at the top of Henrietta Street, it became in the 19th century a centre for legal learning. However, by the beginning of the 20th century it had become a place of tenement squalor. In Joyce’s short story A Little Cloud he describes the street thus: “He emerged from under the feudal arch of the King’s Inns, a neat modest figure, and walked swiftly down Henrietta Street. The golden sunset was waning and the air had grown sharp. A horde of grimy children populated the street. They stood or ran in the roadway, or crawled up the steps before the gaping doors, or squatted like mice upon the thresholds”.
From Henrietta Street you can either head down Capel Street and back to Dame Street via Parliament Street, or head westward again towards Smithfield to the Lighthouse Cinema or beyond to the National Museum at Collins Barracks or to the Phoenix Park, where a whole other experience awaits you.