Best of Dublin: DC to Ireland Travel Series, Part 1

Travel-To-Dublin

7 days
6 nights
0 kids
24 miles walked
700 kilometers driven
10 churches
7 museums
4 castle ruins
2 stately homes
19 Megalithic passage tombs
50,000 cows
1 flat tire
40 pints of Guinness
Countless laughs, joyful experiences and beautiful views

As I shared on social media and on A Parent in America, my husband Chris and I took our very first week-long kids-free vacation. We chose Ireland, a country where my husband spent 12 years of his childhood and I had never before visited.

celtic-crosses

By the way, this trip was in no way related to blogging and was completely sponsored by me, my husband and my mother’s generous offer to look after the kids while we were away! But Chris and I had such a great experience that I wanted to share the highlights of our trip with you.

Ireland is gorgeous, dreamy, full of history and the friendliest people. As far as European vacations go, a trip to Ireland is very affordable: airfare to Ireland is now 30 percent less than to London and Paris.

Dublin

Our first stop was Dublin and it was one of the prettiest, most ancient-looking modern cities I have ever explored.

We found a great deal on a direct flight from Dulles to Dublin on Aer Lingus. This is a new Aer Lingus route that just opened in May 2015. We flew overnight and landed in Dublin with the dawn.

aer-lingus-flight

Aer Lingus had personal screens to choose from recent box office movies and remarkably delicious food. I recommend selecting or requesting at check-in bulkhead or exit row seating in coach for more leg room. Such seating is always great but when flying overnight and overseas, it makes a huge difference. We received this on our return flight and we were so much more comfortable, especially my long-legged husband.

Related article: How to Pack Carry-on Only for One Week

Take the Dublin City Bus from the Airport 

Although I usually think the only way to get to one’s hotel from an airport is via taxi, Uber or car service, in Dublin the easiest way to get to the city center is also the cheapest: Buy a simple €1.90 Dublin city bus ticket. Exchange some cash at the airport or use your credit card at the kiosk and hop on one of the many buses that depart right outside baggage claim for the city center. You literally have to walk further to the taxi stand and may have to wait longer. We sat in the top level bubble window of our double decker Dublin city bus and enjoyed an incredible 280 degree view of the city on the 25 minute drive. We hopped out just a couple blocks from our hotel and spent far less than the coffee we guzzled at the first open coffee shop we saw!

Our Hotel: The Clarence

We chose The Clarence because it was walkable to all Dublin city sites, located right in Temple Bar near Grafton Street. It describes itself as a “simple luxury hotel” owned by members of U2 (no, we did not see them.) We loved the comfortable bed and fine linens, and our standard (the most affordable) room had a Liffey River view and was large by European and NYC standards. The staff was extremely courteous and helpful.

clarence-room

We selected the advance purchase option when making our reservation and thus saved about €40 per night by paying in advance, bringing our rate of €200 per night on-par with city center chain hotels such as Jury’s and Best Western. You can find a better rate at a hotel or bed and breakfast less centrally located for €50 less per night, but we loved the accessible location. We only took a cab once in three days!

Dublin Sights 

old-library-trinity-college

Book of Kells and the Old Library at Trinity College Dublin: Seeing the gorgeous illuminated Gospel manuscripts was a highlight, as was touring the historic library and simply walking around the college campus.

National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology Museum: An exhaustive, and extremely interesting, study in the history of Ireland. We loved the ancient Celtic, Viking, Bronze Age, Catholic, Reformation era and military artifacts. This crash course helped enrich and illustrate our future tours and sight seeing.

National Museum of Ireland – Natural History Museum (great for kids!): We popped in to see the first floor of the stuffed animal specimens native to Ireland. The now extinct giant Irish elk skeletons were particularly cool.

irish-deer

Dublina “The Viking Museum” (great for kids!): This Viking-centric museum is located right next to Christ Church, and offers discounted combined tickets. Geared towards kids, it brings to life Medieval Dublin. The view from St. Michael’s Tower is one of the best in the city.

Christ Church Cathedral Dublin: From Dublina we walked along the Neo-Gothic archway to the Cathedral. The nave of the church is full of history and beauty, but the medieval crypt below is phenomenal. Full of exhibits, it extends under the entire cathedral, even providing a location for “The Tudors” series. There is also a small cozy cafe in the crypt which we enjoyed.

st-patricks-dublin

St. Patrick’s Cathedral Dublin: The largest church in Ireland, it is packed with history of its pre- and post-Reformation functions.

Chester Beatty Library: One of the finest collections of Old and New Testaments, and Islamic and Far Eastern artwork. It and Dublin Castle, pictured below with its Norman Tower, offer free admission.

dublin-castle

Grafton Street: The main shopping thoroughfare, it is pedestrian-only and lined with luxury shops, boutiques and “buskers” – street musicians. Fashionista paradise.

River Liffey and Ha’Penny Bridge: White cast iron pedestrian bridge which connects city over the River. Used to cost a half penny to cross, hence the name. Great views.

Guinness

Guinness-Tour

Guinness Storehouse Tour: Learn all about this delicious drink, how it is made, it’s history, how to pour your own perfect pint and then enjoy the top level bar’s 360 degree view of Dublin. It is worth the ticket price.

Merrion Square & Oscar Wilde’s Statue: Gorgeous Georgian garden square in the city center, it was a lovely walk and provides a chance to pay your respects to Oscar. Kids will love the wooden playground with a climbable structure of Gulliver.

cool-park-kids-dublin

St. Stephen’s Green: Another lovely park in the city center near Grafton Street, we waited out a quickly-passing rainstorm in a gazebo and enjoyed people and bird watching. Great for garden lovers and there are swans in the pond.

st-stephens-green

Dublin Eats

Gallagher’s Boxty House (aka Boxty): Traditional Irish food with a modern, healthy, farm-to-table twist. Pretty, rustic setting, young crowd.

The Porterhouse Brewing Co.: Local brewery that makes a mean steak, sears a savory salmon, brews delish beer and hosts cutting edge live music at night.

Queen of Tarts: Criminally good coffee, sinful scones, savory soups. Breakfast or lunch here is a total treat.

Dublin Drinks

Mulligan’s: One of Chris’s local friends took us here for a pint. Legend says that the ashes of a US tourist are interred in its clock.mulligans-pub-dublin

The Stag’s Head: Old pub in Temple Bar that is happening with the locals and less touristy than The Temple Bar. James Joyce drank here and the Victorian decor and stuffed animals are legendary.

Arthur’s: Closest pub to the Guinness Storehouse, this small place has served pints to President Clinton and other famous visitors. Chatty, kind staff and colorful locals feels close to real Dublin after the fancy Guinness tour. Live music in the evenings.

Peadar Kearney’s: Live music in the evenings, traditional Irish and rock.

live-music-pub

What do you think?

Feel like flying to Dublin?

Want to hear more about our Irish adventures?

Let me know!  (I can always go back to writing about DC puppet shows and spraygrounds ….)

Jessica-in-Dublin

 

Comments

  1. I loved following along on your adventures in Ireland so yes please, keep the posts coming and hooray for a long awaited and well deserved kids-free getaway! xo

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