On the way back from Israel, in an effort to ease the transition back home, we stopped in Dublin. Neither CycleGuy nor I had ever been to Dublin, except for the several hours we spent in the airport on the way out to Israel. In planning the trip, I didn’t want to bypass the opportunity to visit Ireland even if it meant we’d only be there for a day.
I researched the city and discovered that is it very walkable and it’s home to a number of sites that would be interesting for kids and adults. There would be something for all of us and with summer temperatures in the 70s it would be perfect weather for us after the warmth of Israel.
While we arrived late and left early, spending two nights at the Doubletree on Burlington Road, we really only had one day to explore. What we quickly discovered, and heard time and again from our taxi drivers, was that we’d need to plan a return trip to explore Dublin a little more and get beyond the city to enjoy more of Ireland. Dublin offers everything you’d expect in a major modern European city, but, time and again I heard that the “real” Ireland could only be experienced by visiting the countryside and smaller cities and villages around the country.
The hotel I chose was more of a default because I used hotel points and the location I really wanted was booked. While not as convenient, the Doubletree on Burlington Road is an “American-style” business hotel and offers amenities you’d expect while traveling in the US. If you’re looking for something more of an “Irish experience” this is not the hotel for you. For us, though, it was acceptable. One major downside (and evidently common in many of Dublin’s hotels) is the lack of air conditioning in all the rooms. While you shouldn’t normally need a/c, when it’s unseasonably warm and humid and you’re not used to sleeping with the room temperature near 80°F having central air is important.
With a late arrival, our only desire was to find a place where CycleGuy could get a pint of Guinness. I don’t drink beer, and for the most part neither does CycleGuy. But Guinness is his beer of choice, and as I’ve been reminded many times Guinness is not beer. Thanks to Yelp I found that there was a well-rated, yet historic, eatery within about a 10-minute walk. Situated on Upper Baggot Street, Searsons has been in business since 1845. In Dublin, especially, you won’t last long if you’re not a place where locals dine. The historic building has been renovated and reflects a modern Irish charm with a pub-style front and a family friendly open-kitchen dining area in the back.
First order of business was to get CycleGuy his birthday Guinness. Just a few days earlier he spent his birthday partly in Jerusalem and partly in Paris. But this pint was what he was really looking forward to as his birthday gift to himself. Searsons did not disappoint. Great service, delicious food, and a relaxing atmosphere that was the perfect welcome to our short stay in Ireland.
Bright and early on our only full day in Dublin, we headed out of the hotel toward St. Stephen’s Green. About a 15 minute walk from the hotel, our cab driver from the airport told us that it’s an easy walk and given all the one-way streets probably just as quick to walk as it would be to drive. Being that the Doubletree is not in a heavy tourist area, it was a lovely walk in a more residential part of Dublin with plenty of “Good Morning!” greetings from the locals.
St. Stephen’s Green is the city center park in the heart of Dublin. Dating back to the mid 1600s, the park was originally the grounds of a church. Thanks to the generosity of Sir Arthur Guinness, in the late 1800s the park was deeded to the city for all to enjoy. The 22-acre park is home to beautiful gardens, parks, and memorial sculptures. As we walked through there were people hurriedly walking to work, kids laughing at the playground, landscapers tending to the gardens, and the sounds of the city beyond the walls softened by all the trees. While we didn’t spend much time in the park, it’s definitely a place to visit while you’re in Dublin. It’s the largest of the many city-owned parks. And while some may argue whether it’s the nicest in town, it certainly is the place where the idea of public green space in Dublin originated.
From St. Stephen’s Green, we walked down Grafton Street, Ireland’s world-famous shopping area. Historic buildings line what is now a pedestrian area, but instead of old businesses or government offices you’re in the heart of the shopping district. With iconic Irish businesses tucked in between the newest and most popular international shops, Grafton Street could easily be in any major city around the world. We didn’t spend much time here since we only had one full day. However, we did stop in to the family run R & C McCormack jewelry shop to buy Aunt Zoni a souvenir.
Our first destination was Trinity College, which is near the other end of Grafton Street. The historic college was top of our list because BabyGirl loves visiting libraries and I had read that Trinity College boasts one of the Top 10 libraries in the world. There’s not a lot to see at Trinity College, but it’s a destination for many who visit Dublin because it houses the famous Book of Kells. An active university, Trinity College, is like a page from Harry Potter with its historic buildings, lush green spaces, and beautiful Old Library. While the Book of Kells is the main reason visitors are at the College, for us it was the grandeur of the Old Library. For 26€ we signed up for the student-led guided tour, which includes admission to the Book of Kells at the end. The tour lasts about 40 minutes and is quite informative not just about the history but also about the student’s perspective on the current experiences. Many people were bypassing the tour and heading straight to the Book of Kells. While the Book of Kells was interesting, for most kids it’s just an old book under glass in a darkened room. For us, our destination was the Long Room in the Old Library. Dating back to the early 1700s and lined with magnificent sculptures of the world’s most famous writers and philosophers, for our book-loving BabyGirl this 200,000 volume working library was heaven. While she enjoyed the Book of Kells exhibit and seeing the Book of Kells itself, the look on her face and sparkles in her eyes she had standing in the Long Room is what vacation memories are made of.
Next stop on our “Dublin in a Day” was lunch at The Pieman Cafe in the trendy Temple Bar section of the city. The brightly-colored storefront welcomes you to a small shop serving homemade savory pies. If you’re not into meat pies, they also have traditional Bangers and Mash (and from what the gal said they also do a vegetarian pie). For about €8, cash only, you can enjoy a traditional lunch with your choice of pie, a side, gravy, and a cold drink. It’s a hotspot for locals, who easily recognize the few tourists who stop in.
Once rested and nourished, it was off to CycleGuy’s choice of Dublin historical sites, the Guinness Storehouse. Said to be Dublin’s top tourist attraction, it was on our list because CycleGuy is a Guinness guy and loves history and this combines the two. The tour is self-guided and does not include any part of the working brewery. Children are welcome, and if you go up to the Gravity Bar there are soft drinks available. The tour was interesting and filled with history of the city, brewing, and the Guinness family. You can spend as much or as little time as you wish along the several floors of displays, but leave plenty of time to enjoy the Gravity Bar at the top. Besides having a much-needed cold drink, the view is extraordinary.
While quit a distance from the Temple Bar area, we chose to walk the nearly 2km to the Guinness Storehouse. Along the way, we stopped at the Dublin Castle, passed several wonderful public art sculptures, grabbed a pastry at a local shop, saw the oldest building in Dublin – Christ Church Cathedral, and enjoyed a sunny (and unusually warm to the locals) day in Dublin. It’s a very walkable city, so if the weather is nice enough put on your comfy shoes and walk along the picturesque streets of Dublin.
We grabbed a cab back to the hotel to relax a bit before dinner. We decided to stay nearby the hotel and find another place where the locals eat. Canal Bank Café was highly recommended by a number of locals we asked, and lucky for us it was just a few minutes walk from the hotel. With a focus on fresh ingredient, Canal Bank Café was a delicious end to what had already been a perfect day in Dublin. The wait staff was friendly and attentive, the seating cozy but not uncomfortably close, and the menu inviting and mouth-watering. I had a salad that was being featured and it was filled with fresh, local ingredients and tasted like it was just picked and made moments before being served. The restaurant is known for it’s Buffalo Chicken Wings, which may seem a bit odd for a local Dublin joint. We ordered some because it was something that reminded us of home and after three weeks of travel we were missing home. Let’s just say that if you stop in to Canal Bank Café make sure you get an order of the wings.
As we headed back to the hotel, we talked about wanting to come back and see more of Ireland. The people are warm and friendly, there’s an Irish pride that is shared freely, and so much history and beauty to explore. Stopping in Dublin was definitely a great way to end our trip, even if it was a short visit.
The next day CycleGuy headed to the airport for an early flight. Although it was colder and rainy, much more typical weather I was told, BabyGirl and I ventured out to the Natural History Museum. Free to the public, it was a fun way to spend our morning instead of being holed up in the hotel. There were several floors filled with animals of Ireland, as well as many from nearby countries. It was quite fascinating to see animals that we’re not used to seeing.
Our flight home on Aer Lingus allowed us to enjoy a little more of the Irish hospitality. Can’t say enough good things about the flight attendants in Business Class. And what’s extra cool is that in Dublin, US Customs has a Preclearance program so you go through customs in Dublin and when you land in the US it’s just like any other domestic flight so you’re on your way quickly.
So, if you’re heading to Dublin I hope this gives you an idea of a few things you can do while you’re there. If you have the opportunity to do a one-day stopover, say “yes” and enjoy some of the highlights the city has to offer. Dublin is welcoming, friendly, offers wonderful historic sites and modern spaces, and a dining scene to enjoy.