Travel Guide: Dublin, Ireland
We went to Ireland last year on a family trip to celebrate my grandma’s 80th birthday. The flights had been booked for 10 months. And between all of the planning, I found out I was pregnant! I wondered how the trip would change (let alone the traveling aspect) while I was in my second trimester. But I am here to say: it was so much fun! Ireland was the perfect family trip for all ages (our group ranged from 25 to 80 years old!) including little pregnant me :)
I made a few adjustments (like skipping the whiskey tastings) but I really enjoyed every experience that we did as a group! It was the perfect combination of exploring the sights, relaxing in the countryside, and enjoying the night life of Dublin. I would highly recommend doing Ireland as a family.
When to Go
I really loved going to Ireland in November. The weather was a comfortable 55-70 degrees (F) every day. There was some rain and mist - but that really added to the Irish vibe for me! It was also a welcome change from a beach vacation. We packed light jackets, boots, leather gloves, and cute hats. It was great! I’ll do a separate packing guide, so check back for that soon.
Plus everything was DECKED OUT FOR THE HOLIDAYS! I kid you not. Every single restaurant, hotel, bar, you name it. It was so magical and beautiful to see twinkle lights everywhere. I really left feeling festive and ready to get into the Christmas spirit. It was all very Harry Potter-esque!
We spent 3 nights and 4 days in Dublin, Ireland. Afterwards we headed to the Irish countryside (Waterford & Cork). Then we flew to Scotland. We ended our trip in England (more to come on those trips). Here is what we did and what we saw in Dublin, Ireland!
Getting to Dublin
We took a red eye from Chicago to London. We landed in the early hours of the morning at London Heathrow. Then we had a quick turnaround to Dublin (this flight was only 1.5 - 2 hours). Once we got to Dublin, we couldn’t quite check into our hotel yet. And it was chilly! So we started with an unplanned lunch at this cute restaurant down the street from our hotel, complete with hot toddies to warm us up!
This place was adorable! As I said, we stumbled onto it while waiting to check in at our hotel down the street. I found out it is actually a hotel, itself, in case you like the vibe. We ate in the bar area and had their soup of the day, which comes with plenty of homemade bread. We shared an appetizer or two and everyone (except me) had a glass of wine or a hot toddie. The restaurant was super festive - decked out with twinkle lights - and the decor was a mix of rustic, eclectic, and cozy!
Number 31 Hotel
Once we finished lunch, we checked into our hotel. It was a quaint, boutique hotel, tucked away in an area called the Georgian Mile. It was so charming and the staff was ready to help us with anything we needed. There was a fireplace going every time we walked into the lobby. There is a self-serve bar, where you use the honor system to pay for your drinks (how cute is that?). The lobby had this huge, amazing couch where we would hang out while we waited for the rest of our group to get ready.
A few things to note:
There is no elevator, so if you need one, you might stay elsewhere. The stairs are pretty narrow, and you sometimes have to go outside to get to you room from the lobby, but it’s all part of the adventure.
There is an AMAZING breakfast that is included with the price of the room. I’m talking homemade bread, scones, jam, made to order eggs benedict, cappuccinos, etc. It was fabulous and we purposely planned breakfast into our schedule so we could take our time in the mornings.
While the hotel is located in a VERY safe neighborhood, it isn’t that walk-able for the typical Dublin sights. We usually ended up taking an Uber around town. However, keep in mind, we had an 80 year old and a pregnant lady on our trip - so you may be able to walk to some sights, no problem.
Guinness Storehouse Tour
Ok, it’s a little bit touristy but you HAVE to visit the Guinness Storehouse when you go to Dublin. The place is huge and because of that, we booked a tour. We pre-bought our tour tickets online so that we got our desired time and day. I recommend doing this, as it can get busy. On the tour you learn about the history behind Guinness, how they make the beer, and you end at a bar where you learn how to pour your own glass of Guinness. It takes some skills, I tell ya. The best part was that I could participate in everything and then hand over my beer to the guys to drink for me. It was great!
After the tour, we hit the gift shop and I bought an ornament for our tree (tradition!). I also picked up the engraved Guinness glasses that I pre-ordered for my husband and dad. They were so surprised when I came out of the gift shop with such a special gift for them! Pre-ordering the engraving saves you time waiting in line at the busy gift shop. We ended the experience at the Gravity Bar, on the top floor of the storehouse. It has 360 view of Dublin’s skyline and a pretty cool bar. We went at night, so I didn’t get any good pictures, but I enjoyed the whole experience. I also tried the non-alcoholic beer that they only sell in Dublin - win!
Gallagher’s Boxty House
After the tour, we headed to dinner. We were starving and pretty tired from all the traveling. I had heard great things about Boxty, which is a restaurant that does about 100 different takes on the potato! Dinner was yummy and located right in the heard of Dublin’s Temple Bar neighborhood, so you can walk to plenty of bars afterwards for live music.
After dinner, we got our second wind, and headed over to the famous Temple Bar for a drink and some live music. Even though we were slightly exhausted, we had a blast! I mean just look at this place…how can you not have fun?! It’s decked out in tons of lights and ornaments. It felt very festive and the bar was PACKED. If you don’t mind pushing your way to the back room, that’s where the live music is and it is just a really great atmosphere. We ended up stopping in here more than one night.
Day Tour to Cliffs of Moher
The next morning, after our much needed rest, we had our fabulous breakfast at the hotel and then our tour guide pulled up to meet us. Let me just say: booking a private tour van for the Cliffs of Moher was a bit of a splurge but it was PERFECT for our group of seven. We really enjoyed having a tour guide tell us about all of the things we would’ve missed if we drove ourselves. Plus it is truly door to door service - he picked us up at our hotel and dropped us off at the restaurant we chose for dinner back in Dublin. We also got to relax on the long journey to and from the Cliffs. Our tour guide was Charlie and we loved him. We made 4 stops along the way there and back, including the Cliffs. This was nice to see some of the sights, stop in the local towns, and have a much needed bathroom break (again, pregnant lady on board!).
If you don’t have a big group or just really want to explore on your own, you can definitely do a similar itinerary and drive it yourself. Just keep in mind the roads can be narrow, with a lot of twists and turns, so I would try not to drive much after dark.
Here is what we did on the tour:
1st Stop - City of Kinvara to see the Dunguire Castle and get Irish Coffees at Keogh’s
We stopped here about 1.5 hours into our journey to the Cliffs. The scones were great and the Irish coffees were just what everyone needed at Keogh’s. We also checked out the Dunguire Castle, snapped a few photos, then got back into the van.
2nd Stop - Baby Cliffs at Lisdoonvarna
I had no idea these “baby cliffs” existed. But it was a fun little stop, about 45 minutes outside of the Cliffs of Moher. We got out, stretched our legs and took a few photos. It was extremely windy, and we were anxious to get to the Cliffs, so we hurried back into the van.
3rd Stop - Cliffs of Moher
Ah, what we had all been waiting for. It was JUST as gorgeous as I imagined it would be. The visitor center sits in the middle of the Cliffs, right where the parking lot is located. After you pop into the shop and grab a map, you have two options to walk the Cliffs. You can head to the right of the visitor center, up a bunch of steps, and see little castle-like structure that is located on the top of the cliff. This provides a nice hill top view. Or you can head to the left of the visitor center, where you walk up a steep “ramp” (but not paved) and get to another hill-top view.
You may not have time to do both sides, so choose your favorite first. If you do have time, it’s worth it to do both. Our family chose to go up the stairway on the right and enjoy the views from there. There are guides all around the Cliffs and a few of them noted that the stairs is the “easier” route. Once we got our fill of the views, the younger ones in our group hustled over to the left side, hiked the steep slope, and took in the views from that side. This route is considered “harder” and it can be slippery with the mist. Just keep that in mind. We loved both routes! Also, wear the proper attire! It is chilly, so you’ll need layers. And the ground can be uneven, so wear shoes with grip.
4th Stop - Blarney Woolen Mills
After a few hours at the Cliffs of Moher, you start the journey back to Dublin. We stopped about 2 hours into the trip to shop and grab snacks at the Blarney Woolen Mills. This isn’t a must-see, but it was great to break up the trip and we got some nice scarves and jewelry.
Dinner at Brazen Head Restaurant
As I mentioned, our tour guide was so nice and dropped us off right at the restaurant for dinner. At that point, we were starving and ready to relax. Brazen Head was a classic Irish restaurant that is also pretty famous. We sat upstairs, which was cozy and quaint. But if it wasn’t so cold, the outdoor picnic tables had a very good vibe going!
St. Stephen’s Green
The next morning, we enjoyed breakfast at our hotel (again!) and then headed over to St. Stephen’s Green to walk around, which is a gorgeous park in Dublin. It was such a nice stroll, we picked up coffees along the way and just enjoyed the scenery. A lot of what we did on this day (Day 3, for those counting) was in walking distance, so it made things a bit more leisurely.
Again, everything on this day was very close together, so we could easily walk and fit a lot more into our day! I kept calling this our “day in Dublin” on our itinerary.
This is a famous street in Dublin for shopping. It is also a pedestrian only street, so you can really wander into shops as much as you like without worrying about traffic. We picked up a few things, but mostly I remember the chocolates from Butler’s - yum! I tried a few while there and then saved some bars for Christmas stocking stuffers.
Tour of Trinity College Library
Next, we walked over to Trinity College to check out the famous Old Library. You may want to buy tickets for this ahead of time, but we lucked out and were able to get tickets one hour prior to the tour. In this case, you have to do the tour or you won’t get inside the library. It is pretty neat to see! It reminded me a lot of something from Beauty and the Beast or Harry Potter. Tons of old books - including the Book of Kells - and very quiet. Worth the hour-long tour, which ends at the gift shop.
Woollen Mills Restaurant
Next, we headed to the Woollen Mills restaurant in Dublin (not to be confused with the shop) for a late lunch and some lattes. It was very modern but fun. It had great reviews online and we mostly enjoyed burgers and soups.
Just outside the restaurant, you get a view of the Ha’ Penny Bridge. We stopped and took some photos. The bridge used to cost a half cent (half penny - ha’ penny) to cross it, hence the name! As you can see, it was a gorgeous afternoon, so we took a few photos on the bridge and then headed onto our next stop.
Jameson Distillery in Dublin
After the bridge, we thought we’d head back to the hotel to relax before dinner. But as we wandered, we discovered we weren’t too far from the Dublin Jameson Distillery. Now, I specify Dublin because the really authentic Jameson tour is in Midleton, Ireland (we stopped there as well). But since we had time on our hands, the guys decided it would be fun to pop in for a whiskey drink before dinner. The Jameson Distillery was so pretty! The copper stills, the festive twinkle lights, I just loved it. The bartender was making craft cocktails and it was fun to watch.
On our walk back to the hotel, we did see the St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It was lit up nicely in the evening and I am glad we passed it. But it wasn’t high on any of our lists, so we didn’t carve out time to separately see it during the day.
Arlington Hotel Celtic Nights
This was our last night in Dublin, so the whole group met up for dinner and a show at Arlington Hotel. The show is called Celtic Nights and you have to purchase tickets in advance. The whole experience included a traditional Irish meal and the live show. The show was great because they played local Irish music, traditional songs, sing-a-long songs, and overall kept the crowd interacting. There were also Celtic dancers at some points. It was a tad touristy, but really fun and kept in the spirit of the trip. The only thing that wasn’t included in the ticket price were drinks. It even included dessert! Overall, this was the perfect end to our time in Dublin. We may have snuck over to Temple Bar area for one more pint afterwards :)