Our on-the-road trip through the emerald island started from Dublin-the capital of the Republic of Ireland-where we picked up a rental car that, in the coming days, allowed us to explore the southern half of the island far and wide as far as Connemara, then to cut the island in half and return to Dublin. We spent only one day in the city, having already visited it during a pleasant weekend in 2017. However, it always deserves a short visit. So here for you are the 4 attractions not to be missed during a short break here!
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Dublin, capital of the Republic of Ireland, is a vibrant and friendly city. Proudly Irish but at the same time international, the city perfectly combines its historic side – represented by the Trinity College or the St. Patrick’s Cathedral – with its modern side – a requalified waterfront with a strong international character. But Dublin also has a vibrant nightlife, manifested through its many traditional downtown pubs with their live music and some excellent starred restaurants. And it was from Dublin that our on-the-road trip of Ireland started. Here we picked up a rental car that, in the coming days, allowed us to explore the southern half of the island far and wide to Connemara, then to cut the island in half and return to Dublin. We spent only one day in the city, having already visited it during a pleasant weekend in 2017. But Dublin is still always worth a visit, not only because it is rich in attractions and points of interest, but also because it offers an interesting insight into Irish urban society that is different from what other major cities on the island are able to offer. So here for you are the 4 attractions not to be missed during a short city break!
Arriving by airplane
Most travelers choose to reach Dublin by plane. Indeed, the city is well connected to Switzerland and the rest of Europe by several flights of the national airline Aer Lingus, Swiss* and, of course, the low-cost airline Ryanair. Dublin Airport is located about 11 km north of the city. Once you arrive, to reach the center you can take a cab or use one of the convenient 24-hour bus services offered by numerous companies. You can find all the information about buses at this link. If, on the other hand, you have rented a car, the counters of the major rental companies are located in both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2.
Arriving by ship
Dublin can also be reached by ship, a popular option for those who enjoy on-the-road travel with their own car or caravan. The city has two harbor areas: Dun Laoghaire Terminal, southeast of downtown, and Dublin Port Terminal, northeast. Many companies connect the city with Britain. We suggest Stenaline, Irishferries, P&O Ferries. Alternatively, other companies connect Ireland with France: Irishferries and Brittany Ferries. However, the last one will take you to Cork – in the south of the island – and from there Dublin is about a three-hour drive.
The historic heart of Dublin never rests! Temple bar is both the oldest neighborhood in the city-the one that best preserves its folk roots-and the liveliest! Not surprisingly, it is one of the city’s most beloved and visited districts. This network of narrow alleys, cafes and pubs is now considered one of the most successful re-development operations in Europe. Indeed, few people know that Temple Bar was until a few decades ago one of the most degraded and dangerous areas of Dublin, so much so that city authorities had even speculated its complete demolition and rebuilding. Fortunately, nothing of this has happened! Rather since the 1990s there has been a focus on redeveloping the old abandoned warehouses and historic buildings in the neighborhood that still make the city recognizable throughout Europe. In Temple Bar we suggest you arrive on foot and spend a few hours here during the day but especially during the night, perhaps going from one pub to another, drinking a Guinness and listening to the excellent live music that brightens up its narrow alleys. And when you have enough, you can leave the neighborhood through the old Ha’Penny Bridge – an arched pedestrian bridge built in 1816 to connect the two banks of the Liffey – or the decidedly more modern Millennium Bridge, built in 2000.
It is certainly one of the most prestigious universities in the world and certainly the most famous in Ireland. Its history dates back to 1592, when it was founded by Elizabeth I. But this very special place is not just a university, because inside it holds some of the most important historical documents of the island and the whole of Europe. You can easily visit the outdoor areas, some of which date back to the 1700s, and the gardens on your own. But the most popular, most visited and photographed part of the College is certainly the Old Library, a long gallery of more than 64 meters that houses on its sides two very long oak bookcases and more than 200,000 precious volumes. Among these, the most valuable of all is the Book of Kells, a wonderful illuminated manuscript dating from the 1800s full of truly amazing colors and geometric patterns. To access the Old Library and the Book of Kells you will have to take part in one of the guided tours provided by the University. You can find all the information and the different available options here. But be sure to be patient, as access is allowed only to small groups and can require a rather long queue.
This ancient Norman fortress is really something you would not expect to find in the heart of the city. The structure, built by John Landless, has been for a long time a symbol of English oppression and consists of four angular towers, imposing bastions and moats. However, Dublin Castle is more of a noble residence than a proper fortress, and today the fine halls are really appreciated by the many tourists who come to visit, as well as being a popular location for events in the city. The castle can be visited daily, from 9:45 a.m. – 5:45 p.m. (last entry 5:15 p.m.) autonomously or through guided tours conducted daily between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The entrance ticket, which costs € 8.00 (about CHF 7.80), can be purchased on site or online. All information is available at this link.
Christ Church Cathedral
Christ Church Cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in the city and stands inside the medieval walls. Built in the 1100s initially of wood and later of stone, only a few traces remain today of the original building-most of which was lost during a renovation in the 1800s. Despite this, the building is certainly worth a visit for its beauty and grandeur: in fact, it is no less than 70 meters long and – under the vault – over 24 meters high. The oldest part of the building is located inside the underground crypt, which preserves some of the ancient stone capitals. Here you can see an exhibition of historical artifacts, including the famous “The cat and the rat”, a stuffed cat and a stuffed rat that still seem to be hunting each other. Also, we suggest you don’t miss the opportunity to climb the 86 steps that will lead you to the top of the bell tower, where you can find out all about the church’s ancient bells and if you’re lucky even try to ring them! Information about tickets, guided tours, and opening hours can be found at this link.
To save some money on transportation and attraction tickets, it is possible to purchase the Dublin Pass, a card that allows, for a specific number of days chosen by the purchaser, free access to many attractions and free or significantly discounted rides on many public transportation facilities. The pass also allows in most cases to skip the queue at the entrance, although for some attractions advance reservations are required. The price of this card is not cheap. Therefore, our advice is to carefully evaluate its convenience based on the number of attractions you plan to visit in the city and the number of public transportations you plan to use. More information can be found at this link.
If your plan is to make an on-the-road trip throughout the island (except for Northern Ireland), a good alternative to the Dublin Pass is the Heritage Card, the card that allows free access to the many attractions managed by the Office of Public Works (OPW) including Dublin Castle, the Rock of Cashel, the prehistoric area of Brú na Bóinne and many others. The card, valid for one year, costs € 40.00 (about CHF 39.00) per person and can be purchased online or at the ticket offices of one of the affiliated attractions. Again, keep in mind that advance reservations are required for some attractions. All the information here.