Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.T.S. Eliot
10 years ago I boarded a plane to visit Dublin for the first time with one of my best friends right in time for St. Patrick’s Day. It was nothing short of an adventure and I highly recommend visiting Dublin at least once in your life.
In the spirit of the upcoming holiday that, let’s be honest, only Americans seem to care about I wanted to relive my adventures for you guys and give you a full review of my time there and what I’d recommend now as a person who is 10 years older, wiser (maybe), and still just as obsessed with travel…probably more obsessed with travel now.
Where We Stayed
Ever heard of Balbriggin? Neither had I until we decided to book a hotel there. It is a TINY Irish town on the coast with lots of small-town charm. We wanted to stay somewhere quiet and outside of Dublin to avoid the high prices, but also to experience as much of Ireland as we could.
6 Attractions You Shouldn’t Miss… and 1 Dud
Let me preface this by saying I hate beer and I am really not a fan of Guinness… I LOVED this tour. There were seven floors to explore where we could learn about the beer-making process from start to finish. We came the year Guinness was trying to set a world record for making St. Patty’s Day the happiest day ever. They were taking pledges from people to be happy and do something nice that day, which of course we did.
At the end of the tour you get a complimentary beer and there’s a massive gift shop to explore with everything from clothing to beer to chocolate. While every tourist and their 9 closest friends were there, it was so much fun and the place was so massive we really didn’t notice the crowds except while waiting in line.
It’s iconic. It’s a must if you want to get the full tourist experience in Dublin. It’s also home to the world’s largest whiskey collection and I am (and was) so ready for that. We dined in and just really enjoyed sitting back, eating good food, and listening to live music. Despite being a major tourist destination, it was so laid back and we loved the atmosphere.
Think of it as Ireland’s Rodeo Drive, but smaller in scale. Grafton Street is one of two major shopping streets in Dublin and is such a fun place to window shop and get souvenirs. We walked through on our way to St. Stephen’s Green, but any shopping lovers reading this, put this on your list right now.
In 2008 it was the world’s fifth most expensive main shopping street. Shoppers don’t worry, it’s since fallen to 32nd so it’s a little less terrifying in price now!
St. Stephen’s Green
Calling this destination a public park does it a disservice. This gorgeous burst of color first opened in 1880 in the heart of Dublin. It’s the largest of similar parks and is home to walking paths, a small pond, and lots of green. I love finding pops of nature whenever I travel to cities, so it was a refreshing visit after touring busy streets. Don’t forget your cameras, the flowers and trees are so picturesque that it basically screams at you to take a picture.
St. Patty’s Day Parade
Americans love a good parade and I’m not an outlier here. There’s just one problem. I’m short.
This means I can almost never get a good view or see most of the parade. We eventually found good spots to see what was going on and I’m glad we went, but I don’t think I’d ever do it again. Did I enjoy getting completely decked out in green with face paint? Yes. Did I love getting in the spirit of a holiday with tons of other people? Yes.
Did I love it when several 94ft tall humans stepped in front of me at my pristine spot at the front of the crowd? No. Was the parade fun despite half of it being blocked? You bet.
Duds happen, but they are rarely in the form of castles in my experience. By this time, I was living in England and toured a lot of castles, all of which blew my mind for many different reasons.
We toured Dublin Castle and that was where the castle shone…in its amazing tour guide, not the castle itself. Our tour guide was spectacular. We learned so much about Ireland, the history of Dublin, and lots about the castle. I soaked it all up and loved the experience.
The castle itself? A dud. The exterior kept most of its historical charm, but inside was renovated to look mostly modern. It felt like we were visiting an exceptionally important conference room instead of a historical castle.
Last, but certainly not least is Trinity College. Founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I, Trinity College is one of the seven ancient universities of Britain and is Ireland’s oldest surviving university. The shining beacon of awesomeness lies in The Old Library and the museum. The library is every book nerd’s dream with floor to ceiling bookshelves housing over 250,000 books. It. Is. Gorgeous.
The Book of Kells is also on display here. It’s a well-preserved illuminated manuscript containing four manuscripts of the New Testament and dates to the 9th century. Now, I’m not religious in any shape or form, but I do appreciate a gorgeous piece of history and this was fascinating to see.