My Perfect Day in Dublin

My perfect day in Dublin begins on Grafton Street in the hours before most businesses open their shutters. The street is usually packed with shoppers and buskers, but at this hour only a few solitary people on their way to office buildings can be seen darting around delivery trucks. The bronze Molly Malone statue fits the street quite well in the morning light without tourists posing in front of her for photographs; however, her low cut dress seems a little revealing for sunrise!

Bewley's Grafton Street Café. - Photo by Alanah McKillen

Bewley’s Grafton Street Café. – Photo by Alanah McKillen

At 8am, I am among the first customers at the old Bewley’s Oriental Café… it’s now called the Bewley’s Grafton Street Café, but I’m a sucker for tradition. I order my tea for take away, and as the hot water pours into the cup, I admire the the stained glass, the artwork, and the highly decorated architectural details of the 1920s building, but I don’t linger.

St Stephen's Green - Photo by Samuel! PereZ

St Stephen’s Green – Photo by Samuel Perez

I step out the front door onto the colorful entrance tiles before continuing my stroll toward St Stephen’s Green at the end of Grafton. At the park entrance, I slip under the archway and disappear to my favorite park bench. The swans and ducks scuttle about on the pond in front of me until my cup of tea empties. I exit the park from a different gate, and it is clear the click-clack sounds of dress shoes hitting the footpaths are beginning to be overpowered by rumbling buses, taxis, delivery trucks, and other sounds of the city.

Whitefriar Street Church - Photo by Corey Taratuta

Whitefriar Street Church – Photo by Corey Taratuta

From the park, I walk just a few blocks to the Whitefriar Street Church. Two statues greet me at the entrance and inside I maneuver around the life size crucifixion scene. The church might not offer the historic appeal of St Patrick’s or Christ Church Cathedrals, but the Carmelite nuns who run the Whitefriar Street Church don’t keep an admission box at the door, and its thick walls separate it from the city outside to create a secret oasis. Once inside, I start on the left side and circumnavigate the entire building with a visit to each of the side altars… including the one said to house the relics of St Valentine. On my round, I can’t help but notice the diverse mix of people stopping in for a quick prayer, and I am reminded that its not such a secret spot after all.

View of the Dublin Castle courtyard from the rooftop patio at the Chester Beatty Library - Photo by Corey Taratuta

View of the Dublin Castle courtyard from the rooftop patio at the Chester Beatty Library – Photo by Corey Taratuta

Then my walk takes me to the grounds of Dublin Castle. The signs for tours or the cafe or even the mysteriously named Revenue Museum don’t distract me from my destination… the Chester Beatty Library. While the queue for the Book of Kells at Trinity College is probably growing long and uncomfortable by this time, the open lobby at the Chester Beatty is calm and peaceful. I sit for a moment and watch the video about the Irish-American who became Sir Alfred Chester Beatty. Then I wander upstairs to the exhibition hall where I find myself entranced with the extensive collection of ancient books. By the time I reach the illuminated manuscripts with Celtic designs similar to the Book of Kells, I’m only marginally impressed… I have, after all, just spent my entire morning looking at much older documents.

I always end up spending more time at the Chester Beatty Library than expected, so it’s no surprise that I’m still there at noon. I return to the lobby for one of my favorite Dublin lunches at the Silk Road Café. I select from the day’s Middle Eastern specials and always order an extra side because it’s too difficult to limit my choices to just two.

Woman at the O'Connell Monument at Glasnevin - Photo by Corey Taratuta

Woman at the O’Connell Monument at Glasnevin – Photo by Corey Taratuta

When I leave the Chester Beatty, I look to the sky to determine my next stop. If the weather looks like it won’t leave me soaked, I begin my journey to Glasnevin Cemetery. Most days I’ll walk the 2.5 miles (4km) and include Blessington Basin in my route, but the distance and the easy-to-get-confused directions can make the northbound Number 9 bus an appealing alternative (the Number 4 with stops near Trinity and O’Connell Street also go that way). Once I reach Glasnevin, I make a beeline for the new museum and sign up for the next walking tour. The guide delivers a fascinating who’s who tale of modern Irish history based solely on gravestones. Meanwhile inside the centre, I’m entranced by the macabre details in the City of the Dead exhibit; and despite my earlier feast at Silk Road, I still manage a bit of dessert and tea in the Tower Café overlooking the tombstones.

Glass House at the National Botanic Gardens - Photo by Corey Taratuta

Glass House at the National Botanic Gardens – Photo by Corey Taratuta

If I have time after Glasnevin Cemetery, the National Botanic Gardens around the corner call to me. The gardens and glass houses offer a brilliant color tour, which is made even better when I put in my ear buds and listen to the free audio guide from Ingenious Ireland as I wander the expansive gardens.

If it’s raining when I leave Chester Beatty, I climb aboard the Hop On Hop Off bus… I always choose the double-decker green bus where I know I’ll get an entertaining, live commentary from the driver… rain or shine… none of those canned, pre-recorded bus tour for me.

Kilmainham Gaol - Photo by Corey Taratuta

Kilmainham Gaol – Photo by Corey Taratuta

Despite the temptation, I bypass the stop for the Guinness Store House; instead I get off at Kilmainham Gaol. As I wait for the tour, I’m surprised by how the exhibits manage to pique my curiosity in the history of incarceration… a topic I wouldn’t expect to hold my interest. It’s on the guided tour when Irish history begins to haunt me… inside the cells, in the courtyard, on the walls, along the corridors… there’s a story in every corner, but everything comes to a head in the chapel where the tune Grace plays inside my head. The song tells the story of a couple married in the chapel just before the groom, a leader in the 1916 Rising, is executed (click the play button below to hear Liam sing the song a capella).


Audio file for devices that do not support Flash:

After leaving Kilmainham, I return to the hop on/off bus and continue the circuit and the ongoing commentary from the driver. Depending on the time, I may choose another stop, but usually its just nice to sit and watch the city go by.

My evening presents two options. In one plan, I take in a dinner at Cafe en Siene… it’s not Dublin’s swankiest or finest restaurant, but it matches my vision of an opulent Victorian Dublin palm garden, and better yet, it fits my budget. Then I’m off for a pint at Kehoe’s where the look and hospitality feel traditional Irish all the way.

Meanwhile if I’m hungry for a serving of Irish folklore and history mixed in with my dinner, I make a reservation for An Evening of Food, Folklore, and Fairies at the Brazen Head Pub. While I expect my fellow diners to be international tourists, I’m surprised by the number of Irish people I meet who are also enjoying the tales… some even pipe up and share a tale or two their granny used to tell. After dinner, we retire to the pub and the craic continues.

Now it’s your turn, what makes up your perfect day in Dublin? Leave your tips in the comments below…


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100 Cities to Home Swap Before You DieThis post is part of the initiative “100 cities to home swap before you die” from You are invited to add a perfect day in your city as well.

Author: Corey

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  1. I just took the walk around Dublin with you. I go to Ireland every year and spend a lot of time in Dublin, my very favorite city. in 120 days I will be there for my 15th tour in Ireland and am already hearing the music. I enjoy your blog very much.

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    • Thanks Ruth! You’re welcome to send over your perfect day in Ireland to add to our blog… I’m sure you’ve found some real gems in your travels.

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    • Liam – that would be right up my alley. Maybe it’ll end up on my “other” perfect day list 🙂

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  2. Wonderful–and I love the photos!

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  3. Truly a perfect day.

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  4. GORGEOUS pics Corey. I love having a glimpse into someone’s perfect day.

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  5. PERFECT! It only needs you to start a little earlier, with an early morning cycle among the deer in the wonderful Phoenix Park, to work up your appetite for Bewleys 😉

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  6. Liam’s song is just beautiful, and I look forward to trying some of the spots on your list when we get to Ireland. I hope that won’t be too far in the future.

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  7. Corey, you take in incredibly awesome pics! I plan on ditching Twitter so I’ll have to figure out if there’s an alternate way to view those. I dream of a day in Dublin! 🙂

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  8. First, Liam’s amazing a cappella is a perfect accompaniment to these incredible suggestions! Second, I so want to go!!!

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  9. Thank you for this walking tour of Dublin. I shall print it off and try to follow the directions when I come to Dublin to celebrate my 50th birthday in 2014. These are hidden treasures that, unless you know what you are looking for one would never find. However, I don’t think I would be able to pass the Guiness brewery without stopping in for a pint.

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  10. Thanks for reminding me what a wonderful city I live in. Sometimes with the daily grind and the pressures of modern living, it’s easy to forget. 🙂

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  11. My perfect day in Dublin, was my first day ever in Dublin.

    We (my mom and I) were so tired from the overnight flight, and we had to hitch a ride from another tour bus driver at the airport to our hotel since ours couldn’t be found. It was pouring rain, and it was too early to check-in our hotel room, so we had to crash on couches in the lobby. We looked around and at each other and smiled. How great it was to finally be in Dublin.

    We decided to grab our umbrellas from our carry-ons, left our luggage with the concierge, and strolled out onto the streets. We walked for about 45 minutes, taking in the sights, taking pictures, and laughing at how cold & rainy it was. Dublin was great so far, we thought.

    Later that night at the hotel, our tour bus driver bought us our first pint of Guinness in Ireland, and we met the rest of our group. As we all talked & laughed, I felt the real meaning of, Failte’.

    As for tips & things/places to see/do in Dublin, I’d suggest the following:

    Walk around St. Stephen’s Green, it’s a beautiful park.

    Stroll the streets & shops on Grafton St., and don’t forget to stop by Phil Lynott on Harry St.

    Stop in for a pint at Neary’s on Chatham St. off of Grafton.

    Stroll along the River Liffey. Day or night, it’s a nice scenic walk.

    Hop on an open top tour bus. You can jump on & off around the city. Inexpensive & worth it.

    Visit the Guinness Storehouse. In case you’ve never been, you’re not touring the actual brewery, instead you’re on a self-guided tour of the Guinness process & artifacts, and like all good tours, ends in the gift shop. However, keep your eyes peeled inside for a real neat feature, and make sure you go to the top of the storehouse to have a pint in the Sky Bar. You’ll have 360 degree views of Dublin, and on a clear day, about 30 miles in any direction.

    Visit Trinity College. They house the, Book of Kells & The Old Library, as well as having a beautiful campus with great architecture, statues, and sculptures.

    Take in lunch at a local shop off the beaten path. Some of the best meals I’ve had in Ireland have been little mom & pops, tucked in the nooks & crannys of towns. Dublin has no shortage.

    Most important, don’t forget to stop & take it all in. Grab a seat on the wall along The Liffey, or rest a while on the base of, Daniel O’Connell on O’Connell St.
    The point being, you can sometimes get so caught up in always having to be “doing something”, that you miss things along the way. As an old saying goes; Never underestimate the importance of doing nothing.

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    • George. Great story. So glad you and your mom embraced such a positive attitude… it guaranteed you were going to have a memorable trip. Thanks for all the other suggestions too!

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  12. Love the photos and tips… I love going to the National library on Kildare St, the exhibitions are fantastic and it’s usually very quiet in there and a great place to hide from the rain 🙂

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  13. Thank you for great post, Corey. It came at the right time.

    My wife and I are taking our honeymoon to Ireland in May for two weeks. And with two days only in Dublin we really want to make the best of it at our leisure.

    Funny that your day is so close to what I had imagined after reading up (still) on what to do. While we’re still researching the “things to do” we won’t mind what George said in that “you can sometimes get so caught up in always having to be “doing something”, that you miss things along the way.” And because we come from tourist town Orlando I think that itself will be motivation enough to “do nothing” and/or do things “off the beaten path”.

    With that I’m confident that we’ll make our perfect day our own to come. I hope to report back later 😀

    p.s. All recommendations, for folks who come form tourists towns, for things to do while in Ireland are most welcome 😉

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