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The Complete Guide for Doing Dublin in a Day

How can you possibly do Dublin in a day? The city has 1,300 years of history with well established arts and literary traditions and more pubs per square foot than, well, anywhere. Perhaps you are doing Dublin as a quick city break or you’re just pausing there briefly before touring the rest of Ireland. Either way, plan your day in Dublin carefully, and you will be able to see a lot of what Dublin has to offer.

Dublin Killmainham Gaol Exterior
Work yard for the Killmainham Goal

Your Dublin Planning Guide

What follows are two complete itineraries for spending one day in Dublin. One heavily features art and the other features history. It assumes that you can fit in 3-4 sights per day, but I’ve included a bonus suggestion for each itinerary in case you have extra time. Mix and match as you wish or better yet, stay the extra day and do both.

Read More: For your larger tour of Ireland, check out this guide for designing an optimal road trip, and be sure to read this guide for how to survive driving in Ireland.

Where to Stay in Dublin

Stay in central Dublin for the best access to all of the itinerary items mentioned below. If you are sensitive to street noise, avoid anything near Temple Bar, especially on the weekends. Generally speaking, you can find modest guest houses and hostels north of the Liffey and full service hotels south of the Liffey. There are AirBnB’s sprinkled throughout.

Most of the hotels in the city core are well located, but they aren’t necessarily fabulous. There are plenty of swank hotels for €200+ but it’s tricky to find a nice hotel for €125-150. Some of the inventory at the lower end of the range is older hotel stock with mixed reviews. Keep an eye out for “genius” deals on Booking.com’s Dublin city page.

Hip & Cheap: The Generator Hostel in Dublin is well located with fairly new facilities and a hip vibe. They try to split the difference between el cheapo hostels and a hotel stay. They offer a range of room configurations, from 8-bed dorms, quads, family rooms and private twin rooms. Check reviews on Trip Advisor or book a deal on Booking.com.

Good Value & Well Located: The Handel Hotel Temple Bar. This hotel is located at the edge of Temple Bar– near enough to be convenient but away from the worst of the night noise. It’s conveniently located right on the 747 bus line from the airport. It’s a good basic 3-star that’s clean and comfortable. Check reviews on Trip Advisor and book a deal on Booking.com.

Book Carefully with AirBnB: There are quite a few AirBnBs in Dublin, ranging from €75-120 a night. They are a better deal than the hotels and worth it if you want the benefit of a kitchen or laundry. However, I’ve stayed in one that was well-appointed but not quite in the area indicated on the host’s map—and another that was in a great location but in a crumbling wreck of a building. My advice for you is to book an AirBnB that is on the outer edges of Central Dublin– perhaps just north of the Liffey or southwest of St. Stephens Green. Look at the pictures and read the reviews carefully. Check Dublin listings here.

New to AirBnb? Save up to $55 on your first stay by using my special discount code.

One Day in Dublin Focused on Art & Culture

Ireland Dublin Brother Hubbard Breakfast
Start your day trip to Dublin with Breakfast at Brother Hubbards.

Get Breakfast at Brother Hubbard

They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The truth is that the whole “most important” thing was a lobbying ploy by the Kellogg cereal company to get more people to eat their product. However, it is true that breakfast is the most delicious meal of the day and no where is that more true than at Brother Hubbard cafe. Their Mediterranean inspired egg dishes are creatively arranged and big enough to energize you for the day.

Pro Tip: The restaurant gets busy so go early.

Dublin in a day for art lovers: Hugh Lane
The Hugh Lane Gallery (photo courtesy of Tourism Ireland).

See Modern Art at Hugh Lane Gallery

The Hugh Lane Gallery specializes in modern and contemporary art. Hugh Lane himself was a man of humble beginnings who rose to become a major figure as an art dealer and collector. The gallery began as a repository for his own collection but has since evolved into a showcase for modern Irish art.

The centerpiece of the gallery is a painstaking reconstruction of Francis Bacon’s painting studio. It’s a hot mess of madness and creativity that offers a glimpse into his genius and creative process.

Cost: Free
Visitation time: 1 to1-1/2 hours
Pro Tip: When you are finished in the gallery, be sure to visit the Parnell Square Garden of Remembrance across the street. It is a sobering memorial to those who gave their lives for Irish freedom.

“I cannot work in places that are too tidy. It’s much easier for me to paint in a place like this which is a mess”
—- Francis Bacon

Dublin garden of remembrance- pool with people sitting eating lunch
The Garden of Remembrance.

Check out the Gallery of Photography

The center features contemporary photography, primarily from Irish photographers or on Irish topics. They have several rooms devoted to exhibits and also offer a tempting photography bookstore. The exhibits that I’ve seen there range from street to portraiture to experimental. When you visit, you aren’t sure what you are going to get and it’s always a pleasant surprise.

Cost: Free
Visitation Time: 20 minutes
Pro Tip: If you visit on a Saturday, you can also get some lunch and local foodie delights at the Temple Bar food market. It’s located on the square right in front of the gallery and open from 10a-4pm.

The gallery’s cool bookstore is just one of many in Dublin. For more, read the guide to the best bookshops in Dublin.

Chester Beatty Library - Literary Tour of Dublin
The Chester Beatty Library in Dublin.

Beautiful Books at The Chester Beatty

Beatty revered religious texts and he amassed a vast collection of works from a variety of cultures and religions. The museum houses one of the largest private collections of books and manuscripts to be found anywhere.  They have Islamic texts with beautiful calligraphy and illustrations, ancient biblical papyri and manuscripts and a visual history of east Asian printmaking techniques. Even if you aren’t a religious person (and I’m not), exploring the “art of the book” is as inspiring and illuminating as visiting a painting or photography gallery. The Chester Beatty is located right next to the Dublin Castle so you can double up your visit if you wish.

Cost: Free
Visitation time: 1 to 1-1/2 hours
Pro Tip: Spend some time up on the rooftop garden.

Trinity College Library Long Room
Must see for Dublin in one day: Trinity College Library Long Room.

Geek Out at Trinity College Library

Most people who only have one day in Dublin go to Trinity College…and for good reason. The Book of Kells is a masterwork of illuminations, It dates back to ~800 AD and it contains the four gospels of the New Testament. The library’s collection includes a display of the manuscripts and well-thought out exhibits regarding their artwork and history.

Once finished with the Book of Kells, you then flow into the Long Library. It was built in 1712 and comprises the main chamber of the library. It houses 200,000 of the library’s oldest books. The light streaming in from the windows illuminates row after row of books, all connected together by a beautiful curved ceiling. I’m a nut for beautiful libraries and this one is a stunner.

Cost: €10-13 for adults but they also have family and group discounts.
Visitation Time: 1-1/2 to 2 hours
Pro Tip: Save time by purchasing your tickets in advance and if you go very early or late, you may be able to avoid the worst of the crowds.

Read More: The Chester Beatty and Trinity Long Library are just two of many literary spots in the city. If you are a book nerd, then supplement your itinerary by sampling this epic list of literary points of interest in Dublin.

Dublin Ireland itinerary- Trinity College long library bookshelves with white statues
The Long Library at Trinity College.

Bonus extra: The Library Project

At ground level, Temple Bar seems to be all about the bars, but there is also a well-established gallery and film culture in the neighborhood. The Library Project is a great example of a small, niche organization doing what they can to support local artists. They stock their store with art and photography books, many which are self-published by the artists. They also host semi-regular exhibitions of photography and prints and fundraising events.

Cost: Free
Visitation Time: 20 minutes
Pro Tip: It’s just across Temple Bar street from the Gallery of Photography so you can pop in for a quick visit before heading to the Chester Beatty.

Ireland Dublin Palace Bar literary pub crawl
Have a pint at the Palace.

Have a Pint

Are you tired yet from your day trip to Dublin? Take a load off and pull a pint. However, don’t go to the “Temple Bar” bar- it doesn’t have the same long history as other pubs in town. Go instead to the Palace Bar.

The Palace was built in 1823 and has been owned by the Aherne family since 1936. The bar has a literary history and during the 40’s-60’s it was the local “office” for the journalist Bertie Smiley and his cronies. The reporters would hang out there, looking for leads and racking up large bar tabs. You can find the grandson of the family tending bar and telling stories like it’s still 1936.

Dublin in a Day for History Lovers

Dublin in a day for art lovers: Hugh Lane

Get Breakfast at Queen of Tarts

No, the Queen of Tarts isn’t a brothel, although its Temple Bar neighborhood was indeed the center of prostitution in the 18th century. Rather, the Queen of Tarts is a cozy tea shop with a mean bakery case. They also serve up a full breakfast menu and when I was there, I had the full Irish AND a muffin. Eat whatever you like, you’ll be doing a lot of walking during your day in Dublin and you’ll work it off.

One day in Dublin Museum of Archaeology
Bog bodies and gold treasures at the Museum of Archaeology.

Learn about Ancient History at the Museum of Archaeology

The National Museum of Archaeology was established in 1890 and is housed in a building made specifically for the museum. One sixth of Ireland’s landscape is covered in bog. These swamps take whatever’s thrown into them and preserve it with a creepy anaerobic efficiency. The museum’s collection is well stocked with the bog’s offerings of preserved bodies, clothing and artifacts. It also houses early Christian artifacts, prehistoric gold pieces and manly weapons from the Viking era.

Cost: Free
Visitation time: 1 hour
Pro Tip: This is just down the street from Trinity College so if you are doing the mix/match itinerary, you can pair them up.

Points of Interest in Dublin- Little Museum
20th century reporter’s desk.

Explore Quirky Dublin at the Little Museum of Dublin

This goofy little museum offers a bric a brac collection that chronicles the history of Dublin in the 20th century. They also have a permanent exhibit on U2’s rise to stardom. The museum usually doesn’t make anyone’s “must do” for what to see in Dublin in a day. However, I’m including it here because I firmly believe that anytime you visit a new place, you need to do something goofy or weird. The Little Museum of Dublin will fit that bill very nicely.

Cost: €10
Visitation time: The guided tour lasts about 1/2 hour.
Pro Tip: Their website says to book ahead for the tour. I didn’t and they let me in anyway.

Dublin in a day: Killmainham Goal
Upper level cells at the Killmainham Gaol.

See Ireland’s Sober History at the Killmainham Gaol

The Killmainham Gaol was the gruesome repository for two hundred years worth of independence seekers and human rights advocates that the British deemed troublesome. It was built in 1796 and held political prisoners from five rounds of rebellions. In 1916, the prison executed all of the leaders of the infamous Easter uprising and during the potato famine, desperate, starving children were made “illegal” and sentenced to hard labor there.

Killmainham held ordinary prisoners as well, but it’s infamous role in Ireland’s independence movement is reason enough to visit. A forgotten history is likely to be repeated. At the Gaol, they try to avoid that with passionate tour guides and excellent exhibits.

“If the prison does not underbid the slum in human misery, then the slum will empty and the prison will fill”
— George Bernard Shaw

Cost: €8 for adult tickets purchased online.
Visitation time: The tour is an hour, but you’ll want to leave time to view the exhibits after.
Pro Tip: Truly, book ahead. The walk-up tickets are for a shorter tour and if they book up, you are standing around waiting.

Dublin Guinness Storehouse
Front of Guinness Storehouse (photo courtesy of Ireland Tourism).

Drink Beer at Guinness Storehouse

I’m a contrarian traveler and usually avoid visiting the super-touristy stuff so it wasn’t until my third visit to Dublin that I actually made it to the Guinness Storehouse. It’s definitely touristy, but an educational kind of touristy. The Storehouse takes you through a multi-story history of the beer and how it is made. They offer a class to teach you how to pull your own perfect pint and at the end, you get a glass of beer at their rooftop bar.

Understanding the history of Guinness is a gateway into understanding Dublin’s culture and economic ingenuity. The “porter” style beer was devised as a popular beverage for the average working man–and also as a hedge against water born, gut destroying diseases. Guinness was the first Irish beer to export globally and they used exacting scientific methods to create that perfect pour. The exhibits in the Storehouse are visually arresting and the whole thing had a very fun vibe.

Cost: €17.50-25. They have a confusing demand-based pricing scheme that varies according to whether you do the advance purchase and time of day.
Visitation time: 2 hours, including time up in the rooftop bar.
Pro Tip: The cheapest tickets are for 9:30 AM– a bit early for beer but hey, it’s Ireland.

(Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that if you chose to purchase, I’ll get a small commission.) 

Bonus extra: History Walking Tours

Ireland Dublin Beer

Have (Another) Pint

If you like your pubs snug, then go for a pint at the Stags Head. It’s one of Dublin’s most well preserved Victorian pubs with beautiful wood paneling everywhere. This centrally located local’s pub offers regular trad music sessions and a well-poured pint.

Dublin One Day Itinerary Map

Use this map to gauge distances and figure out what to see for your one day in Dublin. The red pins represent the art and culture itinerary and the black pins are for history.

Click here or on the image below to get a fully interactive map.

Dublin in a day map

Getting Around Dublin

If you are staying in central Dublin, all of the above points of interest are walkable except for the Killmainham Gaol and the Guinness Storehouse. Killmainham and Guinness are 1.2 miles (2/k) from one another, so if you are doing both, book your tickets one after the other. Hugh Lane is about .6 mile (1/k) north of the Liffey river so it’s walkable, unless you are tired or mobility challenged.

To get to Guinness/Killmainham, you can take a cab/uber, a bus or the hop on hop off bus. Here are the pros and cons of each.

  • Uber/taxi: Costs ~€10.50 each way to Killmainham Gaol. But it’s point to point and you can bring 4 passengers for that price.
  • Hop on Hop off: Costs ~€20 per person for one day. The buses stop at all of the key sites, including ones not listed in this post. It’s good for people who don’t want to try to figure out public transportation or who don’t have a local mobile data plan for mapping. But the buses run in a loop. So, for instance, to get from the Guinness Storehouse back to central Dublin, you have to take a 25 minute loop through Phoenix Park. You can check the route and book here.
  • City buses: Costs €2 in the city center and €2.70 to/from Killmainham. They are reliable and pretty frequent. Don’t use the Dublin public transportation app, it’s crap. Just Google map your point-to-point directions using the bus option.

Read More: Prepare for your trip by reading some great books set in Ireland.

Packing Essentials for Ireland

Ireland has a chilly, rainy climate so you’ll want to pack for the elements. But if you don’t want to overpack, check out this packing list for the UK & Ireland. It’s a carry-on only list that will give you three weeks of clothes for sightseeing and outdoor adventures. Here is a short list of essentials for walking around Dublin

These one day itineraries will help your get the most out of your trip to Dublin. Follow them strictly or mix and match. But report back when you return, I’d love to hear how your trip went. Happy trails.

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Kevin Wagar

Monday 27th of November 2017

I can't even count the number of times we have had brief windows to explore epic cities like this. And it's guides like this that make it do-able to squeeze as many amazing sights into a small window! If I end up in Dublin for a day, I know I'll be following this to a T!

Carol Guttery

Monday 27th of November 2017

Thanks so much for the feedback.

yashajoy

Sunday 26th of November 2017

These sound like great itineraries - or just a list of don't miss places on any trip to Dublin. I just love the sound of the Little Museum of Dublin..

Carol Guttery

Monday 27th of November 2017

The museum is so fun. They thanked me 4 times for visiting-- they are very enthusiastic there.

shesatripblog

Saturday 25th of November 2017

This is a great guide. I have some friends who will spend a day in Dublin before going out to explore the countryside. I'll pass it along.

Carol Guttery

Sunday 26th of November 2017

To be honest, Dublin is worth more than one day, which I why I’ve offered several itinerary options here. But, the countryside is great and I can appreciate why people who visit Ireland are anxious to get out there

Sarah

Saturday 25th of November 2017

I think I would want to spend most of my day at the Trinity College Library Long Room, wouldn't leave much time for anything else.

Carol Guttery

Sunday 26th of November 2017

I was completely gobsmacked when I entered that room. It’s a bucket list item for book nerds

Katie @ The Budget Backpack

Saturday 25th of November 2017

Love this, Carol! So well covered! I'm trying to get to Dublin next year, so I'll definitely save this for when I'm planning!