Our two week trip to Europe with the family starts with the flight over. Our main target is Ireland. From Florida, we connected first through Kennedy in NY and then Paris. After the overnight flight to Europe, there is the problem of arriving early in the day which can be before your rooms are ready (see You Snooze, you Lose) and to top if off, the airlines lost two of our bags (mine and my husband’s).
Fortunately, when we arrived at our hotel The Shelbourne, they quickly arranged for a temporary room for us until our rooms were ready. As soon as the kids got to the room, they fell asleep leaving me and my husband free to go find lunch.
The Shelbourne is a fantastic hotel which blends tradition with modern conveniences-stay tuned for my in-depth review of it. The hotel has a whole set of on-site restaurants. But since we were eager to see a little of Dublin and to stretch our legs, we stepped outside. It turns out there are a dozen upscale restaurants within a hundred yards of the hotel so we had ample choices.
We chose Hugo’s Restaurant for a late lunch. It was a charming little bistro restaurant that offered an old world feel, but each dish was beautifully prepared. After lunch, we wondered back to our hotel and took a much needed nap until it was time for dinner.
The kids were eager to get out and explore a little too. We decided to stay close to the hotel for dinner the first night and came across Bang Restaurant. All of the food was delicious.
We started off walking right across our hotel, The Shelbourne on St. Stephen’s Green, and saw a few tour companies offering several Hop-On-Hop-Off Tours that would take you around Dublin. The one that caught my eye was CityScape Tours because I saw “luxury sightseeing” on the side of the bus. They had two buses: one was a normal bus, and the other a double decker, meaning it had an upper deck with no roof, yielding the best photo opportunities. The tickets on these tours were valid for three days, so we hopped on the bus and off we went.
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral The largest church in Ireland was our first stop. The present building dates from 1220. Today, the Cathedral is the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland (a church of the Anglican communion) and also serves as a popular tourist attraction in Ireland. In addition to tourists, we saw many people praying, lighting candles, and a class of children working on an art project in one of the naves.
Guinness Storehouse is located in the heart of the St James’s Gate Brewery in Dublin, which has been home to the ‘black stuff’ since 1759. The seven story building, a former Guinness fermentation plant, has been remodeled into the shape of a giant pint of Guinness. Visitors get to learn everything they ever wanted to learn on how Guinness is made and relax and enjoy a free sample at the end. For many, the original Guinness factory is hallowed ground. Visitors can take a turn “pulling a pint” of Guinness, touring the old Guinness advertisements, or eating in one of the three onsite restaurants. We chose to eat and had Irish shepherds pie with Guinness’ all round.
Kilmainham Gaol was a former prison, now a monument to suffering, hardship and the birth of a nation. Interesting in itself and a hands-on excursion into the penal system. If you like your revolutions glorious but gory, Dublin certainly is the place to go – the events of the Easter Rising in 1916 will always stay in the collective memory. It is where the rebellion’s leaders were imprisoned and shot. The history of the Irish independence movement and war of independence from Britain was covered in some detail.
My husband and I decided to start early in the day and let the kids catch up on their sleep. We skipped the bus and decided some walking would be good exercise instead. Trinity College was a short walk from the hotel.
Trinity College Library and The Book of Kells, We opted for a leisurely tour on our own instead of the audio. The first part of the tour is The Book of Kells, where we saw some of the illuminated manuscripts containing the four Gospels of the New Testament written about a thousand years ago. This was followed by the Old Library, which contains thousands of first addition books and hand written manuscripts.
From Trinity College we walked another ten minutes on College Green towards Dublin Castle. We stopped along the way at The Bank on College Green. It was once a banking hall and opened as a pub and restaurant in 2003. The building was once described as one of the foremost jewels of Victorian Dublin.
Dublin Castle represents some of the oldest surviving architecture in the city. The 13th-century record tower, the largest visible fragment of the original Norman castle and the State Apartments, once the residence of English viceroys are now the focal point for government ceremonial functions, including the inauguration of Ireland’s presidents. There are a series of magnificent stately rooms including a throne room and grand reception halls which have a long history of hosting significant state functions.
Once we exited Dublin Castle, we took the three minute walk to the Temple Bar area via Sycamore St and Essex Street East. Temple Bar has been a part of Dublin since Viking times and is a place to go listen to Irish music, and have a beer. It’s surrounded by nightclubs, restaurants and bars.
We followed the River Liffey until we reached the Liffey Bridge, which is unofficially referred to as the Ha’penny Bridge. It was a pedestrian bridge built in 1816 over the River Liffey. Before the Ha’penny Bridge was built, there were seven ferries, operated by a William Walsh, across the Liffey. The ferries were in bad condition and Walsh was informed that he had to either fix them or build a bridge. Walsh chose the latter option and was granted the right to extract a ha’penny toll from anyone crossing it for 100 years. The toll charge was based not on the cost of construction, but to match the charges levied by the ferries it replaced.
From the Ha’penny Bridge, we walked another 12 minutes until we reached Grafton Street. Grafton Street is the heart of shopping in Dublin. It’s lined up with stores, street performers, and musicians. It’s also where you’ll find Brown Thomas, one of the best luxury department stores with a vast selection of upscale designer couture clothing, handbags, accessories and cosmetics. The sister shop, BT2 is located on the opposite side of Grafton Street.
Three days in Dublin are, in my opinion, almost the optimum amount of time. You will see Ireland’s capital and explore many of the main attractions, although you might have to skip the in-depth look at many of them. And if you really want to explore more in an around the city, I recommend taking getting an International Driving License Ireland and enjoying a road trip!
I listed several of the main attractions to see in Dublin, but there are many more! The CityScape Tours have a plethora of stops, many of which we didn’t have time to explore such as the Jameson Distillery. Our trip was enhanced by the wonderful hospitality and charm of the Shelbourne Hotel, which I highly recommend!