Back in May 2020, I was supposed to head to Ireland but as with all things 2020, that never happened. Finally, 22 months later in March 2022, I got my chance to take my long-awaited vacation to Ireland. This meant celebrating my birthday and a belated St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin.
Dublin is not only the capital of Ireland, but it is also the largest city in Ireland. Located on the eastern part of the country, it’s the city most people fly into and start their trip through the beautiful country of Ireland. There is so much to see in Dublin, that it’s definitely worth spending a weekend there before moving on to explore the rest of Ireland. Here are some great things to do during a weekend visit to Dublin.
Trinity College and The Book of Kells
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Dublin has got to be Trinity College. Located in the heart of the city, Trinity College dates back to 1592 and is Ireland’s highest ranked university.
The campus of Trinity College is absolutely beautiful. It was modeled after the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge in the UK. As you walk in under the archway onto the campus, you will be in Parliament Square where you can admire the beautiful stone buildings and the bell tower. As someone who went to a college that was nicknamed “brick city” due to the many brick buildings on campus, I felt that stone buildings were just so beautiful, definitely better than brick!
Taking a walk thru campus and admiring the historic buildings is a great way to enjoy your time visiting Trinity College. One of the things that I was very impressed with while walking around, was the Globe that is located outside of the Main Library. This sculpture is called “Sphere Within Sphere” and was originally created for the Vatican Museum by Italian sculptor Ornaldo Pomodorro. I thought the sculpture looked a bit familiar and did some research and found out that this sculpture can also be found at locations around the world including the UN Headquarters in New York City, which I believe may be where I’ve seen it before.
As beautiful as the campus of Trinity College is, the main reason it’s one of the most visited spots in Dublin, is The Book of Kells. Located in the Old Library at Trinity College, The Book of Kells is the world’s most famous medieval manuscript, dating back to the 9th century. The manuscript was created by Christian monks and includes four gospels of the New Testament in Western calligraphy along with intricate decoration.
Before you see the actual Book of Kells, you will walk thru a series of exhibits explaining more about the Book of Kells and its history. Each exhibit has accompanied audio that you can listen to on your phone. Pro tip: Make sure to bring some ear buds with you as it gets very crowded and hard to hear the audio on your phone.
After the exhibits, you will arrive in a room where the actual Book of Kells is kept in a glass display box. Due to its delicate nature, there is no photography allowed in this room. It was very impressive to stand there looking at such an important manuscript that was centuries old.
As you leave the room where the Book of Kells resides, you enter the main room in the Old Library, the Long Room. Many people know of the Long Room from the many photos people post on social media, but it’s so much more than just an instragrammable spot. Built in the early 1700s, this room is 200 feet long and houses over 200,000 of the oldest books.
Lining the Long Room are marble busts of famous philosophers, writers and men connected to Trinity College. The busts were created by famous sculptors, and definitely added to the atmosphere of the room. As these busts are all from so many years ago, they are all men, in 2022, it would be nice to add some women to the mix here.
A word of caution, on busy days the Long Room will be extremely crowded, go in and enjoy seeing such a historic room and realize that the perfect photo that you might be wishing for with no people may not happen.
After Trinity College, the next place I was looking the most forward to seeing was the Dublin Castle. The Dublin Castle dates back to the thirteenth century and was the headquarters of the British in Ireland until 1922 when Ireland gained Independence and it then became the site of the Irish Government.
You can tour the State Apartments in Dublin Castle. The State Apartments include both residential quarters and rooms the government uses for entertaining and ceremonies. In the State Apartments you can visit many rooms, including the following:
- The Grand Staircase – where guests would arrive for dinners and ceremonies
- The State Corridor – with it’s gold embellished ceiling, this corridor leads to the many reception rooms.
- The State Apartment Galleries – which are home to exhibits exploring the Castle’s history
- The James Connolly Room – which played an important role in the Easter Rising. James Connolly was treated in this room and this was the last spot he was before he was brought to his execution.
- The State Drawing Room – This was used as the sitting room for the wives of the Viceroys. Today it’s used for the President of Ireland to host visiting dignitaries.
- The Throne Room – The throne was made for the visit of King George IV in 1821. The throne is watched by video surveillance, so no taking photos sitting on the throne.
- The Portrait Room – This room’s walls are lined with portraits of Irish Viceroys. The room is used as a dining room for government receptions today.
- St. Patrick’s Hall – This was built as the Castle’s ballroom and is known as one of Ireland’s greatest ceremonial rooms. This room is where the President of Ireland is inaugurated.
After visiting the State Apartments, make sure to explore the rest of the grounds at Dublin Castle, like the Castle Gardens. I really lucked out with the weather on my trip to Ireland, there was none of the gloomy raining Ireland weather I had been warned about, it was a perfect sunny spring week. I was at Dublin Castle on the first day of spring, so it was so nice to enjoy the spring weather in the gardens.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Named after Ireland’s patron saint, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland. It was built in the 1200s and is one of the few buildings remaining from medieval Dublin. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is famous for its choir school which was established in 1432 and is known as Ireland’s oldest school.
The cathedral is open to the public daily with paid admission. Free tours are offered inside the cathedral.
Bridges of Dublin
The River Liffey runs thru the center of Dublin making bridges quite common in the city. There are a couple of popular bridges that are worth exploring:
- Ha’penny Bridge – The first pedestrian bridge to cross the River Liffey. It got it’s name from the fact it used to cost a half a penny to cross it.
- Samuel Beckett Bridge – This bridge was built in 2009 and resembles a harp. It’s open to both pedestrian and vehicular traffic and is beautiful to see both day and night.
The Jeanie Johnston
Located at Dublin’s Docklands, the Jeanie Johnston tells the story of its part in the Irish Famine. The ship was built in 1847 in Canada and brought to Ireland to be used as a cargo ship. But instead of being used to transport goods, the ship was used to transport Irish citizens looking to flee the Famine. The ship transported up to 250 passengers each trip with 16 trips taking place to Canada between 1848 – 1855.
The Jeanie Johnston is open daily for tours of the ship and the history of the Irish Famine and the passengers who fled the country during this time.
Located not too far from Trinity College is Merrion Square. As one of Dublin’s largest Georgian squares, it’s a nice spot to visit to see the Georgian houses and the Merrion Square Park. Many famous people lived in this neighborhood when it was mainly a residential neighborhood. Now the neighborhood has been transformed with many of the former houses now used as office space. In Merrion Square Park, there are many sculptures, one of which is of former Merrion Square resident, Oscar Wilde. The sculpture features Oscar Wilde sitting on a large rock. There are also two bronze sculptures nearby displaying some of his famous quotes.
If you’re looking to get away from the city and into nature, head just 6 kilometers from the city centre to Phoenix Park. If you don’t have a car, there are many bus routes that stop just outside the multiple gates to the park.
Phoenix Park was originally a royal hunting park dating back to the 1660s. In 1747 it opened to the public and it’s a great place for locals and tourists alike to explore.
Below are some great things to see at Phoenix Park:
- Phoenix Monument – Located at the center of the park, this monument has been in the park since it was open to the public in 1747.
- Wellington Testimonial – At 62 metres tall it’s the tallest obelisk in Europe. It was built in 1861 in memory of Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, who was born in Dublin and went on to defeat Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.
- The Papal Cross – This 116 foot tall cross was erected in the park for Pope John Paul II’s visit to Dublin in September 1979 where he delivered a sermon at this very spot to more than 1.25 million people.
- Ashtown Castle – This medieval castle is thought to be from the 15th century. Up until 1978, it was hidden within the walls of a mansion on this site but was then discovered when the mansion was demolished. Nearby the castle is the park’s visitor’s center as well as the Victorian Walled Kitchen Garden.
Also located in the park is the Dublin Zoo and the residence of the President of Ireland. As we drove by the President’s house, I did a double take as it looked somewhat similar to the White House, home of the President of the United States.
This is just a small list of all the great things you can see in Dublin in a weekend. Of course, all weekends in Ireland should include some beer (especially Guiness) and whiskey. If you are interested in learning more about where you can enjoy and learn about Guiness and Irish Whiskey, check out my post on Beer and Whiskey in Dublin to learn more.
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