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If you’re planning a trip to Ireland you’ll need to know how many days should you spend in Dublin. Well, I tend to move fast and get a lot in. So with 2 days in Dublin, I was able to see a good number of the enchanting sites on offer. Dublin, which is the capital, is the home to some of the best places to see in Ireland, namely historic buildings like the Dublin Castle, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Kilmainham Gaol, and the National Museum of Ireland. As well as some more recent attractions like the Guinness Gravity Bar. Though relatively small, in comparison to cities like New York or London, it is no less magical.
Public transportation is great in Ireland, but since I like walking I didn’t really use it. You could actually use this guide as a walking tour of Dublin.
Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin
First on your Dublin itinerary, is the Christ Church Cathedral. The cathedral was founded sometime after 1028 when King Sitric Silkenbeard, the Hiberno-Norse king of Dublin made a pilgrimage to Rome. It is a beautiful church and if you get the tour they may even let you ring the bells!
Fun fact, they also filmed many scenes of the Tudors here, including Anne Boleyn’s coronation. The Foxy Friars is the nickname for the monks here, yes I know, it sounds more like a stripper name. Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin is the older of the city’s two medieval cathedrals, the other being St Patrick’s Cathedral. It is located in the former heart of medieval Dublin, next to Wood Quay at the end of Lord Edward Street.
Next on your Dublin itinerary is St. Michan’s, an underappreciated church since it’s less well known. The first Christian chapel on this site dates from 1095 and was as a Catholic church until the Reformation. Now operating as the Church of Ireland, it dates from 1686 and has served for more than 300 years. Probably the most unique experience I’ve had in a church is when I went into their crypts and got to “shake hands” (rub the finger) of an 800-year-old crusader! It’s supposed to be good luck, else I probably wouldn’t have done it!
Update: A number of crypts in the St. Michan’s vaults were damaged by vandals in 1996 and again in early 2019. Following the 2019 incident, several mummified remains were desecrated, including the remains of a 400-year-old nun, and the decapitation of the 800-year-old crusader that I shook hands with. The church vaults had historically been open to tours, receiving approximately 27,000 visitors during 2018. However, following the horrible 2019 incident, these tours were “canceled for the foreseeable future”. I’m sad this unusual experience will no longer be on the Dublin itinerary.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the younger medieval cathedral was founded in 1191 and is the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland. With its 43-meter (141 ft) spire, St. Patrick’s is the tallest church (not Cathedral) in Ireland and the largest.
Christ Church Cathedral and St. Patrick’s are in a sort of rivalry since each is funded by one of the two main alcohol distributors, Guinness and Jameson. I can’t recall which is which but since major reconstruction for St. Patrick’s was paid for by Benjamin Guinness, in 1860–65, I’m going to guess they are on the Guinness side. The Guinness family is viewed so highly that they get front row seats in the church, right next to the President. What does that tell you?
Dublin Castle, pictured above, is really awesome to look at but you should note that when I went they said that they didn’t allow the public in as this is where their government is housed. However, I have since heard that they do guided and self-guided tours. So if you’re looking for a castle in Ireland to tour, just double check online with this one beforehand. Another great Irish castle to see nearby is Malahide Castle. Until 1922 it was the seat of the British government’s administration in Ireland. The castle was built by the dark pool (“Dubh Linn”) which gave Dublin its name.
Kilmainham Gaol (Jail) is definitely worth seeing and was my favorite thing I did during my 2 days in Dublin. It opened in 1796 as the new County Gaol for Dublin. Many Irish revolutionaries, including the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising, were imprisoned and executed in this prison by the British. As there was no segregation of prisoners; men, women, and children were incarcerated up to 5 in each cell. They were provided only a single candle for light and heat and had to make that candle last for two weeks. Talk about poor conditions. Kilmainham Gaol closed its doors in 1924.
While also a filming location for a number of TV shows and films, what is most fascinating is the structure itself. “It is possible to see all ninety-six cells from a central viewing area. The use of light was deliberate and philosophical. It was thought that the huge skylight would spiritually inspire the inmates, while the out-of-reach cell windows would encourage them to turn heavenward.”
The National Museum
One of the best things about Dublin is that it’s pretty cheap. Some things are even free so you can really get a lot in for a little with 2 days in Dublin! They may ask for a donation, as with The National Museum, but it’s recommended not mandatory. I will say that I did donate, and please do so if you go. My favorite part of the National Museum, other than the cost, was that the building is just amazing! The National Museum of Ireland is the country’s leading museum institution, with a strong emphasis on national and some international archaeology, Irish history, Irish art, culture, and natural history. They used to house the military here, but it’s been a museum for some time now. If you’re lucky you can see one of their reenactments, I always love reenactments!
The Guinness Gravity Bar
I originally wasn’t going to go to the Guinness Storehouse, but everyone I talked to insisted. I hate beer in America, but as they say, it really does taste better in Ireland! The building is shaped like a Guinness glass, and if they were to fill it up with beer, there would be three pints of Guinness for every Irishman. While going up seven stories, you learn how they make beer. You get a tasting about halfway up and then when you reach the top you get to the Guinness Gravity Bar.
The Guinness Gravity Bar has a panoramic view of the city and a must see on your Dublin itinerary. Apparently, when my hostel mates and I went we were lucky enough to be there on the clearest day they have had in five years! It is definitely worth the view and one of the most beautiful places in Dublin! Also, you get a free pint of Guinness with a shamrock drawn in the foam! For beer enthusiasts, you can learn how to pour your own pint but we opted not to.
If you’re looking for a day trip out of Dublin, check out the Paddywagon Tour. I hope this Dublin itinerary helped you to figure out what to see in Dublin for 2 days. Let me know if you have any questions.