Best Tour of Dublin from our Bucket List Trip to Dublin Ireland

Ireland has been on both of our bucket lists for quite a while.  My husband is of Irish descent and I have always wanted to experience the Irish countryside.  We chose to do a self-drive tour of Ireland traveling with a friend and my husband's sister.

Luckily our friend is originally from England and was used to driving on the left side of the road. We flew into Dublin, Ireland to begin our adventure.

Dublin has old world charm with a modern vibe.

painted door Dublin, Ireland
Dublin is known for it's painted doors

The city truly is the heart of the Republic of Ireland. We started our visit in Dublin with a stay at the Fitzwilliam Hotel ideally located at Saint Stephen's Green, a beautiful city park, in the heart of the city.  The Fitzwilliam is located in Dublin City Centre, it has a modern flair and features the Citron Restaurant and a Bar - Coffee Shop.

The Fitzwilliam is a five-star hotel and offers all the amenities including an Irish breakfast. An
 Irish Breakfast includes eggs, sausage, bacon, mushroom, tomatoes, and black and white pudding and toast it is delicious and very filling.

You can also order other hot menu items, pancakes, French toast, eggs benedict, etc. off the menu or choose the breakfast bar which includes yogurt, fruit, cereal, bread, sweets rolls, and juice.

St. Stephen's Green right across the street has a pond and walking trails and park benches to sit and enjoy the lush greenery and people watch right in Dublin City Centre.

St. Stephen’s Green Dublin, Ireland

Things to do in Dublin -  Attractions and Sites

Day One

Kilmainham Gaol 
Head to Kilmainham Gaol first, early in the day, due to the limited number of tickets sold per day and potential for long lines. The tour of the Gaol (jail) is very interesting and tells you a lot about the Irish Famine and most of all about the Irish fight to be independent from England.

Kilmainham Gaol  Court yard

Visit the interactive center to hear about prisoner experience at Kilmainham Gaol and go on a guided tour to see the cells and work yard and learn more about the Gaol.  Kilmainham Gaol is the perfect way to learn about Ireland's fight for independence.

Kilmainham Gaol
 The tour begins in the assembly room that was also used as a chapel. The guide tells a story about the 1916 rebel Joseph Plunkett who was condemned to death and was married to Grace at the prison right before his execution.

You might hear the song about Grace (see lyrics below) played at local pubs featuring traditional Irish music throughout Ireland.

Lyrics to Grace

As we gather in the chapel here, in old Kilmainham [D]jail,
I think about the last few weeks, Oh will they say we [Am]failed,
From our school days, they have told us we must yearn for liber[ty,
Yet all I want in this dark place is to have you here with me.

Oh Grace just hold me in your arms, and let this moment linger,
They take me out at dawn and I will die,
With all my love I place this wedding ring upon your finger,
There won't be time to share our love so we must say goodbye.

Now I know it's hard for you my love to ever understand,
The love I bear for these brave men my love for this brave land,
But when Padraic called me to his side down I the G.P.O.
I had to leave my own sick bed, to him I had to go.

[Repeat Chorus]

Now as the dawn is breaking, my heart is breaking too
On this May morn,' as I walk out, my thoughts will be of you
And I'll write some words upon the wall so everyone will know
I loved so much that I could see His Blood Upon The Rose.

As we gather in the chapel here, in old Kilmainham jail,
I think about the last few weeks, Oh will they say we failed,
From our school days, they have told us we must yearn for liberty,
Yet all I want in this dark place is to[A] have you here with[D] me.

Oh Grace just hold me in your arms, and let this moment linger,
They[G] take me out at[D] dawn and I will die,
With all my love I place this wedding[G] ring upon your [D]finger,
There won't be time to[D] share our love so we must say goodbye.

Kilmainham Gaol  jail cell
 Kilmainham Gaol  hallway

The Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle map

There were an amazing number of free things to do in Dublin,  the Dublin Castle walking tour is one of these.  Free walking tours are available at 11:00 am and 1:00 pm. The Castle, located in Dublin City Centre, is mainly the State Apartments since most of the original castle burnt down in 1884. The Chapel Tower is the only remaining section of the original castle.

The complex is made up of beautiful Georgian buildings included in the tour are the throne room, portrait gallery, Wedgewood room, and the St. Patrick's Grand Hall. The guided tour of the castle provides information on Ireland's history and struggles with the Vikings, Normans, and English.

Dublin Castle is built on a site where there has been a settlement for more than 1,000 years, well before the time of the Vikings. The castle was the most important fortification in Ireland for over 8 centuries. It functioned as the site of the colonial rule until it was handed over the Michael Collins the first president of the Independent Irish Free State.

The castle originally had 4 towers and was surrounded by the Puddle River that is now underground. Meiler Fitzhenry first founded the Dublin Castle as a major defensive work on the orders of King John of England in 1204, sometime after the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169. Until 1922 it was the seat of British rule on Ireland, now is used for ceremonial purposes.

Be sure to look for the Lady Justice Statue over the Gate, the Irish's favorite saying about it when the British ruled Ireland was, The Statue of Justice, mark well her station, her face to the castle and her arse to the nation!

The rooms of the castle are now used for official functions and many are open to the public. My favorite was St. Patrick's Hall which is a grand hall with a beautiful ceiling mural done by Vincenzo Waldre in the 1790's and features banners of the Knights of St. Patrick.

Other rooms display wonderful art on the walls and period furniture along with long elegant corridors. Be sure to see the Battleaxe Landing with a 19th century cantilevered staircase. There you can see, above the large double doorway,  the official symbol of Ireland the Gold Harp, set against a blue background.

pub near dublin Castle Oak pub

Take a break after visiting the Dublin Castle at the Oak Pub across the street. It is a traditional Irish pub with wood-paneled walls and stylish mirrors, and mosaics. They have friendly bartenders, food and snacks and of course Guinness and many other beers on tap. We had our first of many Guinness' beers there. Visiting the many pubs in Dublin and throughout Ireland is a delightful way to hear traditional Irish music and meet the locals.

Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church is located in the medieval city of Dublin; it is over 1,000 years old with building beginning in 1030. It was originally a Catholic Church under King James II of England but became protestant when King Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church and founded the Church of England. It is the burial place of Strongbow, Dermot MacMurrough, who was the King of Leinster during the twelfth century and is most remembered as the man who invited the English into Ireland.

Christ Church Cathedral Dublin Ireland

The Crypt is open to visiting and they offer a video presentation about the church's history.  We stayed for Evensong prayers and songs by the choir. The Christ Church Choir was the first to sing Handel's Messiah in 1742.

Christ Church Dublin Crypt

Ireland is known for its seafood and the Cliff  Townhouse Restaurant, 22 St Stephens Green, is one of the best. This easygoing restaurant has excellent service and a wide variety of Dublin classics including Galway oysters, native lobster, dressed Yawl Bay crab, wild sea trout,  and posh fish and chips.

Day two

Trinity College Book of Kells 

Book of Kells at Trinity Library in Dublin Ireland
The book of Kells consists of 339 vellum leaves or folios with four gospels, Matthew, Mark Luke, and John plus the genealogy of Jesus Christ. The gospels are copied by hand and highly decorated in an ornamental manuscript. It has many evangelical symbols and depictions of the apostles beautifully drawn in color. The Book of Kells is believed to have been written at the Abbey of Kells by the Celts starting in 563. The Abbey was plunder and the book stolen and resold many times over the centuries until 1661 when Charles II presented to Trinity college where is remains.

Trinity College Dublin Ireland library
Also, included when you visit the Book of Kells is the Old Library at Trinity college which features the Long Room which is 65 meters in length encircled at the top with a band of gold lettering commemorating the benefactors of the library in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The Old Library holds 200,000 books and important artifacts such as the1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic, which was read outside the General Post Office on 24 April 1916 by Patrick Pearse at the start of the Easter Rising.  And a harp that is probably the oldest of its kind in Ireland dates from the 15th century. It is made of oak and willow with 29 brass strings. It is the model for the emblem of Ireland..  The dark wood paneling and tall book stacks of the Old Library  make you feel that you have stepped back in time on maybe into a Harry Potter Movie

Jeanie Johnston Tall Ship

The Jeanie Johnston is docked at Custom House Quay along the Liffey River.

Jeanie Johnston Tall Ship at dock in Dublin, Ireland

On the ship, you will experience what millions of people who immigrated to the New World did as they fled across the Atlantic from the Famine between 1845-55. As the famine gripped Ireland, the Jeannie Johnston made 16 successful crossings of the Atlantic Ocean, taking 2,500 emigrants from Ireland to North America and bringing back timber bound for Europe. The ship is an authentic replica of the original.

Day Two

The James Joyce Centre

James Joyce Center wall mural of Joyce and Yeats

The James Joyce Centre 35 North Great George’s Street Dublin, Ireland 

Joyce's major works include Dubliners, published in 1914, The Dead 1916 and  Ulysses (1922). The library is a tribute to his works and the times he wrote them. It includes many wonderful quotes from his books and letters.

"He tried to weigh his soul to see if it was a poet's soul." (Dubliners)
"[A writer is] a priest of eternal imagination, transmuting the daily bread of experience into the radiant body of everliving life." (Selected Letters of James Joyce)
"Why is it that words like these seem dull and cold? Is it because there is no word tender enough to be your name?" (The Dead)
"When I die, Dublin will be written on my heart." (Selected Letters of James Joyce)

The Guinness Storehouse

Learn to pour the perfect pint.

Guinness Brewery has been brewing pints since 1759, The Guinness Storehouse was once the fermentation plant of the brewery and is now a seven-story visitor experience dedicated to the history of making Guinness beer.

We visited the Tasting rooms, which are designed to help you appreciate the distinctive taste from the very first sip. then we learned how to pour the perfect pint in the Guinness Academy.

Phoenix Park Dublin, Ireland video

The advertising exhibit is fun and humorous.  We especially enjoyed the beer and food on level five. Be sure to head up to  the Gravity Bar,  the ‘Head of the Pint”, where you can see panoramic views of Dublin city –  the views are better with a complimentary pint in hand.

Day three

Phoenix Park Dublin

The Phoenix Park, the largest urban park in Europe, is the location of the official residence of the President of Ireland, Áras an Uachtaráin, and the residency of the US Ambassador. it is home to a large heard of deer which have lived there since the 17th century. Originally they were hunted for sport by the nobility.

The park is open year-round. The Dublin Zoo is also located at Phoenix Park. the zoo is the home of the lion you see at the start of MGM movies. The zoo has over 400 species of wild animals featuring elephants, penguins, African savannah animals and wolves. 

Jameson whiskey tour Doblin, IE
The Meer cat's section was one of our favorite parts of the zoo.  Another was the at the Kaziranga Forest Trail where you might be able to catch a glimpse of a group of Asian elephants including elephant bull Upali, the matriarch Bernhardine, her sister Yasmin, their daughters Asha and Anak and the calves Kavi, Ashoka and Samiya.

Old Jameson Distillery

We visited the  Bow Street  Jameson Distillery in Dublin during the 40-minute tour we learned a lot about whiskey including an appreciation of whiskey production (and consumption).  I finally know the difference differences between Scotch, American and Irish whiskeys. 

Day 4

St. Patrick's Cathedral

The Nation Cathedral and Collegiate Church have stood on this site since the 5th Century.  Originally built by the Normans in 1191 and then rebuilt in the 13th Century to be what is seen here today. St. Patrick's has added much to Irish life, including Jonathan Swift being its dean from 1713-45, and  Handel's Messiah being first performed here in 1742 sung by the St. Patricks and Christ Church Choirs.

The cathedral features beautiful stained glass windows, sculptures, artifacts, and a colorful tile floor. There is a display from silversmith Richard Willaims from 1779. The many memorials include one to Turlough Carolan, harper last of the Irish Bards, and Rt. Hon. John Philpot.

Pedestrian Bridge on the Liffey

ha’penny bridge dublin, Ireland

The most famous is the  "Liffey Bridge", once known as "Wellington Bridge", but is commonly known as the Ha'penny bridge. They used to charge a half a penny for pedestrians, it is free these days). Follow the small lane just opposite the Ha'penny into the Temple Bar District.  Or turn right and walk to the new Millennium Bridge and re-cross the's an easy 10-15 walk to shopping and the City Center from here.

Temple Bar District

Temple Bar Dublin

Temple Bar is Dublin's entertainment, art, and culinary district. it is one of the best places to hear live Irish folk music.  Definitely the place for ceol agus craic – time to have fun.

Art Galleries include home to art galleries and creative destinations such as the Irish Film Institute, the Project Arts Centre, the National Photographic Archive, and DESIGNyard.


  •  It was very crowded with large numbers of loud groups and serious partiers in the evenings. The prices were higher than in other parts of Dublin. It is wise to be aware of pickpockets in the area and it can be hard to find a taxi late at night, so plan ahead.

  • The pubs:

Auld Dubliner: One of the relatively quieter pubs in Temple Bar, which hosts traditional music sessions upstairs.

Oliver St. John Gogarty: A pub popular with a young crowd because it also hosts a hostel upstairs. 

Porterhouse: It is part of a chain but serves its own house beers has a  classic Irish menu,  and live music seven days a week.

Quays Bar:  Live music that starts at 3 pm every day. food is from traditional Irish fare to international cousin.

Temple Bar Pub: One of the oldest pubs it dates back to 1840. It has one of the largest whiskey collections in Ireland, fresh oyster platers, and live music daily.

Things to do in Ireland - Our self-drive tour of Ireland:


  1. This is why I love Ireland. There is so much rich history derived through the hundreds of years. Their love of song has always enchanted me as well.

    To anyone reading this...........Let's Go!


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