3 Days in Dublin: What to See & Do

Dublin Castle at dusk
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Is 3 days in Dublin enough time to explore the city? I think it can be if you choose your itinerary well. You won’t get to see everything Dublin has to offer, but you can probably see more than you think.

There are a few reasons that Dublin makes a great destination for a shorter trip. First, there are plenty of exciting and interesting things to do and see in Dublin, as it’s the heart of Irish government, arts, and education.

Dublin has also played a central role in much of Irish history and culture, so visiting is a great introduction to Ireland.

Second, it’s much more manageable to see a lot of Dublin in only a few days (compared to somewhere like London). Dublin has a pretty compact city center, and many of its most popular tourist attractions are located close to each other.

This makes it easier to get around and to see more. You can even walk between many destinations.

This Dublin 3-day itinerary is a mix of the city’s major historical and cultural sites. It’s also a realistic itinerary, as it’s what I was actually able to do on my own trip to Dublin.

Table of Contents

Day 1

Getting to Dublin

If you’re visiting Dublin, you’re more than likely flying into the Dublin Airport, like I did.

My travel mate (my mom! hi, Mom) and I met up in the airport mid-morning. We took the airport bus into the city, as the airport is located about 6 miles/10 kilometers outside the center of Dublin.

Besides an airport bus, you could also take a taxi or rent a car to go into the city.

It will take you some time to get into the city enter. We had to wait a bit for the bus, and then it took around an hour to get to our stop and walk to our hotel in central Dublin, near St. Stephen’s Green.

Obviously, you’ll need to something with your luggage. You could check into your accommodation if you’re able (like we did), or store your bags there if they have a secure area. Alternatively, you could store your stuff at a luggage storage facility somewhere convenient.

We ate lunch around our hotel and walked to our main destination of the day: Dublin Castle.

Dublin Castle

So Dublin Castle probably isn’t what you would think of when you hear the word “castle,” but it’s still a really cool place. It’s is a building of great historical significance to Ireland, and has served many functions over its many centuries.

Built in the 13th century, Dublin Castle was originally a medieval fortification. It was also the center of British government in Ireland for over 700 years. This includes serving as the official residence of the Viceroy of Ireland.

Dublin Castle outside

Some of the exterior of Dublin Castle

A few of the rooms in the State Apartments

Since Ireland’s independence in 1922, Dublin Castle has been used for state functions, such as presidential inaugurations (which occur in the gorgeous St. Patrick’s Hall).

St. Patrick’s Hall is where the Irish president lies in state, should they die in office. It’s also the site of the state dinner held for Queen Elizabeth II in 2011.

St. Patrick's Hall

St. Patrick’s Hall

What makes Dublin Castle especially interesting is that it offers different styles of architecture (e.g. medieval remains, Georgian interiors, Gothic Revival in the Chapel Royal).

In 1684, a fire destroyed much of the building, but Dublin Castle was rebuilt, and additions were made throughout the 1700s and 1800s. These include the ornate State Apartments and the beautiful Chapel Royal.

Just look at how opulent some of the ornamentation is:

If this isn’t lavish, I don’t know what is

We opted to pay for the guided tour, which took us around the Medieval Undercroft, State Apartments, and Chapel Royal. It takes around an hour, and then you can look around the State Apartments some at the end at your leisure.

You can also do a self-guided tour of only the State Apartments. Just so you know, you have to store large bags in lockers no matter your tour, but the lockers are free.

Dublin Castle’s Chapel Royal

So the all the fancy rooms of Dublin Castle are quite nice, but you can get a real sense of Irish history from visiting the Medieval Undercroft. But besides the Record Tower, you can’t see any of the medieval parts of Dublin Castle above ground.

So you have to go underground to the undercroft. Down there, you can see some of the ancient walls, but also a hidden waterway that gives Dublin its name.

Dublin Castle was actually built near a dark pool of water (dubh linn; “dark pool” or “black pool” in Irish) where the River Liffey and the River Poddle meet. The Poddle still flows underneath Dublin Castle today.

Medieval walls and the River Poddle

After going to Dublin Castle, grab yourself some dinner and maybe a bit more sightseeing along the way. You could also easily fit in some time at the pub or some other nightlife things on the first evening (or second evening as well).

We just walked back to the hotel and got dinner along the way. We had to get up early for our busy schedule the next day.

Day 2

Getting Around Dublin

To get around Dublin, you have a couple options. You can walk between many destinations and/or take the bus. You could also grab a taxi or a rideshare.

But really, you could walk between all the spots on this list. You just might want to rearrange the stops based on the location of your accommodation.

On Days 2 and 3, we got around Dublin on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour that takes visitors to major tourist attractions. We also walked between some destinations.

This kind of bus can be good option for getting around if you’re short on time (like we were) and/or you’re visiting a city with limited or persnickety public transportation.

These tours have an in-person guide who gives live commentary and/or recorded audio tours in multiple languages. You can also get some nice views of Dublin when riding on the second floor of the bus, which is open-top (weather permitting).

To make the most of this type of bus tour, start your day when the first buses begin. The last tour of the day is usually around 5 PM, and riding the entire route without stopping can take an hour and a half to two hours.

Tickets can be a little spendy, but are more economical if you buy a two-day bus pass. Actually, the two-day ticket is quite convenient for spending 3 days in Dublin, so you should definitely look into it.

TIP: Dublin is famous for its vibrant doors. So be on the lookout for these bright doors as you traverse the city!

Random doors around Dublin

However you choose to get around, make sure that you organize your itinerary efficiently. You don’t want to backtrack to get somewhere and waste valuable time.

Trinity College: The Long Room and The Book of Kells

Started the day off with breakfast and an Irish cream coffee at our hotel. Then we were off to our first stop of the day, the Trinity College Library, to try to beat the crowds a bit. Even though we arrived there shortly after opening, there were still a number of people at the library.

Irish cream coffee with Bailey's

Definitely get yourself something with Baileys or another Irish cream in it if you have the chance

Trinity College, founded in 1592, is a very old and prestigious university. Notable students include Samuel Beckett, Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, and Bram Stoker. In particular, tourists flock to the university for the Book of Kells and the Long Room in the Old Library.

Created in the 9th century, the Book of Kells is an extremely ornate medieval Gospel book, containing the four Gospels of the Christian New Testament in Latin.

What makes it so special? The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript, which means that there are decorations (e.g. illustrations, borders) along with the text. The embellishments in the Book of Kells are renowned for their elaborate detailing and opulence.

The Book of Kells has a whopping 680 pages, which have been bound in various ways through the centuries. Currently, it is bound into four volumes, two of which are displayed at any given time.

Book of Kells exhibit at Trinity College in Dublin

A blown-up page from the Book of Kells

Unfortunately, while we were there, we missed seeing the actual Book of Kells by days. It was pulled from public display for a few months for conservation work.

But they still had the Book of Kells exhibit up, which had lots of pictures and information on the volumes. If you want to see more of it, you can actually view the Book of Kells online.

After we went through the Book of Kells exhibit, we moved onto the Long Room. This grandiose room is every bookworm’s dream come to life. It’s like stepping into a scene from Beauty and the Beast or the Harry Potter series (note: no Harry Potter movies were filmed there).

The Long Room of Trinity College Library, a must-see for any Dublin 3-day itinerary
The shelves on the upper floor of the Long Room

Quite spectacular, isn’t it?

Originally built in the early 18th century, the Long Room measures almost 213 feet/65 meters, and holds the Trinity College Library’s oldest books (200,000 in total).

The view down the Long Room is super impressive. There are two floors of hundreds of thousands of books. Books as far as your eye can see, more than you could read in several lifetimes, all sitting under this magnificent barrel-vaulted ceiling.

Lining the collections of books on both sides are marble busts. These statues are all famous writers or philosophers, or men associated with Trinity College in some way.

Busts and books

It’s around €18.00 for admission to see the Book of Kells and the Long Room. It’s not cheap, but they are two of Ireland’s most impressive and iconic treasures.

After we finished with the Long Room, we walked around the Trinity College campus a bit before returning to the bus stop.

Even if you don’t pay to get into the library, you should still stroll around the Trinity College campus a bit. Many of the buildings there are very old and spectacular.

Christ Church Cathedral

Our next stop was Christ Church Cathedral.

This medieval church was built in the 11th century, and has been rebuilt, renovated, and expanded over the centuries. This includes a distinctive and lovely covered bridge.

Christ Church Cathedral is famous for its sizable crypt, which features an exhibit displaying items expounding on its millennium-long history. Of particular note in the crypt are “Tom and Jerry,” a mummified cat and rat so well-known they were mentioned in James Joyce’s novel Finnegan’s Wake.

Exterior of Christ Church Cathedral (including the bridge!)

The exterior of Christ Church Cathedral is very beautiful. Given our time constraints, we didn’t actually go inside the cathedral, but just walked around the outside of it.

It costs about €7.50 to get into the church and take a self-guided tour. Even if you don’t have time to go inside the cathedral, it’s definitely worthwhile to have a stroll around the grounds of this gorgeous cathedral.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

After Christ Church Cathedral, we took the bus to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

This is another medieval church, founded in the late 12th century. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the largest church in Ireland, as well as the national cathedral of the Church of Ireland.

There is a legend that St. Patrick himself baptized converts to Christianity using a well near where the cathedral stands today.

Tower on St. Patrick's Cathedral

Minot’s Tower of St. Patrick’s Cathedral

When we visited, the exterior of the cathedral was being renovated, so we couldn’t really see much of it. Again, because of time, we just stopped by to stroll around the church.

But what we did see was quite grand and impressive. Like Christ Church Cathedral, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is worth at least a peek.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral costs around €8.00 for the self-guided tour.

O’Connell Street

Our next stop was O’Connell Street, which is a major street in Dublin, featuring numerous statues and monuments, as well as the Spire of Dublin. It’s also a significant tourist spot, and thus offers many souvenir shops and such ilk.

O’Connell Street has been the site of many significant events in Irish history, including the Easter Rising of 1916 and the Irish Civil War of the 1920s.

The Spire of Dublin is hard to miss: it’s a giant, pointy cone-shaped sculpture, rising to a height of 390 feet/120 meters. Construction of the Spire finished in 2003.

The pointy Spire of Dublin

The Spire of Dublin from afar

We walked along the street, bought some souvenirs for people, and ate lunch at a pub there. Visiting a pub for a meal is always a good chance to try a pint of something.

Irish pub

Food and cider at the pub

I highly recommend trying some traditional Irish soda bread, as well as beef and Guinness stew if you have the chance.

Trying Irish Whiskey

We rode the bus and saw more of the city, and jumped off to stop by a pub to try some Irish whiskey.

Ireland is known globally for Guinness, but Irish whiskey is famous in its own right. Popular brands include Jameson, Tullamore Dew, and Bushmills.

I’m not sure what we tried; we had whatever the pub gave us. I’m no whiskey connoisseur. But hey, when in Dublin, right?

Two shots of Irish whiskey on a pub counter

Our shots of whiskey

You would absolutely be missing out if you visited Dublin and didn’t stop by some pub, just for the atmosphere alone. You don’t need to even need to have any alcohol. It’s just very enjoyable to sit in a warm pub and have a bit of a chat.

St. Stephen’s Green

Our last major stop for the day was St. Stephen’s Green, a famous park in Dublin that was also near our hotel.

It was created in 1664, with plots adjacent to the park set aside for buildings. So, surrounding the park you can see plenty of splendid architecture, especially from the 1700s and 1800s.

Buildings and greenery around the park

The park was actually only accessible to residents of the area until Sir Arthur Guinness stepped in. He bought the park and gave it to the city, and helped redesign the landscaping. He also supported the legislation that opened the park to the public, which took place in 1880.

St. Stephen’s Green is quite a lovely park. Notable features include the sizable lake, Fusiliers’ Arch, and bust of Sir Arthur Guinness, among other statues and memorials. There is also the extremely cozy-looking superintendent’s lodge.

The superindendent’s lodge and Fusilier’s Arch

St. Stephen’s Green is a very pleasant green space to stroll through in the middle of the city. I highly recommend it for the trees, landscaping, and gorgeous setting.

Some bonus sights spotted from the bus on Day 2: Wellington Monument (first photo) in Phoenix Park and buildings along the river (second and third photos).

As the sun was setting, we headed towards the hotel and ate along the way. No late-night shenanigans for us with another early start, but like I mentioned before, you could definitely get in some more pub time or nighttime attractions if you wanted to do so. You just might be kinda tired the next day.

Day 3

Guinness Storehouse

Obviously, when people think of Ireland, Guinness is one of the first things that comes to mind. So Guinness built the Guinness Storehouse as a tourist attraction and experience.

At the Guinness Storehouse, you learn all about the history of Guinness and its relation to Dublin across the building’s seven floors. You’re not wandering around where the rooms where they actually make the beer.

Exhibits we saw included the process of making Guinness and famous advertisements.

Some sights around the Guinness Storehouse

As part of the tickets we purchased, we got to choose one of several experiences, such as learning how to properly pour a Guinness and getting your photo put onto a Guinness. You would get a pint of Guinness with each option though, or a non-alcoholic drink if you so chose.

We opted to take the pouring class. The guide first demonstrated how to get the perfect pour of Guinness, and then one by one, everyone in our group tried their hand at pouring a pint of Guinness from the tap.

The beers that our group poured

The beers our group poured; thanks to the Guinness employee for this aesthetically-pleasing setup

Guinness on tap and our (mostly flawless) beers

We could also go to the bar at the top of the building, which gave a decent look at some of the city. It seems like the bar (The Gravity Bar) has been redone since we went, and now offers a 360-degree panorama of Dublin.

A bit unfortunate about not being able to get a look at all of Dublin, but I still enjoyed getting a bird’s eye view of the city.

Dublin from above

Tickets for the Guinness Storehouse start at €18.00. Currently, the cheapest experience does include a Guinness or soft drink, but not access to the Gravity Bar.

All in all, it was a cool and informative experience. Just be aware of the different price points for different experiences.

Ha'penny Bridge

Our next stop was along the River Liffey: the Ha’penny Bridge. First, we grabbed some lunch and then we strolled along the river to see this iconic bridge.

Buildings along the River Liffey

The River Liffey

The Ha’penny Bridge is a beautiful cast-iron pedestrian bridge, with its name coming from the ha’penny toll that people had to pay to cross it.

Hapenny Bridge in Dublin

Crossing the Liffey

Over the years, many people have fastened love locks to Ha’penny Bridge. However, the city council has removed a number of locks from the bridge and has asked people to not add any more.

Temple Bar

A short walk from the Ha’penny Bridge is the Temple Bar district, an area famous for its nightlife, filled with pubs, restaurants, shops, museums, and galleries.

Of particular note is The Temple Bar, a pub renowned for having the largest whiskey collection in Ireland. Passing through the area, you can’t miss the distinctive ruby facade of the pub, especially if it’s strung up with lights and a Christmas tree.

The Temple Bar pub, an essential stop for any Dublin itinerary

Quite the storefront

The Temple Bar serves up a long list of beer and an even longer list of whiskey, in addition to food. If you’re looking to indulge in some hard-to-find whiskey, here’s the place to do it. The pub also has live Irish music every day.

Christmas decorations inside the Temple Bar pub

Some holiday decorations inside

I really wanted to stop in for a drink, but sadly, the place was absolutely swarming with people, so we just stopped by to look. If you want to visit when it’s less busy, you should try to visit earlier in the day and/or on a weekday.

Grafton Street

Nearby the Temple Bar area sits Grafton Street, a major shopping area well-known for its selection of international brands and street performers.

Grafton Street is packed with all manner of shops, boutiques, restaurants, pubs, cafes, and more. And of course, lots of people.

Grafton Quarter sign

Sign that reads “Welcome to Grafton Quarter”

People and buildings around Grafton Street

It’s a busy area, but it’s kind of interesting to walk through. Great for people watching and seeing some talented buskers though.

Molly Malone Statue

One of Dublin’s most famous statues sits near Grafton Street. It actually used to be located on Grafton Street and was then moved to Suffolk Street.

The statue depicts a woman pushing a cart. This woman is Molly Malone, the titular character of the song “Molly Malone.” In this popular song, the fictional Molly is a fishmonger who sells seafood in Dublin from her cart; she also dies of a fever.

A statue of Molly Malone, pushing her cart

The famous Molly Malone

After checking out the statue, we got dinner at a pub in the area. We were able to get one a favorite dish in our household: cottage pie (though we also like shepherd’s pie).

Fun fact about shepherd’s pie versus cottage pie. The major difference between these two dishes is the meat inside. Technically, shepherd’s pie should have lamb and cottage pie should have beef, but colloquially some people refer to both as “shepherd’s pie.”

Cottage pie from a pub in Dublin

Cottage pie at the pub

And a few bonus scenic shots of Dublin from Day 3:

Dublin is a very photogenic city, especially in fall

With this itinerary, you can leave either on the evening of the third day or the morning of a fourth day. We left the morning of the fourth day, because that’s when my mom could fly back to the United States (though I’m sure I could have hopped on an evening flight back to London).

We took the airport bus back to the airport.

If you fly out on the evening of the third day, you’ll need somewhere to store your luggage. Your accommodation may be able to keep it for you for the day, or you could find a luggage storage place somewhere in the Temple Bar or Grafton Street areas for somewhere convenient.

Overall Thoughts

I really enjoyed my time in Dublin, and felt like three days was a decent amount of time to explore the city. With a 3-day itinerary, you won’t see everything, but you’ll get a good taste of Dublin.

Should we have had more time, I would have liked to go inside either/both the cathedrals. I also would have liked to visited Kilmainham Gaol, which was a historically-significant prison (opened in 1796) that now functions as a museum.

What was my favorite part of Dublin? Probably the varied architecture. And also the Long Room. I love grand libraries.

Dublin is a super cool city, so go check it out with this itinerary!

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