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
Getting to Dublin
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.
Some of the exterior of Dublin Castle
A few of the rooms in the State Apartments
St. Patrick’s Hall
If this isn’t lavish, I don’t know what is
Dublin Castle’s Chapel Royal
Medieval walls and the River Poddle
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
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.
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.
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).
Quite spectacular, isn’t it?
Busts and books
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
Minot’s Tower of St. Patrick’s Cathedral
The Spire of Dublin from afar
Food and cider at the pub
Trying Irish Whiskey
Our shots of whiskey
St. Stephen’s Green
Buildings and greenery around the park
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.
Some sights around the Guinness Storehouse
The beers our group poured; thanks to the Guinness employee for this aesthetically-pleasing setup
Guinness on tap and our (mostly flawless) beers
Dublin from above
The River Liffey
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.
Quite the storefront
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.
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
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 at the pub
And a few bonus scenic shots of Dublin from Day 3:
Dublin is a very photogenic city, especially in fall