When I say Bloomsday, what comes to mind? Fields of flowers opening up? The first day of spring perhaps? Did streets full of people dressed in Edwardian costume, performing scenes from 1904 come to anyone? If it did, you would be correct! Bloomsday is held in Dublin every year on June 16th to celebrate the completion of an incredible piece of literature, James Joyce’s Ulysses. The novel is based in Dublin, so it is acted out in its entirety for everyone to see, in all the actual settings. The scenes begin at 8:00am on the day and run until 2:00am the next morning (it’s a long ass book), with many a drink had in between. This has got to be one of the best days to visit Dublin and take part in something really special. But even if you can’t make it to celebrate in the name of Leopold Bloom, any time is a good time to experience Dublin and more of what Ireland has to offer. To lend a helping hand, we’ve put together a strategic guide to jam packing your long weekend in Dublin and beyond with as much as possible. You don’t need very long to get a good taste, but you will want to come back;
Today is going to be a full on walking and discovering day, so take it easy in the morning. Have a wee sleep in, grab a good breakfast and make sure you’re at the Spire by 11:00am to start your Dublin Free Walking Tour. You’ll find the Spire (or big needle) on O’Connell street right in the centre of town. Look for the yellow umbrella and join the tour in the right language for yourself, either English or Spanish. The tour lasts about 3 hours, with a lunch break in the middle, and will take you to all the best spots on Dublin’s south side. You’ll visit awesome places like Temple Bar (we will come back to that one!), Dublin Castle and Christchurch Cathedral, plus you will have a passionate local to give you all the history and information you could ask for. There are two particular spots you will briefly visit along the way that you absolutely must go back to once you’ve finished (and you’ve given your guide a good tip for the enjoyable tour of course)
Since you’ll be finishing up at St. Patrick’s cathedral, you’ll want to head back to the Chester Beatty Library first, only a 10 minute walk away. Sir Alfred Chester was basically a rich, Irish-American guy who loved collecting rare and amazing treasures. Thankfully for us, his collections are now on display at this museum, and let me tell you, it is impressive. You will see all kinds of artifacts, scripture and art from cultures and religions all over the world, some dating back to 2700 BC, and admission is completely FREE! There is no photography allowed inside, but there is loads to look at and learn about, so appreciate the disconnection from your camera and take time to wander and absorb.
You should now have just enough time left in the afternoon to make your way over to Trinity College Library, home to a ridiculously old manuscript ‘The Book of Kells’. Dating back to the 9th century, the amount of detail and colour in the pages is breathtaking, and it has aged very well! The library turns the page in the book each day too, so you probably won’t be looking at the same ones we did, but I’m sure they are just as great. Your ticket also allows you entry into the actual library which is impressive in itself, very Harry Potter-esque in my opinion. Ok, you’re going to be tired as f**k by now, so stop into Farm Restaurant just across the road to enjoy a healthy, hearty meal made from locally and responsibly sourced ingredients. Knock back a few beers and see where the evening takes you. But beware, you’re getting up early tomorrow!
Taking a break from Dublin for the day, you will be heading up to Northern Ireland to check out Belfast, Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge. This full day trip departs at 7:00am on O’Connell street, so you’ll need to be bright and early. Once in Belfast you can either visit the Titanic Museum or take a Black Taxi Tour of the city, and we highly recommend jumping in the taxi. Your driver will be someone who lived through ‘The Troubles’ in 1980/90’s Belfast and will be able to share personal accounts of the riots and war that were going on at the time. You get a live commentary throughout the drive, you’ll stop at places like Peace Wall Belfast, and you’ll get to see some of the city’s famous murals, left in remembrance of significant events and people. It is a very raw and real way to learn about some not-so-ancient history.
Northern Ireland’s coast is nothing if not dramatic, especially on a rainy day (which you’re likely to have, I mean come on, it’s Ireland) and you will see plenty of it as you journey up to the natural wonder that is Giant’s Causeway. Crumbling castles are also a recurring site along the way, some of them are used as locations in the Game of Thrones series too, although you might not recognise them without all the CGI bits! It’s a short walk to and from the causeway once you arrive, and there’s a fantastic folk tale about how the rocks were formed detailed on plaques along the path, we won’t spoil that for you here though. Make sure you leave enough time to visit The Nook, a pub at the top of the hill. It’s a great opportunity to taste some Irish whiskey – you can try the whiskey almost anywhere of course, but here you can enjoy your drip with a view of the beautiful coast in summer or warming up by the roaring fire in winter.
Lastly, take the chance to cross Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge and check out some pretty awesome coastal views. This is another Game of Thrones film set by the way, and there is good fudge in the shop, so grab some for the bus ride back to Dublin before the big night out ahead! Temple Bar area is a must do while in Dublin, but can be a bit pricey (some would call it a tourist trap), so start the night here and move on later. Squeeze yourself into The Palace Bar (21 Fleet Street) for reasonably priced beer and a good mix of people. We got talking to some locals who were speaking to each other in Gaeilge (an historic Irish language) and they took us to some great nightlife spots around other parts of the city. I don’t have the foggiest idea of where they were, but if you find some locals of your own, you’ll be just fine!
I’m predicting a woozy head this morning, but get excited because today you’re going to the Guinness Storehouse! Save yourself a whole €5.00 by pre-purchasing early bird tickets, good news – ‘early bird’ is between 9:30am and 11:00am so it’s not even that early! This is a top attraction for a reason, even if you don’t think you’re a Guinness fan, by the time you get to the end, I guarantee you would have found at least one thing of interest along the way. The factory tour covers the entire growing, brewing and bottling process, the brand and marketing evolution, and even barrel making. When you’ve reached the sky bar, it’s time for a well deserved pint of the good stuff. Obviously, this is the place to get the best tasting Guinness in the world, and it will make you feel infinitely better (if you’re hungover af).
Enjoy the panoramic view over Dublin, do some people watching, have a few more drinks and when you’re ready, head over to Kilmainham Gaol on foot. This is a hugely symbolic place for the Irish as many of the most esteemed leaders of the rebellion were imprisoned and/or executed here. Your pass will get you access to the museum and a guided tour of the actual prison – this is the only way you can see inside. The lines can be long, so pre-book your tickets if you get the chance.
For your last afternoon in Dublin, you have 3 options depending on how you’re feeling or what you’re interested in;
1. Bus to the Botanic Gardens and check out the beautifully kept grounds. They have exhibitions on all year round and the plants are always abundant inside the greenhouses. However, what you see outside will depend on the season – entry is free
2. Head back to The Spire and catch the 3:00pm Dublin Free Walking Tour of the north side. There is more of a focus on the rebellion and 1916 rising, perfect for those interested in the history or those who just want to see more great stuff in the city
3. Stagger over to Phoenix park, check out some of the monuments if you can, and then fall asleep on the grass somewhere because that’s all you can manage today!
Did we miss anything? Let us know what you’re looking forward to or loved about Dublin and Ireland. For more travel inspiration, check out some of our other experiences.