Day 2: Dublin
On this full-day in Dublin, I recommend checking out some of the city’s highlights. These include:
Guinness Storehouse – It’s more than just a brewery. The Guinness Storehouse experience is part brewery tour and part museum, ending with a pint at a rooftop bar overlooking Dublin. The Guinness Storehouse is said to be the top tourist attraction in all of Ireland, and it’s fun and interesting whether or not you like Guinness (though, note that my beer-loving friends all say that the Guinness in Ireland tastes WAY better than the Guinness we get in the US!). Book your ticket here.
Trinity College / The Book of Kells – My favorite place to visit in Dublin is probably the Old Library at Trinity College, where you can find the famous Book of Kells, as well as the Long Room, which is basically any book lovers’ dream library. The Book of Kells exhibit is really interesting, and it’s also fun to get a glimpse into Trinity College, which is the oldest university in Ireland.
Christ Church or St Patrick’s Cathedral – Dublin’s grand churches are worth checking out, too. St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland, was founded in 1191 and is both the largest and tallest church in the country. Christ Church is even older and is connected to Dublinia, a museum with exhibits on both Viking Dublin and Medieval Dublin.
Immigration history – Many Americans have Irish ancestry due to the large waves of emigration from Ireland in the 1800s. If you’re interested in this part of Ireland’s history, there are two really good places to visit in Dublin. The first is the Jeanie Johnston Tall Ship and Famine Museum, which is a replica of an original ship that made 16 journeys from Ireland to North America between 1847 and 1855. The other is EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, which covers the history of the Irish diaspora.
Temple Bar – Lastly, no trip to Dublin would be complete without a visit to the city’s famous (and touristy) Temple Bar pub district. There are plenty of other (better) places to go out for a pint, but most first-time visitors to Dublin want to see the famous red pub in Temple Bar, and that’s totally okay!
Total driving time: 0 hours
Where to stay in Dublin: Again, I recommend the Holiday Inn Express Dublin City Centre, which is very central and walkable to a lot of the things listed here.
For further reading: A History Lover’s Guide to Dublin, Ireland
Day 3: Glendalough and Waterford
Like I mentioned above, I recommend renting your car beginning on Day 3. Pick up your car this morning (you can save more money by picking up in Dublin city rather than at the airport if your rental company allows it), and get ready to head south!
Your destination today will be the Viking city of Waterford, but you’ll drive through a bit of Ireland’s Ancient East on the way.
I recommend making a stop in County Wicklow in the late morning, where you can enjoy Wicklow Mountains National Park. My favorite site in this area is the ruins of a 6th-century monastic settlement at Glendalough. It’s beautiful, historic, and definitely worth a stop. You can stretch your legs a bit and visit one of the two lakes that the valley is named after, too.
Afterward, continue on to Waterford. This is actually the oldest city in Ireland, and one of the only ones that still retains its original Viking name (in Old Norse, it’s Veðrafjǫrðr). If you arrive early enough, be sure to head to the city center to see Reginald’s Tower and the waterfront.
Total driving time: 3 hours (Dublin to Glendalough: 1 hour; Glendalough to Waterford: 2 hours)
Where to stay in Waterford: We stayed at the Waterford Viking Hotel, which isn’t super central but does have a restaurant and bar on-site. If you want to stay somewhere more central, the Granville Hotel is the top-rated hotel in Waterford.