Dublin: Hop On Hop Off Tour
Day 1 Dublin City Highlights
We landed in Dublin around 6:45AM running on very little sleep but fueled by a load of energy and excitement. Our first stop was the Cliff Town House on St. Stephen’s Green, a boutique hotel in Dublin that we called home for two nights. We were far too early for check-in, but we were able to drop off our luggage, spruce up and make our way out.
With limited in time in Ireland’s capital, we opted to purchase tickets for 48 hours on the Hop On Hop Off bus operated by City Sightseeing Dublin. When I’m in a city for a brief period of time, I love this option for getting my bearings and seeing some key sites while avoiding the costs of cabs as much as possible. For less than €20 each (seniors and students be sure to bring your IDs to claim your discounts – there are many!) we had access to many of Dublin’s top sites, and commentary about our the surroundings during our journey. There are nearly two dozen sites to choose from and you could easily spend the full two days exploring everything the city has to offer. Here’s how we spent our first day in Dublin on the Hop On Hop Off Bus:
We entered at Stop 7 located on St. Stephen’s Green, directly opposite our hotel and rode just a short way to Temple Bar. Even those who haven’t been to Dublin will likely recognize the Temple Bar neighborhood as being the nightlife hub of Dublin, dotted with charming pubs and boutiques. The area is much more alive at night, but by day it’s still captivating in its own right. Brick buildings touch candy-colored pubs, and flowers and flags decorate many of the facades. We walked through while the city seemed to be waking up; the Guinness truck was doing out barrels upon barrels of beer, and restauranteurs were slowly opening doors for lunch and an afternoon pint.
Christ Church + St. Patrick’s Cathedrals
After strolling through Temple Bar, we made our way to Christ Church Cathedral for a dose of morning history (this is another stop on the Hop On Hop Off if you wanted to bus it). I visited Christ Church during my last visit to Dublin and found it absolutely stunning. The cathedral itself is a beauty but it’s the history, dating back to the 11th century, that makes it an absolute must-see.
We continued our cathedral hopping at St. Patrick’s; we were too close to pass it up. During my last visit, I skipped over it, just scoping out the facade and scooting by. This time, we went inside to compare and contrast St. Patrick’s (late 12th century) with Christ Church. If you’re a cathedral, architecture or history person, you should probably visit both. The inside of St. Patrick’s has some incredible stained glass (always a favorite of mine), and a stunning set of flags decorating the inside.
From a design and aesthetic perspective my dad preferred St. Patrick’s Cathedral, but both are gorgeous in their own ways. For anyone interested in purchasing a Heritage Card, do note that neither of these cathedrals falls under the Office of Public Works so you’ll have to dole out the cash for the entry fees on each of these.
Keep reading to see snapshots from the Guinness Storehouse!
By the time we’d finished exploring St. Patrick’s Cathedral, we were all ready for lunch. Beyond ready. Instead of choosing whether to go to lunch or the Guinness Storehouse first, we decided to do both at once and have lunch at the Guinness Storehouse. There are a number of restaurants inside, but the Brewers’ Dining Hall had the greatest appeal to us with a Whole Foods-style bar serving up ready-to-heat fishcakes, quiches, stews, and salads; a great base before a few pints of Guinness.
I did the Guinness Storehouse tour last time I visited and remembered it as being incredibly well done. This time around, with Scott and my dad in tow, there was no way we weren’t going to visit. The tour was just as great as I had remembered; self-guided but interactive and highly informative. The tour includes a pint of Guinness, which you can grab at the Gravity Bar upstairs or use at the pour-your-own Guinness station. Regardless of which option you choose, you have to head to the Gravity Bar on the top floor – it’s gorgeous with floor to ceiling windows for great views of Dublin.
Dinner: Vintage Kitchen
Okay, you guys, I never really blog about food. I never think of myself as enough of a foodie to have an opinion on the matter, but The Vintage Kitchen is too good to not share. Let me start by saying that I made our reservations five months in advance.
Seriously. Five months. And I couldn’t even get the reservation that I actually wanted. I requested Saturday at 7:30PM only to find out that the only possible reservation that may work for us was Friday at 6PM. 6PM is a bit early for us normally, but beggars can’t be choosers so I humbly took the reservation and crossed my fingers that this place would live up to my expectations.
Oh. My. God. Vintage Kitchen exceeded all of our expectations by far. The food, the service, the ambiance, the quality, the quantity… every single thing was mind blowingly good and the BYOB element made it even more fun. We went equipped with three bottles of wine (more than we needed) and ate and drank for two solid hours before rolling ourselves out. Pure bliss. If you’re in Dublin, this place is an absolute must.
You can thank me later.
My dad’s comment: One of the top five meals he’d ever had in his life. Everyone’s comment (except mine): the best seafood chowder ever crafted. (I don’t eat meat and the chowder has chorizo. Wah.) Being that I made the reservations, I humbly took the credit and felt like an absolute hero. Score.
Our day was jam-packed and since we had all been up for 18+ hours, I was doubtful that we’d go out after dinner, especially after being stuffed to the gills with food and wine, but we were all surprisingly energized and couldn’t be in Dublin without getting the full city experience.
To me, Dublin is nightlife. If you’re there to experience the place and the culture, it feels sacrilegious to not go out, listen to live music and grab a drink (or five) at a pub. We ended up staying out for four hours, starting at the Auld Dubliner for one, and then spending the majority of the night at The Old Storehouse. We made new friends, sipped on ciders, local brews and whiskey, and had an all-around amazing evening singing, chatting and laughing the night away.
If ever there was a better start to a trip, I can’t imagine it. Day one in Dublin: absolute perfection.
Highlights from the Day
When I asked everyone at the end of dinner what their highlights were, everyone universally said that dinner itself was the highlight from the day. The food, the ambiance and the family time were a fabulous end to the day and the experience managed to outshine tastings at the Guinness Storehouse and medieval cathedrals.
Fast forward four hours, and live music at the Old Storehouse – with my mom stepping behind the bar for a moment to pour her own pint – trumped all for most of us (though it was followed very closely by our dinner at the Vintage Kitchen). For my dad, Vintage Kitchen still won out, but suffice it to say that our evening ended up boosting our already-fabulous day in Dublin.
Stay tuned to read about our second day in Dublin exploring local markets and journeying to the Jameson Distillery for some whisky education.
xo from Ireland,