Are you looking for an easy to plan, but still unforgettable family trip? Look no further than Dublin, Ireland. Dublin is a city we return to again and again. Dublin’s rich history and vibrant cultural scene offer a treasure trove of exploration. Whether you like historical landmarks, tasty food, interactive museums, or family-friendly parks, Dublin has it all. Let the city’s vibrant energy envelop you as you experience the warm Irish hospitality.
The Ultimate 2-Day Dublin Itinerary
Day 1 = Dark Red, Day 2 = Purple, Other Things To Do In Dublin = Black
We recommend that you spend two days in Dublin so that you can fully explore the city. This itinerary is intended to be a two-day, self-guided walking tour.
Dublin is flat and easy to walk. However, if walking is not feasible for you, you can use Dublin’s extensive public transportation system of buses, trams (‘luas’), and trains. Google Maps has good transit schedules or you can check the official Dublin Transport journey planner.
If you have more than two days, you can spread this itinerary out or see the section “Other Things to Do in Dublin” for more ideas on what to do in Dublin.
Day 1: South Bank & Afternoon Tea Bus
Today, we will focus on the South Bank of the River Liffey. We will explore Dublin’s Viking and medieval eras, visit the world-famous Trinity College, treat ourselves to afternoon tea, and end the day at an Irish pub.
A. Book of Kells & Trinity College
Start your day at Trinity College. Your first stop should be the Book of Kells. Ideally, you will book the first time slot of the day. The Book of Kells exhibit gets more and more crowded throughout the day. I highly recommend booking your tickets in advance on the Trinity College website.
Books of Kells
Your visit starts with an exhibit about the history, imagery, and artistic techniques of the 1,200-year-old Book of Kells. There is a free audio guide, but we preferred to read the extensive signage. The audio guide was a little dry and slow. For younger kids, pick up the Discovery Tour books for the Book of Kells and Long Library. Each one has 20-30 minutes worth of activities to make the exhibits more engaging.
The Book of Kells is in its own room at the end of the exhibit. Which pages are visible rotates throughout the year. Take your time here and see if you can spot some of the artistic flair you learned about in the exhibit. No photos are allowed, so people tend to flow through quickly, but don’t feel pressured to leave.
The Long Room
As you leave the Book of Kells, you head upstairs to the Long Room. The Long Room has been a working library since 1732 and houses over 200,000 books.
Long Room renovation closure starting October 2023! The Long Room will be closed for a three-year renovation starting October 2023. They have already started removing all the books and treasures.
When we visited in May 2023, restorers had already removed most of the books from the Long Room to prepare for a massive conservation and renovation project. Honestly, it was still incredible without the books. The room itself is spectacular and long – 65 metres (213 feet) long!
Other things to notice in the Long Room are the marble busts of philosophers and writers from the western world and a 15th-century harp believed to be the model for Ireland’s emblem.
We really like chocolate. Like really! And that includes hot chocolate. If you do too, you must stop at Butlers’ Chocolate Café . Butler’s is a chain and you’ll see others throughout Dublin, but this one is conveniently located across the street from the main Trinity College entrance. If you order the hot chocolate you also get to pick a chocolate! Now that you’re sugared up, you can keep going.
C. Grafton Street
Take a wander up Dublin’s swankier high street towards St. Stephen’s Green. Grafton Street has all manner of shops and restaurants. Most of them are multinational retailers, as small shops can no longer afford the rent on Grafton Street.
D. St. Stephen’s Green
At the end of Grafton Street, the entrance to St. Stephen’s Green is just across the road. As you walk through the gates, notice the bullet holes in the stone. These holes are a relic of the 1916 Easter Uprising. You’ll learn more about that at the GPO Witness History exhibit on Day 2.
After a relaxing walk around St. Stephen’s Green, we suggest a wander through the streets of Dublin heading towards Dublin Castle. It doesn’t matter how you reach it. Just enjoy the walk.
E. Dublin Castle
As you’re wandering from St. Stephen’s Green to Dublin Castle, you may come across a statue of Molly Malone. Fun fact! She used to be on Grafton Street. Many tourists insist on rubbing her bosom for luck. Poor Molly! Please don’t be like those people.
Dublin Castle was the home of the British Government for 700-ish years until Ireland’s independence in 1922. The Viceroy of Ireland got to live in these palatial digs. Not quite as fancy as the Viceroy of India’s in Delhi, but still pretty flashy.
You can pay to tour inside and see the State Apartments, Chapel Royal, and Viking settlement excavations. The kids and I preferred to enjoy the outside.
F. Dublinia & Christ Church Cathedral (G)
Dublinia is a small museum about Viking and Medieval Dublin. The exhibits and animatronics are definitely older, but the little museum is still lots of fun. The staff were happy to answer questions. Even my tweens had fun dressing up like medieval Dubliners and attending the town fair. At the end, you can climb 96 stairs to the top of the tower for views of Christ Church Cathedral.
Is the combo ticket worth it? Dublinia offers a combined ticket with Christ Church Cathedral. Do your math before purchasing this ticket. For one parent + 2 kids, we saved money buying the tickets separately.
Next door to Dublinia is Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin’s oldest continuously occupied building. Some sort of church has been here since 1030. You may have heard this is the place to see a mummified cat and rat. Yes, it is. If you visited Dublinia, make sure and see Strongbow’s sort-of tomb.
Kids can self-guide themselves through the cathedral with the kid’s activity sheet available at the front desk. The scavenger hunt hits the most important sites.
H. Afternoon Tea Bus
For the cutest and tastiest tour experience, you must take the afternoon tea bus! Book as early as you can. Seating preference is based on booking order and we think the upstairs seats are better than the main floor. The view is better and, honestly, who doesn’t love sitting on the top of a double-decker?
The afternoon tea bus works just like it sounds. A vintage bus whisks you around Dublin with occasional lighthearted commentary on the sights all while you drink tea and eat sandwiches, scones, and cakes. You’ll go by sights such as Phoenix Park, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Guinness Storehouse, the Spire, and more.
I. Temple Bar & The Ha’penny Bridge (J)
Once you’ve digested afternoon tea enough to consider dinner, head to the Temple Bar area. Do not confuse the area with the red Temple Bar pub. The latter is a singular pub exploding with tourists. The former is an area filled with lots of restaurants and pubs….and yes, still plenty of tourists. Anywhere serving food will welcome under-18s through dinner time.
If you’re looking for live traditional Irish music, I suggest booking a tour. The pubs are just as likely to be playing rock music as traditional Irish music. A tour will know where to be at the right time.
The historic Ha’penny Bridge is nearby Temple Bar. You’ll have better light to enjoy it on your way to dinner. Originally, this was the first footbridge to link the north and south sides of the River Liffey. Before that, it was all ferries. The bridge toll cost a halfpenny, hence the nickname.
Day 2: O’Connell Street & The Docklands
Today, you will explore the north side of the River Liffey, learning more about Ireland’s long fight for freedom and the Irish Famine. The afternoon is flexible to spend as you like and we’ll give you some suggestions.
A. O’Connell Street
You will want to walk the full length of O’Connell Street from the O’Connell Bridge to the Garden of Remembrance. Specifically, make sure you look at the Irish patriot statues, the General Post Office (GPO), The Spire (C), and the Garden of Remembrance (D). You may recognize some of these sites from your drive past here on the Afternoon Tea Bus.
We found the most informative way to walk this stretch of O’Connell Street was using the free Rick Steves audio tour app. You want to download the “Dublin City Walk 2: O’Connell Street.” The most helpful parts of the audio tour are the different patriot statues and the symbolism of the Garden of Remembrance.
Several of the statues on O’Connell Street are part of the Talking Statues of Dublin. You will need a calling plan for your phone. Scan the QR code on the base of the statue and get a call back from an Irish literary star like “James Joyce” or “Oscar Wilde” telling you about that person.
B. GPO Witness History
The General Post Office (GPO) Witness History museum is located in the working General Post Office. The museum is all about the 1916 Easter Rising, which was headquartered at the GPO, the subsequent Irish War for Independence, and modern Irish history.
Start by watching the movie about the 1916 Easter Rising. After Day 1 of this itinerary, you’ll recognize many of the city locations featured in the video. After the movie, take your time going through the exhibits. We found the sections on the Easter Rising and Irish War for Independence most interesting because we knew the least about those events.
The Jeanie Johnston famine ship was an unexpected gem of our time in Dublin! We’ve been on many historic ships, but the guide made this tour. He did an incredible job explaining why the Jeanie Johnston is famous, why the famine was so severe in Ireland compared to other European countries, life aboard the ship, and post-ship life. We left much more knowledgeable about the horrors of the famine and how it impacted Ireland well into the post-WWII era.
EPIC is a popular site for visitors to Dublin. We enjoyed our visit here but weren’t blown away. The museum is highly interactive (that was a big win!) and focuses on different ways Irish or Irish descendants have influenced the world – arts, politics, etc. It’s very “rah-rah, Irish”, which is cool, but we left feeling like we hadn’t really learned anything.
EPIC also houses the Irish Family History Centre. If you have Irish ancestors and want to trace your family’s history, this is a great opportunity.
EPIC is easy to replace with any of our “Other Things to Do in Dublin.” If you decide to go, you can buy your ticket ahead to save some time. EPIC is cheaper if you combine the ticket with Jeanie Johnston, so try to make a decision before you purchase your tickets.
If you only have one day in Dublin, we recommend the following:
Book of Kells & Long Room at Trinity College
Walk on Grafton Street to St. Stephen’s Green
Walk O’Connell Street to the Spire. Visit the GPO Witness History museum if you have time.
Jeanie Johnston famine ship
Cross the Ha’penny Bridge for dinner in the Temple Bar area.
Another option would be to visit Trinity College (including the Book of Kells), take the Sandeman’s Free Tour of Dublin, choose a museum for the afternoon, and end with dinner in Temple Bar.
Other Things to See in Dublin
The Guinness Storehouse makes almost every “must do” list in Dublin, usually #1. I’ve been (and the kids too, though they were too little to remember). It’s fine. There’s lots of marketing memorabilia that make you realize how entrenched Guinness is in Irish culture. I’m not a beer drinker so the included pint isn’t appealing. The view from the Gravity Bar is nice, but given the steep entrance fee, I’m pretty ‘meh’ on this attraction. The kids were a hard “no” at 12 and 13, so we skipped it on our most recent visit. If you decide to go, we always recommend buying your ticket ahead of time to avoid lines.
From 1796 to 1924, Kilmainham Gaol held thousands of men, women, and children. Most notoriously, the British Government executed 14 leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising here. If the GOP Witness History left you wanting more, then this would be a good place to visit.
You do have to join a guided tour. From speaking to different people, this is a place where your guide can make or break the experience and it does seem like some guides are a bit ho-hum.
We have only seen the exterior and that was from the top deck of the Afternoon Tea Bus. It’s quite grand and imposing. St. Patrick, the man credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland, was baptizing people at this site back in the 450s. In 1191, the church officially became a cathedral.
St. Stephen’s Green was our favorite park for running around and stretching our legs, but it’s nice to have some choices. Luckily, Dublin has several other great parks and gardens worth a visit.
Iveagh Gardens. We went here for the hedge maze. The hedges were tiny. So cute, but not much challenge. The park itself is restful and also has a large waterfall in the summer months. Find more information on the Iveagh Gardens official site.
Phoenix Park. Phoenix Park is HUGE. It is twice the size of New York Central Park and all of London’s parks combined could fit inside. There are fallow deer, which, thankfully, don’t seem to be as aggressive as the Nara deer in Japan. You can also spot the Irish President’s House and the opulent entrance to the USA Embassy. Opening hours and more are on the Phoenix Park official site.
Merrion Square. Past neighbors of Merrion Square are a who’s who of Dublin history. Nowadays, it’s mostly office space filling the Georgian buildings around the work. Look for the statue of Oscar Wilde relaxing in the park. If possible, time your visit with the Lunchtime Market on Thursdays.
If you’re a museum fan, Dublin has lots to choose from and many of them are free! Here are some of the most popular:
National Gallery of Ireland. If you’re into artists like Caravaggio, Vermeer, or Fontana, visiting the National Gallery of Ireland is a must. If you’re visiting with kids, pick up a Family Pack or a kid’s audio tour. Admission is free!
Irish Museum of Modern Art. The IMMA is Ireland’s largest collection of contemporary art housed, unexpectedly, in a 17th-century building. Admission is free!
National Museum of Ireland. The National Museum of Ireland has three different museums in Dublin: Decorative Arts & History, Natural History, and Archaeology. Admission is free for all of them!
Little Museum of Dublin. This museum is chock full of memorabilia representing the last century of Dublin history, including an entire room devoted to U2. Visit is by guided tour, so make sure to check the official site for details. You can also buy a skip-the-line ticket ahead of time.
Chester Beatty Library. The Chester Beatty is located at Dublin Castle if you want to include a visit on Day 1. This free museum houses Chester Beatty’s personal collection of items from Europe, North Africa, Middle East, and Asia.
Best Tours in Dublin
One of the most popular city tours of Dublin is Sandeman’s Free Tour of Dublin. Yes, the tour is really free. Guides don’t earn a salary, so please tip them if they did a good job. We have not done the tour in Dublin, but have done them elsewhere. The guides always seem to be knowledgeable and energetic, in part, I’m sure because they know their salary is on the line. This is a 3-hour general city tour and would replace many of the sites in our itinerary. If you only have one day in Dublin, this tour would be a great choice.
Special Interest Tours
For special interests, Dublin has lots of options. Here are three that look particularly interesting to us:
Traditional Irish Musical Pub Crawl. Two professional musicians will take you to several traditional pubs, perform some tunes, and tell you the story of Irish music. For even more fun, you can add pre-crawl dinner and Irish dancing. The tour allows kids over 10 and they even have a family price.
Dublin Literary Pub Crawl. Professional actors will take you to several pubs *and* introduce you to Dublin’s most famous literary giants. No children, but you can ask about teens.
Where to Go Beyond Dublin
Dublin is an easy jumping-off point to all of Ireland and Northern Ireland. We have traveled from Dublin to Belfast, the Causeway Coastal Route, and Irish golf courses in the West and Cork/Kerry.
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