There’s a million things to do in Dublin, but if you only had 8 hours in the capital and fancied packing in as much sightseeing as possible, what would you slap onto your I-gotta-see-that list?
I asked the 164,000+ strong InstaIreland community this very question recently.
After sifting through a tonne of responses, I set myself the challenge of seeing how much touristy stuff I could squash into 8 short hours in Dublin.
480 minutes is a tiny amount of time, but I gave it a lash a couple of weekends ago.
Here’s what’s physically possible to pack into 8 hours in Dublin.
- I started off the challenge in Swords, so the first few stops were ones that were within 20-60 minutes of my house. What you see first will naturally fall around where you’re staying.
- I also used my car, so keep that in mind. This definitely wouldn’t have been possible with public transport.
Stop 1 – 8:00 a.m. – Malahide Castle
After waking at 6:15 and tearing myself from the bed, eyes still glued together, I pointed the car in the direction of Malahide Castle, and chugged through the gates at around 8:00 a.m.
Now according to their website, the gates don’t normally open until 9:30, but there was some kind of family day being set up on the morning I arrived, so it was a pure fluke that I managed to get In.
I parked the car and took a short stroll over to the castle itself and had a quick look around.
If I had more time to spare, I could have taken a wander around the extensive gardens, or went on a tour of the castle when it opened, but I was content with having a gawk at it from the outside before going on my merry way.
Stop 2 – 8:45 a.m. – Howth Cliff Walk
The second stop saw me travel around 20 minutes up along the coast road to the gorgeous little fishing town of Howth.
If you land in the village on a Saturday morning, you’ll find the place to be a hive of activity, with a cocktail of locals, tourists, and those working in the villages many shops and restaurants buzzing about the place.
After taking a quick spin through the village and admiring the harbor from afar (you definitely have time to park up and spend some time here – there’s a tonne of cafes to grab a coffee to keep the hands toasty as you ramble), I continued up the hill towards Howth Summit.
From here, I parked the car and took the walk to the right of the car park that leads down towards the lighthouse.
This walk doesn’t require a huge amount of physical fitness and the views on a clear day are just absolutely brilliant.
Follow the path through the bushes and make your way down towards the lighthouse.
The breeze along the cliffs will hit you like a tonne of bricks, so be prepared to have all cobwebs banished.
Stop 3 – 9:40 a.m. – Coffee and Chimneys
At this stage, an early start combined with a long week in work began to chisel away at my system, so I trudged on in search of caffeine.
I decided to check out a new place over on Bull Island which I’d seen snaps of on Instagram, and that was conveniently plonked just a couple of minutes off the route I was taking into the city.
Happy Out, according to the friendly folk manning the counter, is just seven weeks old.
Finely placed in an area where the wind seems to be twenty times more fierce than anywhere else in Dublin, and where warm drinks are more a survival tool than a want, Happy Out also has another thing going for it; it’s view.
I grabbed a coffee and kicked-back for fifteen minutes while checking out the city’s skyline and wondering how the battery on my phone was already down to 61%…
Stop 4 – 10:25 a.m. – Christ Church Cathedral
From Clontarf, I made my way along the coast road and into Dublin City, where I dropped the car off at an outrageously expensive car park* close to the Cathedral (set me back 23 euro *insert horrified emoji*).
For as far back as I can remember, I’ve always loved driving under the arch that stretches over the road the runs alongside the Cathedral, so my first stop was the pedestrian crossing directly across from it, to soak it all up from afar.
After navigating across the busy road, I made my into the grounds of Christ Church and pottered around, admiring what is an absolutely magnificent piece of 1,000 years + old architecture.
I’ve heard chatter that the tour of Christ Church is well worth doing, but I had my fill of the grounds and hit the road.
Stop 5 – 10:45 a.m. – St. Patrick’s Cathedral
My next stop was just a seven minute walk away, and another cathedral – St. Patrick’s.
The cathedral, a superb, 800-year-plus old building, is constructed on the site of an ancient well, supposedly used by Saint Patrick himself – hence the name!
I found a bench and admired the cathedral from afar.
While I enjoyed checking out the building itself, what was more entertaining was seeing the number of elderly people who clearly use the grounds as a Saturday morning meeting spot.
I watched as two aul lads in their 80’s, both wrapped up in thick jackets and well-worn woolly hats, scurried from one side of the grounds to the other, shouting loud greetings to one another in thick Dublin accents.
They perched themselves nearby, and I sat taking the photos above and below while they theatrically discussed everything that had happened in their lives since they last laid eyes upon each other the Saturday previous.
Old friends having the craic – what more could you want from life?!
I can see myself coming back to St. Patrick’s Cathedral on another bright and dry Saturday morning.
Thinking about exploring Ireland? Here’s some guides to inspire you!
Stop 6 – 11:05 a.m. – Dublin Castle
My stop at Dublin Castle was brief; I had visited the grounds before many years previous, and only planned a fleeting visit.
From the outside, in my opinion, Dublin Castle is quite underwhelming; it’s only when you take some time to explore its history that you begin to appreciate the scale of what happened within feet of where you stand.
Constructed back in the early thirteenth century on the site of a Viking settlement, the castle served for centuries as the headquarters of English administration in Ireland.
In 1922, following Ireland’s independence, Dublin Castle was handed over to the new Irish government.
I rambled through the grounds and stopped for five minutes to listen to a walking tour that was taking place, before setting sail for stop seven.
Stop 7 – 11.20 a.m. – Trinity College
I made an almighty balls of this part of the day.
My plan was to do the Book of Kells tour and then hit up a couple of attractions close by, but the queue for the tour was bananas.
If I was using my head, I would have booked online in advance…
I altered my plans slightly and had a quick stroll around the grounds as I made my way to the National Science Gallery.
The grounds of Trinity College are a joy to walk around, and are arguably one of the best places in Dublin for people watching.
You’ll encounter a colorful cocktail of people, from University Professors and students, to tourists and, on the day I was there, drama students dressed in full Victorian attire.
Stop 8 – 11:35 a.m. – National Science Gallery
The next stop was done on a bit of a whim.
I’d heard chatter of the National Science Gallery from a friend in work, but I wasn’t sure what to expect.
On the day I dropped by, the SOUND CHECK exhibition was taking place, which made for interesting viewing, even if my ears were still ringing fifteen minutes after leaving the place.
It’s free to enter and definitely worth dropping by to see what’s on during the time you’re thinking about visiting. Check out the schedule for the gallery here.
Stop 9 – 12:05 p.m. – Hugh Lane Gallery
While I’m glad I checked it out, this was totally wasted on me.
A number of people recommended the Hugh Lane Gallery, and I went in with an open mind, keen to see what it was all about.
If modern art’s your thing, then this may tickle your fancy – it just didn’t float my boat.
The one thing that did surprise me was that the exhibition that was on the day I was there contained two Tony Soprano portraits!
It’s definitely worth sticking your head in either way if you’re in Trinity.
Stop 10 – 12:30 p.m. – Temple Bar
You’ll hear a lot of people telling you to stay as far away from temple bar as physically possible but personally, I like it.
Yes, the bars are a rip-off, and yes, the place is messy at times with stags and hens and the carry on that accompanies an excessive quantity of pints, but there’s just a great buzz knocking about the place during the day.
It’ll cost you nothing to just ramble through and have a little nosy about.
It’s also another great place to grab a coffee and do a bit of people watching.
Stop 11 – 12:35 p.m. – Bunsen #FoodForDays
I’m no foodie, but I’ll fight any man who says that there’s a better burger in Dublin than Bunsen (I’m not the only one that thinks so either)!
At this stage of the day the hunger had crept in along with a hefty wave of tiredness, so I popped into the restaurant they have in Temple Bar.
Get in, get fed, and bask in the joys of post-Bunsen bliss.
You rarely find places to eat popping up on lists of things to do in Dublin, but this place is just an absolute gem; especially considering how cheap it is!
On a side note, it wasn’t even half one and I was already down to 25% battery… FML.
Stop 12 – 13:30 – Ha’penny Bridge
The Ha’penny Bridge was on my route, although I didn’t need any kind of excuse to drop by for a gander.
Built in 1816, the Ha’penny Bridge started its life as a toll bridge, and pedestrians were charged a ha’penny to cross, hence the nickname.
Today, around 30,000 people cross it on a daily basis. Here’s a post I knocked up last year on the history of the bridge, along with a tonne of photos.
Stop 13 – 13:45 – GPO 1916 Tour
I started to make my way towards O’Connell Street just before 14:00, and it wasn’t long before the six iconic columns of Dublin’s General Post Office came into view.
Only a handful of people recommended that I should add this tour to my itinerary, but I really fancied giving it a crack.
Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed.
The GPO 1916 tour is one of those things to do in Dublin when you’ve a good chunk of times on your hands.
Simply put, it’s brilliant – but you could spend hours on end walking around and soaking up the history.
Walking into the tour is like stepping out onto a battlefield; from the minute the tour begins, you feel completely immersed in the action.
The exhibition puts you right inside Dublin’s GPO during Easter Week in 1916.
It’s highly visual, and conveys the events in an easy to digest, dramatic manner that’ll leave you with a totally different perspective of the General Post Office forever more.
Stop 14 – 15:00 – The Book of Kells Tour
You’re probably wondering why I didn’t just do the Book of Kells tour while I was in Trinity earlier in the day…
OK, I’ll be honest – I really didn’t appreciate the need to book certain attractions.
I arrived up at the entrance to the tour and there were around 100 people stood queuing…
So, I returned later in the day hoping it would have eased off – I was wrong, it was just as wedged.
Thankfully, someone on Instagram messaged me with an absolute belter of a tip: you can book the tour on your phone and just stroll on in ahead of the queue.
I love this tour.
It’s the second time I’ve done it and it still floored me like it did the very first time I experienced it.
There’s just something wonderful about the Long Room in Trinity College.
The smell of old books that hits you as you walk into the library, the high ceilings with their beautiful designs, the winding staircase, the dusty volumes – I love it all.
Be sure to drop by the next time you’re nearby, and bring about ten cameras.
Stop 15 – 16:30 – The Phoenix Park
When friends visiting the city ask me for recommendations of things to do in Dublin, I rarely point them towards the Phoenix Park.
Not for any reason, it just never really occurs to me.
The fact is, however, that there are not many cities in the world where you can get within feet of a herd of deer.
And it really is a fantastic experience.
Incredibly, deer have been present in the Phoenix Park since the seventeenth century when they were hunted for sport.
As far as finding the deer goes, it’s a bit of a shot in the dark. I just happened to find them within the first ten minutes, but they tend to ramble about the park.
While you’re here, you could also stop by Dublin Zoo, or rent a bike a explore the whole park!
Rounding it all up
Looking back, it was a pretty good day.
The thing that set me back was not booking certain tours in advance, like Kilmainham Gaol.
Also, if I didn’t have the car with me, I would have definitely slotted in a few pints in some of the pubs in Dublin that boast a rich history.
By the time I left the Phoenix Park the rain was battering against my car from every angle, so I made my way home for some well earned rest.
Learn from my mistakes, and plan everything to a tee! I’d love to know what you thought of the challenge – let me know in the comments below!
Learn from my mistakes, and plan everything to a tee!
I’d love to know what you thought of the challenge – let me know in the comments below!