Dublin, Ireland is a city full of secret spots, history, and of course – well-poured pints. Dublin, and Ireland as a whole, is a popular destination for North Americans. Flights are relatively cheap, there’s no language barrier, and it’s a friendly country that’s perfect for any traveller. Whether you’re visiting Dublin as part your trip to Ireland or just passing through on a stopover, you can experience some of the highlights (and secrets) with just 3 days in Dublin.
I have Irish heritage, so Dublin has been on my bucket list for a long time. Most days, I took day trips from Dublin, but I also spent 3 days in Dublin getting to know the city, and some evenings exploring. I’ll be honest, it didn’t win my heart at first. Dublin is the kind of city where the best parts exist in small, sometimes even secret, pockets. Once you know where to go though, Dublin is nothing short of enchanting. With the right itinerary, 3 days in Dublin is all you need!
What to Expect in Dublin, Ireland
The nightlife is fun and laid back. There might be some bumping techno nightclubs in Dublin, but mostly, pubs with live music are what the city is known for. There are pubs everywhere, from the tourist favourites in Temple Bar to local hang outs off Grafton Street or on far side of Trinity College. And of course, There’s some pub-hopping built in to this itinerary!
Dublin is great for any type of traveler. I wouldn’t hesitate to travel solo to Dublin, or on a girls trip. There are lots of family friendly activities (although this intinerary is more for solo travel or with other adults), and it’s definitely a family-favorite destination for travellers from Canada and the USA. It’s also a very inclusive city, where gay marriage passed by a massive majority in 2015 and has been welcomed and embraced by most residents (Gay Dublin Guide by Queer in World).
3 Days in Dublin is the perfect amount of time. There’s a lot to see in Dublin, and you can do most of it in 3 days. After that, it’s time to get out of the city and see the rest of the country!
Make sure to check out 21 Essential Travel Tips for Visiting Dublin before you go!
Dublin Itinerary – 3 Days
Day 1 – South Dublin
There’s a lot to see in Dublin, and the truth is you’re not going to squeeze everything in 3days. You can definitely see and do a lot though. When I travel, I like to focus on places and experiences that I can’t possibly have anywhere else and that immerse me in the history and culture. That’s what this 3 days in Dublin itinerary is all about – these are the places you can’t visit anywhere else in the world, and the experiences that will give you a glimpse in to what is one-of-a-kind in Dublin.
This day one itinerary will lead you to Dublin’s classic attractions, and you’ll fall in love with the city. It ends with lots of drinking and Irish people acting out poetry, so you know it’s going to be a good day.
Trinity College Library
The Book of Kells is a gospel manuscript that was illustrated by monks around 800 AD. It’s located in the Trinity College library, and is open to a different page for visitors that come to see it each day. Once you’ve seen the Book of Kells, go up a story in the Trinity College Long Room. This iconic library is one you’ve definitely seen in photos before but even so, it’s worth the visit. It’s a little bit surreal, like a movie set. Admission to the Book of Kells costs €14. Opens at 8:30AM Monday – Saturday, 9:30AM Sunday from May – September. Hours fluctuate depending on time of year. Check the schedule here.
When you’re done in the library, take some time to explore the grounds of Trinity College. It’s a beautiful campus! On my visit I actually booked this Early Access to the Book of Kells Tour, which includes a guided tour of Trinity College and Dublin castle, and stops at some lesser known spots across the city. I have a full review of the tour and whether it’s worth it here.
Walk from Trinity to College to Dublin Castle. Walk around the courtyard to view that castle’s exterior, or go inside to access the State Apartments and exhibitions. Make sure you’ve downloaded the free Dublin Castle App if you’re going inside, as there’s an audio guide for the State Apartments right on the app. Admission to the castle is €7.
Hungry? Have lunch at Chester Beattie Library. It’s within the castle grounds. On the ground floor is a charming restaurant and café called the Silk Rose kitchen. Delicious and well-priced!
Outside and around back are the beautiful Dubh Linn gardens. The gardens are accessible through a wrought iron gate, giving it a bit of a secret garden feel as you go inside. The gardens contain commissioned sculptures, and the names of all Irish police that have been killed in the line of duty.
Christ Church Cathedral
Christ Church Cathedral is one of Dublin’s oldest churches, and there’s a lot to see inside. I think the coolest thing you can do here is explore the medieval crypts below the cathedral. It’s the largest crypt in Ireland, and one of the oldest structures in Dublin. On the guided tours, you even get to ring the church bells.
You can explore parts of Christ Church Cathedral on your own, or book a guided tour that will take you to a few other places. What’s included in each is listed here.
When you’ve had your fill of exploring for the day, head over to the Temple Bar District for dinner. Yes, it’s incredibly touristy. But, you still have to see it. Temple Bar itself is really beautiful, as are most of the pubs in the area. I recommend walking a little bit past Temple Bar and going to the Brazen Head for dinner. It’s Ireland’s oldest pub, and if you get there a little bit early for dinner (around 5) you won’t have any trouble getting a seat. It’s got a lot of character, and I loved it!
Day 2 – Historical Dublin
On day 2 of your 3 days in Dublin, you’re going to get very familiar with Dublin’s history – the tragic, and the inspiring. Start at Kilmainham Gaol, and then make your way back in to the city centre.
Kilmainham Gaol is a former prison in Dublin. Today, it operates as a museum. It’s a sobering and somewhat sad tour, particularly if you’re of Irish descent. Kilmainham is where the British executed the rebels of the 1916 Easter Rising. Many years earlier, it’s was severely over-filled during the Irish Famine. Ireland still lives with the consequences of it’s not-so-recent history, and I consider this tour a must to understand the events that shared Ireland as we know it today.
Guided tours of Kilmainham are one hour, and you cannot visit without being on a tour. It’s essential that you book your ticket online, in advance (you can do that here). If you’re already travelling when you book and don’t have a way to print your tickets, that’s okay! There’s a printer at the office when you arrive. Kilmainham Gaol admission is €8.00, and the first tour starts at 9:30AM.
The Guiness Storehouse
Moving to another, important part of Ireland’s history, you’re off to the Guinness Storehouse next! It’s a 13 minute walk from Kilmainham Gaol, or you can take the bus or the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus.
I’m not a beer drinker myself, so I wasn’t originally planning to visit the Guinness Storehouse. I’m so glad that I did! Your tour through the Guinness Storehouse is self-guided, and takes about an hour. Learn how Guinness is made and it’s role in Ireland’s history as you make your way up through the Guinness Storehouse’s 8 story museum. The observation deck at the top is, by far, the best view in Dublin. Tickets start at €18.50/ adult. Open every day, 9:30AM – 7PM (last admission 5PM) and 9:00AM – 8PM (last Admission 6PM) in July and August.
Have lunch at the Guinness Storehouse, at Brewer’s Dinning Hall or the Gilroy.
St Stephen’s Green
Take a stroll through St Stephen’s Green in the afternoon. This park is a little escape right in the centre of Dublin, with lots to discover. There are memorials and statues throughout the park to watch for as you go. Mostly, people just go to St Stephen’s Green to enjoy a day outside. Watch for a fountain representing the Three Fates, a bust of James Joyce, a statue of Lord Ardilaun (who gave the Green to Dublin), and other memorials throughout the park.
St Stephen’s Green is just a stroll away from the best streets in Dublin to see the infamous “Dublin Doors.” If you’re not familiar, there story of the Dublin Doors goes like this: It’s really difficult to find your front door after a few drinks if every door on the street looks the same. Home owners started painting their doors bright colours like green, red, blue, and purple, so as to be distinguishable from the next one over.
The best places to see the Dublin Doors are Merrion Square, Fitzwilliam Square, and Baggot Street.
Continue on your walk through South Dublin, and make your way to Grafton Street. This is Dublin’s outdoor shopping street. Here you’ll find clothing stores, home decor, and book shops. It’s a combination of name brands, and local businesses.
Have dinner at any pub in this area. There are lots just off of Grafton Street!
The Literary Pub Crawl
This is my top pick for a must-do in Dublin. It’s the fusion of a walking tour, a pub crawl, Irish literature and history, and hilarious skits. The Literary Pub Crawl is the perfect night out in Dublin to experience the pub scene, laugh a lot, and get a little more history and Culture in, too.
The pub crawl is run by local actors. Move between historical sites and pubs, drinking and watching the guides act out scenes from Irish literature and plays. They’re hilarious, and the more you drink the funnier it gets.
Day 3 – North Dublin
On the last of 3 days in Dublin, you’re headed to the North side of the River Liffy for a little bit more of Dublin’s history. Then, end your visit with a place that most visitors don’t know about.
The General Post Office
Now that you’ve been in Dublin for a couple days, you’ve heard all about the 1916 Easter Rising. The General Post Office, the base for the rebels, is open to visitors and includes an interactive museum. There are original artefacts here and pieces of history that you just can’t see anywhere else. Make sure to get an audio guide on your way in!
Here’s a special tip bit of information for my fellow history lovers… the statue at the entrance to O’Connell Street is riddled with bullet holes. Over 100 years later, and they’re still there. I first noticed them off the window of a bus when going on a day trip and came back later to inspect the statue. There are tons! Take a look at the wings and bodies of the angles.
Jeannie Johnston Tallship
The Jeannie Johnston Tallship (you will need to bus or hop-on-hop-off from Guinness) takes you further in to the history of the famine. Having already visited Kilmainham Gaol, I thought the Jeannie Johnston Tallship might be overwhelmingly sad, but it wasn’t. The Jeannie Johnston is a replica of one of the ships that brought people from Ireland to Canada and the USA during the famine. This 50 minute tour shares some very hopeful and wonderful stories from a very dark time in Ireland.
Admission is €10/ adult, and tours start on the hour.
Sunset by the Harbour
This is something that I think relatively view people know about or take advantage of. Dublin actually stretches very far North and South, wrapping around a beautiful bay. Take the DART to the furthest stop North from the city centre to Howth, or South to Dun Laogherie and enjoy the rest of your day taking views of the harbour and sea side cliffs.
Howth is a small fishing community North of Dublin. If you have time for a hike, there’s a 2 hour cliff walk with incredible views. The trail leads you through Howth, then back along the cliffs (pictured below). You can also just venture out a bit to see the cliffs, without doing the full hike. Have dinner at any pubs or restaurants in town.
Dun Laogherie is South of Dublin. The public library there has a wonderful view of the harbour. I recommend the Forty Foot for supper. Well-priced, good food, and a stunning sunset view from the patio. The most beautiful sunset that I’ve seen so far in my travels was here!
Dublin Museums Worth Visiting
If you’ve got more than 3 days in Dublin, need to get out of the rain, or just want to swap out something from this itinerary, this list is for you. There are a lot of museums in Dublin. Many of them are small, quirky, and things you won’t find elsewhere in the world.
- The Dublin Writer’s Museum is in North Dublin, by the General Post office. It’s inside an 18th century house, and contains a gallery, library, coffee shop, bookstore, and lecture rooms. The museums hold exhibits, live readings, and lunchtime theatre.
- The Irish Whiskey museum is located at the end of Grafton street. Learn history of whiskey and taste 3 samples over a one hour tour. The classic tour runs every half hour and costs 18 euros per person. There are also other, premium tours which have more limited time slots. Pre-booking is available buy not required, you may just have to wait for the next start time but you can explore Grafton in the meantime.
- The Little Museum of Dublin is near St Stephen’s Green. It’s home to over 5,000 artifacts and is inside a Georgian townhome. There’s a great café in the basement to hang out at, too. This museum offers yet more insights in to the 1916 Rising, and also includes details of J. F. K.’s visit to Dublin.
- The James Joyce Centre is located not far from the Dublin Writer’s Museum. If you opted to on the pub tour that I recommended earlier, you’ll be well versed with James Joyce and curious to know more about him. Yet another museum inside a Georgian townhome, this museum is home to furniture and doors, including 7 Ecceles Street. There is another James Joyce museum in a tower in Sandycove, not far from Dun Laogherie.
Dublin Statues and Landmarks
Many itineraries include things like statues and landmarks, but they’re not really activities so I’ve decided to list them here. If you’re interested in seeing any of these things, just make your way past them when you’re going from one place to another.
- O’Connell Monument. I mentioned this earlier, but it’s worth bringing up again. The O’Connell Monument is at the beginning of O’Connell Street. You can’t miss it. Don’t just walk past this one though… get up close and take a look. They are bullet holes in the statue from the 1916 Rising!
- Molly Malone Statue. 3 days in Dublin wouldn’t be complete without walking past the Molly Malone statue! Molly Malone is a song, that has become something of an anthem in Dublin.
- Oscar Wilde House. When you’re out discovering Dublin Doors, take a walk past Oscar Wilde’s house, too. It’s on the corner of Merrion Square.
- Powerscourt Centre. Now a shopping mall, this used to be a townhouse belonging to a very wealthy family in Dublin. You’ll be amazed at how big and grand this “townhouse” is! Outside the city, you can also visit the family’s estate.
- James Joyce Statue. Just across from the General Post Office is a statue of James Joyce. Walk past on your way through North Dublin.
How to Get Around in Dublin
I have a full post of Dublin travel tips that covers everything from getting around to where find an adapter and free wifi. Here, I’ll just re-reshare a few insights on how to get around the city.
- Public transit: buses and the DART are a great way to get around in Dublin. The Leap Visitor Card is the best deal on buses. It comes in 1, 3, or 7 day increments and you can pick it up at the airport! Once you’re in the downtown, you can walk to most of the places that you will want to see during your 3 days in Dublin.
- Walk: Once you’re in the city centre, most everything is walking distance. A few exceptions includes Kilmainham Gaol, the Guiness Storehouse, the Zoo, Phoenix Park (all four of these are close together) and Glasnevin Cemetary. Most statues, museums, and activities are around the river not far from Trinity College.
- Taxi: if you’re looking to take a taxi, I have great news. You can pre-order a taxi in Dublin! There’s no Uber, so download the NRC Taxi App instead.
- Hop On Hop Off Bus. This is how we got to Kilmainham Gaol and Guiness. I suggest planning anything that’s not walking distance away on one day (like Day 2 of this itinerary, in the morning) and using the Hop On Hop Off bus on that day. The Hop and Off Bus pass can be purchase on it’s own, or as part of the Dublin Pass.