Nearly any visit to Ireland will start in the country’s capital city of Dublin. You really can’t visit Ireland without spending at least a day or two in Dublin! Much of Ireland’s lovability and beauty lies outside the city, but there is a lot to appreciate about Dublin. It has a charm to it that is undeniable. There is an excitement and energy in the city that is difficult to describe but easy to feel. You’ll find interesting modern and classic architecture, awesome greenspaces, and incredibly friendly locals. Plus, there is a seemingly endless assortment of awesome pubs.
With so much to see and do in Dublin, I would recommend dedicating 2 full days to exploring the city. Now comes the real question – how do you decide what to do with 48 hours in Dublin? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered with this comprehensive Dublin itinerary. In this post, I’m sharing what I consider to be the best of Dublin for a first time visitor, including attractions, activities, restaurants and yes, drinking establishments.
Morning: Historical Walking Tour
Dublin is a fairly compact city with many of the major historical landmarks and attractions located in a walkable area. It’s all pretty central, which is very convenient for a short trip! I would recommend starting your 2 day visit to Dublin with a walk around the city, so you can see a lot of things in one morning.
You can choose an organized walking tour like I did, or you can go with a more DIY approach. I honestly didn’t know a ton about Irish history before visiting, so I enjoyed learning more about it on the guided tour. All of the guides are history graduates of Trinity College Dublin and the National University of Ireland. In case you want a self-guided walking tour, I wrote a separate post with all the details about important historical attractions to see in Dublin. I’ll still mention a few of them below so you can get a sense of what to expect on your 48 hour trip to Dublin.
A logical place to start your walking tour is near Dublin Castle. The castle dates back to the 13th century but it now functions as a government building. From the castle, head south to see a few of Dublin’s famous churches– St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Christ Church Cathedral. Both of these churches were restored in the 1800s by alcohol producers in Dublin. I personally find the Christ Church Cathedral to be a little more impressive.
If you’re hungry or thirsty, cross the Liffey River to grab a coffee and a snack at the nearby Vice Coffee. Their coffee is award winning and I really enjoyed their simple cheese toasties. Cross back over to end your little walking tour in front of the Molly Maloney statue. There is a famous Irish song of the same name which is sort of known as Dublin’s unofficial anthem. Molly Maloney is a fictional character who sold seafood by day, and worked as a sex worker by night.
Early Afternoon: Trinity College
Just one block away from the Molly Maloney statue is Trinity College, Dublin’s most famous university located in the heart of the city. Dating all the way back to the 16th century, Trinity College has a long history in Dublin which is evident from the beautiful old architecture and well-manicured grounds. Depending on who you ask, there is some controversy to the university, particularly around it’s former ties to the crown and catholic church, as well as its very late admission of female students. Regardless, it is worth a short visit on your 48 hour stay in Dublin.
You are allowed to walk the Trinity College campus grounds for free; but to go inside the famous buildings to see the Book of Kells or Long Hall, you’ll need to buy a ticket or sign up for a tour. You can buy tickets at the office, but I would recommend reserving them in advance because the lines can be surprisingly long. Although the grounds are easy to admire from the outside, the real showstopper is the Long Hall. Truly beautiful, this library hall is lined with towering shelves of books and an arched ceiling that brings so much drama and awe. It is every bibliophile’s dream as well as a photographer’s paradise. Photos are allowed inside, so don’t be shy at snapping the perfect angles.
Late Afternoon: St. Stephen’s Green & Portobello Neighborhood
Like many European cities, Dublin’s park system is well integrated into public life with lovely greenways throughout the city. If you walk south from Trinity College down Grafton Street, Dublin’s most popular shopping district, it will run directly into St. Stephen’s Green. This park played an important role in the 1914 Easter Rising, which ultimately led to Irish independence from the British empire in 1922. As you meander through the curving paths and along the duck-filled pond, peek at the park’s signs to learn more about this history. St. Stephen’s green is beloved by locals, making it a peaceful place to relax, especially on warm sunny days.
From St Stephen’s Green, you are a stone’s throw away from the Portobello Neighborhood. I liked this area of the city, because it has a cool vibe with lots of young people. Wexford Avenue is full of shops, restaurants and cafes making it a perfect place to grab some lunch. There are also a number of charity shops on this street, aka second hand stores, which is one of my favorite pastimes while traveling. For some picturesque photos of nice architecture, walk along Harcourt Street which has some really beautiful stone row homes and Victorian doorways that are in good condition.
Evening: Fun in Temple Bar
The Temple Bar District is infamous as a touristy part of Dublin, well-known as the party center of the city. On a weekend, you’ll see hoards of Irish bachelorette parties and international tourists alike getting drunk, singing, and generally causing a ruckus. Don’t let that turn you off completely, because there are plenty of lesser known pubs, secondhand shops, dinner restaurants and colorful street art murals that make it worth a visit. Plus, it is a fun place to experience Dublin’s nightlife.
The Temple Bar Pub is the most famous drinking establishment in the district, named after the neighborhood itself. It is overpriced and full of tourists, so I would recommend getting a Guinness somewhere else. Keep in mind, food and drink in Temple Bar tends to be much pricier than in other parts of the city. You can find all of my recommendations for where to eat and drink in Dublin here. My favorite place to drink in Temple Bar was The Palace Bar, near the end of Fleet Street. I especially liked their second floor Whiskey Palace, which has an incredible selection of Irish Whiskeys. Their friendly staff can offer suggestions if you’re not super familiar with the beloved local spirit.
Morning: Great Famine Memorial & Museum
Start your second day in Dublin by learning about one of the darkest periods of Irish history – the Great Famine. Prior to traveling to Dublin, I wanted to learn more about this famine and thankfully my favorite podcast, Behind the Bastards, did a three part series on the Great Hunger. After listening and then visiting the memorial, I realized how wrong my understanding of the famine was. No event in history had a more profound effect on Ireland than that of the Great Irish Famine from 1845-1849. I had a lot of unlearning to do, and I would recommend that you do the same before visiting Ireland.
Located directly on the Liffey River at Customs House Quay is the haunting but powerful Famine Memorial. These statues commemorate the approximately 1 million people who died as well as the additional 2 million people who emigrated from Ireland. Next to it, you’ll find the Jeanie Johnston Tallship. This tallship is a replica of the original famine ships that transported Irish people from Ireland to the Americas across 16 different voyages. You can only visit the ship and museum on a guided tour and you should reserve tickets in advance, as numbers are limited. Alternatively, you can visit the EPIC museum across the street which tells the stories of Irish emigration with lots of personal stories and individual histories.
Early Afternoon: Riverfront Walk or Bike
After an intense morning, you’ll probably want to cool down and clear your head a little bit. Why not go for a walk or bike ride along the pretty Liffey River? There are a number of scenic bridges and viewpoints to enjoy, especially on a sunny day. Dubliners are so proud of these bridges that there is an entire website dedicated to showcasing the stories, history and photos of these bridges. With bike paths and sidewalks on both sides, it is easy to wander along and snap photos of anything you find interesting.
The Samuel Beckett Bridge was designed by famed Spanish architect Calatrava, designed to look like a harp with its curved lines and delicate cables. The 18th century stone O’Connell Bridge is named after Daniel O’Connell, who is credited as one of the key figures in Irish emancipation from the British. There is a statue of his likeness directly north of the bridge as well. Ha’Penny Bridge is the most photographed bridge in Dublin, thanks to its long history and unique design. Built in 1816, this was the first bridge to span the Liffey River and its name comes from the penny toll that pedestrians had to pay in order to cross.
Late Afternoon: Guinness or Distillery Tour
One of the things you likely already know about Dublin is its famous local beer – Guinness. My husband used to work as a bar tender at an Irish bar in Madison Wisconsin, so he was very excited to drink a Guinness beer in an authentic Irish pub. Genuinely, the beer tastes better here because it doesn’t travel well in the kegs. It’s actually a fact! For many tourists, a visit to the Guinness Storehouse is a must-do activity on a 2 day visit to Dublin. The original brewery is still operational today. It is located on the eastern outskirts of Dublin. Because of the popularity of the tour, you’ll need to reserve tickets in advance. The facility is massive, so it will take several hours to explore and learn about Guinness production, including a demonstration of the proper way to pour the beer.
My husband knew he wanted to do a whiskey tasting during our 48 hours in Dublin. In addition to beer, Ireland has a proud history of whiskey distilling, so it would be a shame not to try at least a few of whiskeys. The late 1800s was the heyday for Irish distilling, but that changed in 1922 with the combined impact of Irish independence and American prohibition. You can learn all about the history and culture of whiskey production in Ireland on a historical whiskey tour. Our guide Gareth Downey is a Dublin native with a vast knowledge of Irish whiskey, which he proudly shares on his 3 hour tour. We absolutely loved this tour, and I can 100% recommend it, even if you aren’t much of a whiskey drinker. You’ll visit several locations and try 6 different whiskeys on the tour, all while learning about the different varieties and styles of distilling.
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Evening: Dinner and Live Music
One of the things that stood out to me most about our time in Ireland was the sheer number of places that offer live music multiple nights a week. For your last night in Dublin, why not experience some live music at one of the city’s many awesome pubs? Of course you can head back to the Temple Bar District, where you can simply follow your ears until you find a place that seems appealing. There will be lots of places offering music. For a more local and off-the-beaten path experience, check out the Cobblestone Bar on the north side of the city. Owners from the Mulligan family have been playing Irish music for five generations, and this bar is really dedicated to the celebration of Irish culture and music.
Where to Eat in Dublin
During your two day stay in Dublin, I can promise that you will be eating well. Dublin is full of delicious restaurants to enjoy! I was surprised and impressed by the culinary scene in Dublin, because I had never really known it as a foodie destination. Many of the restaurants have a commitment to seasonal food, Irish ingredients, and being in touch with natural food cycles. Because there are so many great places to choose from, I wrote a whole separate food guide featuring all of my favorite restaurants, cafes and pubs.
Where to Stay in Dublin
There are a number of stylish options for accommodation in Dublin at different price points depending on your budget. Stylishly designed with thoughtful in room touches, the Alex Hotel is a boutique hotel after my own heart. It offers upscale dining at the Carriage restaurant, as well as a sun soaked indoor-outdoor terrace called the Secret Garden. The location is just north of Merrion Square Park on a quiet street.
Wren Urban Nest is a more affordable option near Trinity College. I really like that this hotel takes a sustainable ethos towards the accommodation sector. All of the energy used at the hotel is carbon free, coming from renewable sources. They also follow a low waste motto. Although it is located a little further outside the city center, Schoolhouse is another great hotel choice in Dublin. This building was historically a school house (hence the name) that was renovated in the early 2000s into a hotel. The staff is incredibly friendly, and each room is themed around a famous Irish person.
How to Get Around in Dublin
Getting into the city center from Dublin airport is honestly really easy. There is an airport shuttle run by AirCouch that offers a number of buses to different drop off points around the city. There was one directly in front of the Schoolhouse Hotel actually! AirCouch also has buses to cities around the island, including Galway and Cork, so this is a smart choice on your departure too. We actually took the bus directly from Galway to the DUB Airport at the end of our 1 week stay in Ireland.
Dublin has an easy to use and understand public transit system to get around the city center. There are city buses as well as the LUAS system, both of which have single fare tickets or multi-day passes. My favorite way to get around when I travel is on two wheels, and Dublin has a super convenient bike share program. Plus, it is super affordable. We bought a $5 pass that lasted three days! You simply download the app, select your number of days, and then you can pick up the bikes at any of the stations around the city. Every time I picked up a new bike, I was so glad we opted for this. It is seriously convenient and affordable.