Twenty Four Hours in Dublin

What would you do if you only had 24 hours in one city? It’s not exactly a lot of time. You can’t get to know the city—all you can do is give it a cursory look. Twenty-four hours is just a quick skim, and because of that, I hate spending only a day in a city. I never walk away feeling like I really know the place. But I suddenly found myself with only 24 hours in Dublin and had to cram a thousand-year old city into one day of travel. How do you spend one day in Dublin? Here’s how:

8:00am – Wake Up/Shower/Breakfast

9:00am – Dublin Castle

The inner corner of Dublin Castle Courtyard in Ireland
Dublin Castle is more like a palace, but it’s good to see quickly. Tours run infrequently and are often canceled. Also, most attractions don’t open before 10am in Dublin, and you can just walk into the castle’s courtyard.

9:30am – St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Saint Patrick's Cathedral in Ireland on a particularly sunny day
Named after the patron saint of Ireland, this cathedral is pretty impressive. The present buildings date from 1191, and the famous Marsh’s Library is the oldest in Ireland. It’s also one of the few things open before 10am.

10:00am – Guinness Storehouse
The sign at the Guinness Factory in downtown Dublin
Here you can learn all about the history of Guinness, Ireland’s most famous beer. The factory here was bought in 1759 and has a 9,000 year lease. It produces around three million pints of Guinness a day. At the end of the tour, you can head up to the Gravity Bar for a free pint. The place also provides excellent 360° views of the city. Avoid weekend afternoons here as the place becomes standing room only. Going through takes about an hour and a half.

12:00pm – Kilmainham Gaol
An inside look at the Old Kilmainham Gaol (jail) with a winding staircaseThis gaol was used as a prison up until 1910. It was temporarily used after the 1916 Easter uprising and during the War of Independence for imprisonment and mass executions. Often there were about eight people to a tiny cell. In 1960, it was restored and then opened as a museum during the 1990s. It has a great introductory exhibit too. Plus, your ticket gets you a tour that lasts one hour and begins on the hour.

Lunch – I really enjoyed the area around Mary/High Street. It’s far away from the Gaol, so you need to take the bus, but it’s right near the next attraction. The area is also right near the Dublin Spire and is a big pedestrian shopping area with a lot of restaurants. During the weekend, there are some outdoor food markets.

2:00pm – Dublin Writer’s Museum
The entrance to the Dublin Writers Museum, which highlights many good Irish writers
Dublin has a rich literary history from James Joyce to Oscar Wilde to Beckett and a million authors in between. The museum does a great job of pointing them all out to you in detail and has a very thorough audio guide. But unless you’re a literary buff, you don’t need to spend more than thirty minutes here.

3:00pm – Trinity College/Book of Kells
The front entrance of Trinity College in Dublin
Take a tour of Ireland’s most famous college and see the ninth-century Book of Kells, an embroidered Latin version of the Bible. The tour lasts 30 minutes and provides some funny commentary. After that you can head into the library to see the Book of Kells.

4:00pm – National History Museum
The Dublin National History Museum from the outside
Finish your day here by learning all about the history of Ireland from the Vikings, to English rule, to Michael Collins, the IRA, and independence. The museum is pretty comprehensive, and it’s also free.

Dinner and drinks on Temple Bar

Temple Bar Ireland is the big festive yellow place to party
Sure, it’s touristy, but it’s quite a good “craick” as the Irish would say. You can get away from the main tourist fare and head to the Porterhouse, a local brewery that makes an excellent stout and great Irish food. No matter where you go, though, after running around all day, you’ll definitely need another drink and some hearty food.

If you do have limited time in Dublin, I suggest the hop on/hop off tour bus. It will cut down your walking time dramatically and allow you to squeeze more into your day. Moreover, you get very lively commentary from the drivers, and your pass gives you discounts into most of the major attractions.

The next time I get to Dublin, though, you can bet it’ll be for more than 24 hours.

For more information, visit my page on backpacking Europe or my guide to Ireland.

  1. I lived in Dublin for 4 months and it looks like you did a pretty good job of covering what you could in the time you had. I wish I would’ve read this sooner and could’ve given you my favorites!

    Happy travels.

  2. You managed to cram a lot into a day – good on you. I was going to warn you to stay away from The Book of Kells – I found that “tour” experience to be quite boring even though I was excited to see such an old book up close at the time.

    One of my favorite experiences in Dublin was the musical pub crawl in Temple Bar. You go to 3 bars, get 3 tasty beers, and have your own traveling musicians to sing along with. Yes, touristy but so much fun. There is also a literary pub crawl for the more erudite traveler.

  3. Andrew

    Drinking before noon is just something us Irish do. Don’t judge. =)

    Ah Matt, checking out your pics is making me want to book another trip to Ireland. However next time it will be Galway or Dingle Peninsula. Loving your European travels so far!


  4. Trey N.

    Days like these are a little hectic but always fun. The hard part for me is digesting and remembering everything I saw. Of course a nice blog post at the end of the day gives you a nice refresher.

    Thanks for the post. Now I’ve got even more motivation to see Ireland.

  5. It seems to bring different reactions but I was really happy to see the Book of Kells – an extraordinary visual experience of a book over 1000 years old. Wow, you packed a lot into a day – impressive effort. What struck me most in my limited time on my one visit (I had two days) was the buoyant mood through the town – most seemed to smile, most walked jauntily and it just seemed to have a great mood.

  6. Robin

    I was just in Dublin for 24 hours. The 5am arrival messed with us so we end up napping from noon to 4pm and still got in exactly the things you mentioned minus the Writers Museum. On the way back we went to the Jameson Distillery and found that tour to beat the Guinness tour.

  7. I had about 48 hours when I visited and it still wasn’t enough! I thought the Book of Kells was pretty amazing myself but I really like the old biblical stuff. I think you still did more in one day than I did in 2! GuessI spent too much time at the Gin Palace. hahahaha..

    • NomadicMatt

      It’s not the exchange rate. Dublin itself is quite expensive. The economic boom really benefited the city and it became a center for high tech and drug makers. While the recession has hurt the city, prices haven’t come down that much. So while you would think Dublin wouldn’t be too expensive (ireland doesn’t really strike people as expensive), meals and drinks are actually quite expensive. Plus those tours are usually 10 or more euros.

      I spoke with a few people who lived there and they even said prices have gone up a lot in recent years and it has become quite expensive city.

      Dublin is not London or Paris expensive but, while accommodation is cheap, most everything else is not.

      • Ciara

        I’m from Dublin and prices have gone way down in the last year or so! Definitely a lot more expensive than London especially at the moment with the exchange rates. I found food and drink there very cheap!! I found Paris to have similar prices. Glad you enjoyed Dublin, you certainly saw a lot in 1 day!! Porterhouse was a great choice!! ha

  8. I really do love the on-again-off-again buses. I lived in Dublin for 4 months and actually rode them several times. The only thing I would have suggested adding would be St. Stephen’s Green and a walk down Grafton Street. Depending on when you go, there are some incredible street performers!

  9. Good for you. I think it shows how you have to be flexible when traveling. Sometimes, you have more time in one city and sometimes you don’t. The funny thing is this is pretty much typical for me whenever I travel with my Asian family. :) I think it’s something we tend to do.. Hit as many tourist attractions as humanly possible. But now that I have kids, I can’t do the same type of itinerary anymore.

  10. This post cracked me up because you accomplished a lot of what I did over a four-day period! I definitely think you’ve got a good list of highlights here. I would recommend going for a tour of the inside of the castle – it’s worth seeing. And if you’ve got time, The Chester Beatty Library, which is right behind the castle, is one of the best museums I’ve ever been in (the Lonely Planet calls it the best museum in Europe).

    Another great thing to do is take a historic walking tour. It’s only an hour and a half and starts at the gates of the university. I learned a ton about the history of the city and the country and saw a number of important buildings.

    And although I know the Book of Kells is a “must see” I have to say that I was a little disappointed. You really only get to see two pages, and it’s so crowded that your hustled along. Getting to see the inside of the university library at the end was IMO much cooler.

  11. Great post, Matt. I’ve always wanted to go to Dublin. John’s mom was here a few weeks ago and she was talking about flying the family there for a vacation next year. I won’t say no to that! :-) Glad to hear that you’re having such a great time. Adios and don’t forget to have a pint or two for us!

  12. Great post! I too recommend hitting the Guinness brewery before midday, or even just before midday. There’s 300 calories in a pint of Guinness, or as we call it, a “liquid lunch”.

    Although I don’t recommend it, you can spend a day living on nothing but Guinness, and still feel fairly refreshed. But yes, don’t recommend it :)

  13. Scott

    Hi Matt – Just a heads up – I think you mean to say the book of kells is an “illuminated” text, rather than an “embroidered” text. Though, it’d be something to see a bunch of monks going to town on a book of needle and thread!

    Great blog, as always. Love your work.

  14. Matt,
    You sure know how to pack it in!! We have a four year old, so we would not be able to even come close to your sight-seeing pace. But your post is super helpful anyway, to get a sense of all that Dublin has to offer.

  15. Fred

    Just a quick one in support of Killmainham Gaol, well worth the little trip out of the way for.

    Guiness is a waste of money, you’re paying for an enormous advert. It works out OK with student discount because by the time you’ve factored in the price of the pint then it’s not too expensive.

  16. Twenty four hours well spent, good job! The only thing I would replace is looking at the Book of Kells with a visit to the Science Gallery at the back of Trinity College Dublin. The Book of Kells is overrated for what you get to see and at €9 I think it’s a bit pricey.

    The Science Gallery is a free exhibition available to the public and is located at the back of the college. Just make sure the exhibition is on before you go. The website is

  17. Stephania

    Hey! This is a great blog and a perfect starting point for me. I’m going to Dublin come October and I’m extremely excited. The sites you listed are a few of the ones I’ve been recommended. Where else did you wish you had time to visit?

    Also, I’ve yet to map any of these sites out to determine which I’ll visit first and in what days, but were all of these sites that close together? I find it amazing that you saw all of them in a matter of 9 hours, including tours. If I can do that, I could visit so much more than I thought. Any apps or scheduling tips you have to get all of it done accordingly?


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