Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to 24 hours in Dublin. As an American with Irish ancestry, Dublin will always hold a special place in my heart. Because so many Americans are of Irish descent, there are a lot of us that feel the same way, even though we know we’ll never be Irish Irish.
But whether you’re Irish, Irish-American, or just a hibernophile, I recommend you spend as much time as possible in Ireland’s capital. With 24 hours in Dublin you can learn tragic history, eat amazing food, and learn why Irish writers are the greatest who have ever lived. (Yeah, I said it. Suck it, Russia!)
24 Hours in Dublin
Where to Stay?
It can be hard to find an affordable place in Dublin for your one day in Dublin itinerary. The best affordable place to stay in Dublin is a private room in Trinity College. The rooms are nothing fancy, but the location is amazing and the price is perfect.
If you have a little more to spend, try McGettigan’s Townhouse. This adorable place has free Wifi, a yummy breakfast, and a great location near the Guinness Storehouse. It can be your home away from home in Dublin!
24 Hours in Dublin
What to Pack?
Ireland, as you may have heard, is on the rainy side. That’s why it’s so green! So the two most important things you’ll need to bring are an umbrella and some rain boots. My favorite travel umbrella is the Repel Teflon Waterproof Umbrella. It is strong enough to stand up to the sometimes-quite-strong winds of Eire.
For rain boots, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them out and about without feeling like some gauche American with gross feet.
Finally, if you’re not from Europe, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. European electrical outlets don’t work with either American or UK plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one.
24 Hours in Dublin
Morning: Dublin Castle
In most European cities I’ve been to, the castles are relatively uncontroversial monuments to the country’s present ruling family (if you are in England, Spain, or Denmark) or the country’s past (if you are in a place like France). But Dublin is not most cities, and Dublin Castle is not most castles.
Dublin Castle used to be the administrative headquarters of the English government in Dublin back when Ireland was under English rule. Now it is an Irish government building, and all Irish presidents are inaugurated here. (Keep in mind that the Irish president is a largely ceremonial position, so it’s not that weird they are inaugurated in a castle.)
Some advice before starting our 24 hours in Dublin in Dublin Castle. The best way to visit is on one of the 60 minute guided tour. (Self guided tours are also an option.) I recommend buying the ticket for your tour in advance online to save time. After the tour is over, you’ll be able to explore on your own. Now that the boring part is out of the way, I give you…breakfast!
24 Hour Treat: Queen of Tarts
Historically, Ireland is not famous for its food. But one area of the culinary arts at which the Irish excel is baking. One of my favorite bakeries for breakfast in Dublin is the legendary Queen of Tarts. This cafe was founded by two sisters who wanted to share their passion for brown bread and apple crumble with the world.
I always start my 24 hours in Dublin with their “Queen’s Delight” for breakfast, which is a fresh scone with orange juice and coffee. Just look at that adorably flopsy scone in my photo! You can tell it was handmade with lots of fat and love. After I eat it, I always start yelling at the customers, “Off with your head!” Then they kick me out of the restaurant.
One tip: there are two locations, so for this itinerary, choose the one on Cow’s Lane. It’s closer to Dublin Castle. That way, as soon as you’re done with breakfast, you can head straight to the castle and start learning…
three fun facts about dublin castle
1) Chapel Royal
The Chapel Royal on Dublin Castle grounds was built in 1814. It looks real fancy, but the walls are painted, not real stone. The chapel was officially deconsecrated, so services are no longer held here. But my favorite fact about the chapel are its windows that can tell the future.
Above, you can see the names of various Viceroys of Ireland. (The viceroy would have been the representative of the English monarch. He was in charge of managing the colonial rule of Ireland.) The coat of arms of the viceroys are displayed in the stained glass windows in the chapel. The very last window was filled with the coat of arms of the last viceroy of Ireland, who stepped down in 1922.
How did the windows know when the last viceroy would leave Ireland? And can the windows of the Chapel Royal help me see the future in other areas? Can they help me play the stock market or bet on the World Series? I see a lot of money here.
2) Symbols of Ireland
You can see the symbols of the four constituent countries of the United Kingdom all over Dublin Castle. For England it’s the lion, Scotland has the unicorn, Wales has the dragon, and Ireland has the harp. I have so many notes about this. First of all, dragons and unicorns aren’t real. (I learned this lesson the hard way.) Second, a harp is NOT an animal, not even an imaginary animal. Like maybe this is why England was able to dominate Scotland, Wales, and Ireland if they are the only country that knows what animals are.
Our Dublin Castle guide told us that they put this harp up in the castle when ownership of the building transferred from the United Kingdom to Ireland. However, the harp was already the symbol of Guinness beer, so Dublin Castle had to get permission. Guinness said it was fine, as long as they turned the harp the other way. This is one of the most Irish stories I have ever heard.
3) Georgie Porgie
“Wow!” you might be thinking. That’s a big ol’ throne, as thrones go. Well, you’re not wrong, Internet Stranger! Our guide told us that this throne was built especially big for King George IV, who I guess was the William Howard Taft of English monarchs. (Apparently the rhyme “Georgie Porgie pudding and pie, kissed the girls and made them cry”, was written about him. I used to think it was just an adorable children’s rhyme, but maybe it’s about sexual assault? History is very messed up.)
Two monarchs later, the petite Queen Victoria rolls up, and they need to accommodate her. So they had the brilliant idea of putting in a footstool so she could actually sit in this massive throne. People are so helpful when you are ruler of the most powerful nation on earth! I’m asking people all the time to clean up the vomit on the New York City subway cars so I can sit comfortably and they just ignore me. They’ll regret it when I am queen!
24 Hours in Dublin
Afternoon: North of the Liffey
The Liffey River is the main waterway that runs through London. It has been immortalized by Irish writers from James Joyce to Brendan Behan, so we need to visit it during our 24 hours in Dublin. In true Irish fashion, it is often its ugliness and not its beauty that are praised. But these criticisms come from a time when the Liffey was more polluted.
Nowadays, it seems as adorable to me as any smallish river in any smallish European city. Of course both sides of the Liffey are worth seeing, but I often choose the North Bank when I am looking for good food and high culture. See if you don’t agree after exploring my…
approximately top 5: North of the Liffey
1) Lunch at the Winding Stair
The Winding Stair has two main points going for it. The first point is that it serves cozy and seasonal dishes made with fresh Irish produce. The second is that it is located on the top floor of a bookstore. Books and food are absolutely my two favorite things in the world! The Winding Stair doesn’t take reservations, so I like to come here for a big lunch during my 24 hours in Dublin because you are pretty much guaranteed a table.
My first course was a classy presentation of little balls of haggis served with an egg on top. Haggis is Scottish, not Irish, but both the Scottish and Irish appreciate a fine piece of offal. After all, the first line of Ulysses is “Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls.”
Ireland is an island, and an island that is finally starting to take advantage of its excellent seafood. I strongly suggest getting the fish of the day, whatever it might be. Mine was served with white asparagus, which I always think of as being very European. I keep asking if white asparagus is the ghost of a regular asparagus, but the waiters just ignore me.
For dessert, I had this adorable portion of a strawberry crumble served with vanilla ice cream and lashings of warm custard. I’m pretty sure that only in the United Kingdom or Ireland can you get a dessert that comes with both ice cream and custard. I say, “Erin go bragh!” to this fine tradition!
2) Hugh Lane Gallery
This gallery, which is also known as the Dublin City Gallery, is dedicated to modern and contemporary art. Admission is free, which is a treat in Dublin, a surprisingly expensive city. I never spend 24 hours in Dublin without stopping here.
One of the most notable painters featured in the Hugh Lane is Francis Bacon, the British painter who was born in Dublin. Bacon is mostly well known for his paintings of demons with their faces melting off, like the image you can see above.
After he died, his heir donated the Francis Bacon studio to the Hugh Lane Gallery. It definitely looks like the perfect space in which to paint melting-faced-demon-people.
My favorite artist in the Hugh Lane is Harry Clarke, the master of stained glass. Above you can see his series depicted “The Eve of Saint Agnes”, a poem by John Keats. It tells the story of a girl named Madeline and her true love Porphyro. Her father forbids them to marry, but they come up with a clever plan and escape together. It has a happy ending, which is how you know the story wasn’t written by an Irishman.
3) O’Connell Street
This street is the main drag north of the Liffey. It’s definitely as broad a street as you are likely to find in any Irish city. Many important protests in Irish history have taken place here. (And this is Ireland we’re talking about, so when I say a lot of protests, I mean a LOT of protests.)
There are tons of monuments on O’Connell Street, but my favorite is the one of Charles Stewart Parnell you can see above. It was done by an Irish-American sculptor with the really Irish name Augustus Saint-Gaudens. In the US, he’s perhaps most famous for his Boston monument to Robert Gould Shaw and one of the first black regiments during the Civil War.
Parnell was a beloved Irish nationalist whose career was ended because of a scandal involved an affair with a Married Lady. My Irish-American mother was a huge fan (of Parnell’s politics, not the whole Married Lady thing).
4) Dublin Writers Museum
Our final stop on our 24 hours of Dublin north of the Liffey is the Dublin Writers Museum. Picture taking is not allowed inside, so instead I present you with the statue of Irish writer Oliver Goldsmith that I took outside Trinity College. Four Nobel Prizes for literature have been given to Irish writers, which seems insufficient to me.
Many of the exhibits explain how Irish writing and Irish politics have been inextricably linked. For example, the Abbey Theatre in Dublin was founded by a group of Irish writers who wanted to create a National Theatre in the fledgling country. Legends like John Millington Synge and William Butler Yeats got their theatrical careers started here.
(If you have never seen Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World, about a rascal who becomes popular because everyone mistakenly thinks he has murdered his father, correct this grievous error immediately.)
But for those who like juicy gossip, you can see seamier artifacts like the typewriter the legendary writer and drinker Brendan Behan threw out of a window. This blog doesn’t judge either way!
24 Hours in Dublin
Evening: Dinner at Bastible
Bastible claims to have the best food in Dublin, which used to not be saying very much. When I first went to Dublin as a little girl in the 90s, I definitely left raving that Dublin had the worst food in the world. Now I didn’t have a lot of cities to compare it to at the time, but I was basing this on the fact that I got terrible food poisoning and all the vegetables I met on the trip looked boiled and sad. Even my mother said the only food she enjoyed on that trip was Guinness.
But now Dublin is an official gastronomic destination with many Michelin starred restaurants. Bastible is not as fancy as that. In 24 hours in Dublin, you can treat yourself to some amazing food! It bills itself as a bistro, not a fine dining experience. However, I strongly recommend trying their tasting menu so you can experience…
approximately top 5: bastible edition
Each small plate was designed to showcase the fine produce and seafood used in the dish. The star of this dish were the sweet fresh carrots. I always like it when a restaurant encourages me to eat with my hands, so I relished dipping each orange line into the garlicky taramasalata. I’m pretty sure the fish roe in the taramasalata was from Ireland because I could hear them discussing the repercussions of Brexit on the Ireland/UK border.
This dish features Irish seafood instead of Irish produce. There’s no better way to show off the quality of your shellfish than by serving it raw. These uncooked scallops were more than up to the challenge! I used to dislike scallops, so I cooked them for myself every day for dinner until I enjoyed them. Now I eat them as often as I can.
Bastible must have recently gotten in a shipment of amazing broccoli because this was the first of two broccoli dishes on the menu. Here we have it served as a light tempura. Fried vegetables always excite me because there’s nothing better than taking a healthy food and turning it unhealthy.
Now we have a proper salad made with beets and blackberries. I am a big fan of blurring the boundaries between sweet and savory ingredients. Both beets and blackberries are sweet and go well together, so who really cares if one’s a fruit and one’s a vegetable? After all, in a country in which a harp is considered an animal, anything is possible.
The chef at Bastible must agree with me about mixing sweet and savory because the next course was a salad made with greengage plums and green tomatoes. Look how pretty this salad is! If there’s any country that should know how to serve a green-on-green dish, it’s Ireland.
Also, I have to be impressed with Bastible’s salad game because I’m pretty sure that salads weren’t brought to Ireland until 2001. Little known fact: when St. Patrick kicked the snakes out of Ireland, he also tossed out the salads.
Finally we come to the main course, monkfish with mussels and potatoes. As an Irish-American, it’s satisfying to eat a rich seafood course like this where potatoes are just the side dish when I know that my ancestors would only have been allowed to eat the potatoes. Probably all the seafood would have been sent directly to the viceroy’s table or something.
Even though monkfish are very common in the waters around Ireland, apparently it was considered bad luck to fish them for many years because they are an extremely ugly fish and Irish fishermen thought they were maybe the devil. Ireland, we really need to work on your ability to identify animals! Fish are not the devil! (And harps are not animals.)
You thought we’d had enough salad, Internet Stranger? Wrong! We can never have enough salad, especially when there is mildly burned broccoli and almonds coming up. I’m assuming the broccoli was intentionally burned. (Burnt broccoli salads are actually really trendy in my hometown of NYC. It takes a sophisticated palette to appreciate the slightly bitter flavor, and the burning adds a pleasing crispiness.)
After all those vegetables, a light dessert was most welcome. I desserted on a goat cheese mousse with shortbread and blueberries. This felt pleasantly like a deconstructed cheesecake. I like having the crumbles on top of the sweet cheese instead of underneath because then they don’t get soggy. All in all, Bastible proves how far Irish cooking has come since the days of my food poisoning. Slainte!
That’s a Perfect 24 Hours in Dublin!
What would you do with 24 hours in Dublin? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Dublin? Why has Irish cooking improved so much? And is a harp secretly an animal? Please leave your thoughts below.
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in Dublin. If you have time for another 24 hours in Dublin click here. If you want to add on another itinerary for Kilkenny, Ireland, click on this link here or here to explore Kilkenny hotels.