It’s impossible to see a city — any city — in a mere 24 hours. It takes months, if not years, to really get under the skin of a place. But as travelers, we don’t always have months (let alone years!). Sometimes all we have is a single day, enough for just a cursory glance and testing of the cultural waters. You’ll never come away with an in-depth understanding of a city that way, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try!
Which is exactly what I had to do when I found myself on an overnight layover in Dublin. I had only twenty-four hours to visit the city and needed to cram a thousand-year-old city into one day of travel.
Was it possible? Yes. Was it hard? Ohh yeah!
Here’s how I spent a day in Dublin.
8:00am – Wake Up/Shower/Breakfast
Pack some snacks and put on your walking shoes. It’s going to be a busy day! Grab some breakfast at your hostel or somewhere nearby. Ask your hostel staff for recommendations — they’ll have some places to suggest! You’ll be on your feet all day so it’s best to fill up now. You’ll burn those calories off soon enough!
Also, make sure you fill up your water bottle before you leave and that your camera is charged and ready to go!
9:00am – Dublin Castle
Dublin Castle is more like a palace than a castle, but it’s good to see quickly. It was first founded in the 13th century, though it has been rebuilt numerous times over the years (most of the current building was constructed in the 18th century). Until 1922, this is where the British ruled Ireland from.
During your visit, you’ll have the option of a guided tour or a self-guided tour. The self-guided tour won’t cover as many exhibits, though it will be faster so just choose whichever option suits your interest.
Admission is 10 EUR for the guided tour and 7 EUR for the self-guided tour. The castle is open daily from 9:45am-5:45pm.
9:30am – St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Named after the patron saint of Ireland, this cathedral is quite impressive. The present buildings date from 1191, and the famous Marsh’s Library is the oldest in Ireland.
It’s the official National Cathedral of Ireland, though unusually there isn’t actually a bishop here (official cathedrals usually require a bishop). Dublin has another cathedral (Christ Church Cathedral), which is quite rare — usually, only 1 cathedral is allowed in a city. This is why St. Patrick’s has become the National Cathedral: to avoid conflicting with Christ Church Cathedral as the city’s official cathedral.
The cathedral is open weekdays from 9:30am-5pm and from 9am-5pm on Saturdays (there are limited hours also on Sunday, which vary depending on the time of year). Admission is 7 EUR for adults and there are free guided tours available throughout the day.
10:00am – Guinness Storehouse
There’s nothing like starting your day with a hearty pint! (It’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right?) 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, and, the end of their 90-minute tour, you can head up to the Gravity Bar for a free pint. The place also provides excellent 360° views of the city. Try to avoid visiting on weekend afternoons as the place becomes standing room only.
Admission is 18.50 EUR (which includes your free pint) and the storehouse is open daily from 9:30am-7pm (though the last entry is at 5pm).
12:00pm – Kilmainham Gaol
This 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. There was no segregation, either. Men, women, and children all shared cells (records show kids as young as 7 being held here). Each cell only had a single candle for light, as well. To keep the prison population in check, many adult prisoners were shipped off to Australia.
In 1960, it was restored and opened as a museum in the 1990s. It has a great introductory exhibit, and your ticket gets you a tour that lasts one hour and begins on the hour.
Opening hours will vary depending on the month, but it’s usually open from 9am-5pm. Admission is 8 EUR for adults, with discounts available for families, students, and seniors.
1:00pm – 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
Dublin has a rich literary history, including greats like James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, W.B Yeats, and Samuel Beckett. The museum, which opened in 1991, does a great job of highlighting their contributions. The audio guide is incredibly thorough and definitely worth getting.
Unless you’re a huge literary buff, chances are you don’t need to spend more than thirty minutes here. You’ll learn a lot about the contributions of Irish writer’s and get a better, more nuanced sense of their culture and identity.
The museum is open Monday-Saturday from 9:45am-4:45pm and Sundays from 11am-4:30pm. Admission is 7.50 EUR for adults.
3:00pm – Trinity College/Book of Kells
This is Ireland’s most famous college. The main draw here is the Book of Kells, a ninth-century illuminated manuscript. Tickets for the tour and admission to see the Book of Kells cost 14 EUR for adults. Tours run daily at specific times, but the schedule changes every month so be sure to book ahead of time.
4:00pm – National History Museum
Finish your day here by learning all about the history of Ireland. The museum covers everything from the Vikings to English rule to Michael Collins and the IRA to independence. It’s a very comprehensive museum so you could easily spend a few hours here (if you want a couple of hours here, just shift your day around so you arrive at 3pm instead of 4pm).
Admission is free. The museum is closed on Mondays. It’s otherwise open Tuesday-Saturday from 10am-5pm and Sundays from 2pm-5pm.
6:00pm – Dinner and Drinks on Temple Bar
Sure, it’s touristy, but it’s quite a good “craic” 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.
There is usually lots of live music the be seen as well. If you’re not sure where to look, ask your hostel staff. They can help you find a lively pub to spend the evening!
Dublin is a city that requires more than just 24 hours. If you’re on the clock and can only manage a short visit, consider taking the hop on/hop off tour bus. I know it’s super touristy, but it will dramatically cut down your walking time and allow you to squeeze more into your day.
If you have even less time, consider taking a free walking tour. You’ll get to see most of the main sights and get to learn some of the history without having to spend the entire day running around the city (most tours last 3 hours). Just be sure to tip your guide!
I loved my time in Dublin. Twenty-hour hours doesn’t do this place justice but if you’re looking for how to spend a long layover in Dublin or organize your time here, I hope this post helped!