Morning — The Southside
From there, head to Trinity College, Ireland’s most celebrated university, for an early-access tour and viewing of the Book of Kells. You’ll beat the crowds without feeling rushed at one of the city’s must-see sites. The tour ends at Dublin Castle, which puts you just a 5-minute walk from the medieval Christ Church Cathedral.
Stashed away in the church’s 12th-century crypt is an array of historic treasures and oddities, from ancient manuscripts to the mummified bodies of an unlucky cat and rat that got trapped mid-chase in the church’s organ pipes. Pre-book an admission ticket to make the most of your sole day in Dublin and avoid wasting time in line.
From there, stroll south down pedestrianized Grafton Street, Dublin’s main shopping thoroughfare and prime performance turf for musicians, magicians, and other buskers, who compete for the attention and spare change of passersby.
En route, duck down Wicklow Street to pick up some made-to-order sandwiches at Fallon & Byrne. If you happen to get caught in the rain, dine in. Otherwise, find a spot to sit and people-watch at the manicured lawns of Victorian-era St. Stephen’s Green Park, a gift to the city from the Guinness family and a key location in James Joyce’s Ulysses.
Afternoon — The Northside
Reenergized, it’s time to venture across the River Liffey to the Northside of Dublin city. You can stroll from St. Stephen’s Green to the Northside in less than 15 minutes. If your feet are tired, the Luas tram system will get you there, or you can hit the saddle with Dublin Bikes.
Take a Northside walking tour and tick off the north inner city’s top sights, such as the Ha’penny Bridge, the Famine Sculptures, and the Jeanie Johnston Tall Ship. And don’t miss the bullet-pocked General Post Office (GPO) on O’Connell Street—a key location in the 1916 Easter Rising, which jump-started the country’s journey toward independence.
Visitors of Irish descent may want to while away the afternoon at the EPIC Irish Emigration Museum instead. Here, interactive exhibits shed light on the triumphs, trials, and tragedies of Irish emigrants over the centuries.
Evening — Guinness and Supper
As the afternoon draws to a close, get yourself to the Guinness Storehouse (last admission is at 5pm, except in July and August when it’s 6pm) to learn about the rich, creamy-headed stout. Skip-the-line tickets get you in the door without a hitch. With some luck, you’ll get to watch the sunset from the seventh-floor Gravity Bar as you sip on your included pint of the black stuff. If whiskey is your preferred beverage, try the Jameson Distillery Bow St. Experience instead.
For dinner, sit yourself down at the Winding Stair, a second-floor restaurant set above a bookshop in a riverside Georgian building. A longtime hangout for Dublin writers, the restaurant puts Irish ingredients front and center with a menu featuring Blackstairs mountain lamb, Dingle Bay crab, and Skeaghanore duck.
Late Night — Pub Crawling
If you want to give Dublin’s literary history further exploration, follow up dinner with a nighttime literary pub crawl that takes you on the trail of W.B. Yeats, James Joyce, and Samuel Beckett. Alternatively, move on to a pub of your choosing for a pint, a little chitchat, and if you’re lucky, some live music.
You won’t have trouble finding a heritage pub in Dublin (Stag’s Head, the Long Hall, and O’Donoghue’s all fit the bill), but if you want to skip the guesswork, join a guided pub crawl of Temple Bar instead. If you’re searching for something a touch more sophisticated, the speakeasy-style Vintage Cocktail Club is a good bet. (Look for the discreet black door labeled VCC in tiny letters.) After last call, you can keep the party going at the Belle Époque-style Café en Seine, open until 3am (Wednesday–Saturday).
After a long day’s exploring, you’re going to want to hit the hay somewhere nearby. For city-center lodgings, consider the boutique-style Kelly’s Hotel. Its 16 affordable rooms are ideal for guests who want to be in the thick of the action. If you’d prefer a quieter base, opt for Ariel House, a Victorian B&B in the upmarket inner-city suburb of Ballsbridge. The industrial-chic Generator Hostel in up-and-coming Smithfield is a good pick for sociable travelers, with clean, well-priced rooms.