Pack Your Bags: Dublin, Ireland

I'll be honest,
I might have Irish heritage
but Dublin is one place
I really don't connect with.

You know how some places just speak to you
and you feel, somewhere in your soul, a prickly feeling 
that can quickly escalate the enjoyment you feel over a lunch
into the hopes & dreams of someday relocating to that city
in order to recreate that experience every day?

Dublin isn't one of those places for me.

While it may not be my favorite city on the planet,
I can tell you that it's a place that you should visit once in your life...
just to experience real Irish culture up close & personal.

Because Irish culture really is charming...
but, dare I say it, better experienced out of this landmark city?

Since part of my job is to facilitate that once-in-a-lifetime experience for others,
I do know a few things that can help make sure that your trip to Dublin a bit luckier.


What to Do:

Visit Trinity College and see the famous Book of Kells-
gorgeous hand-written copies of the first Celtic Bible.

After you've worked through the exhibit, 
you'll be routed through the famous library
that you've probably pinned on your Pinterest travel board.


Take a tour with Lorcan Collins.
This guide is always one of my students favorite guides of the semester- hands down.

His tours aren't just walking tours of the city,
but are tours that explain the Easter Uprising of 1916.

{Think Tom Branson from Downton Abbey.}

He's completely Irish, incredibly smart, alarmingly sarcastic... but really a sweet guy.

The tours run every day from 11:30 (1pm on Sundays)
from March 1 - October 31 for €12 per person.


Visit Temple Bar.

Not an actual bar, per say,
but an area of town that is pretty touristy
but full of endless pubs that will make your visit
seem all the more authentic.


Tour the Guinness Factory...
Okay, so I'll be honest:
 I've never done this myself
but I've heard it's amazing and a must.

So therefore, you must do it and tell me all about it.

Where to Eat:

Ok, this is kinda cheesy to recommend
but you're in Ireland and it's actually kind of fun...

Go to the Arlington Hotel for their Irish dinner show.
It's €30 per person but you get dinner
(a really decent 3-course meal)
and you can watch some fun Irish music & dancing.

I've been twice. 

It's totally touristy, 
but hey, you are a tourist, aren't you?

{Editor's Note: If you're just up for the music & dancing,
 you can go in after the show starts after 8:30pm and sit at the bar instead. 
Shh... I didn't tell you that.}


Go to the Queen of Tarts for lunch or tea...
or both, if you're a fat kid like me.

This place is so cute! 

Eat a savoury tart
and then relax with a sweet homemade treat
and a fresh pot of hot tea.

Where to Stay:

If you're on the cheap... You can book a room at Trinity College. Like, an actual dorm room.
The rooms are affordable, centrally located, right near the airport shuttle-
but only available when students aren't living in them.


This is a historic hotel that often offer some affordable rates.
The breakfast is entirely Irish- complete with Irish oats & soda bread,
but the rooms, while slightly basic, are comfortable and have everything you'll need.

Plus, the front desk staff is so nice-
I swear you'll want to hug them before your stay is over.

Located right off O'Connell Street- right off the River Liffey.


This is one of the "nicest" hotels in Dublin...
but I have to say, if you find yourself in a standard room-
you'll know that the hotel reviewers had an upgraded room.

The rooms, while really large, lack any feeling of luxury...
and are very hard to keep warm in colder months.

The downstairs is nice for teas and drinks,
but unless you are willing to splurge on a nicer room
or find an amazingly cheap rate (like I did),
you can take or leave staying at this famous hotel.


So there you have it...
all my thoughts and ideas
to help give you a good starting point 
for planning your trip to Dublin.

Have you been?
Weigh in with your favorite places/meals/sites below
and help other people plan a great stay in Ireland!

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy


  1. It was probably my least favorite place on our free travel. But we also had some pretty hilarious moments there, which isn't hard to come by when your with Sam Jess and Clayton haha :) I actually think our hostel was down the road from the queen of tarts :) Good memories!!! we miss you so much, hope you and the little ones are doing good.....oh and Tyler, say hi to him for us ;) haha

  2. I have to say, we both found Ireland underwhelming. We did skip Dublin (took our car over on the ferry for a week and intended to just fly into Dublin later), but went all over the Republic. It's gorgeous, of course, but it wasn't any prettier than Northern England- and Northern England is better kept as far as the historical sites go. The food in Ireland was fantastic, but it was also crazy expensive (which we were warned about). We were there over July 4th, though, and that was fun- Ireland was WAY more 'hey it's your big holiday!' than England, that's for sure!
    On our post-trip review we agreed that we can see how Americans going to Ireland first would be totally blown away, but after 2 years living in North Yorkshire it was just... nice. Slightly different version of the same. No complaints, just no real mind-blowingness either.
    I will say Kilkenny Castle was fantastic, and Glendalough OF COURSE. And Ireland's got some great festivals, but I think you can find great ones all over the British Isles.
    Crap. This is the world's longest comment. Signing off now.

    1. I was wondering what you'd have to say, Gesci. ;)
      Boo on both of you. I've never crossed the pond so I am dying to go to Dublin. Plus, one of my very very very BFFs from high school married an Irish lad and lives there now. But...really I am dying to go anywhere in Europe so... ?
      I think the Irish dinner show sounds fun actually! That's the kind of stuff us first timers need to know about. thanks Lauren!

    2. I am going to rally for ireland here, and say dublin is not the whole of ireland...i think people are lumping the two together...because dublin is a bit underwhelming compared to a lot of other places throughout europe..I would vote for a drive along the coast from the north to south, or vice versa, if anyone is going to come and see ireland, instead of just hanging in a big city. I prefer the irish countryside to the english only because it seems greener, but thats just me and i may be slightly biased. As far as a people group, if you are wanting to feel welcome, the irish have the best hospitality out of any country of i have ever been to, and sometimes that is draw enough alone for me.

    3. Ok, I am going to chime in- Ireland as a whole is REALLY CUTE. I'm just not a huge Dublin girl. Definitely recommend getting out of the city to see the best of what this country has to offer... and I'm dying to visit Northern Ireland. I just need a good destination wedding to bring me there and show me it's charm. ;) (@megan)

    4. You have no idea how much this post is helping me! I've been to Germany once ten years ago...and that's it! The boyfriend and I are planning a trip to Ireland & England next summer and it's so hard to decide how long I should stay and where to stay.

    5. Hey now, I'm not BASHING Ireland, I'm just saying we found it underwhelming after 2 years in Northern England. That said, I think Northern England is 10x prettier than the South, although we didn't get to Cornwall. Meg's right- the Irish are definitely the most welcoming of all the British Isles peoples, and that is a HUGE plus. We went to three different festivals during our week there (one in Galway, two in Clonmel) and they were so much fun and we were made to feel like one of the locals! I guess, though, after having Ireland played up all my years growing up in the States, it wasn't quite the magical place I was expecting, and Paul agreed (that rarely happens, so I figure it's worth mentioning!!)
      And Megan- we didn't get up to Northern Ireland due to other circumstances, despite wanting to and trying to a few times. So it's still on our list, for sure, as is Dublin, since we spent 0 minutes in that city other than driving off and on the ferry.
      I'm sure it's like England- I get all bristley when people say they've "been to England" and only seen London, because obviously I'm quite partial to the North and, while I LOVE London and would kill to live there, I think the English countryside is equally worth devoting time to seeing. Scotland, too- I like Edinburgh, but I'd go back to Inverness, Oban, or Stirling over E'burgh if I was forced to pick. I am glad (SO, SO GLAD!) that Lauren makes sure to point out the incredible places outside of the major cities in each country, and is so eloquent in her presentation of them!

    6. I blove (blog love?) the 3 of you so much. :)

    7. SO agree with Gesci...definitely recommend taking time to get outside the major cities of england and see the country..that was always my favorite part of traveling around england. Also agree...i think the US has this image of ireland that is very whimsical and magical (and it definitely has its charm..obvs) but i think that leads to the disappointment when they actually arrive after traveling a bit...or maybe its the hot men in the movies that draws them..i dunno. ugh and yes on the scotland front Gesci...Loch Lomond, Stirling, Inverness...SUCH stunning places that are too often missed.

  3. I actually have always wanted to go because my husband is Irish. And I did my 8th grade report on Ireland. Coincidence? I think not.

  4. I've never felt a deep desire to go to Ireland. But for some reason, I do want to go to Scotland. Better you think?

  5. Really? I've never been, but I still would like to go once. I wonder if it is underwhelming when you've been to so many other places. I could see that it probably isn't as exciting as other places...good to know so I don't set my hopes to high.
    On the other hand, I have a couple friends who are really into hanging out at pubs and listening to independent rock bands and drinking beer, and they LOVED Ireland. HA! Now, that's not really my cup of tea, but maybe it appeals to people like that? Ha!
    Thanks for the tips!

  6. I LOVED Dublin! It felt so clean (as compared to London and Paris, where my feet were disgusting after traipsing around). I flew into and out of Dublin when I stayed in Oxford last summer. We stayed on the cheap at Abigail's Hostel, which really wasn't that bad (especially not compared to some other hostels - yikes!). We did the Guinness and really, the tour itself was so-so. You basically walk around and don't touch anything. It's very snazzy, but the Heineken tour in Amsterdam is better. The views from the tippy top of the factor at the end were definitely neat, though, and worth the entire tour. I had more fun at the Jameson factory, especially with the taste test at the end.

    We did Temple Bar (excellent people watching) and walked through St. Stephen's Green. We checked out the Irish famine sculptures and Dublinia, which we decided was probably good for middle school boys (think bathroom humor). The castle was cool, but I wouldn't do the tour twice.

    We got our restaurant suggestions from GOOP and maybe Rick Steves. Fallon and Byrne was DELISH for dinner, and Bewley's had a mighty tasty breakfast. I'd recommend both. Oliver St. John Gogarty was another place we ate, but mostly because it was near the hostel. It was okay; I'm sure there are better places.

    We didn't get to Trinity College, but it's definitely on my list for next time.

  7. I've been to a lot of those places. I stayed at Trinity for about a month in college, and also made it around to other parts of the country :) I would suggest getting an Irish rail pass if you're going to travel the country more. I also loved visiting Belfast and taking a tour of many of the sites of violence. That sounds weird, but it was very informational, emotional and fascinating.

  8. we were only in dublin for a few days and it rained the entire time! but we loved it and definitely want to go back and see other parts of ireland as well. we enjoyed the guiness factory, walking on the green (st. stephen's), checking out restuarants and shops in the temple bar area and trinity college.

  9. i have a bunch of irish friends (from studying abroad) and i dream of visiting them someday! honestly, my irish fantasy is a romp in the countryside à la The Quiet Man (have you seen it? old john wayne movie set in ireland in the country) with thatched roofs and cows and really good butter! dublin looks beautiful!

  10. Dublin is a miss for me as well. But ive said it so many times, i am not a city person..i much prefer to be in the countryside of of ANY country..probably why i prefer where we are at in the North..small, on the sea, below the mountains..sheep roam the know. BUT i will say, The irish (in the south and north) are by far the nicest people i have ever come across in any country i have ever been..hands down.

  11. Aww that sounds awesome!! I have been to Ireland twice and also to Dublin once (loved it) but I feel I should go again to book myself into the guided city tour with this Mr Collins!!


  12. I am in the process of writing the same thing about Geneva - definitely not one of my favorite cities. But I guess they all can't be faves! As for Dublin, I've been a couple of times and I've always had fun (Irish beer certainly puts Spain's to shame!), but it's not at the top of my list either. Would love to see more of the Irish countryside though!

  13. I actually loved Dublin when I went in August. We took a trip into the Wicklow Mountains which I highly recommend! It was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen! I loved how friendly all the Irish are also. We ate two great meals at the Unicorn and the Farm! Loved it all!

    1. Mmmm. Wicklow National Park is amazing! I am going to do a post talking about day trips out of the city- and that is a definitely a place not to miss!

  14. Funny enough, Ireland has never been very high on my travel list. I'd love to visit it, but there are so many other places I'd love to visit more... if you catch my drift :) One day I'm sure I'll make it there, and when I do I'll know exactly what to see and where to eat!


  15. Dublin is on my list of places to visit! My husband, like you, has never really wanted to go there. He says it's all green and nothing exciting. Loved viewing your photos though!! Happy Friday.


  16. I am so glad that someone else has expressed these opinions of Dublin!!! I studied in Cork, Ireland for a year and visited Dublin numerous times...I kept expecting it to grow on me but I never connected with the city the way I did with Galway or Cork. I also really enjoyed Belfast in Northern Ireland but, in my opinion, the best way to see Ireland is to head out of town and into the countryside!

  17. beautiful photographs! i took a trip to dublin with some girlfriends and we loved it but then i guess i would be happy anywhere if i'm with my girls :) xx

  18. I was just in Dublin back in August and only alotted for a day there before heading off to the Galway area for the same reasons you listed up there. I really didn't feel like I was in Ireland at all. But like you, it seemed almost wrong to skip it, and the old Library at Trinity took my breath away. For dinner we ended up eating at a burrito place. It was a weird day.

  19. It's been 12 years (wow that makes me feel old) since I was a young college student spending a weekend in Dublin while studying abroad for a summer in England. I don't like Guinness, but the tour really was great. You end up in this room for your tasting that has great views over Dublin! My favorites were Temple Bar (I was in college :)), the tour, and then taking a tour out in the countryside for a day. I would love to go back to Ireland to do more of the countryside or Galway!

  20. I've wanted to visit Ireland since watching the movie Leap Year with Amy Adams... okay, okay... It was so pretty and down-home cozy, alright? :)

  21. i've been to the temple bar - charming {i was in college on a study abroad trip, dare i say i pretty much only saw this area} i would love to go back and experience it through the eyes of a wiser and more humble "me". and to stay somehwere othere than a hostel (: xojacqlyn

  22. The Irish people are so lovely! My mom's family is from Cork (a city I did not like at all!), but my fave restaurant in Dublin is called The Church, It's beautiful inside and reasonably priced. Definitely recommend!

  23. Ireland is on my "To-Visit" list- pretty sure I've replied the same way to each of your "back your bags" posts, ha.

    Eat Cake

  24. Sorry to hear you didn't connect with Dublin...guess you can't win them all! Since it's my home, it has a special place in my heart but I do agree Dublin has become very cosmopolitan and expensive in recent times which can be off-putting for tourists. I think you missed out by not heading out of the city....there are some lovely places not too far from the city by taking a dart either north to Clontarf or Howth or south to dalkey or dun laoghaire. What I love about Dublin is its size and the friendly people. There are also fab places to eat. It's a shame most tourists stick to temple bar as there are plenty of nicer places to go. Anyway as I said you can't win them all and everyone has a right to their opinion. Hope you will come back one day and have a better experience :)

  25. ya know i have to agree. i've only been to dublin once and it could have been because i was by myself traveling and clearly traveling solo is not for me, but i really didn't connect with dublin. Although I would love to go back because I think i was a little bit too depressed about being alone to see everything dublin has

  26. The Guiness tour is fantastic...even if you're not a beer enthusiasist. They allow you to sample different things on each of the floors and explain the whole process of a brewery and it's just a really clever layout. You end on the top floor, which is their Sky Bar. Everyone gets a free pint at the top (I gave mine away to someone who looked thirsty...) but the best part is the view of the city. All in all, it's a great experience.

  27. I went to Ireland last summer and spent time in the North, South, East and West of the island, including time in Dublin. Since most comments are not suggesting things to do in Dublin, I wanted to add two cents coming from a perspective of what IS good/fun about Dublin if a traveler finds themself there: 1. The Bank, a bar/restaurant near the college. Great interior, good food, and doesn't feel touristy (maybe it is). 2. A hurling game (match?) Much like it is fun to get swept up in the pro football or baseball game enthusiasm in the larger cities in the US, it was alot of fun to see (and join) the local Irish cheering on their team in a fast-paced, unique (for those of us from the US) game. 3. Kilmainham Gaol. This is a historical jail that has been turned into a museum. Obviously getting a dose of history is not for every traveler, but we were really glad we did this tour. The Irish fight for freedom, told against the backdrop of the jail, is an interesting and impactful story and unknown to alot of Americans (or maybe just me).

    As one who loves a brewery/distillery tour, I've do think the Guiness tour is commercialized and overrated. However, the free Guiness and views from the top floor does make up for the lacking tour.

    P.S. This is the first time I've ever commented (i think), but I love reading your blog!

  28. I liked Dublin but wasn't totally in love. I think I'd go back though just to see things I missed, like the Book of Kells. The library was closed when I tried to see it!


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