Upon arriving in Dublin, we immediately noticed the architecture was different than that we’d seen in mainland Europe. We loved to see the brick rowhouses (each one with a slightly different tone) and their brightly colored doors waiting atop the stoops.
We only spent one day in downtown Dublin, but we hit it pretty hard. We started our day bright and early at the National Gallery of Ireland. If you’re a fan of European art, this is a must. In addition to the regular exhibitions, we viewed the temporary exhibit, Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry. Well worth it! It was interesting to see his work alongside his contemporaries. Beyond the temporary exhibits, the National Gallery is FREE.
Trinity College & Book of Kells
Just up the street from the National Gallery of Ireland is Trinity College - a must-see for anyone visiting Dublin. Here, we were able to view the renowned Book of Kells, a brightly illustrated manuscript containing the four gospels. It was really impressive and intricate (sadly no photographs allowed). Despite our specific entry time, the Book of Kells exhibit was incredibly crowded. We slowly shuffled through like a herd of cattle, bumping shoulders with everyone around us (It was actually very difficult to squeeze your way in to see the manuscript). Chaos aside, we enjoyed learning about the ancient binding and illustration process.
Our ticket also allowed us to view the famous Trinity College Library. It’s everything you think a historic library should be. Hand-painted signage. Sophisticated bust sculptures. Tall wooden ladders. The “Long Room” houses 200,000 of Ireland’s oldest books in large floor-ceiling oak bookcases, topped with a wood-paneled barrel-vaulted ceiling.
From there we continued to explore the city on foot, walking through the antique quarter, Merrion Square, Marsh's Library, St. Stephens Green, the National Botanic Gardens, etc.
If you’re looking to experience another historic library, but crowd-free, definitely stop here. Right by St. Patrick’s Cathedral, many people walk right past the doors of Marsh’s Library. It was built for Archbishop Narcissus Marsh and opened in 1707 as the first public library in Ireland. Today, it remains unchanged and contains 25,000 books on it’s original oak bookcases. All that for only a 3 euro fee!
We’re all about the birds and the bees. The National Botanic Gardens of Ireland are quite expansive, open daily, and are entirely FREE. Note: They are located about 5 km north of the city center. We failed to see the note (with an arrow and an asterisk noting the difference) on our map and didn’t realize it would take us nearly an hour to get there. Navigation fail.
Know Before You Go!
We booked tickets for the National Gallery beforehand. Tickets included a specific entry time (15 euro each, including temporary exhibit). Note: The general collection is FREE. Only temporary exhibits require a fee.
We also booked tickets for the Book of Kells online (6.50 euro each). We HIGHLY recommend this as the line was insane. Save yourself the headache/wait.