To be honest, we didn’t really eat any traditional Irish food in Dublin.
We DID eat dim sum, ramen, tapas, ice cream, doner kabobs, McDonalds and Mexican food that was basically the Irish version of Chipotle (I needed to earn some serious culture credit for this leg of the trip = i.e. make Riley happy).
And okay, we did eat at a super cool restaurant native to Dublin our last night abroad called the Bank on College Green. But I’ll save that for later. We also drank enough Guinness to float us home, so that has to count for something, right?
Why no fish & chips you ask? If you’ve been following along with my Ireland series (the previous five guides can be found here: overview of Ireland, Galway/Cliffs of Moher, Dingle, Kenmare & Kinsale & the 28 most Instagrammable spots in Ireland) you’ll know that we had been driving around Southern Ireland for 6 days before that and had our fair share of pub food and Irish favorites.
Want to know more about that? Check out one of the guides! Curious to know more about how to spend 2.5 days in Dublin? Read on!
The Digs in Dublin
We stayed at the Clayton Cardiff Hotel across from the North Wall and the Financial Services Center area during our time in Dublin. While it was a little bit out of the way (20 minutes walking distance to the city center) it was a great location for the amenities and value – especially since we were visiting during the peak busy season at the end of May. Bring comfy walking shoes and you’re set! It’s also super close to the river, the city’s convention center, the Bord Gáis Energy Theater, and many of the national museums!
The Eats of Dublin
As I mentioned, we ate a LOT of international fare in Dublin – which honestly, was some of the best I’ve had anywhere. A few of the highlights:
As you guys very well know, we LOVE dim sum. (Case in point, our dim sum experience in Toronto). Ka Shing was the perfect place to grab an early dinner and fuel up for some sightseeing on foot. Shout out to my fellow food and travel blogger Lephan for her recommendations! I absolutely loved the taro root cake, the scallion pancakes, potstickers, xi long bao and sesame balls.
The second night, we still weren’t quite feeling up to eating our weight in fish and chips or Shepherd’s pie, so we opted for tapas at a spot called Market Bar that was recommended to us by a number of locals. After a deep bout of soul searching and reflection, we agreed that yes – we were no longer still suffering from the moderate tapas hangover we had incurred from our honeymoon in Barcelona, and that tapas would be acceptable fare once again (this was mostly a Riley aversion – but again, full Riley = happy Riley, so I do what I can).
Typical tapas fare was excellent – I of course had the bacon wrapped dates, patatas bravas, etc. Know before you go: contrary to a normal tapas restaurant, the portions are actually very generous here – our waiter was kind enough to let us know up front. The order of patatas bravas could’ve easily fed 3-4 people! Tip: after dinner head upstairs to the speakeasy-ish Black Market bar for an after dinner drink.
Kokoro Bento Ramen Bar
Holy Great Odin’s ramen. The ramen at Kokoro Bento Ramen Bar had to have been my most favorite ramen I’ve ever eaten in my life. I am not even slightly nervous to make that claim. Again, as you know – we eat a lot of ramen. This spot was amazing and gave me a healthy dose of culture cred with Riley to finish exploring the city on our last full day because next to me, Chipotle and Reddit, ramen is one of his favorite things.
I had the Tonkotsu Butter Miso, which is exactly what it sounds like – buttery, creamy, delicious miso with the most delectable goodies floating around in it you’ve ever tasted. The pork fell apart in your chopsticks, it was so tender and juicy, and the fried onion, seasoned egg and black garlic oil were just straight up sinful.
Murphy’s Ice Cream
Ice cream so dang nice, I ate it twice. Seriously. And I am pretty much like a human lightning bolt – I never go to the same place twice. So this was certainly worth the return trip. As I mentioned in my overview, Murphy’s is handmade in Dingle (which, womp womp, we didn’t actually get IN Dingle, but that’s okay) and I discovered that their caramelized brown bread – the brown bread being one of my favorite Irish foods of the entire tripe – was my favorite flavor. Do not skip this place!
The Bank on College Green
For our last dinner, we decided that we wanted to indulge in a little bit of the more traditional side of things, and Bank on College Green had been recommended as a cool dinner spot. We had a short wait and were seated in the bar area, which was perfectly suited to ours needs. If you prefer to sit in the dining room, I would call ahead.
While the food was delicious, the atmosphere was what I remember most. Just as its name suggests, the restaurant is literally in a bank. Well, obviously, what used to be a bank. But the embellished vaulted ceilings held up by giant marble columns and ornate details were seriously impressive. If you don’t go for dinner, at least stop by for a cocktail!
The Bars of Dublin
Given the surplus of watering holes in Ireland and our penchant for having a good time, there was no shortage of barhopping during our trip – which included the following stops:
- The Temple Bar
- The Grand Social
- The Ferryman
- The Brazen Head
The Temple Bar pub was definitely a must-see, at least for a photo op and maybe a pint or two. The live music setup is excellent here as well. The bar is not to be confused with the Temple Bar neighborhood (I was soooo confused) which is also totally worth a trip for the delicious street eats and picturesque cobble stone-lined walks.
We didn’t spend much time in the Brazen Head, but it’s actually the oldest pub in the city – which makes it super neat. History traces the origin of the establishment back to a coach house from – get this – 1198!! It’s unsure how much of that is still in tact, though. Other sources say somewhere between 1613-1775. Again, worth a stop!
My two favorite spots we went to were a little less touristy – The Grand Social, which was in an area of town just across the Ha’Penny bridge, and The Ferryman, which happened to be right down the street from our hotel.
The Grand Social
We ventured over to The Grand Social for a few pints our first night in Dublin and met the nicest, most heavily bearded local named John (owner of Beardy Man Photography) who struck up a conversation with us that started with my camera and ended with a completely well-meant but unrealistic suggested itinerary to check out a civil war exhibit, a government building, both the Jameson AND Guinness factories and a day trip to the Irish countryside. I saw Riley’s eyes slowly glaze over and took lots of “notes”.
The Southbank at the Ferryman
The Southbank at Ferryman, while being right next door to our hotel, was actually probably my favorite spot – the interior is SO cool. There are 3 different levels to the bar that all have their own feel and décor. The mezzanine level actually looks like the bow of a ship. The upstairs has a ton of cool old electronics that have obviously been collected over many years – I never knew what an 8-track looked like before this place! (Sorry, parents). We both nursed our respective pints and people watched for a good two hours, which was one of the most enjoyable evenings we had on the trip. Definitely be sure to check it out!
What to See and Do
Trinity College, The Book of Kells & The Long Room
Our first “day” in Dublin, we absolutely lucked out with the weather – clear skies and a sunny 70 degrees, perfect for getting our bearings. The second day, not so much. It literally torrentially down poured the entire day. I was SO glad I opted to bring my rain “booties” – they definitely came in handy. This also meant, though, that it was the perfect day to see the Book of Kells. PRO TIP: the line gets super long to buy tickets, but if you order them online (or on your mobile phone while you’re actually IN line), you can save a ton of time.
You definitely should plan see the Book of Kells if you’re in Dublin – it’s such a cool artifact of history, and is a national treasure of Ireland. I couldn’t believe all the colors and ornate calligraphy, done by HAND! Human creativity, FTW! And of course, the Long Room (the old, totally top Instagrammable spot library) is totally worth it too. It’ll give you allllll the Beauty and the Beast feelings.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Having the maiden name McSherry, I of course had to make a stop at at least ONE of the mighty cathedrals in Dublin. With a little bit of coaxing and a promise of food nearby, we headed to St. Patrick’s – the same day we saw the Book of Kells – which worked out perfectly because it was a super cozy way to spend a few hours indoors.
Though many people say Christ Church Cathedral is actually prettier and has less crowds, I thought St. Patrick’s Cathedral was absolutely stunning and was perfectly happy with our choice (I wasn’t about to go near the possibility of asking if we could see a second church in the same day… but we’ll have something to go back to, right?!).
Of course, no trip to Ireland would be complete without a visit to the Guinness Storehouse. I’ll save you from the confusion I experienced – the Storehouse is the Guinness brewery – the two aren’t different (which is totally what I thought).
The self-guided tour is wonderful – be sure to take the time to wait in line for the Tasting Room – the experience is straight up something out of Willy Wonka. And of course you should definitely enjoy your free pint upstairs at the Gravity Bar – make sure you eat and drink before you head upstairs, though, the only drinks they pour are the free pints.
Pro tip: I will say – I think 2.5 days in Dublin was probably a bit much for it not being our only stop in Ireland (since we had already been there 6 days) – we definitely could’ve done everything in 1.5. I wouldn’t change anything if we did it all again – except maybe spend that extra day in Dingle. Have you been to Dublin? What was your favorite highlight? Let me know in the comments!
Plus, don’t forget to check out the rest of my Ireland city guides –
- Ireland overview
- Galway/Cliffs of Moher/Bunratty
- 28 most Instagrammable spots in Ireland
plus, stay tuned for my ultimate packing guide for visiting Ireland in the spring!