Every December we take a family trip to a European city and run around for 36 hours. The goal is to do as much for free or as little cost as possible before returning home. So here is a city guide to a speedy 36 hours in Dublin, with a bonus interactive pinned map at the end.
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Guide to getting to Dublin
I found flights using trusty sky scanner for only £50 each. To capitalise on the hours, we always fly before 8am in the morning and return the next day after 8pm. This usually allows enough time to get a taster of the destination.
You can catch the Airlink Express bus from the airport straight to the to the centre in under 30 minutes. They run every 10 minutes and it’s only £12 return. We bought our tickets directly from the kiosk outside the bus stop on arrival. Easy peasy.
Quick sites on route
Once in a city, we usually have a few hours before we can check in to our hotel or AirBnb or whatever. So we take the time to have a mooch around the free sites.
We walked through Trinity College, Dublin’s historic University, and marvelled at the imposing buildings. It’s a stunning campus where you can also check out the Book of Kells, a Gothic library, which we didn’t have time for.
We also had a gander at Oscar Wilde’s House, a nice white building on the corner of Merrion Square and strolled through neighbouring park. Finally it was time to check in to our AirBnb where took an hour to chill out.
Afternoon of culture
After our rest and a quick sandwich, we decided to dip our toe into some of the culture that Dublin has to offer. The places below are all free to visit and within walking distance of each other, making them a great way to get a feel for the city without any of the added cost. By the way, we walk hella far on these city breaks, but if you’re not up for that you may want to take public transport.
Right next to Merrion Square, The National Gallery of Ireland has room upon room of fascinating artworks. From oil paintings to prints and sculptures, there is sure to be something that catches your eye. It’s free to visit and really relaxing, so make the most of it!
I said it. It’s Ireland’s Natural History Museum built in 1856 attracting over 320,000 visitors. It has a huge collection of stuffed animals in all shapes, sizes and species. There is an old school vibe thanks to the wooden decor and glass cases that somehow make it feel cosy. However, this may not be everyone’s cup of tea of course. A very unique addition to this Dublin guide.
We love a good bit of greenery, and not far down the road, we enjoyed some time at St Stephen’s Green. Opened in 1880, it’s a 22 acre park in the city centre, which I think is about 11 football pitches! Winding pathways take you over bridges, past bandstands and alongside a lake. There’s lots of wildlife to spot and in the summer month’s, I’m sure I could spend hours here. i
Whilst our fella’s ran away to the Guiness Factory tour, which they loved by the way, the rest of us headed down to the river. It’s way bigger than I expected and splits the North and South sides. We weaved from bridge to bridge, and of course trotted across the Ha’penny. Built in 1816, it got it’s name because for 100 years there was a halfpenny toll to cross it.
We stopped at the super cute and cosy, Music Cafe on the corner of the river where we indulged in hot chocolates before heading home to make some dinner. We find buying groceries and cooking is a million times cheaper than eating out. It’s all about the cost for us.
After a little lie in we headed for a yummy Brunch at KC Peaches, a deli style restaurant before setting off on another busy day of sightseeing.
No guide is complete without a trip to Dublin Castle, a thirteenth century major government building. It’s definitely a sight to see, however it was a lot smaller and less grand than I was expecting. We wandered past and that was about it. You can pay around 8 euro to go in and explore but we didn’t feel like it was worth our dollar or time.
Another quick stop was The Temple Bar – a proper Irish pub sitting on ancient cobbled streets that opened in 1840. It was heaving with tourists trying to get the perfect shot. Even though it is a pretty pub, with its postbox red exterior, we didn’t want to waste time going inside. We aren’t big drinkers anyway.
This was my favourite thing to do in Dublin. By far. We jumped in a cab using the MyTaxi app, as it was a little too far to walk with the little time we had. I had pre-booked our tickets for only 8 euro each, which I highly recommend you do as it’s very popular, and waited for our time slot.
Kilmainham is a former prison that opened from 1796 – 1924. It was abandoned for a long time before a voluntary restoration group, made up of mainly veterans, renovated it for public opening in 1966. The guided tour of the prison shared the rich but volatile history, shocking living conditions and terrible crimes of the convicts. It was heavy on historical and political references so sometimes I didn’t always understand but I still found it fascinating. We talked about it for hours afterwards.
Phoenix Park has a pretty big claim to fame being Europe’s largest walled urban park, spanning around 4 mile square. That is twice the size of Central Park in New York. There are forests, hills and even wild deer to spot. The Papal Cross is a particularly beautiful monument to enjoy. We wandered for a couple of hours and only saw a fraction of this wonderful park! It ended our day perfectly before catching the Airlink Express back to the airport.
A handy pinned map of everything
So, that is how we ran around the city in only 36 hours and saw lots of sights in Dublin. The whole trip was cheap as chips, and the attractions mostly free! Just how we like it. Do let me know below if you have ever visited Dublin, or if you want to after reading my guide.