Starting maybe around 2010 I started making an internal personal goal to visit at least one new location (preferably a new country!) a year. Perhaps I noticed I was constantly just going back to the same places over and over (e.g., Japan, UK), and I wanted to try to expand beyond that.
Throughout that next decade, I kept up pretty well until I moved to Hong Kong in 2017, adding Mainland China (2010), Greece (2011), Australia and New Zealand (2012), Thailand (2013), Argentina, Uraguay, and Malaysia (2014), Piedmont and Bordeaux (2015), Denmark, Norway, and Spain (2016), and Macau (2017).
The next few years, since we were based in Hong Kong, my new travel locations were mostly new cities in Mainland China, such as Shenzhen, Xiamen, Chengdu, Guangzhou, and Xishuangbanna.
And then Covid hit . . . and nobody traveled for quite some time. (We actually got stuck in Belgium for 7 weeks, and I did manage to take a weekend trip to Amsterdam, adding one new country in 2020).
After being stuck in Hong Kong for 18 months, we finally started traveling again in late 2021. I visited my first new country "post-Covid" in the summer of 2022, where I went to Dublin (and Ireland!) for the first time.
Perhaps it's because Boston has such a large Irish population, I felt very much at home in Dublin. It reminded me so much of Boston, I actually felt a bit homesick and nostalgic while walking around the streets (especially compared with Hong Kong where I currently live!).
We spent a week in Dublin, and had a solid weekend to do some sightseeing. Here's a brief summary of places we visited, my thoughts, and (of course), some food recs.
Must-see Sites in Dublin, Ireland
It's hard to pick a favorite, but I think the most impressive thing to see is the Book of Kells inside Trinity College.
This massive library is breathtaking (and will close soon for renovations). Definitely pre-book tickets, since popular time slots may sell out.
Christchurch and St. Patrick's Cathedral are both insanely historic and both are worth seeing. If you only have time to see one, most people recommend Christchurch, which is slightly older and has a fascinating collection of items to see, including a 14th century copy of the Magna Carta. I personally enjoyed both very much.
If you have time, the Dublin Castle (current seat of the government) is also interesting (though I'd pick the two churches over the castle if you are short on time).
Places that I didn't get to visit but would be on my list if I returned include the Irish Emigration Museum (which I heard was really, really good), Guinness Storehouse, and a longer trip to see the Cliffs of Moher.
Favorite Foods from Dublin
Murphy's Ice Cream is the best ice cream in town and there's almost always a line. I went back multiple times during my very short visit. Definitely try the sea salt (one of my favorites).
The Vintage Kitchen serves large portions of well-executed Irish farm-to-table food at very reasonable prices. It's popular, so book early!
Fallon & Byrne is a lovely market and restaurant concept.
It's split into three sections: a lower level wine cellar with pasta, pizzas, and tapas; a gourmet market on the ground floor; and a restaurant on the upper floor that served larger plates, European style food.
We fell in love with the wine cellar in the lower level, and came back multiple times.
We also enjoyed Bar Italia Ristorante, a pleasant Italian restaurant right on the river in a convenient central location.
It was tough to eat Irish food every day, so we did intersperse it with plenty of Italian food, if you haven't noticed.
Even at a wine bar, of course you can get Guinness as well.
Speaking of Guinness . . .
Dublin's Most Famous Beers and Whiskeys
The two most famous alcohol makers are Guinness (Beer) and Jameson (Whiskey). We signed up for a whiskey tasting tour at Jameson, which was really fun.
Our tour guide was great, and it was fun to try several different whiskeys as well. The brewery is nicely designed and teaches you a lot about the history of the brand and the family behind it all.
Dingle Whiskey Bar is a great place to try very local whiskeys.
Darkey Kelly's is a very traditional bar with live music and lots of fun.
It is here that I learned about a whole subculture of Irish protest songs that everyone knows how to sing. I also learned the proper way to pour a Guinness, and also drink it.
Temple Bar is a well known neighborhood full of bars, pubs, and a really active night life. Our hotel was very close to this area, so we walked by in most evenings.
Day Trip: Kilkenny and Wicklow
We signed up for a bus tour with Paddywagon Tours to go to Kilkenny and Glendalough in Wicklow. Unfortunately, they oversold the tour and needed to "kick off" three extra people from that tour (which ended up including us). We were pretty unhappy with the company, who was being difficult in their unwillingness to compensate us adequately for something that was clearly their fault. The best they could offer was a shorter tour later in the afternoon that just went to the closer location. Sadly, we lost the chance to see Kilkenny.
Thankfully, Glendalough in the Wicklow Mountains was beautiful. This is the site of an ancient, monastic settlement. Despite our bad experience in the morning, our tour guide was actually good. I think the tour guides are put in a tough spot when the corporation oversells tours, since it's not the tour guide's fault, but they have to deal with it.
We really enjoyed the ability to get out into the countryside of Ireland, which is just so beautiful.
All in all, I found Dublin to be a very pleasant and comfortable place to visit. Of course, the fact that they speak English helped a lot. Also, it just really felt so familiar, and at time I felt like I was walking through Cambridge or Boston.
The countryside is stunning, and I'd love to see more of it. If I ever come back, I certainly wish to spend more time exploring places like Kilkenny and the Cliffs of Moher!