Post-Vaccinated Europe (Celtic Days and Celtic Nights)

Everything shut down real fast in the fall of 2020, and I was afraid the same would happen in 2021. With the delta variant beginning to spread, we braced ourselves for another season of lockdown. Since we didn’t want to pump money into a flight that we might have to cancel, we planned a road trip to Denmark and Sweden for Columbus Day Weekend. As the trip got closer, I started to get a little hesitant at the idea of driving for 10 hours, and I felt optimistic that things would stay open this time. We decided to make that trip to Ireland that we had been pushing off for years.  

RyanAir can be hit or miss, and this one was a miss since we booked our flight two weeks out. We’ve gotten some great deals from the low-cost carrier, but this wasn’t one of them. We ended up paying €664 for three of us to travel round-trip, the price including three 10kg bags and one 20kg bag.   I’m very excited to share everything we packed-in during our 4-day adventure. Many people decide to drive the island while in Ireland, but I didn’t want to spend four days sitting in a car. I really wanted to enjoy and experience Dublin, especially since I’ve seen so many people say it was their favorite trip in Europe.  

For the most part, the Post-Vaccinated Dublin seems to now resemble what it looked like before COVID-19, although almost everywhere required us to show proof of vaccination for entry. We enjoyed thoroughly experiencing the city, and we learned so much from its independence from England to a mythical (or maybe not) 17th Century fishmonger named Molly Malone (cue Wikipedia). I hope this post helps, in case you are planning your trip to Dublin soon!    

Where We Stayed

Normally, I plan all the logistics of the trip, but I let Nellie pick the hotel for this one. Of course, she picked the hotel named exactly for the district it stands in, The Temple Bar Hotel. Given the location in the middle of the Temple Bar area, Dublin’s center for nightlife, the €580 for three nights seemed reasonable. We arrived a couple hours early and checked in for €20 extra. While it was possible to get to the hotel using a shuttle bus or train, there were plenty of taxis waiting outside of the Dublin Airport as soon as we walked out of the terminal. We paid €40 to taxi from the airport, which was well worth it. The taxi driver gave us a mini-tour of the city!  

If late-night live music and pub hopping is your thing, then The Temple Bar Hotel is exactly where you want to stay. However, if you are like me and a full day of activities can wipe you out, the location can make it pretty hard to sleep at night. Friday night, the sleep-challenge was due to hordes of tourists outside singing “Country Roads” at the top of their lungs. Saturday night, it was the drunk bridesmaids crammed into the room next to us.   I did enjoy the liveliness of the area we stayed in, as well as the professional hotel staff. There were also restaurants immediately surrounding the hotel, to include the American chains of Hard Rock and TGIF. In addition, I liked the decently sized convenient store located next to the hotel. It made it easy to grab a case of water and snacks for the room.  

Where We Ate

Smokin’ Bones BBQ is the highlight of where we ate. I ate plenty of fish and chips during this trip, but I thoroughly enjoyed this American styled BBQ restaurant. Nellie and I both ordered the very tender and tasty pulled pork that was slow cooked for 12 hours, with some very delicious fries on the side. We paid €53 total for three people.

For a more traditional experience, we ate at the highly recommended restaurant The Porterhouse for dinner on our first night. Of course at this restaurant, we had fish and chips. I found this to be the only place we visited that did not serve Guinness as they brew their own beer, something they make sure to tell you as you enter the door. It was very busy on a Friday night, but they worked hard to accommodate our party of three, and we only had to wait 15 minutes. We paid €51 for 3 people.

Cliffs

The highlight of our trip was hiking the trail that led us from the seaside village of Howth and to the cliffs overseeing Ireland’s east coast. While the cliffs at Howth aren’t as popular and dramatic as those on the west coast, it still offered amazing views for only the fraction of time it would cost to drive to Kerry or Dingle. The best part is that it was only a €12 (two people round trip) and 25 minute train ride from Dublin’s main train station, Connolly.  

I followed a trail on Komoot for our eight mile hike, but the cliff-walk is very well marked with trails of varying degrees. As expected, the harder the trail, the more rewarding the view. The trail we hiked was challenging but manageable, and it ascended and descended several times down to the Irish Sea. The end of our trail brought us to Howth Castle, which we took pictures of from the outside. After our hike, we walked around the vibrant town of Howth, strolled through the Howth Market, and grabbed fish and chips from Leo Burdock’s before making the trip back to Dublin.

Tours

Guinness Brewery Tour  

Can one go to Dublin and not do the Guinness Brewery Tour? This is one of the first things we did, and we thoroughly enjoyed the 90 minute self-guided and interactive experience, which is surprisingly family friendly. During the tour, we learned about the brewing process from raw ingredients to the tasty and heavy beer I just can’t get enough of.

The most interesting part though was learning about the impact the brewery and the Guinness family altogether has on the history of Ireland. Personally, I really enjoyed the portion learning about the skilled and taxing job the coopers played in exporting the beer. We paid €14.50 per ticket and it included a beer and entrance to the Gravity Bar, which is a top-floor bar surrounded with windows that give great views of the city and surrounding area.

Sandeman’s Free Walking Tour

We love to get oriented to a new city by booking a tour. Our favorite tours are from Sandeman’s, which operates New Europe Tours all over the continent. We enjoy their tips-based free walking tour, and in this case, we were led by a charming and witty guide named Carl. Carl did an amazing job painting the picture of Irish history through the ages, helping us understand the country’s troubled past, to independence from England, to how Irish culture has influenced the entire world. The tour lasted three hours and it brought us by some of the city’s main sights, inspiring an itinerary for a future visit. We tipped €50 for our family.

The Book of Kells

Often overlooked but a must see in Dublin is the Book of Kells and Old Library Tour. The tour is located in Dublin’s historic Trinity College, and we paid €34 for a family ticket. The Book of Kells is one of the oldest preserved recordings of the Four Gospels in the New Testament, and written in 800 AD. The book is colorful and decorated, and although once captured by Viking raiders, it is now displayed at Trinity College so you can view this piece of history. The book is behind a glass case, and you only get a few minutes to view it, but it also includes an interactive tour that explains the history and materials used to create the ancient book.

After viewing the book, you can also tour the college’s library, which will certainly give you a Harry Potter vibe. The highlight in the library is Ireland’s oldest harp, which is especially significant as the harp is the country’s national symbol, including the symbol for both Guinness and RyanAir.

Cathedrals

Christ Church Cathedral

Dublin hosts two significant medieval Anglican cathedrals that belong to the Christ Church of Ireland. The first one we visited was Christ Church Cathedral. This 11th Century church is a mix of Gothic and Romanesque, and is mostly known for hosting the tomb of the ancient Norman “Strongbow.” It is also the location where Handel’s “Messiah” was first performed in 1742. We only paid €7.50 per adult to visit, and we spent about 30 minutes touring the cathedral. It is worth checking out.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

The highlight of your pilgrimage to Dublin is absolutely St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Also an Anglican cathedral, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland. The cathedral is mostly known for being named after the national patron saint, and it is believed that St. Patrick once drew water from a well where the church now stands. It is definitely the must visit cathedral of the two and also costs €7.50 per adult. We spent about an hour touring this 12th Century church, and I enjoyed the audio tour that revealed many neat facts about the church’s construction, restoration, and people memorialized there.

Other Highlights

Celtic Nights

I seriously didn’t think I’d enjoy this one as much as I did, but it is an incredible way to get an authentic Irish experience. It definitely was another highlight of our trip. For €38.95 per person at Dublin’s Arlington Hotel, we received a 3-course meal and with amazing entertainment. Over the course of two hours, we listened to traditional Irish Music coupled with Irish Dancers, and it was so much better than stumbling into a pub and hearing guitarists play cover music. The musicians were highly entertaining and paused every few songs to give us insight into Irish folklore. I definitely recommend you book this while in Dublin!

Grafton Street

Before coming to Dublin, I only knew Grafton Street as the place where Ed Sheeran met a girl right outside of a bar. Of course when you visit Grafton Street, you’ll definitely understand why this is the spot highlighted in his song “Galway Girl.” The street is Dublin’s shopping district, but the best part is seeing all the street performers that line the street. We were amazed at the quality of talent performing on the street, all hoping that this is their opportunity to get discovered. I was also shocked at how adolescent some of the singers appeared. Only visit if you have time, but who knows, you might also meet a girl who plays a fiddle in an Irish band.

That sums up our four days and three nights in Dublin. Ireland has so much to offer, and I really hope you visit and see so much of the island. While I wish we saw more of the island, I feel like the time we spent in Dublin was just perfect to experience the best the city has to offer. So now, you need to visit, and when you come back, let me know… is Molly Malone real or fiction?