If you only spend one day in the city before striking out for the countryside, you’ll want to see as much as possible in a limited time. Luckily, Dublin is a compact place, and you can hit the high points in a fairly limited period of time. This isn’t an exhaustive tour, but it’s a good start.
Start with a wander around the ivy-covered stone buildings of (1) Trinity College (College Green, www.tcd.ie), and pop in to see the (2) Old Library’s vast rows of antiquarian books. There's usually an excellent display on some element of Irish history or literature on offer too.
Head on down Dame Street to the (3) City Hall (Dame Street)—you can wander its domed lobby for free—try standing in the middle and looking straight up to really appreciate the artwork here.
If you’d like a wander of its ancient streets, this is a good place to stray into (4) Temple Bar, as it’s just off on the riverside of Dame Street, wedged between Trinity College and the Old City. This is Dublin’s party hub, filled with lively bars, discos, and pubs. There are also a few good shops, art galleries, recording studios, and theaters. This is largely the stomping ground of young tourists looking for lots of alcohol, and it’s easy to feel over the hill here if you’re over 25.
(5) Dublin Castle’s (Palace Street, off Dame Street) is right next door, and you can wander through the courtyard at will. While you’re on the grounds, be sure to visit the outstanding (6) Chester Beatty Library (Clock Tower Building, Dublin Castle; www.cbl.ie), which has an extensive collection of gorgeous illuminated manuscripts.
Grab some lunch at the (7) Avoca Café (11-13 Suffolk Street; www.avoca.ie), and do a bit of shopping for colorful, light-as-a-feather wool blankets at the Avoca store downstairs. Head next for the (8) National Museum of Ireland-Archaeology and History a few blocks away to take in the glitter of ancient Irish gold. Cross back to Nassau Street, along there you'll pass attractive shops and coffee shops should you need a break, and eventually you'll come to the hustle and bustle of (9) Grafton Street.
You can wander the chain shops and good bookstores, and take in the buskers and mimes on your way down to (10) St. Stephen's Green. Here you can explore the statue of Irish rebel Wolfe Tone before stopping for a cup of tea in the grand lobby of the (11) Shelbourne Hotel (27 St. Stephen’s Green), or a warming whiskey in the Horseshoe Bar. You can eavesdrop on the political gossip while you’re there.
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