I spent 5 days/4 nights in Ireland during my European vacation. Since this was such a short trip, I decided that I was only going to see Dublin and Galway. Prior to my trip, I looked through the Spotted by Locals Dublin, which is basically a city guide featuring local favorites. Outside of a few places I knew I wanted to see, I really wanted to be free to wander around Dublin and Galway.
I arrived in Dublin around 10:00AM, and took the GoBus to Galway (€18.00 and about 3 hours). When I arrived in Galway, I checked into the Barnacles Hostel, which is right on Quay Street (perfect location).
After walking around for a bit, I decided that before going to a pub, I wanted to grab some fish and chips at McDonagh’s. I was a little hesitant at first because the line was super long, and there was basically no where to sit, but the food was SO GOOD, that it was definitely worth the wait! After my delicious meal, I was ready for a nap (the jet lag was finally hitting me, and my excitement could no longer keep me awake).
After my nap, I was feeling refreshed and ready to check out some pubs. I started at The Quays Bar and Restaurant, which was right across the street from my hostel. This bar was honestly so much fun. The place is HUGE, and they have this awesome stage that sits above the main bar. There was music all night, and it was honestly the perfect introduction to Ireland.
After music, my sweet tooth took over, and I went on a hunt for some dessert. I passed Gino’s gelato, and decided to give them a try. I was not disappointed.
While I was eating my gelato, I was talking to some of the locals about their favorite pubs. I told them I was looking for somewhere that had an open mic night, rather than a set band. They sent me to Roisin Dubh, which was on the other side of the River Corrib. I cannot say enough about Roisin Dubh. It was perfect! I was surrounded by locals, and the people that performed during the open mic night were amazing. Everyone was so sweet, and spent hours talking to me about Ireland, and all the places I “must see.”
I woke up early and took a Bus Éireann to County Clare, to see the Cliffs of Moher. This should have been a simple ride. I just had to get on the bus in Galway, and get off at the last stop at the Cliffs of Moher. Unfortunately, due to a mistake on my part, I got off too early (I thought I heard the drive say “last stop” and was too embarrassed to say that it didn’t look like it was the right stop for me). I ended up having to wait an hour for the next bus, which would take me to another bus, that would take me to the Cliffs of Moher. Long story short, don’t make the same mistake I did, and just ask questions if you are unsure!
Despite the bus debacle, I ended up having a great day. It was raining all morning (welcome to Ireland), but when I finally got to the Cliffs of Moher, the rain stopped and I was even blessed with a few moments of sunshine.
When you arrive at the Cliffs of Moher, you are dropped off at the main entrance. You can either walk up the path to the right or the left. From the bottom, the left side looks like the longer (more picturesque) side, while the right side looks shorter and more tourist-filled. Despite that initial observation, if you are pressed for time, I recommend you go to the right. Since the left side is longer, when you take the right side’s path, you are able to see more of the Cliffs of Moher.
Don’t get me wrong though, both sides were breathtaking. I highly recommend doing both if you have the time.
Since my journey to the Cliffs of Moher took longer than I anticipated (my whole bus mistake), I ended up getting back to Galway later than I expected, so it was time for me to leave for Dublin. I grabbed my bags from the hostel, had one last cup of gelato from Gino’s, and headed to the bus station. Again, I took a GoBus from Galway to Dublin.
When I arrived in Dublin, I checked into the Abbey Court hostel, and went on the hunt for food. I ended up just grabbing food at O’Connell’s Bar next door. As always, I was not disappointed. There was an open mic night going on, and the food was pretty darn good.
Prior to my trip, I had done some research about different tours in Dublin. I read a lot of great reviews about the Lazy Bike tour, and decided to give them a try. I was not sure how long it would take for me to walk to their location, so I ended up arriving a little early. I walked down the block, and decided to kill some time by grabbing breakfast at The Bakery. Their coffee and pastries were absolutely AMAZING.
After my breakfast, I headed back to the Lazy Bike Tours shop. This tour was so much fun! I ended up being the only one who signed up for this tour (joys of solo traveling), so I got a private tour. My tour guide was super knowledgeable and very fun.
The tour was fully guided and covered from Dublin City Centre to Kilmainham and back. During the tour, we stopped at: Dublin Castle, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Guinness Brewery, Kilmainham, the Royal Hospital, and Christ Church Cathedral. My tour guide was full of interesting stories and fun facts about Dublin and it’s history.
The bike tour took about two hours and allowed me plenty of opportunities for pictures. Honestly this tour was my favorite part of Dublin. 10/10 highly recommend.
After I returned my bike, I went back to the Guinness Factory to take a tour. If you use a student ID, you get a discount on your admissions. I did not have mine (I also wasn’t a student anymore), but they accepted a picture of my ID from grad school (baby face for the win).
With your admissions ticket, you are given a free drink voucher that you can use at the Gravity Bar (amazing view of Dublin), or at the Connoisseur Bar (where they teach you how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness). I decided to use my ticket at the Gravity Bar because I am a sucker for views.
After finishing my drink, I decided to head out. On my way out, I stopped by the Connoisseur Bar, and asked the man checking tickets if I could run in and quickly take a picture. He asked me if I had my drink ticket, and I explained that I had already used it, and that I just wanted to see what the Connoisseur Bar looked like. He ended up letting me in to join a group learning how to pour a pint of Guinness!
For my last full day in Dublin, I just wanted to walk around and get lost in the city. I woke up in the morning and decided to grab a donut from The Rolling Donut. These donuts were so sweet- for those of you who love cake donuts (Duck Donuts, Fractured Prune, Etc.), you will love these!
After eating breakfast, I decided to head to the mall for some shopping, and ended up buying a rain jacket (because why not- if anyone knows rain, its Ireland). Next I headed out to see The Spire of Dublin.
One thing I learned on my bike tour was that the Spire serves as marker to tell you where you are. It is in the heart of Dublin, and makes it hard for you to get lost- just look up and head towards the Spire. This thing has so many nicknames: the Spire in the Mire, the Spike, the Stiletto in the Ghetto, the Stiffy by the Liffey, the Nail in the Pale, the Pin in the Bin and my personal favorite- the Erection at the Intersection.
After walking around for a bit, I was starting to get hungry, and was craving a really good burger. I went back to the hostel for WiFi and laid down in my bunk, while I searched on Yelp for a place to get dinner. I ended up finding a place near my hostel called Bunsen, and it was SO GOOD. I honestly wish I had found this place sooner.
They pride themselves in the simplicity of their restaurant, as seen in their slogan “Straight up burgers.” I love their cute business card sized menus.
Okay, last time I will say this- the food and the milkshake were both really good (trust me, I am a tough critic when it comes to frozen desserts), I will definitely visit a Bunsen next time I am in Ireland.
Since this was my last night in Dublin, I wanted to make sure that I went to the touristy bar area to experience the atmosphere. I cannot think of a more tourist bar in than The Temple Bar. I swear, as soon as I walked in, the band started playing The Galway Girl by Steve Earle (we all know this song from P.S. I Love You).
I would not say that this was my favorite bar in Ireland, but I would say that you definitely need to experience it at least once.
I knew that I had to be up early to catch the bus to the airport, so I decided to head back to the hostel around 9:30PM. I had to cross over the O’Connell Bridge to get back to the hostel, and I was blessed with this beautiful sight. What a view for my last night!
I woke up early, grabbed a donut from The Rolling Donut, and hopped on a bus to the Dublin Airport (headed to England next).
Looking back, I wish that I had spend more time in Galway. For me, Dublin was the Hollywood version of Ireland, whereas Galway was more authentic. All in all, I loved Ireland and cannot wait to go back!