”A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle,” a wise person once said, or rather, a wise company. I couldn’t agree with you more Guinness. Stumbling upon this advertisement in the Guinness Storehouse museum was more than fitting at the time because Dublin is the city in which I chose to really embark on a solo female travel adventure: three whole days (including a day of travel) all on my own. This might seem like a piece of cake to many well-versed female solo travelers, but at the time, I hadn’t really fully done it before. I was indeed a newbie to the whole thing.
As I mentioned in my post about traveling solo for my first day in Cork, female solo travel is often seen as a taboo thing, because somehow being women automatically makes us more endangered. Though I do believe there are certain cities and areas that a woman should avoid while traveling alone, I would say the same thing for a man in most cases. Feeling this way didn’t make me any less nervous though, as I was still quite new to the whole idea when I arrived in Dublin (I barely count walking around Cork for an afternoon and a morning by myself). That being said, I discovered that if you were ever to take your first trip as a solo female travel, Dublin is definitely a great city to do it. There is an array of sites, activities, and museums to keep you occupied. This city is full of beautiful history, hidden gems, and little quirks.
Unlike in Cork where I kept exploring some of the historical buildings and museums until my friends arrived, Dublin was all mine. My itinerary was wide open with what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go, and what I wanted to see. This sort of liberty is a bit unnerving at first. If you usually travel with other people always, then you will have trouble knowing what to do with yourself, feeling like you are waiting to make a plan with other people, feeling like you should be having a friend next to you deciding what the best plan of action is. This kind of freedom of being able to just start exploring is kind of scary but is also immensely rewarding.
With this new freedom, I took to the streets. After having found a tourist center and thus a map, I sat down on a bench next to a lovely fountain and mapped out my plan for the day.
There are a handful of awesome museums, landmarks, bars, restaurants, and churches in Dublin, however, only having two days, I had to be choosy.
My hostel was located right next to Christ Church Cathedral, one of the two most famous cathedrals in Dublin. I didn’t go in because I believe there was a service going on at the time, but the outside is very beautiful, especially on a quiet morning such as this. For those whom are interested, getting into Christ Church is about 6€ for adults, 4.50€ for students, and 2€ for children under 16. The Church has its own crypt, where there are a mummified cat and rat. So, obviously this cathedral is a must-see if you are into weird, quirky stuff such as mummified animals. I think I’ll just have to go back some day and see that.
My path took me onward towards the Dublin castle. Unfortunately, for a good majority of the different parts of this castle, you do have to pay to go in, but the prices aren’t too shabby if that interests you: Guided Tour Adult 8.50€ Student 6.50€; Self-guided Adult: 6.50€ Student: 5.50€
The different parts that you have to pay to see include:
- The State Apartments – Originally residential quarters, these state apartments now serve as the meeting place of Ireland’s presidencies of the European Union. All presidents of Ireland are inaugurated here. It also serves as the holding place of many prestigious events that occur in the Irish capital.
- The Undercroft – A tower whose top story used to serve as the quarters of the Lord Deputy in the 16th century
- The Chapel Royal – accessed by guided tour only
- The Garda Police Museum
- The Revenue Museum – A museum outlaying the history of the collection of taxes and duties in the city of Dublin
If you are looking to save a bit of money though, most of the grounds are free to walk around in, including the Great Courtyard also known as the Upper Castle Yard (you just can’t go into most of the buildings without paying) as well as the Castle Gardens, which are a lovely place to sit, relax, and to people watch. Unfortunately when I was there, most of the flowers were just starting to bloom, so they weren’t in full-bloom yet, but that’s fine. People-watching was a wonderful alternative. There’s nothing like witnessing another female solo traveler trying to get the perfect selfie with her stick (though I must admit that towards the end of my solo trip, I bought a selfie stick because they can be quite useful at times. #slightshame). I’m sure the gardens are very beautiful in late Spring.
The Chester Beatty Library is also a free portion of the Castle grounds. This museum gives a wide cultural history of many different cultures around the globe including Islamic culture, East Asian culture, and Western culture. It’s a shame I didn’t know about this free museum until towards the end of my trip in Dublin. Otherwise, I would’ve made it a priority to go.
I had a wonderful time exploring the outside of the castle and the Castle Gardens by myself. It was while I was sitting in the gardens that I began to realize with full-force that I was traveling alone, and I couldn’t be happier. Maybe it was the female solo traveler that I mentioned above. I think seeing that she could shamelessly take selfies while people were possibly watching showed me that ”hey, I can do it too.” Though to be honest, I still feel the slight shame when I take a selfie.
Afterwards, I slowly made my way over to St. Patrick’s Cathedral as well, the other famous cathedral in Dublin. This cathedral is not only beautiful, but it is full of rich history and is the cathedral named after the patron saint of Ireland: St. Patrick. Yes, St. Patrick was actually a person of the Catholic faith, not just a holiday where we like to eat, wear green, and drink beer. The history of St. Patrick’s day is actually quite fascinating, for you fellow history buffs out there, and this cathedral is a great place to learn a bit more about who St. Patrick was.
This cathedral is surrounded by beautiful gardens and fountains as well, with plenty of benches to enjoy the view if you’d like to take a break from walking.
In addition to the rich history about St. Patrick himself, this cathedral has also served as the burial place of many, many people over the centuries, including Jonathan Swift, for all of you literary nerds out there.
Unfortunately, this cathedral is a huge tourist attraction, and therefore, costs to get in. However, the prices aren’t too shabby at 6€ for adults and 5€ for students. I would definitely advise that you put it on your list, at least for your first time in Dublin, because this cathedral is a wonderful place to learn a bit about Ireland’s history as well as to enjoy the spectacular architecture and beautiful gardens.
Moving on from there, you should not miss going to the Trinity College Book of Kells exhibit. Now, again, this is a highly tourist spot, but I promise you, especially if you love medieval history, that it is definitely worth the wait and the price.
For those whom don’t know, the Book of Kells is a medieval manuscript of the Four Gospels of the New Testament with other various texts. It is believed to have been made during the 9th century. The book itself is displayed at this exhibit. However, it is behind thick glass and only displays two pages of it, for it is a very delicate (which makes sense since it so old) artifact. The entire exhibition leading up to the book itself though lays out the entire history of the book including the types of materials used to make it (including inks, the types of paper, the binding, etc.), the writers involved, their writing styles, how the book was made, the different symbols used in the book, some of the different images in the book, the history of where the book was at what times, as well as some of the other texts found in the book. For those who really love medieval history, this is an exhibit that you don’t want to miss. I think I spent about two hours in there reading up on everything that I laid on my eyes on because I was so enchanted by the rich history of this one book. Plus, I’m a bit book obsessed, and that’s putting it lightly. You literary nerds out there should not miss this.
In addition to seeing one of the oldest books in European history, you have the opportunity to explore the Old Library of Trinity College. Filled with thousands of books and manuscripts that are centuries old, walking into this library you feel like you step back into time, soon imagining what it would’ve been like to be a scholarly student or university professor back in the days of its prime.
The tickets are a bit pricey: 11€ for adults and 9€ for students at the door. They are a bit pricier on-line: 14€ for adults and 12€ for students, but you will get to skip the line. It is a worthy investment, a must-see when visiting Dublin for the first time.
The rest of the grounds of Trinity College (outside the buildings that is) are up for exploration. I highly recommend this for taking a look into a university student’s daily life. Who knows what you might see, aside from other selfie-taking tourists.
The scholarly side of Dublin is not the only portion of this city that is worth your while, though it was one of my favorite parts of the season. Again, a little book obsessed.
If you are super into beer and brewing, much like myself, or have always wanted to learn a bit more about it, then you absolutely cannot go to Dublin without hitting up the Guinness Storehouse. Though the fish ad was definitely one of the highlights of the museum for me, there is much, much more to see in this museum that comprises 7 stories.
The Guinness Storehouse is on the west edge of the city, but seeing how Dublin is a very walkable city, it should only take you about 20 to 25 minutes to walk there. The prices are indeed very pricey. Adult tickets can be up to 20€ with students being up to 18€. The great thing about these tickets, though, is that they include a pint of Guinness, or other drink if under 18. I highly advise that you purchase your ticket online before you go, not only because this will allow you to skip the line, which can be extremely long because it is the number one tourist hot spot in all of Dublin, but also because purchasing online usually gets you a small discount.
Even though being solo at the Guinness storehouse meant that I couldn’t share my experience with anyone *sad face*, it did allow me to really take my time to explore the museum portion at my own speed. Having worked in a brewery myself before, I am highly interested in the brewing process. Even if you have no knowledge whatsoever about how brewing beer works, the Guinness Storehouse does a fantastic job of laying it out for those whom are completely new to the whole process. Even knowing a little bit about brewing, much like myself, it was still an eye opener, because there are portions of the brewing of Guinness that are specific to the company and the drink itself.
The brewing process is followed by the history of Arthur Guinness himself and what life was like in Dublin during the time that he started his business. Much of this information was even unknown to me, so it’s a fantastic way to learn about it through the interactive portrait videos that will catch your eye on your way through.
The history of the company doesn’t stop there though. Guinness also played a part in the international market, especially in the Caribbean and Asia, making a whole new variant of his famous Stout for the different market: the Extra Stout. This stout is a bit more bitter, as more hops were thrown into the beer to survive the long journey to these different destinations, giving it a bit of a more bitter taste.
You’ll also get the opportunity to learn about the history of Guinness advertising, especially about the uses of animals in Guinness ads. This part of the museum was one of my favorites because many of the advertisements are not only entertaining but quite witty as well. Refer back to beginning of post. (I still really can’t get over that ad. Brilliant and so fitting.)
If all of that history and knowledge about Guinness and the brewing process doesn’t peak your interest, then I’m sure that learning how to pour your own Guinness and enjoy it overlooking the whole of Dublin up in the gravity bar is sure to make your experience worthwhile. Learning how to pour your own Guinness is optional and free. I recommend doing this because it’s a very informative and rather enjoyable experience, plus you get a free certificate with your name on it that shows that you poured the perfect pint of Guinness. After pouring your perfect pint, you can enjoy it up in the gravity bar. With windows all around, it’s the perfect way to take a look over all of Dublin and see what the city has to offer. Plus, how cool is it to drink a Guinness in the original brewing house?
Even if you are not a Guinness-drinker, much like myself before I visited this museum, I promise that you will regret not-going. It’s basically unheard of to go to Dublin for the first time and not go to the Guinness Storehouse. It’s one of Ireland’s pride and joys.
Continuing with Ireland’s appreciation of a good drink, another must-see in Dublin, especially if you love learning about brewing processes, is the Old Jameson Distillery. On the northwestern edge of the city, Jameson is kind of in a residential area and can be missed if you aren’t looking for it. Though Jameson whiskey is actually no longer made here in Dublin but rather now produced in Cork (which I didn’t know until I had taken the tour in Dublin), the Old Jameson Distillery in Dublin is still a must-see. The front portion still serves as a bar where people can get whiskey and an Irish favorite: a Jameson ginger (aka ginger ale and Jameson whiskey together. Simple but quite tastey).
The back portion serves as a museum where you can take a tour. You can only go on a guided tour, and the tickets are a bit pricey: Adults 16€/14.40€ with online discount, student over 18: 13€. However, I would definitely say that it’s totally worth it. You have the opportunity to learn about the history of Jameson, the history of the Old distillery itself, how Jameson is brewed and distilled, the inner-workings of Jameson today, and about where they get their grains to produce Jameson. The tour also includes a free whiskey tasting with a comparison to other whiskeys and a free drink: either a Jameson straight or a Jameson ginger. Being cautious because I was still alone, I chose the latter, unsure if I would like it. Liking it is an understatement. I would drink that any day. Maybe you will discover that you will, too.
My decision to hit up the Old Jameson Distillery was a last minute one, but I am very happy that I did it. I learned so much about how whiskey is produced (which starts out very similar to the production of beer I found out) as well as some more of the history of Dublin and the part that Jameson played in it.
My advice is to get there early or to pre-book your tickets online, as tours fill up very fast. I was able to get on a tour last minute because I was alone. There are many perks to traveling alone! Though I must say that the man at the ticket desk was quite confused as to why I was alone. But hey, he doesn’t know my life, and I have no shame!
The downside though, again, to solo travel was not being able to share this experience with someone else, but I still enjoyed every minute of it.
Of course, you also can’t be in Dublin without hitting up Temple Bar. Temple Bar is not only a bar, but it is also the name of the famous district (which I didn’t even know until I got to Dublin and saw it on the map). Though I did go to the Temple Bar and enjoyed some traditional Irish music (which is a great place to do so), it is very touristy and very crowded. However, to be on the safe side, that’s a great place to start if you are a female solo traveler and don’t feel entirely comfortable yet branching too far out into the local scene. If you feel like skipping the touristy feel though, there are many other bars in and outside of Temple Bar that have traditional Irish music that aren’t as touristy. Just ask a local or maybe inquire at your hostel for some recommendations.
As far as eating goes, I would not recommend eating in the Temple Bar district, except for at one little café: Brick Alley Café. Most restaurants are very pricey in this district because it is a tourist hot spot. However, it seems as though many tourists don’t notice this adorable little café. Though there were a few other tourists in there when I happened by while perusing the streets of this district, I was one of few. This allowed me the opportunity to observe some locals. I was also able to people-watch out the window because they have a nice little single-seater bar area facing out the front windows. Not only does it have the perfect atmosphere, but the prices are quite decent as well in addition to the courteousness of the staff. It’s a great place to grab lunch while you are out and about exploring.
Unfortunately, a first-time exploration of Dublin can be quite pricey (though I would venture to say that it is worth it for at least the first visit.) However, if you are a budget traveler, much like myself, there are a handful of free or inexpensive options when exploring this beautiful city.
- The National Museum of Ireland – There are four different museums under this name in Dublin. All of which are free.
- Museum of Decorative Arts and History – This museum is fantastic for people who are highly intrigued by fashion and the history of fashion as well as the decorative arts, such as home furnishings. There are also a few exhibits about war and the military in Ireland here if you are more interested in military history. I spent a good hour and a half here, and that definitely was not even close to enough time.
- Natural History Museum – I think this one is self-explanatory. So, if you like learning about the history of plants and animals in Ireland, this is a great museum to take up some time.
- Museum of Country Life – This museum is a bit of a ways outside the city center. However, it is also free, and it’s a great way to learn about the history of Irish country life especially in the 18th through 20th centuries. I didn’t have enough time to go, but it’s on my list for the next time.
- Museum of Archaeology – I think this one is also self-explanatory.
- The Science Gallery
- The Irish Museum of Modern Art
- The Ha’Penny bridge – Though more of a landmark that you can go and see than an actual place to spend time, this is still a great site to see in Dublin. The Ha’penny bridge is an adorable pedestrian bridge that takes you across the river to the northern side of the city.
- The Ha’Penny Flea Market – Across from the Ha’Penny bridge, this flea market, also known as the Grand Social, is a great place to see both locals and tourists alike in action. Though the products being sold aren’t free (obviously), it is free to walk around and ”window shop.” The market goes on every Saturday from noon to 6pm, and with the variety of vendors with vintage clothing, jewelry, and furniture as well as a variety of locals artists and artisans, it’s a great place to pass the time.
- St. Stephen’s Green – A beautiful park south of Trinity College filled with ponds, fountains, and flowers alike, this is great place to take a walk and to people watch or to engage the locals, whether intentionally or not. Perhaps, you’ll have a slightly drunk person come up to you and tell you that your hair is beautiful and not really know that she is giving you a compliment until she mimes a lot because she’s slurring her words too much. (It could happen.) This park is also quite large, and there are different posts throughout the park that will teach you the history of the Easter Rising of 1916, a rising started by Irish Republicans to rebel against British Rule at the time. I knew nothing about this event until walking throughout this park, and I found the history quite fascinating. Plus, all of this is free: a beautiful afternoon in the sun as well as a short history lesson.
- Powerscourt Townhouse Centre – This shopping mall occupies an old 18th c. Georgian-style building that was once Lord Powerscourt’s Townhouse. This shopping center is right in the heart of the center of Dublin on Grafton street and provides a variety of shopping stores that you can definitely spend some time perusing.
There is absolutely nothing like solo adventure. It can be nerve-wracking and absolutely terrifying at times, but it can also be extremely rewarding. You only have me, myself, and I, but you also have only me, myself, and I to adhere to. Taking that first step into solo adventure wasn’t too difficult, as I tend to be pretty daring, but that doesn’t mean that I knew what I was doing the whole time. In fact, I felt like I was making it up as I went, and though I regret not branching out and meeting more people during my time in Dublin, I found the time spent alone exploring and reflecting was extremely beneficial to my soul. Having only myself to rely on pushed me to be more aware of my surroundings, primarily for safety reason, with allowed for secondary affects: feeling like I got a bit more of a taste of the local culture. I didn’t have the influence of the perspective of fellow travel companions. Having travel companions can be so fun and amazing, but being by yourself is extremely rewarding. I wouldn’t have had it any other way than in the Irish capital. I advise you to do the same. I promise that you will enjoy every bit of it.