What to do on a weekend city break in Dublin
It might not be the first European destination that comes to mind when you’re planning a holiday, but there are so many reasons to choose Dublin for your next city break.
Whether you want some time away with the girls, a lads’ trip to remember, or a little jaunt with your other half, you’re sure to find something to suit you between the cobbled streets and the revamped docks of this vibrant cultural hub. And let’s not forget, there’s nowhere like the Irish capital to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on 17 March.
Take a look at our guide on what to see and do on a weekend getaway in Dublin, and get ready to discover the biggest city on the Emerald Isle.
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A spot of sightseeing
If you thought Temple Bar was the name of a pub you ought to visit, then you wouldn’t be the first. Temple Bar is actually a busy neighbourhood on the south bank of the River Liffey, and while it is home to a pub with the same name which boasts Ireland’s largest collection of whiskeys, the area has so much more to offer than just one watering hole.
Unlike the surrounding area, Temple Bar has maintained its quaint medieval network of streets, many of which are narrow and cobbled. It’s often referred to as Dublin’s cultural quarter, and here you’ll find a thriving neighbourhood with a bohemian ambience, a buzzing nightlife, and some fabulous places to dine.
Temple Bar food market
Every Saturday there’s a big food market at Temple Bar and it’s well worth a visit when in Dublin on a weekend break. You’ll find plenty of artisan produce from small, local merchants, plus a variety of delicious street food.
Dublin castle is a good stop-off if you fancy yourself a bit of a historian. The castle was the headquarters of British power in Ireland for centuries, before it was finally handed back over in 1922. Nowadays, it’s used for government meetings and events, but you can still take a guided tour of the castle which lasts about 70 minutes.
The River Liffey divides Dublin in two, as do the rivers in many other major cities, like London and Budapest. That means a river cruise is the ideal option for a relaxing way to see the sights. You’ll learn lots about the history of Dublin, from the arrival of the Vikings to the rapid development of the city in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Tip: Fascinated by the Vikings? Check out our post on the top viking sites and ruins to visit around the world.
You can learn about the history of the city on dry land, too. Ireland and Dublin have a unique story, which traces back over 1,000 years, and this is something you might like to take a closer look at.
Local guides can take you on a walk to the castle, Temple Bar, City Hall and around the medieval town, and tell you how the city and its people have handled their successes and tribulations.
Getting out and about
Game of Thrones
Are you a die-hard GOT fan? When you venture outside Dublin you’ll find some of the locations where the series was filmed, allowing you to follow in the footsteps of some of your favourite characters. A day on a guided Game of Thrones tour will also take you to the magical hexagonal rocks of Giant’s Causeway.
The Cliffs of Moher
If you’re staying in Dublin on a long weekend, take a trip to the world-famous Cliffs of Moher. You’ll need to spend a whole day on this outing, but in return you’ll also visit the city of Galway and travel through the remarkable lunar landscape known as The Burren, a grey, glaciated stretch of land dotted with crags and cliffs.
‘Hurl’ yourself into the Irish life
Hurling is one of Ireland’s national sports and is said to be the fastest field sport. This ancient stick-and-ball game of Gaelic and Irish origin holds its club finals on St. Patrick’s Day. The highlights take place in Dublin’s Croke Park, where players from all over Ireland compete for the honour and glory of their home towns.
Start the day the Irish way
No matter when you go to Dublin, you should always start the day with a classic Irish breakfast, consisting of bacon and eggs, sausages, mushrooms, baked beans, fried tomatoes, black pudding, bread and butter, marmalade, and a nice cup of tea, not unlike the typical full English breakfast.
Eat in a church
There are few things in Ireland more influential than the Catholic Church. Consequently, a considerable number of churches have been built throughout the ages. So many, in fact, that today not all of these buildings can actually still be used for their intended purpose.
So, what to do with them? The Irish have come up with a solution, concluding that these spacious buildings work perfectly as restaurants, and in Dublin there are many of them. The Church is a restaurant well worth a visit – a venue where you can relax and enjoy food, music and dancing.
Café en Seine
In the heart of Dublin’s Dawson Street is the iconic Café en Seine restaurant. Here you can enjoy a trendy yet cosy atmosphere. The food is exquisite, with steak fresh from the local butcher, seafood from the Irish coast, and homemade bread baked by themselves every morning.
What do you get if you cross an Irish pub with a Japanese restaurant? Yamamori Izakaya brings a taste of Tokyo to Dublin, with a great selection sushi, Japanese street food and sake. Located just a five-minute walk from the Molly Malone statue, you’re guaranteed a delicious meal and a full stomach here.
And now over to the drinks
There’s a bar of some sort on practically every corner in Dublin, so pub culture is obviously very much in focus here. Sampling Irish whiskey and Guinness is a must, especially when you’re only in the city for a weekend.
A visit to the Guinness Storehouse should be atop your Dublin to-do list, although it’s probably a good idea to stay clear of it on St. Patrick’s Day if you want to avoid long queues. At the brewery you’ll see how the famous ‘Black Stuff’ is made and how it should be properly served (oh yes, there are rules!). And you have to give it a try afterwards, of course.
Pub to pub
A pub crawl is one of the ways to familiarise yourself with the city, and is almost a prerequisite for the itinerary of any lads’ or girls’ weekend in Dublin. You can see for yourself how to pour a Guinness in the proper manner and, if you’re lucky, you’ll hear traditional Irish folk music as you work your way through the various establishments.
If you get tired of Irish folk music, try the 37 Dawson Street pub next door to Café en Seine. The menu is traditional, and it’s worth going here just for the interior design of this place,which is unique to say the least.
St. Patrick’s Day special
St. Patrick’s Day is, of course, a very significant day in Ireland. Every year about 100,000 tourists flock to Dublin to celebrate it together with the locals.
The day itself is 17 March, but it’s also celebrated on the days leading up to the event, during the Festival of St. Patrick from 14-18 March.
Saint Patrick was a British man who was captured by Irish slave traders. After escaping, he worked as a missionary, advocating the Christianisation of Ireland. Upon his death on 17 March 461 AD, he was hailed as a saint.
The shamrock that he used to explain the Holy Trinity is now a symbol of the celebrations, and can be seen everywhere you look on St. Patrick’s Day.
On Saint Patrick’s Day, or Paddy’s Day as the locals call it, green is the colour to be seen in. People aren’t adverse to going all out with their costumes, so don’t hold back. The funnier your get-up, the less you’ll stand out in the crowds, believe it or not!
What’s more, all around town, iconic buildings like churches are immersed in green light. This is referred to as “greening the city”, and commences on the Thursday of the festival. Take a walk around the city and check it out.
Alltech Craft Brews and Food Fair
Drop in at the Alltech Craft Brews and Food Fair, Ireland’s biggest beer festival. The festival takes place, conveniently enough, at the same time as the St. Patrick’s Day Festival, at the Dublin Convention Centre. Here, you can indulge in over 400 different types of beers and gorge yourself on an abundance of snacks.
St. Patrick’s parade
The highlight of the celebrations is the parade on St. Patrick’s Day itself. Every year, there’s a different theme.
Bands and music groups from all over the world take part, creating an unforgettable atmosphere during the two-hour long procession. The parade begins at 10am, but it’s a good idea to get there earlier to make sure you get a good spot.
Looking for a bit of extra excitement? Why not try the Festival Treasure Hunt? It lasts for about two hours and involves you and your team getting dressed up in the spirit of the treasure hunt theme, whatever it may be. On the hunt you’ll visit historic places while solving puzzles and enjoying musical events.
And if it’s something out of the ordinary you’re looking for, you could also visit Dracula’s birthplace at St. Michan’s Church, one of the spookiest places in Europe.
Learn an Irish jig
Start your celebrations by learning to dance – the traditional Irish way. On the Friday of the celebrations, the St. Patrick’s Festival Céilí begins. This is a major event run by professional dancers and musicians, where hundreds of people gather together to learn to dance to the fast-paced beats.
Where to stay in Dublin
It’s a good idea to book your hotel in Dublin well in advance. You’ll get the most out of your trip if you stay in the city centre. If you decide to go to Dublin during the festival, this will be necessary because most of the streets are closed off.
Don’t forget, with Norwegian Holidays you can find both the flight and the hotel that suits you best at affordable prices, while at the same time earning CashPoints.
The Shelbourne Dublin*****
The Shelbourne Dublin is a Renaissance Hotel. This landmark in the heart of Dublin can boast almost 200 years of history. It has been renovated innumerable times since it was built and is now the biggest five-star hotel you can stay at in the Irish capital.
You should also dine here, or at least have afternoon tea in the glamorous surroundings.
The Morgan Hotel****
The Morgan Hotel can be found in an unbeatable location in Temple Bar. This sleek, 168-bedroom hotel has been recently refurbished and has everything from a New York-style supper club to a 24/7 concierge service.
If you’re on more of a budget, the three-star Buswells Hotel also has a fantastic location next to Trinity College. Here, you can enjoy the warmth of an open fire, the wooden floors and the delicious breakfast buffet. You won’t get lost in your room, though, they’re just big enough to serve their purpose – but that’s all you need for your weekend in Dublin.