Before my first trip to Ireland, I bought a guidebook that included a map. I used it before my trip to get a good idea of where the places I was reading about actually were. And then I left it at home. Which actually turned out to be fine as there was a map in my rental car. Though it was unwieldy and I could never get the silly thing to fold correctly again, it guided me through my first Ireland vacation. And though rentals cars still come equipped with maps in the glove box, those are not the best road map for your Ireland vacation.
Which is how I keyed in Doolin, County Clare and ended up on the road to Kerry before I figured out I was heading in the completely wrong direction — to some shop in Killarney with Doolin in the name. At which time I had to stop the car, dig out the paper map in the glove box, and get myself turned around and on the correct road to Doolin. As we were on a schedule, it was not my best morning. And you can bet I snatched it up when I saw it.
16 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Dublin
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At the far Castleknock Gate end and on some 78 acres stands stately Farmleigh House dating from the s and purchased by the Irish state from the Guinness family in For generations of Dubliners and those coming from abroad, the main draw is Dublin Zoo, which attracts more than one million visitors annually, dates back to , and is the second oldest zoo in Europe.
A trip to the zoo is a day out in itself. Amongst other rare and exotic animals there are Asian lions, Asian elephants, a Reptile House, an orangutan enclosure, sea lions, tigers, hippos, bats, and penguins. Facilities include restaurants, kids play areas, and a family farm. The forbidding gaol jail , dating from , truly is a notorious site in the history of Irish nationalism. It was here that the leaders of the rebels were first incarcerated and then executed for what was seen as an act of high treason.
The exhibition in a modern hall gives a taste of what conditions were like and outlines the struggle for Irish independence. There are excellent guided tours throughout the rest of the jail, which cover Irish history from The Stonebreaker's Yard is sure to send shivers up the spine, as this is the spot where the leaders of the uprising met their grisly fate.
Restored in the 19th century and dominating the surrounding area, Christ Church Cathedral is built on the site of Dublin's first church, which was founded in and made of timber.
The Great Nave has magnificent early gothic arches, and here you can see the 14th-century replica of the tomb of legendary Norman conqueror Strongbow, who is buried elsewhere in the cathedral. The fragment that lies alongside is said to be part of the original tomb and has the nickname, 'Strongbow's son. An easy 7 minute-walk from Christ Church Cathedral, St. Patrick's Cathedral is the national cathedral of the Church of Ireland. Tradition has it that here, St. Patrick baptized converts to Christianity in AD Like Christchurch, the original edifice was timber.
In , another church was founded and constructed of stone. Just over a century later, another reconstruction took place and its status was raised to that of cathedral. Over the centuries, much embellishment has occurred, chiefly in the mid s when the steeple was built, and during the late s when there were substantial renovations.
Patrick's for 35 years, is interred in a tomb to the right of the entrance beside his long time love 'Stella' Hester Johnson Dublin Castle was the site of central administration during years of British rule until The castle has seen many guises: In , Irish rebel Silken Thomas so named for his fine clothes launched an attack and besieged the castle. Currently, the castle is mainly used for ceremonial occasions, exhibitions, and even concerts.
The ornate state apartments are open to visitors and there are a number of museums to explore including the Chester Beatty Library and Gallery. The museum, founded in by an American living in Dublin, Chester Beatty, features a fine collection of oriental art and several collections of manuscripts, books, and ancient texts. Among the treasures are French Books of Hours of the 14th and 15th century and a prayer book, which belonged to Philip II of Spain; works of Far Eastern art; Islamic prints; Sanskrit manuscripts 12thth century ; Indian miniatures; and Babylonian clay tablets 2,, BC.
There are also European medieval and renaissance manuscripts, Egyptian papyrus texts, and copies of the Qur'an, and the Bible. Buddhist paintings and Turkish and Persian miniatures are also on display, as are woodblock prints from Japan and Chinese dragon robes. Dublin Castle - Open Monday-Friday 10am A must see and, surprisingly, just a minute southbound trip on a DART Dublin's light rail network from the city-center is Dalkey and one stop further along, Killiney, although both areas can easily be explored from Dalkey town.
It's recommended to disembark at the earlier stop as there's an excellent visitor center at Dalkey Castle, which includes information about the area, historic and cultural exhibitions, and best of all, live theater performances as part of a fun guided tour, which scales the heights of the castle ramparts.
Dalkey was once the main trading post on Dublin's east coast, and the harbor at Coliemore Road was the place where medieval cargo ships could off-load their wares. Opposite the harbor is breathtaking Dalkey island, and an uphill stroll of around 15 minutes brings you to Vico Road with stunning views out over Killiney Bay. For more panoramic vistas, continue up to the top of Killiney Hill, a public park that is home to many species of wildlife and birds. If you're visiting Dublin for the first time, the best area to stay is in the city center. Most of the top tourist attractions lie within a short stroll of each other in this compact and easily walkable area, including Trinity College, St.
Stephen's Green, and Grafton Street. Here are some highly-rated hotels in this convenient and central location:. A short stroll from Grafton Street, The Merrion Hotel , with a day spa, swimming pool, and two-star Michelin restaurant, resides in four lovingly-restored Georgian townhouses. Patrick's Cathedral and Dublin Castle, strikes a modern note with its sleek interior design and spacious guest rooms.
In the heart of Grafton Street, The Westbury is popular for its wonderful staff and understated luxury.
Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to Dublin
In Dublin's heart, within walking distance to all the major tourist attractions, The Morrison, a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel overlooks the River Liffey and has a bright, contemporary interior. Across the river, in a trendy location near Grafton Street, the boutique Drury Court Hotel offers cozy rooms, and the apartments in an adjacent building are great for families. Sleekly furnished and streaming with light, The Gibson Hotel is a little further out from the city center, but public transport is nearby, and it's a great choice if you're planning to catch a concert at the adjacent 3Arena.
A short stroll from Grafton Street and St. Stephen's Green, Dublin Citi Hotel offers great-value rooms with comfortable beds near a cluster of lively entertainment venues.