Have some free time to spare before your next flight? Explore the historical city of Dublin at your own pace; the wispy threads of its Viking past is hidden between the looming cathedrals and age-old museums, waiting to be discovered by you. Let your hair down and discover the heart of the city that comes alive when night falls - with bright neon lights that line the streets, indulge in a drink or two and you may very well find yourself a new friend here.
Spend your 12 hours here at a leisurely pace, unraveling the threads of Dublin’s rustic past with this layover guide.
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1. Leave your luggage at the airport
As with any vacation, taking care of your luggage can be a pain to deal with. Aside from the snaking custom queues, you still need to safely store them before embarking on your next adventure. Thankfully, Dublin’s airport provides just that - the left luggage facility offers both short and long term storage of luggage. Found in both Terminals 1 and 2, you can conveniently drop off your baggage anytime from 05:00 to 23:00, and the price is based on the size of your belongings.
Left Luggage Facility
Price: Envelope 5.5 USD; set rate – pay in advance. Small item 5.5 USD (plastic bag, umbrella etc.). Medium item 8.7 USD (travel bag, suitcase etc. Large item 13 USD (large/heavy suitcase 25Kg+, golf clubs etc.)
Opening Hours: 5am - 11pm
Access: Terminals 1 & 2
Website: Left Luggage Facility, Dublin
2. Check your Visa requirements
For US passport holders, you do not need to apply for external transit visas if you’re just passing by. However, if Dublin is your first touchdown location in Europe, then you may be required to fill in a card given to you on the plane with your personal details as a formality for the immigration checks ahead. Check the link below to see if you’re required to apply for a visa when visiting Dublin.
List of nationals required to hold a visa for entry to Dublin
3. Consider faster transport options
There are many transport options available, but the most comfortable one is hands-down the Aircoach service. You can choose your destination - the most common one being the city center. Although slightly more expensive than public transport, you are promised a relaxing trip, of about forty to forty-five minutes. Be sure to factor in morning traffic conditions and the Dublin rush hour (from 16:30 to 19:00), and try to plan your trips to avoid clashing with those time periods.
Website: Price & Location
And now, your real adventure starts!
10am: National Museum of Ireland - Archaeology on Kildare Street
Catch a glimpse of ancient Irish history here at the National Museum. Famed for the well-crafted Ardagh Chalice and the Tara Brooch, these metalworks date back to as early as the 8th century. Admire the intricate carvings on these timeworn Celtic craftworks, having preserved their elegance even after escaping the eyes of modern civilization for what seemed like an eternity, buried under the sands of time. You may be sidetracked by the intriguing displays of Iron Age bog bodies in the Kingship and Sacrifice exhibit - a collection of four bodies unearthed from various bogs, while still relatively well-preserved. You may recognize the expressions on their face to be uncannily similar to that of those in pain, and the details on their clenched fists and worn-out accessories even after centuries seems to be mind-boggling, but hear this - researchers believe that some of these bodies were heavily mutilated due to sovereignty rules and kingship rituals during the Iron Age, leading to speculation that they were possibly tortured before being thrown into the bog. Piqued your interest? Be sure to check out the other buried material displayed, including weapons, clothes, as well as the replica of a cauldron found from a Danish bog known as the Gundestrup Cauldron. Vivid imagery of Celtic deities grace the rusty metal surface, depicting reenactments of sovereignty rituals as well as human sacrifice.
National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology
Address: Kildare Street
Opening Hours: Tues to Sat: 10:00 - 17:00, Sunday: 14:00 to 17:00, Closed on Mondays
Contact: +353 1 6777444
Website: National Museum of Ireland
12pm: Long Room in Trinity College
Head down to the Long Room in Trinity College - living up to its name and stretching up to 65 meters in length, this ancient chamber houses up to 200,000 of the oldest books rooted in Irish history. Before the library was refurbished, the low ceilings were chuck full with the abundance of books. Renovated in 1860, the ceilings were raised, and new bookshelves were built to accommodate more books. The upper floor became a leisurely gallery of books for the visitor’s viewing pleasure. Even till now, the library is still stocked up with books - and that is not without reason, as in 1801, the Library was granted permission to request a free copy of every book ever published in the UK and Ireland, making this the perfect haven for book and history lovers alike. If your eyes are tired from all the reading, take some time to walk down the enormous hallway and admire the marble busts that pepper the unending rows of bookshelves. Sculpted after famous writers and philosophers, challenge yourself to find all of the 51 busts that are scattered across the library, and take a picture together with Socrates when you’re done to mark your achievement!
The Long Room at Trinity College
Address: College Green Dublin 2, Ireland
Opening Hours: 9.30am - 5pm.
Access: Walk down Kildare Street to the gates of Trinity College
Contact: +353 1 8962320
Website: The Long Room
1pm: Book of Kells Illuminated Manuscript - Trinity College
From Kildare, take a left and walk along the walls of Trinity until you come to the Nassau Street entrance. Walk past the tree at the side entrance to Trinity, and you will see an advertisement for the legendary Book of Kells. You may feel as though you have taken a trip back in time after seeing the rustic pavement leading up to the Old Library building. Housing the Book of Kells, the famous medieval manuscript illustrates the Four Gospels of the New Testament in a language that has long disappeared with the evolution of mankind: the latin language. Open for public viewing seven days a week, be sure to book your tickets online in advance to skip the queues and crowd.
Book of Kells Exhibition
Address: College Green Dublin 2, Ireland
Price: from 15 USD
Opening Hours: Mon – Sat (May - Sept) 08:30 – 17:00 Sun (May - Sept) 09:30 – 17:00 Mon – Sat (Oct - April) 09:30 – 17:00 Sun (Oct - April) 12:00 – 16:30
Website: Book of Kells
3pm: National Gallery of Ireland
After getting a quick lunch, walk back the way you came, along the walls of Trinity and past the bottom of Kildare Street, onwards for about 600 feet until you reach the National Gallery. Housing about 15,000 artworks spanning across different art mediums, you can find sculptures, paintings, and even works on paper from the early thirteenth century through to the mid-twentieth century. One of the most famous painting on exhibition here is Caravaggio’s “The Taking of Christ”, where the artist uses a technique known as Tenebrism to heavily contrast the shifting light and darkness, making the darkened parts of the painting stand out and in turn drawing focus on the realistic portrayal of human emotions on the subject matter. Other noteworthy artworks include the Yeats collection, an archive of the well-known Olympic medalist Jack B. Yeats’ most heartwarming paintings. His portraits give you a more intimate glimpse into the close relationship he had with his family, as well as how his art style developed from that of a novice illustrator to that of a skillful and expressive use of oils.
National Gallery of Ireland
Address: Merrion Square West, Dublin 2, Ireland
Opening Hours: Monday - Saturday (including Public Holidays): 9.15am - 5.30pm, Thursday: 9.15am - 8.30pm, Sunday: 11am - 5.30pm
Contact: [email protected]
Website: National Gallery of Ireland
4.30pm: Grab a bite
Head over to the Wintergarden Cafè conveniently located in the Millennium Wing, at the Clare Street entry level of the gallery. Offering casual dining services, choose from the freshly baked breads and chef’s special everyday.
Address: Millennium Wing
Monday to Saturday, 9.15am - 5pm Thursday, 9.15am - 6.30pm Sunday, 11am – 5pm
Contact: +353 1 661 0545
Website: Wintergarden Cafè
5pm: Shopping at St. Stephen’s Green
A short 15-minute walk south from the National Gallery is St. Stephen’s Green, a huge complex with lots high-quality stores for you to pamper yourself with. After a long day of shopping, head to Green & Baker on the middle floor for a taste of Irish artisanal treats such as handmade breads and desserts baked with love using original recipes - with a grand selection of mouth-watering Irish beef and a refreshing palate of salad, you would be spoilt for choice here!
St. Stephen's Green Shopping Center
Address: Stephens Green West, Dublin 2, Ireland
Opening Hours: Monday, Tue, Wed 9am – 7pm, Thurs 9am – 9pm, Fri / Sat 9am – 7pm, Sun & Bank Holidays 11am – 6pm
Website: St. Stephen’s Green Shopping Center
7pm: Head on your coach back to the airport
It’s always better to arrive back at the airport earlier, so you should factor in around 2 hours for your return trip in case there are any car accidents that cause a jam on the roads. Walk back up the way you came from to Kildare Street and wait for your Aircoach. Once you’re at the airport, just lounge around and remember: always check in 1 hour before your actual flight.
On to your next destination!
We hope that in the short amount of time that you’ve layover in Dublin, you managed to catch a glimpse of its beautiful history rich in culture and fine art - perhaps it could inspire you to make this rustic city your next vacation destination.
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