Layover in Dublin? It’s easy to break free from the airport and explore the city center. Here’s what you can see in just a few hours.
Layover in Dublin: What to See
My Aer Lingus fight from Boston arrived at five a.m. in Dublin’s Terminal 1. Yes, five a.m. in the morning! I sighed at the hours ahead of me before my next flight to Athens.
Booking the tickets, I probably thought I could sleep it off in some corner, or I don’t know what I was thinking. I had pretty much seven hours until Ryan Air could take my luggage and there was no way I could sleep it away or sit at the airport. I was annoyed that I couldn’t move away from my pile of luggage which felt like a ball and chain.
I asked around and happily learned that the city center was just a half-hour bus ride away. Plus, the bus stop was right outside the terminal and left pretty frequently. I added it all up and decided that I’d get to see a bit of Dublin.
The luggage problem was easy to solve. I dropped off my three suitcases at a luggage hold company which happened to be right outside of the Terminal 1. I then purchased a two-way bus ticket downtown.
I had been to Ireland’s capital briefly during a weekend trip while I was a university student in London. Just enough to have my first taste of Guinness. This time around, thanks to my long layover in Dublin, I was off on a new unplanned adventure to see a the city after such a long time.
Dublin at Dusk
It was almost seven a.m. by the time I found myself getting off the bus by the O’Connell Bridge. It was pitch black, and I started to crave some caffeine. A Starbucks was open so I had breakfast while I waited for photo friendly daylight to rear itself.
Next thing I knew, I had about four hours of sightseeing ahead of me. I planned a walking route so I could be back at the bus stop in time to catch my flight.
Here’s where I walked over a span of about four hours.
Layover in Dublin: A Walk Downtown
My first stop was this gorgeous campus. I walked in and pretty much had the courtyard all to myself so early in the morning. It’s the oldest university in Ireland, founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I.
If you have more time: Go to the library to see the Book of Kells. Written in 800 A.D., it is the world’s most famous early medieval manuscript. It was once buried in the ground for safe keeping against the Vikings.
Molly Malone Statue
The famous Dublin Molly Malone statue sits outside of St. Andrew’s Church on Suffolk Street. I learned Molly is one of the symbols of the capital and featured in a traditional song called “Cockles and Mussels.”
Founded in 1204, Dublin Castle spans 44,000 square meters (11 acres), and has two museums, cafes, gardens and a conference center. The government buildings and the State Apartments are the most important state rooms in Ireland. The grounds are free to explore which is what I had time to do.
If you have more time: The Chester Beatty Library and the Revenue Museum are also free to check out. Access to the State Apartments is by guided tour only and tickets may be purchased from the Apartments in the Upper Castle Yard. For more information, check out the Dublin Castle website at www.dublincastle.ie.
The Ha’Penny Bridge
This was the first pedestrian bridge to connect the two sides of the River Liffey. It got its name because it used to cost a half a pence to cross. Before it was built, folks crossed the river using ferries.
Temple Bar District
I then walked through the narrow, cobbled lanes of the picturesque and very historic Temple Bar district. This pocket of the city is known for its awesome boutiques, restaurants, pubs and clubs.
While quiet that morning, it is a cultural hub where street artists paint and where open-air markets and exhibitions are held.
I then headed up Grafton Street which is one of the two main shopping streets in the city center, the other being Henry Street. You can see the 18th-century St. Ann’s Church from here.
The Powerscourt Center which was steps from Grafton. I didn’t get to snap a photo of the 18th-century building which was the townhouse and courtyard for Lord Powerscourt. Today it is a shopping mall with an impressive airy atrium.
Nearby is the Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre (below).
St. Stephen’s Green
I then walked through the 22-acre St. Stephen’s Green park. Well, not all of 22 acres! But enough to admire the Victorian public park which Lord Ardilaun opened in 1880 for the public. I would’ve loved to go for a jog here.
Long Layover in Dublin: What to See and Do
After St. Stephen’s Green, I walked back to O’Connell Street where I had a quick lunch at a café and waited for the bus to take me back to the airport.
Overall, it was easy to catch relatively cheap and convenient transport from the airport to end up in the heart of the city. That’s not the case in many cities where it could take an hour to get to the city center by public transport.
Also, Dublin’s center is very walkable and many sights are close together.
I would have loved, for example, to check out the Dublin Writers Museum. Lots for next time! Still, I was happy to stroll around and see the pretty little city again after so long. Thanks to that long layover in Dublin, I got to do just that.
Layover in Dublin: Useful Info
For a map of Terminal 1, check this page on the Dublin Airport website.
During your layover in Dublin, you may want to make use of the luggage hold company in Terminal 1. It is called the Excess Baggage Company, located right across street from Terminal 1. Turn left when you walk into the building.
There are several buses you can choose from during your layover in London that depart regularly from Terminal 1 (as well as Terminal 2). I took the Aircoach bus. It leaves every fifteen minutes or every half hour depending on the time of day. The two-way fare was 12 euro. For more information, visit www.aircoach.ie.
For more about travel to Dublin, visit www.visitdublin.com.
If you are planning to spend more days in Dublin also check out this post: 2 Days in Dublin Itinerary For First Time Visitors
Pin For Later
I’d love to hear about your layover adventures as you waited for your next flight. Are there other cities out there with such a convenient way to get to the heart of the city? Feel free to comment in the comment boxes below.