Since we started our trip in Ireland (more on our Northern Ireland leg here) in order to take advantage of less expensive flights, we got a bonus day and a half or so in Dublin on our return. Truthfully, I didn’t spend much time planning this part since we had so little time that I figured we would just take things as they went. That approach worked out well for us and we were able to plan things organically to fit in with what the kids were up for.
Where We Stayed
We stayed at the StayCity Aparthotel on St. Augustine Street (I booked through Expedia since Booking.com’s rate was higher). We had a 2 bedroom apartment with laundry and they provided a pack and play for us (although it BARELY fit in the room), which helped with our this-season-of-life set-up of 1 parent and 1 child in each bed/room. The location was great – we walked pretty much everywhere we wanted to go. Our main complaint was the weird set-up of the apartment and the building – it’s in “hives,” so you have to to travel through multiple buildings (and multiple elevators/stairs with multiple fire doors) to get from the front door to your apartment. This was challenging because the fire doors are really heavy and the elevators are a little noisy, so it was at least a 5 minute production to get in and out of the apartment every time and couldn’t be done during nap time.
What We Did
After a cab from the airport (love the Irish cab drivers – they’re so friendly!) and getting settled into our apartment, we had just enough time to get an early-ish dinner around the corner and then rest up for the next day.
Our full day in Dublin was jam-packed, but somewhat child-led since we had no set agenda. Julia really just loves a good playground, so after breakfast, we walked over to the St. Stephen’s Green Playground. The fantastic playground is hidden away behind some hedges and is fenced in, so a lot of the street noise is buffered and kids can’t run away too quickly.
There were several climbing areas, swings low enough for Julia to get on herself, and benches for parents to sit on. Julia could have stayed there all day, but after an hour or two, I realized that there are literally no public restrooms anywhere nearby. I walked around the perimeter a bit to check out coffee shops and see if they had restrooms, but there were no obvious ones so we headed to a bonus stop: The National Museum of Ireland – Natural History.
The (free!) museum is in an older building and resembles something out of a movie with all of the taxidermy animals over two stories. We were there at the same time as a few school groups, but managed to avoid being on the same floor for the most part. It felt like there was an example of every animal I’ve ever heard of (and some I hadn’t), although I did have some complicated feelings about how the animals were likely procured, especially some of the baby animal specimens.
After a picnic in the park with sandwiches from around the corner, we walked the kids in the stroller/baby carrier to convince them to nap while we checked out the signs about the Easter Rising and rested on a park bench. Somewhat rested, we headed to Dublinia. This museum is in the same building as Christchurch Cathedral and has exhibits about the Viking and Medieval history of Dublin. It was also mobbed by school groups, but we trailed far enough behind them that it didn’t feel overwhelming. The lower floor has exhibits about Viking Dublin, most of which are interactive. Julia liked “cooking” over a fire, writing her name in Viking runes, and of course, the now infamous “Tooty Guy.” Our toddler and all the middle school boys were obsessed with the exhibit showing a Viking-era toilet (complete with sound effects and moss toilet paper). We’re still talking about it nearly 3 months later…
Upstairs, you move forward in time to Medieval Dublin, including a walk through fair area that James loved because most of the exhibits were at his eye level in the baby carrier. One of the best parts of our visit was climbing the stairs to the top of the tower where we enjoyed views over Dublin.
After Dublinia, we attempted to go to Evensong at St. Patrick’s Cathedral (schedule here; at the time of writing, evensong is on Thursdays at 5:30 pm). In our pre-kids lives, attending a service was a great way to see a famous church for “free” (we usually drop something in the offering box; I loved Westminster Abbey in college) and it made the experience more authentic. We were welcomed inside with open arms, even with the kids. Figuring that James would probably sleep in the carrier while Julia drew on a mini magnetic drawing table, we even had a chat with her about the importance of being quietly respectful. She did so well, but ultimately about 10-15 minutes in, James decided to sing along. He didn’t cry, but burped loudly and then started babbling. While no one looked at us unkindly, we decided it was best to cut our losses and head out to an early dinner.
The next day, we had just enough time to revisit our favorite stops (breakfast at the same place and an hour at the playground) before heading to the airport to go home. One advantage to the Dublin airport is that you pre-clear customs, so while it meant we had to get to the rather dull airport (not great food options, no play area for kids anymore) earlier than usual and go through security an extra time, we were able to get right off the plane to claim our bags in Seattle.
Where We Ate
Brother Hubbard (South) – We ate breakfast here on both days because it was relatively close to our next destination (St. Stephen’s Green) and had some great options for Peter’s allergies. He can’t usually eat eggs (because chickens typically eat corn and soy), so there was a good porridge bowl and an egg-free avocado toast option. The avocado toast with eggs was amazing (and there are chickpeas in the mix for extra protein and texture) and Julia loved having scrambled eggs with toast and their unique jams (they had cardamom and rose in the jams, which were just light accents). The coffee was also fantastic, and we took a pastry to go as a snack.
Green Bench Cafe – this little lunch spot (no seating) is down an alleyway near St. Stephen’s Green. It was full of business people in suits on the weekday we visited, but everyone was very kind to us. Their sandwiches were so delicious, and we also loved the soup (vegan, if that appeals to you, but still creamy and filling) and coffee, as well as a little bottled smoothie for Julia.
LL Mulligan Grocer – our dinner spot on the second night in Dublin (first night not worth repeating) was fantastic and was on the North side of the river, so it gave us a nice little walk. I’d call it a gastropub – there were lots of Irish beers and they use high quality Irish ingredients in their food. Despite being busy, they checked on a few things for Peter’s allergies without batting an eye and the food was great. We shared a cheese plate to start, followed by a lamb dish and a pork chop (the preparations for which have already changed). While I don’t recall seeing high chairs, we felt right at home with our two children.
We loved our short stay in Dublin and felt we were able to see enough of the sights without getting bored. Comparing to our experience when we visited several years ago, seeing the countryside is definitely more interesting for me than the big cities. I’d love to go back for a Vintage Tea Tour on a double decker bus with Julia someday when she’s old enough (children under 6 aren’t permitted and their vegan menu contains soy, so Peter wouldn’t be able to eat it). It was generally a little more difficult finding things that fit with Peter’s allergies in Dublin than in Belfast – menus did often have allergen footnotes, but were less likely to proudly tout their suppliers, which made us less certain that meat wouldn’t be fed corn/soy, and there was more use of corn flour or egg in the fish and chips. I would definitely use Dublin as a hub to the rest of Europe again, particularly if we’re able to leave enough space on one side (like we did at the front end of our trip) to take day trips out of the city.