Ireland’s capital, Dublin is a lively city packed with endless history and culture. And beyond the charm of this intimate city, there are also so many day trips from Dublin that will give you a proper taste of the Emerald Isle.
Dublin has a unique vibe mixing European, English, and Celtic influence into its own distinct atmosphere. Here, visitors are met with the vibrance of the Irish people, known for their friendly spirit and national pride. If you happen to fall in love with Dublin (as many tourists do), you’re in luck – the Emerald Isle has so much more to offer, and Dublin is the ideal launching pad to explore all of Ireland.
Below, we’ve rounded up the best Dublin day trips by train or car. Read on to learn more about Ireland and how to make the most of your next trip!
Guest Post by Evan Edler
Getting around Ireland
Especially due to its recent economic and cultural boom known as the Celtic Tiger years, Ireland is now one of the most popular destinations in Europe. Plus, Dublin is the home hub of budget airline Ryanair and the flag carrier of Ireland, Aer Lingus, which makes flying here a breeze from mainland Europe. It’s also easy for Americans to visit, due to its proximity to the United States. No matter how you get to Ireland, you’ll probably be landing in Dublin.
Some tourists may be intimidated by the number of sites in Ireland, and choose to stay in Dublin during their stay. But, let’s face it: the country simply isn’t that big. The expansive train network reaches all major cities from Dublin, and the farthest point on the island is about a 5 hour drive. If there’s somewhere you’re really determined to see, you can definitely make the trip! This list of the best day trips from Dublin, Ireland includes places near the city for short commutes or even half day trips. It also covers more ambitious journeys to the most important tourist destinations. So, let’s dive right in!
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Best day trips from Dublin
We’ve organized the best day trips from Dublin by their proximity to the city, and how easy it is to reach them. First up is definitely the easiest – don’t even leave the city in the first place!
1. Take a day trip in Dublin: Phoenix Park
For those with limited time, or who don’t want to spend a lot of time in transit, one of the best day trips in Dublin is actually still in the city! When I first moved to Dublin, I thought (as many Americans do) that Phoenix Park was just ‘Dublin’s Central Park.’ I was shocked by just how wrong I was! First of all, it’s more than twice as large as New York’s famous park – seriously! Second, it’s definitely not central. It’s actually about five kilometers west of the city.
Dublin city itself is quite small, and you can walk between all of the major tourist sights across town in no more than 20 minutes. Therefore, many visitors skip Phoenix Park in favor of more convenient sights and activities. But if you have time, you should definitely check out this huge recreational area! Phoenix Park is an easy and short day trip from Dublin by bus or car, and you can definitely spend a full day here.
Start your day at the visitor center to make a game plan. Some of the best things you’ll want to see are the Dublin Zoo, the US Ambassador’s residence, the Papal Cross, Ashtown Castle, and its Walled Gardens. There are a number of sights and activities, spaced out by enormous green spaces that are great for outdoor activities like walking and biking. Plus, the park is fun for the whole family! Definitely one of the best short day trips Dublin has to offer!
Day trips from Dublin on the DART
The DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) is a train network that can take you from Dublin, Ireland to a number of cities on the coast nearby. These trains leave very frequently from central Dublin, making them easy journeys from the city center. The most convenient stations to catch the DART are Pearse, Tara, and Connolly depending on where you’re staying. You can buy a ticket at any of these stations for just a few Euros, or if you have a visitor LEAP card you can use that! These trips are all under an hour away, with beautiful scenery along the way.
2. The most popular day trip from Dublin: Howth!
Howth is a gorgeous seaside town like no other, so it’s no wonder this is a top Ireland day trip idea.
In my first year studying at Trinity College Dublin, I made the day trip to Howth at least four times – as did most of my classmates. It’s an absolute classic, within easy reach and well worth a visit! (Pro tip: it’s pronounced ‘Hoe-th,’ not ‘How-th’).
The Howth train station puts you right in the center of this idyllic seaside town, where you’ll find lots of small shops and restaurants. For a truly Irish experience, stop at Leo Burdock’s for some fish and chips. Walk along the shore for a bit, and you’ll find yourself at the start of the famous Howth Cliff Walk. Along the way there’s a visitor center with maps of different hiking routes of varying difficulty. But the easiest and most popular stroll is clearly marked, and easy to follow.
The cliff walk leads you along the dramatic edge of the island, with stunning views over the Atlantic at every corner. You’ll see beautiful coves, greenery and flowers, and an iconic lighthouse.
This gentle walk culminates in stairs that take you to a parking lot, from where you can take a short stroll to multiple options for food and drink. When you’re refueled, head back through the walking trail across from the Summit Inn, which will continue to give you excellent views until taking you right back to the train station!
Howth Cliff Walk
The Howth Cliff Walk is popular among tourists, locals, and cyclists alike, because it’s an easy short day trip in Dublin. If you’re looking for natural beauty, authentic Irish charm, and a little exercise, this is by far the best Ireland day trip you can take!
3. More hiking, fewer tourists: Bray
Bray is Howth’s little sibling to the South, and is another easy Dublin day trip. Go to any of the train stations mentioned above and catch the DART in the opposite direction. Just about 10 minutes farther than Howth, you’ll find the town of Bray. You’ll see the sea as soon as you step out of the station. Walk between the local park and the beach, and you’re heading towards the trailhead of the Bray Head Cliff Walk.
This cliff walk is just as gorgeous as Howth’s. Rather than making a loop, it actually leads along the coast all the way to neighboring Greystones. The full hike takes about 2.5 hours to complete, but you can of course turn around and head back to Bray at any point. Either way, at the end of your trek you can of course find some food and a pint before you return to Dublin.
A day trip to Bray is a great way to escape the crowds that tend to fill Dublin’s small streets in the summer months. Because the journey is slightly farther, the walk is a bit more intensive, and the town itself is smaller, Bray usually avoids the tourists that flock to Howth. If you’re looking for a peaceful retreat into nature, there’s no better feeling than riding away from the confused tourists and spending the day with the locals on the coast. This is definitely one of the coolest excursions from Dublin, hands down.
4. Culture and a castle for the kids: Malahide
The last trip on this list you can do on the DART, Malahide sits north of Dublin city near Howth. In fact, you can easily visit both of these towns in one day, because the train routes are identical until the stop at Howth Junction.
Malahide provides the best of both worlds for visitors who want to learn more about Ireland’s history and local culture. When the train drops you off, you have a choice: to the right, Malahide Castle, and to the left, Malahide village. For this Dublin day trip, let’s start with the castle.
Malahide Castle dates back to the 12th century, and is surrounded by the exceptional gardens. Here you can expect to see locals walking, playing tennis or rugby, or having picnics. Join them! Malahide Castle has benefited from what I would call the ‘Disneyworld treatment.’ This includes a large visitor center with an outpost of department store AVOCA, cafe and bakery, and gift shop, as well as a hop-on hop-off ‘Toot Train’ with commentary from a guide. All of these amenities pair well with Malahide’s appeal, because they celebrate the castle’s history – that’s why locals continue to frequent the area.
Due to its accessibility, the castle is ideal for families with children of all ages.
After exploring the Castle and Gardens, walk back to Malahide village. The main strip is adorable, with pubs and shops leading down to the coast with a great view of the sea. It’s a great slice of smalltown Ireland for visitors to appreciate. I definitely recommend a day trip from Dublin to Malahide to any visitors with kids. You can keep them entertained and happy without sacrificing the opportunity to experience Ireland’s best!
Day trips from Dublin into Ireland by train or car
Now let’s look at some day trips further into the heart of Ireland. Whether you want quintessential Irish villages or breathtaking beauty, you can find it all just outside of Dublin!
5. Classic Celtic culture: Kilkenny
A day trip from Dublin to Kilkenny is your best bet for an authentic Irish experience. This small town comes straight out of a fairytale, and holds all the best Ireland has to offer. You can get here in under 2 hours by catching the train at Dublin Heuston station. Buy tickets at the station, or in advance online to save time! Trains run about every 2 hours, and drop you off at the convenient Kilkenny MacDonagh station.
Follow signs from the train station into town. You’ll want to whip out your camera almost immediately when you see the adorable buildings that dot the main street. You’ll descend past pubs, shops, and more towards the river at the city center. From here, it’s a short stroll to the impressive Kilkenny Castle. The castle stands from the 12th century, and is beautiful inside and out (definitely enter and explore the interior!). Outside of it is an expansive park with fields, a pond, modern art, and plenty of local activities.
In the opposite direction of the castle, the town center continues. Following the main shopping streets will lead you to more restaurants and stores, both chain and boutique. You can easily spend a day hopping between shops, pubs, and cafes. But be sure to branch off from the main street! You’ll be rewarded by seeing an ancient church with an adjoining museum and courtyard, as well as a number of picturesque alleys and side streets
6. Best closeby college town day trip from Dublin: Maynooth
The most famous university in Ireland is undoubtedly Trinity College Dublin, and it’s a top site for tourists. Trinity is definitely worth a visit, and sits right in the middle of the city. But one of the day trips I’ve taken from Dublin has to be to Maynooth, home to the National University of Ireland – Maynooth (NUIM). You can reach this city in just about an hour by bus or train from the center of Dublin.
Maynooth is a quiet college town, where the idyllic streets of the city lead right into the school’s campus. NUIM’s campus is effectively split in two, divided into a modern side and an ancient historical side. On one you’ll find scenes straight out of an advertisement of students studying next to modern glass buildings. On the other, buildings date as far back as the 12th century. This side includes small gardens, beautiful ivy-covered buildings, and a large park with walking paths popular among local dog owners.
Explore the campus and its surroundings for as long as you’d like, and then return to the commercial center to grab a coffee at a local cafe or a beer at one of the pubs! This is a peaceful and authentic Dublin day trip that will certainly be a highlight of your trip.
7. Monastery and mountains: Glendalough
Glendalough is another of the most popular day trips near Dublin for tourists. There isn’t really convenient public transport from Dublin city, so this day trip is best done by car or on an organized excursion. It’s a scenic journey into the heart of the Wicklow Mountains, and in under an hour you’ll be at the visitor center.
The main site of Glendalough is the ruins from its Monastic site, which date back to the 10th century. The stone buildings that remain include a cathedral and tower, as well as a number of gravestones in the area. But the most stunning part of this trip is the surrounding scenery. The ruins sit in the heart of the stunning Wicklow Mountains, which makes for dramatic views in every direction. There are a number of walking trails around the area originating at the ruins, which vary in length and difficulty. Even the shortest will bring you through the landscape and right up next to local farms (I definitely took more pictures of the sheep than of the scenery).
This Dublin day trip is perfect for anyone who wants to learn more about Ireland’s history or to get into the great outdoors. But be warned: because of its remote location, most tourists come on large group buses that can lead to a crowded parking lot and trails at times.
For the ambitious traveler: day trips from Dublin to the best Ireland has to offer
Once again, the Emerald Isle is beautiful – but it is also small. Therefore, you can make a day trip to any of the best tourist destinations on the island. These take a bit of preparation, and much more travel time, but are well worth the effort.
8. Dublin’s smaller sibling: Galway
Galway is probably the second most popular city among tourists after Dublin, and for good reason. It’s an adorable city that offers all amenities a traveler may need without sacrificing its small town feel. Though it’s on the opposite coast from Dublin, it actually makes for a day trip. The city center is small, which means you can see all of the main sites and get a feel for the city in just a few hours. Perfect for a Dublin day trip!
From Dublin Heuston, you can take a train to the center of Galway in just about 2 hours. Or for extra flexibility, you can drive – it takes about the same amount of time. When you get to Galway, you’ll be led down the main street to the harbor. Stop at many small shops and restaurants on the way – they’re all great! Some hidden gems include boutique stores, local cafes, and even the museum of the original claddagh ring store. The traditional Irish accessories were first made here!
For food, stop at Dough Bros. for pizza – it’s popular and busy at all times, but with good reason. I recommend staying in town as late as possible, and getting a pint at one of the pubs. Night is when the locals come out, which is a fun crowd of all ages. In the spring, students at NUI – Galway line the docks with drinks and the atmosphere buzzes.
9. The best of Ireland: Cliffs of Moher
I’m always saddened when I hear people say that they didn’t get to make it to the Cliffs of Moher from Dublin. While I highly recommend spending a lot of time in the country, and taking the time to appreciate the cliffs, they are absolutely a feasible Dublin day trip! This is the peak of Irish tourism, due to the stunning natural beauty.
The Cliffs of Moher sit on the western edge of the island, jutting into the Atlantic. This is a remote area of Ireland full of great views and small villages. But don’t be scared off by the distance! It may look far on a map, but it’s only about a 3 hour drive from the city to this monster of a site. It can absolutely be done as a day trip from Dublin! Plus, there are countless companies offering organized bus tours to tourists. While it’s best to do your research and book these in advance, in reality you can walk into any tourist shop or hotel in Dublin and pick up a pamphlet on a whim.
Though the large crowds of tourists can be frustrating, there is some benefit to guided tours. These trips take all of the hassle and planning out of the journey, and leave you with plenty of time to explore the cliffs as well as the accompanying museum and surrounding area.
If you brave the drive and go on your own, take the time to go a bit off the beaten track. There are many cute villages along the way, my favorite being nearby Doolin. Take the whole day and grab dinner and a pint in any town that catches your eye.
10. Crossing the Border: Day trip from Dublin to Belfast
Another Dublin day trip that may intimidate some tourists, heading north into Belfast is actually very easy! Taking the train or driving takes only about 2 hours, and there’s no customs or border control.
First, let’s clarify. Dublin is the capital of the Republic of Ireland, which makes up the majority of the island. A chunk of the northern part is Northern Ireland, one of the countries of the UK. Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland. While you might not even notice crossing the border, this division is the cause of years of conflict and violence. It’s perfectly safe and easy today, but it’s well worth doing some research into the history. It’s also good to remember that this is in fact a different country. Northern Ireland is not part of the EU, and uses the Great British Pound as its currency. This makes for a super interesting day trip from Dublin, as you can cross international borders with ease.
Like Dublin, Belfast is also a small city with a lot to offer. The most famous sights include the seat of government, the Titanic Museum, and the old jail. Take your pick based on your interests, as any direction you choose will be a great trip! Belfast is also known for its nightlife and culture, so definitely take the time to have a drink or a meal at one of its many pubs. Whether you want to learn more about Northern Ireland’s history or you just want to check another country off the list, this day trip from Dublin covers all the bases!
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Why take a day trip from Dublin?
Dublin is a fantastic city, but it is not alone – rather, it speaks to the rest of the country! Its small size and central location makes it easy to cover the city in just a few days, leaving plenty of time and energy to make any of these Dublin day trips. They’ll take you deeper into culture, history, nature, and more! While it’s of course worthwhile to spend more time in each of these places to really appreciate them, don’t count that as a reason against a day trip. It’s always better to spend a little time there than none at all! Have any other favorite day trips from Dublin? Let me know!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Evan B. Edler is a full-time student and part-time traveler born in Amsterdam, raised in Boston, and currently living in Dublin. A first-year in university, he explores Europe on the weekends and books flights during class. You can (try to) keep up with his adventures at @evanbedler.