Ireland’s a lovely place to visit, and Dublin is chock full of interesting sites to see. My favorites in the city center include: Marsh’s Library, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, one of the brewery or distillery tours (I’ve not yet been to Teelings Distillery, but it’s near Marsh’s and St. Patrick’s), Grafton Street, Trinity College walking tour with the Book of Kells, the Little Museum of Dublin, the Archeology Museum with the bog men, and the theaters (Gaiety, Abbey, Gate, and Olympia). I highly recommend a visit to the Queen of Tarts (on Lord Edward Street or it’s sister site on Cow’s Lane).
A bit out of the city center but still in Dublin are some of my very favorite sites: the Kilmainham Gaol (historic jail) and the Glasnevin Cemetary which has excellent tours plus a genealogy museum—it’s located adjacent to the Botanical Garden and the Gravedigger’s Pub.
The best place for traditional Irish music in Dublin is in north of the River Liffey (Cobblestone Pub, run by a history buff and frequented by them as well), but O’Donoghue’s is also good for trad music and is in the center of town.
Good day trips from Dublin include Glendalough (monastic town with two scenic lakes) and Newgrange (a megalithic passage tomb, and World Heritage Site). In the same general area as Newgrange, Trim Castle warrants a visit. To the southwest of Dublin, I also enjoy visiting Kilkenny (I still need to visit the Smithwich’s brewery there) and the Rock of Cashel.
Closer in, there are lovely little costal villages around Dublin, including Dún Laoghaire (where you can walk the piers or visit the Sunday market in the People’s Park), Blackrock, and Dalkey. All three of these costal towns are to the south of Dublin and can be reached by train or bus. Howth is another nice costal village; it’s to the north of Dublin, and also accessible by train or bus. If you’re out near Howth with a car, the Casino Marino is fun to visit.
If you’re on a visit to Dublin and have enough time to go farther afield by car, you should travel out overnight to one of some of the major sites in the west of Ireland, such as the Ring of Kerry, or Dingle, or Claire, or East Cork (with stops in Cork, Kinsale, and/or Cobh).
I really enjoy county Donegal but I’d say that you’d need two nights minimum to make that trip. Next time I go up to Donegal, I’ll visit the spa at Shandon, which looked amazing but was booked solid for the holiday weekend when we visited. The Glenveagh National Park and Castle were quite enjoyable. I’ve included a few pictures of Glenveagh on this blog post–taken late in the day on Halloween.
By the way, most tour guides here in Ireland are required to study and pass rigorous tests, so they really do know their stuff!