AerLingus planes just look like you’re about to have a good time. Their almost-cheesy symbol of Irish luck stands out from the rest of the hunks of metal at an American airport, and the light, fun feeling they have is an apt introduction to a visit to Ireland.

I was actually surprised to see the cheerful design on the AerLingus planes, having thought that the Irish love of the four-leaf clover was an American perception. But alas, their festive national spirit does line up with many of those perceptions.
Warm from whiskey samples in the airport, we loaded the bird from the tarmac in Glasgow, and I was filled with a new sense of excitement for life. Somehow, that feeling didn’t leave me during our visit–and actually hasn’t left me since that trip in 2014.

Once we got off the plane and found our AirBnB apartment, we started with a self-guided spirits tour of the Temple Bar District, a famed party neighborhood. We turned to Rick Steves, even to find the party spots, and our first stop was a bar aptly named The Temple Bar. There, we discovered what was the norm at most pubs in Dublin: that craft whiskeys and Carlow Brewing Company beers are widely available. The next morning, we went back to the same area and encountered one of the first touristy things we highly recommend any Dublin visitor must do:

1. Eat a Full Irish Breakfast. Alcohol isn’t the only thing to consume in Dublin. A traditional full Irish breakfast really is a must-try for visitors. The Irish breakfast includes eggs, ham, potatoes, white pudding, and the infamously weird blood pudding (or black pudding). Rather than show you our own pics of Irish breakfast (I haven’t mastered the whole food photography thing just yet), I’m going to suggest you check out this recipe and the picture that goes with it.
An aside about blood pudding: The consistency of it is not at all that of pudding. In fact, when the server brought our plates, I thought they’d forgotten to include it. It is more like a cake than pudding, which at first tastes a bit like a peppered potato and finishes with an eerily true-to-its-name taste of iron.
Anyway, the traditional breakfast is a delicious way to start the day. The earthy, hearty flavors and textures help you connect to the area and give you tons of energy to face the day.

2. Visit the Guinness Museum and Storehouse. The Guinness Museum and Storehouse at St. James Gate, or “the Guinness Factory” as we called it, is kind more of an Experience  than a museum. You can walk through the museum on a self-guided, but heavily planned, tour that tells the story of how beer is made as well as national hero Arthur Guinness’s story.

3. Do a Literary Pub Crawl. It’s hard to be in Dublin without feeling the impact that writers have had on the city. That’s why it’s important to have an experience that blends two important Irish concepts together: books and booze. The popular tour, accurately called the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl, is led by two funny actors who happened to also love beer. The tour takes you to famous spots around the city, like Trinity College, O’Neill’s Pub, and O’Hara’s Pub.

Dublin is a welcoming city and it’s easy to feel comfortable there. And, even though its history is intense, it is also modern and mixes together centuries-old stories with those that happened yesterday. If you’re planning your first visit to Dublin, these three activities will introduce you to the culture and pride of the city. 

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