It’s so easy to fall in love with Dublin: a compact, walkable city with an abundance of museums and sites, a thriving, eclectic restaurant scene, and a reverence for literary and historical figures. What sets it apart from other European capitals? The Irish wit and wisdom freely dispensed by Dubliners. Guides, taxi drivers, and proverbial Irish bartenders are the true ambassadors of this city, always ready to share a wry quip or firm opinion.
We settled into the Westbury Hotel, centrally located just off bustling Grafton Street, giving us easy access to bistros, shops, and cafes. Our days kicked off with organic Irish porridge and smoked salmon omelets at the hotel’s main restaurant, Wilde, and ended with afternoon tea and hot chocolate in The Gallery. In between? … many pleasurable hours soaking up Irish history, culture, cuisine, and libations.
WHAT TO DO
Double-decker Bus Tour: In London, they’re red, in Dublin, green of course! This hop-on, hop-off sightseeing tour takes 90 minutes and includes 23 stops on its main route—ideal for first-time visitors.
Walking tours: Often, the best way to experience a city is on foot. For a proficient guide, try historian Pat Liddy and his team of professionals for group or private tours.
Trinity College: Wander around the cobblestone quads of Trinity College, one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Europe, and visit its most important treasure, the Book of Kells, the 9th century, illuminated four-gospels manuscript. Continue on to the Old Library’s Long Room and marvel at the 200,000 volumes of old and rare books lining the high shelves of this barrel-vaulted, oak-paneled room. (Astute Star Wars fans will recognize this as the CGI Jedi Archive in Attack of the Clones).
Guinness Storehouse: There’s nothing like the taste of Guinness in Ireland—like a smooth, chilled cappuccino, complete with white, frothy head. When it reaches the States, it’s just not the same. This seven-floor brewery tour, located in the 19th-century warehouse, teaches you all about Dublin’s famous brew, “the black stuff.” When you reach the top, enjoy a complimentary pint in the Gravity Bar offering 360° degree views of the city. Book tickets online for discounts and to avoid lines.
Kilmainham Gaol Museum: If you saw the historic biopic Michael Collins (starring Liam Neeson) you would be well versed in the historical significance of this gaol (jail), now a monument to Irish nationalism. It served as the main jail for imprisoned leaders of the rebellion again British rule. Walk through cells and the stonebreakers yard and hear tales of the harsh life of an inmate and Ireland’s deadly struggle for independence. Get there early—tickets are on a first come first served basis.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral: Unlike Manhattan’s St. Patrick’s (Catholic) Cathedral, this is the Protestant Church of Ireland’s national cathedral. It is affectionately known as the “people’s cathedral.” The Guinness family, well known for its philanthropy, helped restore this beautiful Medieval-style building when it sadly fell into disrepair.
Georgian Dublin: Georgian architecture (flat-fronted, five-story row houses that ring gated grassy squares) is a big part of Dublin’s charm. Most notable is Merrion Square with its ivy-strewn buildings boasting colorful and ornate doors, home to Irish author, Oscar Wilde.
Irish Jewish Museum: This small but comprehensive museum, located in the former 19th-century Walworth Road Synagogue, was opened in 1985 by Chaim Herzog, Irish-born former President of Israel. The ground floor is filled with memorabilia honoring the Irish Jewish community; upstairs is the original Synagogue.
Phoenix Park: Twice the size of New York’s Central Park, it’s one of the largest city parks in Europe. This verdant, woodland also contains the Dublin Zoo and the President’s Residence, Áras an Uachtaráin.
James Joyce Centre: Learn about the life of the famous writer and his greatest novel, Ulysses, which tells the story of Dublin’s Leopold Bloom during the course of just one day – June 16, 1904. If you haven’t read this important (but VERY lengthy) piece of literature, rent the 1967 Academy Award nominated movie.
The Old Jameson Distillery: Situated in the original home of world-famous Jameson, the tour includes a brief film on the craft of Irish whiskey making from malting to milling to mashing. At the end, sample a glass—triple distillation is the key to its smoothness.
WHERE TO SHOP
Lively and busker-filled pedestrian area Grafton Street and Nassau Street (adjacent to Trinity College) provide plenty of shopping choices. For authentic made in Ireland wares including Waterford, Galway Crystal, Belleek pottery, Jimmy Hourihan and Aran sweaters, try Kilkenny Shop, Blarney Woolen Mills, House of Ireland, Kevin & Howland, and Monaghans. For department store shopping, visit Ireland’s own Brown Thomas. Distinctive Powerscourt Centre offers antique and boutique shopping in a converted 18th-century townhouse. Afterwards, stop for a coffee at famous Bewley’s.
WHERE TO EAT
Rustic Stone: Award winning Irish chef, Dylan McGrath, uses the best seasonal ingredients and stone cooking to create simple yet exceptional, healthy dishes.
Cliff Townhouse: Make a reservation for a special dinner at this elegant Georgian townhouse and boutique hotel overlooking St. Stephen’s Green. Their modern Irish menu features plenty of seafood.
Fade Street Social: Another venue by Dylan McGrath, this lively restaurant includes a Gastro Pub, Tapas Bar, and rooftop Winter Garden. Dishes are prepared with the freshest of ingredients – you’ll experience what farm-to-table truly means.
Matt the Thresher: Hands down the best fish ‘n’ chips with mushy, minty peas in Dublin. The high-ceilinged, bright room, hearty seafood, and friendly and professional service, make this the perfect, casual-dining spot.
Gotham Cafe: We are from NY, so we are serious about pizza, but this small bistro got four thumbs up. Little did we know—they use a stone pizza oven imported from Washington State. The menu features New York neighborhood-named pies like the “Soho” (fresh spinach and feta cheese) and the “Chinatown” (barbequed Peking duck and hoisin sauce).
Temple Bar: A lively area filled with restaurants, cafes, and bars, it comprises a network of streets from Dame Street to the River Liffey. There’s lots of culture here too, so check local papers for listings.
The Brazen Head: Ireland’s oldest pub (dating back to 1198) is also a famous music venue. Legendary alumni include Van Morrison, Mary Black, and Garth Brooks.
WHERE TO STAY
Boutique properties, The Westbury; and the Merrrion, historic Shelbourne Hotel; conveniently located Westin (near Trinity); and contemporary-styled Radisson Blu Royal.
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