City Guide: Dublin, Ireland
Like any capital city, Dublin has its obvious tourist stops, but there’s plenty to see and do that doesn’t involve Guinness (though it’d be rude not to have at least one)
- By Tom Powell -
Where to Drink
Starting in Temple Bar, the lively tourist’s mecca just south of the Liffey by Ha’penny Bridge, you should swerve the exuberant excesses of the traditional music bars for a dice with secret speakeasy sophistication at Vintage Cocktail Club. Behind a heavily-graffitied door that’s emblazoned with the letters 'VCC' you’ll find more than 100 cocktails, from old-style serves to contemporary craft concoctions.
Next, you’ll probably be after a pint of Guinness, and while the Gravity Bar at the Guinness Storehouse in the west of the city is likely to be your most iconic pint (if a little crowded), nothing beats a jar of the black stuff poured at a proper Irish tavern – and there are plenty of those south of the Liffey. The pick of the bunch are Fleet Street’s Palace Bar for mirrored mahogany bar booths, Kennedy’s if you’re taking a jaunt between Trinity College Park and Merrion Square, and Kehoe’s on South Anne Street for old-time charm and snugs galore.
To bring things up to date a little, try the craft brews and mid-nineties indie soundtrack of P’Macs on Stephen Street Lower, or JW Sweetman for live sport, river views and in-house brewed hefeweizen. Alternatively, there’s L Mulligan Grocer – a former grocery (no prizes for guessing that one) in the northwest part of the city centre. There you’ll find all manner of Irish brews, as well as cracking grub and an upstairs Airbnb that comes with a couple of local beers in the fridge. How kind.
Where to Eat
If a sloppy old night on the town’s got you wondering if Guinness actually is good for you, you’ll probably be needing a, er, stout brunch to get you feeling lively again, and the Woollen Mills is your place. Order yourself a Ha’penny fry-up (or dukkah-crumbed eggs and avocado if you’re not feeling locally-sourced meat), take in the Liffey views from its open-air terrace and get the show back on the road.
Alternatively, if the morning’s feeling less of a death knell, head for the cosy confines of The Tram Café – a revamped streetcar that saw life in Philadelphia, Lisbon, Colwyn Bay (that’s in Wales) and in a field in County Cavan before becoming an intimate spot for coffee and cake in the middle of Dublin’s Wolfe Tone Square.
Come lunch, take a 20-minute walk straight down from Millennium Bridge until you hit the Bernard Shaw pub and check out newly opened street food market, Eatyard, which is open Thursday to Sunday. You’ll find quick, tasty grub from pun-loving vendors like Pow Bao, Veginity and No Bones Chicken Cones.
For something that’s a little more traditional, dart a couple of blocks from the shops of Grafton Street and try Bar Rua – a new cosy and welcoming Gaelic pub where you can bag a bowl of banging Irish stew with soda bread for a little over €10.
For dinner, you’ll probably want to be in the heart of the action, and there’s nowhere better than The Winding Stair next door to The Woollen Mills north of the Liffey. Get there early and you can browse the downstairs bookshop before you eat.
For more great high-end grub there’s Drury Buildings, which combines a New York-style exterior, Berlin-style interiors and Italian-inspired dishes with killer cocktails and a wine list to die for.
A little more out of town but still super special is Chapter One, an all-Irish seasonal kitchen housed in Dublin Writers Museum. Also try Heron and Grey – the buzziest restaurant in the brushed-up suburb of Blackrock about 25 minutes’ drive out of town along Dublin Bay. Head down for an ever-changing tasting menu featuring local, seasonal ingredients – just make sure you book ahead.
What to Do
Beyond boozing, Dublin has plenty to do. Literary geeks will delight in a walking tour from the James Joyce Museum in the northern part of the city centre, where you can follow in the footsteps of Ulysses’ central character, Leopold Bloom, as well as seeing the sights by hopping from pub to pub.
Alternatively, for a spot of sea breeze and another notch of literary inspiration, a morning at the James Joyce Tower and Museum and a dip in famed swimming spot, Forty Foot, is worth the short train to Sandycove. When you’re done, roll back through the Blackrock for the coffee shops and covered market in the afternoon.
Northeast of the city centre, take a trip to Croke Park – where you can get a crash course in Gaelic sport with a stadium tour, or book tickets to watch Gaelic football, hurling, or huge stadium shows from the likes of Coldplay, Bruce Springsteen and Beyoncé.
Finally, Dublin’s packed with theatres, but the cream of the crop is Gate Theatre for its classic Irish productions with contemporary twists.
The Best Shops
In case you hadn’t already noticed, the Irish capital’s a bookish old place, which naturally means the city centre’s buried in bookshops. Ranging from amazing independents like Parnell Street’s Chapters and ramshackle secondhand market stalls like Archway Books in Blackrock market, you’ll be well stocked with quotable paperbacks to peeve your mates with.
Beyond the book and record shops, Dublin holds everything that’ll sate your inner geek. First up, go and buy some lemon soap at Sweny Pharmacy – a volunteer-run relic that features in the opening chapters of Ulysses. Dubbed the worst chemist in all of Ireland, it only sells said soap and selected secondhand books – mainly about Joyce.
Alternatively, trade all things literary for some serious loutery at Temple Bar’s Casa Rebelde – a vintage football shop where you can finally grab that David Bellion West Ham shirt you missed out on back in '05. Meanwhile for vintage garms with a trendier lilt, head to Tola Vintage and Lucy’s Lounge, which sit next to each other in Temple Bar (look for the bright pink building with a pram outside – you really can’t miss it).
Where to Stay
If you’re staying on a budget, nothing beats Generator – out near L Mulligan Grocer to the northwest of Ha’penny Bridge. You’ll find a trendy mix of bunks and basic doubles that are perfect for dropping your bag off in before heading down to the bar to find some more mates.
For chilled-out boutique elegance and all kinds of quirkily designed rooms from ‘Punk Bunks’ to a vast, fussball and vinyl-stocked penthouse, try The Dean. The paintwork and furnishings are soothing, mellow and comfy, and the food’s pretty good, too – which is great because it’s slap bang in the middle of Dublin’s clubs about 15 minutes’ walk south of the Liffey.
For the views from the rooftop bar alone, splash the cash on a stay at The Marker – an audaciously modern bolthole that’s a 20-minute walk from the hustle and bustle in the heart of Dublin’s Docklands. The contemporary but comfortable rooms, restaurants and spa are perfect for losing a day in the name of chill.