From Dublin’s elegant Georgian squares and buildings to its teeming pubs and sociable pavement cafés, the electric energy of this lively metropolis is everywhere
Over the past couple of centuries, Dublin has transformed itself from a solid provincial capital into one of Europe’s most exciting cities. Split in two by the River Liffey, the centre is scattered with beautiful Georgian squares and old buildings that provide a historical contrast and context to the modern European city it’s grown into.
Pubs rather than wine bars still abound in Dublin and are the hub of the city’s social life. The restaurant scene has exploded and the smoking ban has fostered a kind of continental street culture as people congregate at pavement tables. There is no better way to enjoy Dublin’s unique atmosphere than to listen to live music in one of the pubs while enjoying a pint of the black stuff. ‘When I die Dublin will be written in my heart,’ said the Irish author James Joyce. Spend a weekend here and you’ll understand why.
What to do
No trip to Dublin is complete without a sip of Guinness, and where better to take a slurp than at the top of the seven-storey Guinness Storehouse (00 353 408 4800; www.guinness-storehouse. com) at St James’s Gate.
The Chester Beatty Library, part of the 18th-century Dublin Castle, is chock-full of fascinating manuscripts, paintings and sacred texts from around the world. You can easily pass an afternoon looking at these intricate pieces of art. Escape the tourists on Temple Bar and stroll around the beautiful Merrion Square and St Stephen’s Green, with its collection of museums – including the National Gallery of Ireland (www.nationalgallery.ie).
The street cafés of Ranelagh, to the south, are a great place to while away a few hours or, for a sense of the city’s past, join a walking tour – there are regular departures from outside Trinity College (www.historicalinsights.ie).
In the evening, theatre-goers should try the Projects Art Theatre (www.project.ie), the most forward-thinking and experimental venue in town.
Where to stay
Splash out on the Merrion, an elegant hotel spread across four Georgian townhouses and home to the renowned Patrick Guilbaud restaurant (see Where to eat and drink). The Clarence, owned by Bono of U2, offers luxurious, individually designed rooms. For more traditional surroundings, stay at the Schoolhouse Hotel; once a Victorian school, it has been beautifully renovated.
Where to eat and drink
Get your morning caffeine fix from The Bald Barista (00 353 863 129 980; www.thebaldbarista.com). The man behind the coffee machine is Buzz Fendall and beans are sourced directly from individual farmers around the globe.
Splash out on oysters and champagne for lunch at Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill (00 353 1 638 3939; www.brownesdublin.com); it’s run by home-grown talent Richard Corrigan. Michelin-starred Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud (00 353 1 676 4192; www.restaurantpatrickguilbaud.ie) is one of Ireland’s top restaurants. The cuisine is French, the ingredients local and the result is fabulous.
For more local produce head to L’Ecrivain (00 353 1 661 1919; www.lecrivain.com). Try the seared Clonakilty black pudding. Shanahan’s on the Green (00 353 1 407 0939; www.shanahans.ie) serves delicious Irish steaks and local seafood in an elegant Irish-American setting.
Just outside the city centre, chef Oliver Dunne is causing a stir with his Michelin-starred restaurant Bon Appétit (00 353 1 845 0314; www.bonappetite.ie). If you want to see what the craic is without paying high prices, dine at the excellent brasserie Café Bon. Sink your teeth into braised lamb or beef with a béarnaise sauce.
Time running out?
Check out the Book of Kells, a beautiful illuminated manuscript, in the old library of the 17th-century Trinity College. Followed by a pint of Guinness in Mulligan’s on Poolbeg Street, the unofficial home to the best pint (and regulars) in Dublin.
Visit the city during any rugby international weekends at your peril – the streets are alive with everything but the sound of music.
Currency is the euro. Dublin is a one-hour ten-minute flight from London.
Ryanair (0871 246 0000; www.ryanair.com) flies from a number of UK airports, including Birmingham, Gatwick, Liverpool, Newcastle and Stansted. British Airways (0844 493 0787; www.ba.com) flies several times a day from Gatwick.
Dublin Tourism: Suffolk Street (0800 039 7000; www.visitdublin.com). Head to the office to buy a Dublin Pass or visit www.dublinpass.ie; the card grants free entry to museums and galleries, and free public transport. From €15 per day.
Dubliners by James Joyce (Penguin, £7.99). A series of short stories charting the lives of a handful of the city’s inhabitants.
This guide first appeared in Food and Travel magazine.