Explore Dublin via the pick up/drop-off bike scheme - the perfect way to discover the Irish capital on a short trip
Cycling may not seem like the immediate choice of transport in a city that has a reputation for rain. But in fact Dublin is the perfect city to explore by bike. Not only is it compact and relatively flat, but the launch of a pick-up /drop-off bike scheme means that exploring Dublin on two wheels is now a popular option for locals and visitors alike.
Just €2 buys you a three-day ticket with Dublinbikes (www.dublinbikes.ie), which lets you pick up and drop off bikes at your convenience. Forty bike stations are situated around the city and cover most of the places you’ll want to go on a short trip to Dublin. Here’s my guide to making the most of Dublin by bike.
Temple Bar (bike stations 14 and 10)
Any guide to Dublin has to start with Temple Bar. A cobble-stoned area bordering the south bank of the river Liffey, Temple Bar houses the plethora of pubs, clubs and restaurants that makes it a mecca for hen and stag dos. But it’s not all about the nightlife. During the day you'll find markets, shops, cafes and a range of cultural events (www.templebar.ie/home). My particular favourites include The Joy of Chai (25 Essex St E, +353 1679 3393) for its champagne tea, and the Irish Film Institute (6 Eustace Street, +353 1679 5744, www.irishfilm.ie), a combination of cafe, film shop and arthouse cinema.
Camden Street (bike station 18)
Temple Bar can be a haze of tourists so for an alternative slice of Dublin nightlife, hop on your bike to station 18, on Camden Street. This is where locals hang out. You can pull your own pint in the lively Bleeding Horse (24 Camden St. Upper; +353 1475 2705), sip a quiet pint in the traditional atmosphere of Devitt’s (78 Lower Camden St; +353 1475 3414) or hang out with arty types in Anseo (18 Camden Street Lower; +353 1475 1321). Next door, Green Nineteen is a small but popular restaurant serving traditional Irish dishes such as corned beef, mash and cabbage for €10 (19 Camden St Lower; +353 1478 9626; www.green19.ie). Camden Street is also the place to explore Dublin’s music scene with local and not-so-local acts playing most nights in Whelan’s (www.whelanslive.com) and The Village (www.thevillagevenue.com).
Merrion Square (bike station 26)
To see a more sedate side of Dublin, cycle over to Merrion Square (bike station 26). Here, you’ll find some of Dublin’s grandest Georgian buildings and can wander around the small but pleasant green square, which holds an open-air art gallery on Sundays. Merrion Square is also your stop for the Irish parliament, or Dáil, as well as the National Gallery's collections of Irish and international art (Merrion Square West; +353 1661 5133; www.nationalgallery.ie), and the National Museum, with its exhibits on Irish culture and heritage (2 Kildare Street; +353 1677 7444; www.museum.ie).
Hugh Lane (bike station 30)
For an extra dose of culture, head north to the Hugh Lane Gallery (Parnell Square North, +353 1222 5550, www.hughlane.ie). Here you'll find exhibitions of contemporary Irish art as well as a replica of Francis Bacon’s studio and free classical music concerts at noon on Sundays. Those with a literary bent should head around the corner to the Dublin Writer’s Museum (18 Parnell Square; +353 1872 2077; www.writersmuseum.com), which gives a good overview of Dublin’s literary characters and history. If you fancy a treat then head downstairs to the michelin-starred Chapter One - one of Dublin’s best restaurants - where lobster, rabbit and pigeon is served alongside Irish lamb and salmon. If you can't choose, there's always the tasting menu. (18 Parnell Square; +353 1873 2266; www.chapteronerestaurant.com).
GPO (bike station 33)
It’s practically impossible to miss this stop, situated as it is next to Dublin’s tallest landmark, the Spire. Any history buff visiting Dublin will want to visit the GPO (General Post Office, O'Connell St), one of the key sites of Ireland’s 1916 Easter Uprising. You can still see bullet holes in the columns outside. This is also the best stop for the Abbey Theatre (26 Lower Abbey Street; +353 1878 7222; www.abbeytheatre.ie) and the shopping on Henry street. Arnotts (12 Henry Street, +353 1805 0400) is the oldest department store in Dublin and well worth a visit for its selection of clothes, cosmetics and homeware.
Chatham Street (bike station 1)
No trip to Dublin would be complete without a trip to Grafton Street, Dublin’s most famous shopping street, with its mix of designer and high-street stores. Bike station 1 is also handy for the St Stephen’s Green park as well as a huge variety of restaurants and cafés. My recommendations include Chatham Brasserie for their excellent seafood (Chatham St; +353 1679 0055; www.chathambrasserie.ie), the family-run Steps of Rome for its rectangular pizzas (Chatham Court; +353 1670 5630), and the architectural grandeur of Bewley’s for coffee and cake (78 Grafton St; +353 1635 5470; bewleys.com). If none of those take your fancy then have a wander around the streets and you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Where to stay
If you want to stay close to the nightlife of Temple Bar, try the George Frederic Handel Hotel (more commonly known as Handel's, bike station 10), which is situated on the edge of Temple Bar and a minute's stroll away from a host of bars, restaurants and clubs. Nearer Camden St, the Harcourt Hotel (bike station 18 or 37) used to be home to one of Dublin's most famous sons, George Bernard Shaw. It now houses 104 guest rooms as well as Little Caesar's restaurant and the popular D2 nightclub. On the north side of the Liffey, try the four-star Gresham Hotel on O'Connell St (bike station 33) for a luxurious treat.