Insider Guide: Dublin
Last week, Melanie enjoyed a whirlwind trip to Dublin to catch up with old friends, and visit her favourite hairdresser, Ceira Lambert. Staying at the fabulous Powerscourt Hotel, she got to explore some of the best that Dublin has to offer, from beautiful Enniskerry just outside the city, to the stalwart of the Irish high street – Penneys (Primark in the UK).
If you are lucky enough to visit Dublin this Spring, make note of these insider tips (from a native Dubliner!) to make sure you get the best out of your visit.
Where To Stay
If fresh air and stunning countryside is your thing, just a short skip from the city (you can even get there by bus) you can stay at the same hotel as Melanie, the Powerscourt Hotel, and explore the Powerscourt estate, visit the waterfall and enjoy the golf, horse-riding and even fishing on offer.
If you’re more of a city type, the Merrion Hotel is a chic, upmarket destination with a Michelin-starred restaurant and enviable location opposite the Leinster House, the impressive home of Dáil Éireann, Ireland’s parliament.
Want more affordable independence? Dublin’s Airbnb choices are incredible, offering the chance to stay in an affordable flat in one of the city’s many listed Georgian residences, such as this stunning building on one of Dublin’s perfectly preserved squares.
Where To Eat
Dublin is brimming with great restaurants, and we could list 10 or 20 great places easily, but if we just had to pick three, these would be our top choices.
For hearty, healthy and soulwarming food in a bustling atmosphere in the city centre, pop in to Rustic Stone on the corner of Exchequer and George’s Streets. With a fantastic meaty menu with incredible burgers, they also offer a mouthwatering raw menu with monkfish, air dried Connemara lamb and Wagyu beef.
Just a few paces away (so you can easily find your way back the next day) is San Lorenzo’s, whose Brunch of Champions is rightly the stuff of legend in Dublin.
If you want to keep things a bit more affordable and swift, KC Peaches is a small chain of restaurants scattered around the city, offering healthy, hearty and frankly delicious food in great, child-friendly surroundings, conveniently located for collapsing into after a busy morning shopping or visiting Trinity College or Stephen’s Green.
Where To Shop
Melanie was delighted to discover Penneys on O’Connell Street, so make that a first stop to pick up some seriously stylish bargains, especially in the way of fitness gear and underwear.
Over on Grafton Street, Dublin’s chicest shopping street, you’ll find Brown Thomas, a compact but elegant and beautifully curated luxury department store with a serious handbag department, beauty hall and a Ladurée concession to keep you going for the morning.
Explore the back streets around Grafton Street and South Great George’s Street for endless quirky independent shops, and don’t miss the Powerscourt Centre of South William Street – the city mansion of the Powerscourt family which, after years of dereliction and neglect, was transformed into a chic shopping centre with great jewellery and antique shops, as well as great people-watching opportunities.
Where To Keep Fit
If you want to keep up with your fitness routine in Dublin, then running is the best way to make up for all those calories at San Lorenzo’s and see the most beautiful parts of the city at the same time. The Grand Canal is 80 miles long, so you can go for as long as you like, and there are also some great runs that take you through St Stephen’s Green, Merrion Square and Trinity College – early morning is best, as these are some of the busiest parts of the city. Check out these routes here.
Want to stay indoors? Book a free day trial at the Iveagh Fitness Club in one of the oldest parts of the city (they have a pool, too), or for just €9 you can get a day pass to any one of FlyeFit’s gyms dotted around the city.
Where To Party
Dublin knows how to party like nowhere else in Europe. Even the most modest suburban pub offers a welcoming atmosphere, with friendly bar staff and a friendly vibe. Temple Bar might be well known for its hen parties and raucous atmosphere, but if you want a truly great night, steer clear and head for these top choices.
Back around Rustic Stone and San Lorenzo’s you’ll find the legendary Stag’s Head, a busy, popular destination with standing room only at weekends and a friendly buzzy atmosphere. This is a “real” central Dublin pub, and is popular with students at nearby Trinity College. A few minutes away, just off Grafton Street, you’ll find the similar, friendly and authentic Kehoe’s, a proper “local” pub in the best possible way.
For the ultimate traditional Dublin pub, if you want to hop in a taxi or find your way to the 40 bus stop heading North and crack out a bit of Google Maps to help you on your way, you should track down Kavanagh’s, otherwise known as the Gravediggers, under the walls of Prospect Cemetery in Glasnevin. You’ll know why when you get there.
If you’re looking for something more glamorous and modern, check out Soder + Ko on South Great George’s Street, or the gorgeous new The Ivy on the corner of Parliament Street. Take a stroll down Dawson Street too – you’ll find it’s lined with gorgeous upmarket bars.
Finally, if someone tells you go to to Copper Face Jacks, they’re having you on. Proceed with caution.
What To See
Beyond the well-beaten trail of Trinity College, Dublin Castle and the Guinness Storehouse, you will find a wealth of things to visit in this vibrant but compact (i.e. easily walkable) capital city.
Places not to miss include the Hugh Lane Gallery with the incredible Francis Bacon Studio, the Museum of Natural History, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, housed in the impressive 17th century Royal Hospital Kilmainham, the Museum of Decorative Arts & History in the historically signifiant Cathal Brugha Barracks, and the beautiful Chester Beatty Library.
Cover image with thanks to Ireland.com