Dublin: Ireland's Fair City
One of Europe's top urban hotspots, Dublin is an enchanting and energetic city with a rich mix of history, culture, hip bars and pubs, elegant architecture, great shopping and some of the country’s most sophisticated restaurants.
Dublin: 24-hour itinerary
Catch Dublin from sun-up to late-night.
When in Dublin (and Ireland, in general), the day should always start with a hearty Irish breakfast. This consists of bacon, eggs, sausages with black and white pudding and an abundance of bread slurped down with copious amounts of strongly brewed Irish breakfast tea; Barry's being the most well-known brand. Bewleys Caf on Grafton Street would be my pick, but many locations around the city centre will suffice. A walk around St Stephen's Green (located at the top end of Grafton Street) will help you walk off brekkie, followed by a quick wander into Iveagh Gardens(Dublin's best kept secret enter from Harcourt Street).
Not too far away on Kildare Street is the National Gallery of Ireland, a free gallery containing works by Van Gogh and Caravaggio, as well as Ireland's own Jack Butler Yeats, brother of the famous poet William.
There are many great places to have lunch in Dublin and prices are very competitive at this time of day, so look out for specials. O'Neill's Pub, just across from the main tourist office on Suffolk Street, offers reasonable pub grub, while those looking for something a bit more upmarket should go no further than Dobbins on Mount Street for one of the finest lunches in Dublin town. This afternoon, a trip to the Guinness Storehouse will provide a great background to Ireland's favourite tipple, and the view from the Gravity Bar at the end of the tour is fantastic. After a hard day's walking, the free pint of Guinness is sure to go down a treat. For those who would like a more relaxed afternoon, a stroll around Saint Stephen's green or Merrion Square is a good alternative and both are within easy reach of the shops on Grafton Street, Dublins main shopping area.
On a one-day trip to Dublin, the evening must surely involve Temple Bar. With its many restaurants and bars it's the place to be for any visitor after dark. Beware of the overpriced bars and eateries, and head instead to the handful of gems like the Porterhouse, a great micro-brewery with good food and great music. To my mind the only real authentic, non-touristy pub here in Temple Bar is the Palace Bar, which stands out as a great old time Dublin establishment. The more adventurous should then take a trip down to Wexford Street to alternative bars such as Solas and Anois, followed by a late-night drink in the older and more relaxed pubs of Baggot Street. One could also venture down to one of the many clubs on or around Harcourt Street. Dawson Street, which runs parallel to Grafton, is also worth a look for more upmarket bars and restaurants.
Dublin: Things to do
Hidden away close to St Stephen's Green, the Iveagh Gardens are often referred to as Dublin's best kept secret. Enter by side streets off Harcourt Street to this 18th century walled gem is a must for those who love a good old-fashioned garden wander which includes a rose garden, waterfall and a maze.
The spiritual home of Irish sport, Croke Park is now one of the largest stadiums in Europe and home to the traditional and much loved sports of Gaelic football and hurling. The stadium boasts a remarkable history including its own tragic part in Ireland's War of Independence. This colossal venue was temporary home to international soccer and rugby union games during the redevelopment of the old Lansdowne road and has now just reopened on the former site and is rebranded as the Aviva stadium. Thanks to the above redevelopments Dublin now boasts two of the finest stadiums in Europe.
Baggot Street is home to many of Dublin’s best pubs and restaurants. Great old world pubs like O'Donohues (where the Dubliners started out playing) are great places to unwind while establishments such as bang café and the Unicorn cater for a more discerning clientele.
Located about 15kms north of the city and on the main train line (25 minutes from city centre) is Malahide, one of Dublin's best kept secrets. With a sandy beach to stroll along (it might be too cold to jump in), a 900-year-old castle with extensive parklands containing playgrounds, exotic gardens, walking tracks and a host of outdoor sports (golf, tennis, walled cricket club, football and rugby pitches), this is a virtual playground for those who love the outdoors. The castle grounds is also home to the Fry Model Railway, which claims to be the largest in Ireland, as well as a museum of antique dolls belonging to the family of Oscar Wilde. The town has great pubs and restaurants, most notably Gibney's Pub, which is the heart of everything that happens in the town.
Over 5,000 years old making it older than Stonehenge in England and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, is Newgrange located within an hour of Dublin city centre and truly is one Irelands finest relics of ancient times. Classified as a Neolithic passage tome, it is a must for any visitor of more than a few days to Dublin.
The "Garden of Ireland" is only about an hour from the city by car but it feels like a world away. Boasting beautiful trails, mountains, lakes and rivers, Wicklow has it all including the fantastic monastic tower and ruins at Glendalough. While you're there you can visit Johnny Fox's, the highest pub in Ireland, to eat at the fine restaurant and down a few beers while listening to traditional music each evening. Other places to visit nearby are the impressive Powerscourt Estate and Mount Usher Gardens, though these can be costly compared to the many free mountain trails dotted around the location.
Dublin: Where the locals dine
The early bird or set menu specials
Eating out in Dublin city at night-time was traditionally very expensive, but recent economic hard times have seen nearly all restaurants offer a good value set menu to attract ever harder to find custom. Some of the best value can now be found at previously very expensive restaurants across the city many of which are mentioned below or throughout the Dublin guide.
The fine tradition in Dublin of up-market restaurants providing a reasonably priced lunch menu was started right here at Dobbins some years ago. Nestled as it is between upper and lower Mount streets just past Merrion Square, this well-hidden gem has the most delightful lunch experience imaginable at an incredibly reasonable rate. For about 23, you will be served a fine three-course meal at a relaxed and deliberately slow pace, which seems to work out fine for the many office workers who crowd the place for a business lunch. Beware that on Fridays tables come at a premium, so book early and enjoy!
A recent entry to the Dublin restaurant scene, Maia fuses contemporary dishes with a relaxed atmosphere in this charming eatery in Dublin's D4. Enjoy a relaxed lunch with their extensive menu or if passing drop into the takeaway counter for lively chat with the owner Sasha and his fine soups coffee blends.
A day-trip on the DART to wonderful Howth Harbour (just 12km from the city) will deliver you to some of the best fresh seafood Dublin has to offer. One of the oldest (and perhaps best) of these restaurants is the King Sitric, located at the start of the pier walkway. The food's amazing, and there are great views over the harbour to boot. It's not the place for bargains, but certainly not over-priced as far as this city goes. The seafood stir fry is my personal pick, and meat eaters are well-catered for with the "in season" game platter.
This fine dining restaurant has been around for many years fronting onto St Stephens Green in Dublin. They do a fantastic lunch and early bird menu at reasonably recession busting rates.
Sea Bank Bistro
Situated along the seafront in Malahide is the relatively new Sea Bank Bistro with specialises in seafood as noted by the large Lobster tank at the entrance. They do a great early bird until 7pm Monday to Friday which unusually includes a very fine rib eye steak and the calamari to start isn't half bad either. Very friendly staff and don't forget to ask the owner about his travelling cat, made the headlines recently!
Set in the heart of Ballsbridge and a short hop from both the RDS and the new Lansdowne road stadium, Roly's bistro has become a Dublin Institution. Sensibly priced dinner and lunch specials have become synonymous with Roly's as have their in house baked breads and the recently opened cafe downstairs.
The Port House
The Port house is definitely a contender for Dublin's most romantic eatery serving up a delightful selection of Tapas in a candle lit cellar with stone walls for that intimate dining experience. The Tapas is quite large and reasonably priced. Beware though that you can't book in advance but even if full you can sit in the cool waiting area with a glass of wine and some nibbles or simply arrange to come back to guaranteed seats usually within the hour. A complete and utter delight!