It might be down to the company I keep, but too often when I hear someone talking about their recent city trip to Dublin, all I get is a list of anonymous pubs and a catalogue of intoxicated antics. Even beyond this, you don’t need a BA in Travel and Tourism to reel off the names of attractions like Trinity College, Phoenix Park, Temple Bar and Grafton Street. The Celts are fiercely proud of their culture, so I’m convinced that Dublin has more to offer.
I’ve asked Francisco, Account Manager for Spanish destinations, for some insider info on this city. Why should he be an expert? Unlike me, who has never set foot on the Emerald Isle, Francisco lived there for almost two years. No wonder I can’t understand a word he says. Anyway, he’ll guide you through some slightly lesser-known Dublin experiences that will add a great deal of substance to your trip.
Starting in the north of the city centre, Dublin’s National Botanical Gardens are located next to Addison Park. The gardens host a Herbarium and run plant conservation projects. The Visitor Centre features a lecture hall for educational events and a display area with exhibits of historical and scientific relevance. The restaurant is also a pleasant place to sit down and enjoy good quality, home-made food whilst enjoying beautiful views of the surrounding foliage.
Moving closer to the city centre, Dublin Writers Museum, opposite the Garden of Remembrance, showcases three centuries of literary celebrity with fascinating information about your favourite Irish writers. The museum is set inside a restored Georgian mansion that adds a dimension of grandeur to the work on display. Besides browsing the exhibitions you can rest in the cafe, buy texts from the bookshop, attend a conference in one of the specially-designated rooms, or enjoy a great feed at Chapter One restaurant, which is located in the basement.
Just up the road from the National Leprechaun Museum, The Church Bar and Restaurant is certainly a unique venue for a drink and a bite. Punters can seat themselves around the central bar or at one of the tables that circle the supporting columns down either side of the church. The raised organ watches over everyone from the far end of the church and is a striking fixture of The Gallery Restaurant, which fills the balcony.
These days Grand Canal Dock, in the east city centre, is worth a recommendation. The area has seen a lot of redevelopment in recent years, producing an attractive new neighbourhood with decent places to eat and drink. This is also where you’ll find Grand Canal Theatre, a large theatre hosting impressive productions. Grand Canal Theatre is probably best viewed at night, when the modern outdoor lighting techniques create a striking effect.
From here, a daylight walk south along the canal is a tranquil experience in beautiful surroundings. A little further along, floating restaurant La Peniche offers dining river cruises on the canal. The statue of poet Paddy Kavanagh, sitting on a bench on the opposite bank of the canal, might wave you off.
Coming right into the centre now, Iveagh Gardens is an out-of-the-way park close to St. Stephen’s Green. The park combines the French Formal and English Landscape garden designs, and was opened in 1865. Here you can stroll amongst rockeries and rooteries, fountains, waterfalls, ‘wilderness’ and grottos, and find statues of famous people such as tenor singer John McCormack. The park’s hidden position means it is easily overlooked, and can be a source of serenity in the city.
A short walk up the road from here, and part of St. Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre complex, the Gaiety Theatre is the best place to enjoy shows with a more Irish flavour. Featuring dance, music, drama and more, this delightful theatre is definitely authentic enough for the casual visitor, and is a recommendation for quality entertainment with a touch of Celtic flair.
A little further to the north, George’s Street Arcade was first opened in 1881 and rebuilt in 1894, and is a grand building and featuring a market with a variety of shops and services. This is a fascinating place to find a bargain whilst pottering amongst the stalls to get a taste of Dublin life. You can also enjoy some hearty food here, perhaps after you have your fortune told.
The Arcade has its own bar, the attractive Market Bar, which is a large open space with high ceilings, original brickwork and wooden benches. It’s not the cheapest drinking hole in the city, but it does a mean brunch and also has a tapas menu. On the other side of Fade Street is No Name Bar, which is part of Kellys Hotel. This is a popular place, especially at weekends, which makes sense because it has a great ambience and sort of feels like you’re drinking in someone’s living room…which, but for a few years, you are. You’ll recognise this place because it has a snail’s silhouette hanging above the door. Take a photo if you must, because now we’re going to move swiftly west.
Always present in a list of Dublin attractions, the Guinness Storehouse more than earns its accolades. You can find it in the west, towards St. James’ Hospital. This museum isn’t just about stout; it also gives you some insight into the history of industrial development of Dublin, its relationship with the canal and docks, and the development of marketing strategies through the decades. Not only that, but the roof offers awesome views of the city skyline; what more could you ask for? Free Guinness? Well, okay…you do get that as well.
You may well have worked up an appetite through all this walking and drinking, so why not head on down to the Long Stone for a sit down and a bite to eat? Round the corner from Temple Bar, this family-owned pub has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and has been serving tipples since 1754. Before you settle in for the evening, though, bear in mind that the Long Stone has a late bar license, so you can always come back after further exploration.
Possibly one more museum to fit in before you call it a day; definitely go for the Chester Beatty Library, which is next to Dublin Castle. This fascinating museum features artefacts from the private collection of Sir Alfred Chester Beatty. Pieces from Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe converge into an enthralling experience that earned this destination ‘European Museum of the Year 2002’. Need some further encouragement? Entry is free. Don’t miss it.
Ready to hit the nightlife scene? Dublin has loads of bars that often feature live music and plenty of ‘craic’. Remembering your trip to the Guinness Storehouse, skip over to Grogan’s bar on William Street South to enjoy what locals say is the best pint of Guinness in the city. Quite a claim….but this is also a great place to have a natter over a tasty pint and maybe even a spot of Irish Cheddar.
Gearing up for something a touch more lively, crawl round to The Celt on Talbot Street, where your beverage is served to the strains of authentic Irish music. You may even witness a spot of traditional Celtic dancing here, too. Live entertainment usually kicks off at about 21:00.
Here’s an extra little tit-bit for you: two day trips worth taking from Dublin are a visit to the fishing village of Howth and a train ride down the coast to Bray.
Travelling to Bray, you can catch a train from Connolly Street railway station and enjoy lovely views of the temperate Irish Sea, as the railway line runs right along the coast for a decent portion of your journey. Once in Bray, drag yourself southwards to scramble in the hills beyond Newcourt, where you enjoy more wonderful views.
Howth is a bit easier to reach, and you might even want to stay here throughout your Dublin trip if you prefer to be outside the city centre. You can get here easily by train from Connolly Street railway station, and once here you can stroll around the quaint streets of this charming village. If you do make it out here, promise me you’ll have lunch or dinner in Krugers Restaurant, which is on Main Street, facing the church. Not sure whether this is best done before or after a meal, but you may also enjoy strolling along the cliffs in Howth.
I think that’s enough for one trip. There’s still loads I haven’t mentioned, but maybe you can fill in the gaps for me. We’d all definitely like to hear your advice and comments about a trip to Dublin. Better still, why not send us a postcard next time you’re there?
View Dublin off the beaten track in a larger map
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