Along with its trademark openness and charm, Dublin now boasts a shiny new veneer. Flashy new restaurants and hotels have sprung up amid the rollicking pubs and quaint old shops, making one of Europe’s most intimate capital cities more attractive than ever for travelers.
Top o’ the Morning Starts with a Hearty Breakfast
A traditional Irish breakfast normally consists of eggs, sausage, bacon, soda bread, tomatoes, black pudding and white pudding. It may sound daunting but every visitor should sample this quintessential part of the Irish experience at least once.
Café Kylemore on O’Connell Street makes an excellent one and the city’s famous statue of James Joyce stands right outside its doors. Alternatively, Bewley’s Café on Grafton Street serves up both traditional breakfasts and lighter fare, and this exquisite three-story tearoom is a local landmark worthy of a quick peek whether you dine there or not. Wash everything down with a cup of Irish tea, strong enough to suit even the most die-hard coffee drinker.
Solitude in St. Stephen’s Green
Thus fortified, head toward St. Stephen’s Green in the southeastern part of the city center. Most of Dublin’s attractions are due north of this quiet, restful park and once you’ve spent an hour or so strolling the paths and admiring the flowers, lakes and statuary, you’ll be in perfect position to begin exploring the rest of the city. There’s no need to worry about cabs or buses because Dublin is beautifully compact and several of its most popular streets are pedestrian-only.
Shopping on Grafton Street
Leaving St. Stephen’s Green from the northwest corner, begin your tour of the city by walking north on Grafton Street. This is one of Dublin’s premier shopping avenues and a fine place to spend the entire morning browsing. You’ll find everything here from the usual assortment of T-shirts and refrigerator magnets to beautiful Irish lace, Waterford crystal and those famous Aran sweaters.
If you don’t see exactly what you’re looking for, just turn right when you reach the intersection of Grafton and Nassau for even more excellent shops. You’ll know you’re there when you spy the statue of famous folklore figure Molly Malone pushing her cart and ‘crying cockles and mussels, alive, alive-o.’
At the northern end of Grafton Street sits Trinity College, home to two of Dublin’s must-see attractions. The first is The Dublin Experience, a 45-minute multimedia presentation which provides a wonderful overview of the city’s history from ancient times to the present. Trinity’s other top draw is the world-famous Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript over 1200 years old which resides in the college’s vast library.
If strolling though Dublin’s past builds up an appetite, never fear: the Temple Bar area with its funky collection of pubs, cafés and restaurants is right across the street from Trinity College. You’ll find plenty of choices for lunch here, from the student favorite Café Gertrude to the upscale Eden with its chic interior and gourmet offerings. Many pubs in the area offer simple but tasty ‘pub grub’ as well, providing a good opportunity to sample staples like Irish stew or Dublin Coddle, a pork and potato combination.
Leaving the Temple Bar area, two of Dublin’s most famous buildings are just a short walk away. The first is Dublin Castle, nearly 800 years old and occupying the former site of a Viking fortress, part of which is still on display. The second is St. Patrick’s Cathedral, even older than Dublin Castle and also the longest church in all of Ireland at an impressive 300-feet. Legends say that St. Patrick himself performed baptisms on the same grounds now occupied by the church. An exhibition inside examines the life of Ireland’s patron saint and also explores the importance of the cathedral in Dublin’s history.
Art and Culture, Guinness and Whiskey
At this point, visitors may be torn regarding how to spend the remainder of the afternoon. Some might favor browsing through the city’s National Museum and National Gallery, adjacent buildings housing exquisite works of art and fascinating historical artifacts.
Other visitors may literally crave a taste of Dublin’s more stimulating offerings, and for them both the Guinness Storehouse and the Old Jameson Distillery are less than a mile away.
The Guinness Storehouse is a four-story exhibition dedicated to Ireland’s most famous export, with every visitor receiving a free pint at the end of the tour.
The Old Jameson Distillery
The Old Jameson Distillery offers a similar look at the history of Dublin’s signature whiskey, and once again visitors are treated to a tasting after the history lesson is over.
Once a gastronomical wasteland, Dublin is now home to fine eateries in nearly every dining category. For the best combination of both old and new, Jacob’s Ladder puts a deliciously fresh spin on classic Irish favorites and also serves up some of the most mouth-watering desserts in the city.
Making Merry in a Pub
Once dinner is over, most visitors join the locals by heading out to one of Dublin’s many pubs. There are over 1,000 to choose from, ranging from quiet retreats with roaring fireplaces to festive nightspots where live bands play traditional Irish music until the wee hours. Pubs are the heart of social life all over Ireland and visitors are made to feel welcome from the moment they step through the door.