It’s full of warmth and history, only an hour’s flight from the UK, and there’s no time difference to overcome, so the big question is: why haven’t you been to Dublin yet? With this two day agenda, you can sightsee, shop and sip your way through the best of the city.
Catch the Aircoach from the airport for free with a two day Dublin Pass (€61), which works like an Oyster card. It offers free and fast-track entry to many of the city’s biggest attractions, alongside restaurant and cafe discounts, so you save time and money in the long run. Start quayside at the Jeanie Johnston Tallship, a replica of the ships that carried millions of Irish emigrants escaping the Great Famine (1845-52). You’ll also pass the Famine Memorial as you walk back towards the city centre. Following the River Liffey, aim for the famous Ha’penny Bridge; before you cross it, visit The Winding Stair bookshop, packed with books, zines and stationery.
Cut through Temple Bar, a maze of cobbled streets dotted with pubs and street art, plus boutiques like Siopaella, selling pre-loved designer pieces; I spotted a DvF dress for €130. Stop for lunch, especially mouth-watering cakes, at Queen of Tarts (Dame Street/Cow Lane), or the slightly healthier Peacockgreen (Lord Edward Street). Your next decision is between two brilliant libraries: the Chester Beatty, at Dublin Castle, or Marsh’s Library, near St Patrick’s Cathedral. Either option lets you pore over centuries-old books, so it’s a win-win.
Hotfoot it to Trinity College Dublin, where famous alumni include Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde. Even today, students face a graduation ceremony conducted entirely in Latin. Though you can roam the campus for nothing, it’s worth taking a student-led guided tour (€13). This covers entry to the Book of Kells exhibition in the Old Library, and the Long Room, which holds 200,000 books and could be straight out of a Harry Potter film.
Wander down Kildare Street to a range of free museums, such as the National Museum of Ireland’s archaeology branch – think Celtic bling and Viking relics – and see St. Stephen’s Green just beyond. Alternatively, gawp at the brightly coloured Farrow and Ball-esque doorways on Merrion Square and the statue-filled garden in the centre. I loved The Joker’s Chair, a memorial to comedian and Father Ted actor Dermot Morgan.
It’s time to explore the Creative Quarter, running from George’s Street to South William Street. Drury Street highlights include super-cool interiors store Industry and the Irish Design shop. If vintage is more your thing, try Jenny Vander’s, or the Harlequin, which has silk kimonos for about €50-60; there’s also Carousel for retro-inspired designs.
Now you need a pre-theatre restaurant – Salamanca (St. Andrew Street) offers authentic tapas, whilst Fallon & Byrne (Exchequer Street) has a wide menu, including Irish beef. Cross the river at O’Connell Bridge and catch a 7:30pm play at the Abbey Theatre, where Poldark‘s Aidan Turner, Liam Neeson and the late great Maureen O’Hara have all performed.
After the curtain falls, ask locals for the latest bar and pub recommendations, from the unusual Peruke and Periwig to the Blind Pig speakeasy, or check the Publin.ie app. Hotel-wise, celebrities check into the Merrion or the U2-owned Clarion; I’d recommend the more affordable Wynn’s Hotel (Abbey Street Lower). Meanwhile, Airbnb suggests a penthouse at Google HQ, Ballsbridge (from €91), or a Georgian apartment near Henry Street (from €72).
Start with a dose of culture on Parnell Square, via the Dublin Writers Museum or Dublin City Gallery (a.k.a the Hugh Lane). If you think there’s a novel inside you, the Writers Museum will appeal – it profiles all the Irish greats, down to the pens and typewriters they used. Spot Julian Opie artwork outside the Hugh Lane, and an eclectic mix of artists spread across two floors.
Head down O’Connell Street and take the no.13 bus to Thomas Street for the unforgettable Guinness Storehouse – you don’t need to love Guinness to enjoy this. Skip the queues with your Dublin Pass, check out the cafe and get the lowdown on the brewing process, brand heritage and classic advertising. Don’t miss the rooftop bar for some amazing views over Dublin.
It’s a short walk to Kilmainham’s Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), currently showing What We Call Love: From Surrealism To Now, until February 2016, with artwork by Marina Abramović, Damien Hirst and Man Ray. Contrast this with the grim history of nearby Kilmainham Gaol – the dank corridors and cells are pretty sobering. You might recognise the East Wing, a filming location for The Italian Job, The Tudors and Ripper Street.
Take the bus back from Emmet Road to the city centre and squeeze in some pre-dinner shopping: Avoca, (Suffolk Street) is open until 6pm/7pm every evening. The brand formed in 1723 selling hand-woven pieces, whereas today it’s expanded to accessories, local food and homeware, and is rated highly by Vogue. Top buys include mohair coats and lambswool throws. Department store Brown Thomas (Grafton Street), open until 8pm/9pm most nights, is the place for designer labels, from JW Anderson to Max Mara. If you’re visiting the city in December, the third floor Christmas section adds some very festive glamour.
Crossing O’Connell Bridge, aim for the Millennium Spire (a.k.a. the Stiletto in the Ghetto) straight ahead. At the spire, a quick detour right brings you to the James Joyce statue, but a left turn leads you down Henry Street, home to Arnotts, the oldest department store in Ireland. On the corner of Henry Street and Jervis Street is The Church, one of Dublin’s most distinctive restaurants and bars. After your meal here, enjoy the nightly live music and raise a glass to your trip.