The river Liffey divides Dublin, geographically and sociologically. The upscale neighborhoods and the majority of important hotels, restaurants, shops, and sights are south of the river. The main shopping thoroughfare here is Grafton Street, but most of the more exclusive shops lie on the side streets. Dublin's most beautiful squares, St. Stephen's Green, Merrion Square, and Fitzwilliam Square, are within 10 minutes' walking distance of Grafton Street. Temple Bar— the city's trendy nightlife area—lies along the Liffey near Ha'penny Bridge. North of the river is working-class Dublin, but also literary Dublin, the city of Brendan Behan and James Joyce. The area is home to Dublin's most important theaters, the Gate and the Abbey, and it also holds a pocket of fine Georgian townhouses on and around North Great George's Street.
Telephone Numbers: The country code is 353; the city code for Dublin is 1 from abroad, 01 within the country.
Local Time: Five hours ahead of EST.
Currency: The Irish punt, or pound (IRL£).
Current Exchange: Rate 1 punt=$1.27
Best Time To Visit: Late spring, summer, and early autumn.
Airlines Served By: Aer Lingus, Continental, and Delta.
U.S. Gateways: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.
Flight Time: (from the East Coast) Between five and six hours.
Cab from Airport: to City Center $18.
Airport Car Rental: Hertz, Avis, Europcar.
Taxis: At taxi stands or by phone. (They can also be hailed.)
Taxi Tipping: Around 10 percent.
Hotel Taxes: 12.5 percent inclusive.
Restaurant Tipping: Service is not generally included; a 10 percent tip is customary.
Further Information: Irish Tourist Board, 800-223-6470; www.irelandvacations.com or www.visitdublin.com.
Prosperity has brought heavy traffic to a city of small streets and byways. Taxis are scarce here, and buses plentiful, but both get equally bogged down. Central Dublin is small enough to traverse on foot, and you would be well advised to do so. If you do require a taxi, call in advance and budget extra time for traffic.
South of Liffy
BROWNES TOWNHOUSE & BRASSERIE Consisting of a 1790 townhouse, this 12-room hotel, opened in November, 1998, has a private-club feel and top-flight views—the front rooms overlook St. Stephen's Green. The rooms vary in size, however, and the staircase to the top ones can test one's endurance. That's why you should opt for one of the two suites, which are the largest rooms and the ones closest to the lobby, just one flight up a magnificent staircase. The Lord Shelbourne Suite has a wood fourposter, period furniture, and rustic print wallpaper but no view; the Thomas Leighton Suite has a view of St. Stephen's Green and a Murphy bed that supposedly once belonged to Marilyn Monroe. There's also a popular brasserie on the main floor, but the meals don't compare with the rooms. $180-$445. 22 St. Stephen's Green North; 638-3939; fax 638-3900.
Click here for more info at www.brownesdublin.com
THE CLARENCE This hotel is surprisingly—and pleasantly— unhip-looking, considering it is owned by Bono and The Edge, members of the rock group U2. "It looks just like my boarding school," said an English guest checking in next to me. That may be true, for the plain white-oak paneling, the profusion of club chairs, and the Shaker-style woodwork are the result of a restoration intended to bring the building back to its 1930s appearance. The decor in the 50 guestrooms is more plush: crimson, royal blue, or amethyst bedcovers with matching theatrical-style velvet drapes and gold mirror accents.
Room to get: 508, a junior suite with a sensational terrace overlooking the river Liffey. Best room in the house: the duplex penthouse, which has an outdoor Jacuzzi overlooking the Liffey. Third choice: the 03 series, two-room suites overlooking the river. Remember that while Deluxe rooms are $20 more expensive than Superior ones, there is no difference in size or amenities. Deluxe rooms are just on a higher floor.
Caveat: The rooms facing the river are noisy because historical preservation regulations forbade replacing the windows with soundproof glass when the hotel was renovated. Even rooms at the back can get loud, as there's a dance-club entrance there (the club is in the basement of the hotel). Even so, I liked this hotel: The rooms are cozy, and the service is professional. $248-$1,900. 6-8 Wellington Quay; reservations: 800-223-6800; 670-9000; fax 670-7800.
Click here for more info at www.theclarence.ie
Actually they were all very nice. I got to know several of them while we waited in line for an hour for breakfast one morning at the hotel's second restaurant. (Its premier spot is Peacock Alley, reviewed below.) It had just changed to an Asian fusion café, Mango Toast, and its largely non-English-speaking staff was unable to answer simple questions such as "Do you have a breakfast menu?" much less seat guests in an orderly manner. Some guests lost patience and went upstairs to order room service, but I persevered since I'd called room service the night before and no one had answered.
The hotel describes the rooms as Baronial Modern, but in fact they are Terence Conran minimalist: stark beige wood furniture, beige carpet, a lilac or plum suede chair here and there, and in the bathroom a chartreuse tub (an alarming sight the first thing in the morning). The rooms in front have great views of the lake in St. Stephen's Green, but they're not very well soundproofed, and the traffic in front of the hotel is constant. $280-$600. St. Stephen's Green West; 478-7000; fax 478-7878.
Click here for more info at www.fitzwilliamhotelgroup.com
THE SHELBOURNE MERIDIEN "Oh, look, there's Albert Reynolds," said my companion, directing my gaze toward a distinguished-looking gentleman—Ireland's prime minister in the mid-1990s—across the room. It proved once again that everyone who's anyone comes to the Lord Mayor's Lounge at this venerable hotel (a member of the Le Meridien chain) for tea, or to the Horseshoe Bar for a drink after work. But these are the best aspects of this historic hotel, which was built in 1824 and hosted the drafting of the Irish constitution in 1922. Despite a recent redo, the floral, somewhat frilly rooms still feel tired—as do the hallways. $295-$1,200. 27 St. Stephen's Green North; reservations: 800-543-4300; 676-6471; fax 661-6006.
Click here for more info at www.shelbourne.ie
THE MERRION The city's premier hotel occupies four Georgian townhouses across from the Irish Parliament, plus a new wing in back overlooking a large garden designed by Jim Reynolds. The public rooms are 18th-century architecture at its best, at once aristocratic and inviting. The hotel also has nice modern touches such as an 18-meter (59-foot) swimming pool.
Rooms in the garden wing are quite comfortable, though some are far from the lobby. But they cannot compare with the quarters in the old buildings. Chief among them are the three speciality suites, Lord Monck (below), painted Wedgwood blue with beautiful plasterwork on the ceiling and a great garden view; Lord Antrim, also with fabulous plasterwork, and a view of Parliament; and Lord Fitzwilliam, which likewise looks out at Parliament.
One step down are the Main House Suites, the best of which are junior suites on the first floor because they have such high ceilings. (The ceiling in room 184 is particularly beautiful.) Among the doubles in the original buildings, the Deluxe Garden rooms are best. All have king beds, tub and separate shower stall, and nice views of the garden. $185-$890. 21-24 Upper Merrion Street; 603-0600; fax 603-0700.
I recall drifting into this 150-year-old café back in the early nineties for a mid-afternoon coffee. Then it was an Irish version of a sixties American coffeehouse—bustling with students and very good-natured. Alas, prosperity has taken its toll. Now the front is a shop selling high-priced coffeepots and other kitchen paraphernalia, and the management has become high-falutin'. When I said I didn't have a reservation, the maître d' said I couldn't possibly have a table in the main dining room and pointed to the stairs to the cafeteria. The next day I tried again: same imperious dismissal. So book or be banished. Or do as I did and go elsewhere. 78-79 Grafton Street; 635-5470.
BRUNO'S The room was plain, and the large party at the next table seemed poised to monopolize my waitress. So I didn't expect much from Bruno's. But what a surprise! The service was swift, professional, and exceptional compared to the general level of service I experienced in Dublin. (And this at a restaurant in Temple Bar, where restaurant service is usually on the level of a college hangout.)
The food was among the best I had in Dublin: a deeply flavored fish chowder inflected with coriander and filled with large, juicy pieces of salmon, turbot, and monkfish; a tender fillet of oak-smoked beef in a rich red-wine sauce; a dense chocolate tart with white chocolate mousse. There was even free entertainment—a man in a corner booth performing magic tricks, making coins, plates, and candles disappear. $63. Located at 30 East Essex Street; 670-6767. New branch: 21 Kildare Street; 662-4724.
COOKE'S CAFE A cozy spot with an inventive, well-prepared, Mediterranean-influenced menu. Just off Grafton Street, it's a shopper's favorite for lunch, but I liked it better at dinner, when the light level and noise level were lower. The three-course prix fixe (served from six to 7:30 p.m.) for $25 is one of the best deals in town. I suggest starting with the steamed mussels with chorizo, coriander, tomato, and white wine, then having Thai beef salad, and finishing with plum, apricot, and almond tart. $45 à la carte per person. 14 South William Street; 679-0536; fax 679-0546.
LA STAMPA This restaurant is known for its collection of paintings by self-taught artist Graham Knuttel, mainly unappetizing portraits—angular features and hard stares in bright, garish colors. (Sly Stallone collects Knuttel; enough said.) The dining room is a beauty, though—a high-ceilinged, mirrored, pink-and-green former ballroom. If only the food were as good as the decor instead of as bad as the art work. The dishes are dressed-up versions of old standbys—salmon fish cakes, roast venison on a bed of Brussels sprout mash, seared fillet of John Dory with mango salsa. The dishes that I ordered—salad of marinated chicken with French beans and black olives, and rack of lamb with ratatouille and sage jus—were pretty flavorless. $80. 35 Dawson Street; 677-8611; fax 677-3336.
RESTAURANT PATRICK GUILBAUD Ireland's only Michelin two-star is "the best restaurant in town," although the question is whether you emphasize best or town. Guilbaud is a master at playing off bitter and sweet tastes, and my first meal—black sole on red-onion confit, followed by scallops slightly cooked by being doused with lemon juice and interleafed with lamb's lettuce—was a terrific example of his talent. On my second visit I had a good meal but not a two-star one: lobster ravioli, foie gras with marinated red cabbage and raspberry vinaigrette, roast breast of Barberie duck and confit of duck leg with cubebe pepper. My feelings were confirmed in an exchange with a local restaurant critic. "You have to remember," he said, "when Patrick opened his restaurant in 1982, Dublin had never seen food like this. But you have to wonder whether he'd have that many stars if the restaurant were anywhere else."
Read a review from Travel & Leisure Magazine:
The room itself is handsome in a stark manner—painted white and dotted with modern Irish paintings. Guilbaud himself is a masterful, charming host, and the staff is proficient and professional. The wine list is good, especially deep in single-vineyard Côte-Rôtie Guigal. $150. In the Merrion hotel; 21-24 Upper Merrion Street; 676-4192; fax 661-0052
PEACOCK ALLEY Chef Conrad Gallagher seems to be everywhere in Dublin. He has six restaurants, but this Michelin one-star is his flagship—and yes, it is named after the restaurant in The Waldorf-Astoria, where Gallagher once worked. The decor is understated—modern and sleek, with small lamps and bud vases on every table. Gallagher is enamored of tall food, architectural presentations that require balancing lots of ingredients on the plate and on the palate. For instance, the sea bass has tapenade spread on top and rests on an ottoman of puréed pumpkin, which in turn rests on a plinth of spinach. For the most part the orchestrations work; sometimes you feel the complexity is a little contrived. $125. In The Fitzwilliam Hotel, St. Stephen's Green; 478-7015; fax 478-7043.
Read a review from Travel & Leisure Magazine:
THE TEA ROOM "Obviously, they must have a new chef. This is not the quality of food that I remembered," sniffed my companion at lunch. As it turned out, the chef at this fashionable, very popular restaurant within The Clarence hotel hadn't changed. So, giving Michael Martin the benefit of the doubt, I went back a few days later for dinner, to no avail. Service at both meals was outrageously slow, a situation that was aggravated by the waiter's promising the food would be out soon. Apart from a luscious roast-plum-tomato and onion soup, that the food was dull and in some cases inferior. (The risotto of avocado and lime with grilled sea bass had very little sea bass and chunks of tough, unripe avocado.) It also relied more on presentation (meaning tall) than on flavor. $63-$78. 6-8 Wellington Quay; 407-4813; fax 670-7800.
Read a review from Travel & Leisure Magazine:
THORNTON'S Chef Kevin Thornton has only one star, and yet this is the best gourmet restaurant in Dublin. The menu reflects the chef: No razzle-dazzle, just a mastery of fundamentals. Thus, the ingredients are first-rate and the flavors clean, sharp, and intense. $65. 1 Portobello Road; 454-9067; fax 453-2947.
UNICORN CAFE AND RESTAURANT This is the 21 Club of Dublin, a hangout for politicians and for the journalists who cover them. The food is actually good, although it's not really the point, and there's nothing wrong with that. $70. 12 B Merrion Court; 676-2182; fax 662-4757.
BANK OF IRELAND Originally constructed in 1739 to house the Irish Parliament. Visit the chamber that housed the House of Lords for its vintage tapestries, carved-oak paneling, and fine 18th-century crystal chandelier. 2 College Green; 661-5933.
Click here for more info at www.bankofireland.ie
CHRIST CHURCH CATHEDRAL The present structure dates from 1172 but was extensively remodeled in the 1870s. Of special note: the medieval crypt, dating from the 12th century and the oldest structure in Dublin (currently undergoing restoration but due to reopen May 1st), and the medieval brass lectern on the left side of the nave. Christ Church Place; 677-8099.
DUBLIN CASTLE Nothing remains of the 13th-century original, built by the Anglo-Normans; and much of the furniture originally in the extant 18th-century building was sold off after the Irish Free State was created, but enough remains to impress. Of particular note: the State Apartments with massive Waterford chandeliers and handwoven Killybegs carpets; the throne room housing an ornate gilded throne, probably a gift from William of Orange; the ceiling paintings in St. Patrick's Hall, which depict the relationship between England and Ireland. Dame Street; 677-7129.
Click here for more info at www.historic.irishcastles.com
MARSH'S LIBRARY Ireland's oldest public library, built in 1701 for Archbishop Narcissus Marsh, looks as it did 300 years ago. It holds about 25,000 books on medicine, law, navigation, and mathematics, including some of the first books printed in England. To protect the manuscripts, the rooms are kept cold; bring a jacket. Closed Tuesdays and Sundays. St. Patrick's Close; 454-3511.
NATIONAL GALLERY This grand 19th-century structure on Merrion Square West is the city's main art museum, with works from Caravaggio to Monet. But the most interesting galleries house the paintings of Ireland's own Jack Yeats. Free admission. Merrion Square West; 661-5133.
Click here for more info at www.nationalgallery.ie
NATIONAL MUSEUM This imposing building—domed rotunda, marble columns, and mosaic floors depicting scenes from classical Rome and Greece—houses some of Ireland's most important antiquities. Chief among them: the eighth-century gold Tara Brooch found in County Meath, tools and weapons from the Bronze Age, and an extensive collection of intricate and perfectly preserved gold ornaments and jewelry dating from 2000-700 b.c. Free admission. Closed Mondays. Kildare Street; 677-7444.
NEWMAN HOUSE Two Georgian townhouses named for John Henry Newman, the first rector of the Catholic University of Ireland, and owned by University College Dublin. These buildings contain some of the most beautiful plasterwork in the city, particularly in number 85, which was restored over the last decade. Private tours ($50) are available by appointment; contact Ruth Ferguson. 85-86 St. Stephen's Green; 706-7422; fax 706-7211.
ST. PATRICK'S CATHEDRAL The country's largest church dates back to approximately A.D. 450, when St. Patrick baptized converts here, using a sacred well. But much of the present building is mid-13th century, with extensive renovations done in the 1860s. St. Patrick's Close; 475-4817.
Click here for more info at www.stpatrickscathedral.ie
ST. STEPHEN'S GREEN This is Dublin's Central Park. One of the most beautiful urban green spaces in Europe, it is actually a superbly landscaped, 22-acre enclosed garden that was laid out in 1880.
Click here for more info at www.stephensgreen.com
TRINITY COLLEGE The mostly 18th-century architecture and grand courtyards of this university, founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I, make it a Dublin landmark. But the chief attraction is the Treasury, home of the Book of Kells, a ninth-century illustrated manuscript of the four gospels. Presumed to be the work of monks from Iona who fled to Kells after a Viking raid, the manuscript is displayed in a darkened room: Seeing it is a kind of religious experience in itself. Don't leave without visiting the Old Library upstairs—a 210-foot-long room with an arched ceiling, marble busts, and shelves lined with 200,000 antiquarian texts. College Green; 677-2941.
Click here for more info at www.tcd.ie
CATHACH BOOKS The ultimate antiquarian bookshop—a mite dusty and crammed with vintage texts, including first and limited editions by James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, and William Butler Yeats. A special find: a 1922 first edition of Ulysses, one of only 2,000 copies printed, $3,810. 10 Duke Street; 671-8676; fax 671-5120.
Click here for more info at www.rarebooks.ie
CAXTON The walls of this minuscule store are lined with exceptional mezzotints, and 17th-century Italian and 18th-century English and Irish prints. Prices average $325 for small landscapes to $3,500 for a Piranesi. $ 63 Patrick Street; 453-0060.
CLEO Variations of the traditional Aran sweater ($178-$225) are the specialty of this shop, which also sells handwoven scarves and coats and tweed jackets. The most exquisite articles are the children's sweaters ($53-$88), hand-knit in much more elaborate designs and vivid shades than those for adults. Also check out the Kinsale Cape, a cloak with a satin lining (perfect for formal occasions) and the 100 percent new-wool fisherman's pants. Custom orders available; four to six weeks delivery on average. 18 Kildare Street; 676-1421; fax 676-7356.
DESIGNYARD Much of the jewelry, crafts, and furniture here, all by Irish designers, is unexceptional. But if you pick through the displays you'll find exceptions to the rule. During my visit one standout was the sleek porcelain of Vivienne Foley. 12 East Essex Street; 677-8453.
JOHN FARRINGTON ANTIQUES "It is a strange combination, but it works," concedes John Farrington, referring to this store's two specialties—mirrors (1820-60) and jewelry (1860-1940). The jovial, sociable Farrington does have some beautiful Art Deco pieces, and the mirrors stacked against a wall when I was there looked to the manner born. If you're mirror shopping, he advises bringing the dimensions of the space. 32 Drury Street; 679-1899.
GORRY GALLERY Irish artists from the 18th century to the present. The top artist in the contemporary stable is Paul Kelly, whose vivid, impressionistic paintings are finding their way into the best homes in Dublin. 1 20 Molesworth Street; 679-5319.
HATS BY JACINTA Jacinta Fahy works in a two-room atelier up a narrow flight of stairs in a building that's seen better days. She's a real Irish character: sharp-tongued, ironic, skeptical. (You have to win her over a bit.) But her hats are beautiful, sleek and stylish. It's as though there were another personality in there speaking through the millinery. $ 11 Wicklow Street; 677-8541.
H. DANKER Earmark some time for a visit to Hymie Danker's silver shop. In addition to the broad array of English and Irish silver he's amassed over 60 years in the business, there's a social ritual: chatting about the history of each piece while his nieces serve tea. Prices range from $44 for a tiny 1810 teaspoon to $31,250 for an intricate Irish 18th-century silver platter. 10 South Anne Street; 677-4009; fax 677-4544.
JORGENSEN FINE ART Ib Jorgensen comes from Denmark, but he has thrived here by offering a good selection of Irish artists, many of them still living. His Big Four are Jack Yeats, Sir John Lavery, Paul Henry, and Walter Osborne. He rates Nora McGuinness, Mary Swanzy, and Grace Henry as underappreciated, and thus they tend to be more modestly priced. Most of the work is traditional in spirit, even if the artist is contemporary. $ 29 Molesworth Street; 661-9758; fax 661-9760.
JAMES ADAM SALEROOMS This is the largest auction house in the country and an excellent place to buy Irish art, silver, glass, porcelain, and furniture. Says director Stuart Cole, "Irish art has been on the rise for the last three years." Both Jack Yeats and Louis le Brocquy come up often in Adam auctions. Cole also advises seeking out the paintings of Gerard Dillon ("They've gone up fourfold over the past few years") and Harry Kernoff, who painted Dublin scenes in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s ("The Dublin of Brendan Behan," remarks Cole). 26 St. Stephen's Green; 676-0261; fax 662-4725.
KEVIN & HOWLIN The place to buy handmade tweed, both the traditional salt-and-pepper pattern and the newer cashmere and mohair blends, which are lighter. The store also carries tweed jackets, but they're machine-made. You're better off buying the material and taking it home to your own tailor. 31 Nassau Street; 677-0257.
KILKENNY SHOP A mini-mall for Irish crafts, much of it middle-market. Among the best names: Louise Kennedy and John Rocha. 6 Nassau Street; 677-7066.
LAINEY KEOGH Keogh's vivid knits, in butter-soft cashmere, look as if they came straight from a Crayola box. They're hand-loomed in small, intricate patterns or nubby textures and are available in custom orders. From $250 for a cashmere scarf to $5,000 for a full-length coat. 42 Dawson Street; 679-3299; fax 679-4975.
LOUISE KENNEDY It's worth making an appointment here just to see the chaste white Georgian interior of this townhouse on Merrion Square. Louise Kennedy sells her own women's clothes and accessories, plus hats by Philip Treacy and handbags by Lulu Guinness. 56 Merrion Square South; 662-0056; fax 662-0050.
RHINESTONES Don't let the name fool you. While there are a few racks of lower-priced baubles in this jam-packed shop, the emphasis of sisters Bernadette and Catherine Butler is vintage jewelry, particularly '30s designs. They also stock choice pieces from contemporary designers. $7-$1,280. 18 St. Andrew's Street; 679-0759.
SHERIDANS CHEESEMONGERS "Strong and Irish—like Gabriel Byrne in End of Days" reads the sign near a wheel of Desmond, demonstrating that the Sheridan brothers, the owners of this pocket-sized shop, have both esoteric local cheeses and a sense of humor. The selection is exceptional, with a strong concentration on Irish and the best English varieties. 111 South Anne Street; 679-3143; fax 679-3132.
Click here for more info at www.irishcheese.com
SOLOMON GALLERY "A top contemporary gallery, with a portfolio of Irish and international names. Among the best of the former: sculptor Rowan Gillespie. Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, South William Street; 679-4237; fax 671-5262.
Click here for more info at www.solomongallery.com
TIMEPIECE ANTIQUE CLOCKS For tall-case Irish clocks fashioned in the 18th and 19th centuries (many made of Cuban mahogany) and ornate French table clocks of the same period. $2,000-$20,000. $ 57-58 Patrick Street; 454-0774.
North of Liffey
THE MORRISON The most cutting-edge hotel in town. It's worth coming to see the bold design of the public rooms, a fusion of stone floors, timber paneling, tie-dyed red velour throws on oversized white couches, and large framed mirrors leaning against walls. The owners spent all their efforts here; the guestrooms are standard-issue, hip-hotel design: built-in furniture of dark wood with cream accents. The plainness makes the already small rooms feel smaller. The penthouse goes to the other extreme—too much red tie-dye—but the terrace overlooking the Liffey is great. My favorite rooms: junior suites 123, 223, and 323, all of which have Liffey views. The hotel's staff is young and deadpan, albeit efficient and earnest. $225-$1,587. Upper Ormond Quay; 887-2400; fax 878-3185.
The Morrison's main restaurant is a standout for its design—black lacquered floor, aubergine velvet throws over white fabric chairs, a white stairway with a glass bannister. Chef Jean Michel Poulet's food was among the best I had in Dublin. The risotto of crab, pequilos pepper, and mizuna was perfect—the creaminess and spice deftly balanced—as was the sea bream with green lentils, mussels, and clams. $85. Upper Ormond Quay; 887-2400; fax 878-3185.
Click here for more info at www.morrisonhotel.ie
ABBEY THEATRE Dublin's most famous theater, co-founded in 1898 by Yeats and the launch pad for many classics, including Sean O'Casey's The Plough and the Stars. Box-office hours: Mon.-Sat. 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Lower Abbey Street; 878-7222.
Click here for more info at www.abbeytheatre.ie
CUSTOM HOUSE This impressive structure fronting the Liffey was built by English architect James Gandon, who designed some of the city's grandest buildings. Restored in 1991, it now houses government offices. Its dome is a prominent feature of the skyline. Custom House Quay.
DUBLIN WRITERS MUSEUM Celebrates Ireland's most famous literary lights over the last three centuries (including Joyce, Beckett, Shaw, Swift, and Yeats) with displays of memorabilia, letters, and portraits. Rivaling the contents is the building itself, a beautifully restored 18th-century townhouse. Admission: $4. 18 Parnell Square North; 872-2077; fax 872-2231.
Click here for more info at www.visit.ie
HA'PENNY BRIDGE This cast-iron footbridge was originally named the Wellington Bridge, after the Duke of Wellington, and is officially named the Liffey Bridge. The name Ha'penny comes from the days when a halfpenny toll was charged to cross it. Links Temple Bar and Liffey Street.
GATE THEATRE The Abbey may be more famous, but many think the Gate is now the best, at least for contemporary drama. The theater building, constructed in 1764, is impressive. Box-office hours: Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-7 p.m. 1 Cavendish Row; 874-4045. Click here for more info at www.iol.ie
JAMES JOYCE CULTURAL CENTRE Run by Joyce's descendants, this townhouse museum is devoted to showing the connection between the artist's life and works. The Ulysses gallery features photos of the Dubliners who inspired the characters in his novels. Best souvenir: A tape of a 1924 reading by Joyce of Finnegans Wake. Stroll up the street and admire the ranks of Georgian buildings. Admission: $4. 35 North Great George's Street; 878-8547.
Click here for more info at www.jamesjoyce.ie
THE NATIONAL MUSEUM AT COLLINS BARRACKS The building, an early-18th-century army barracks, is named after Michael Collins, head of the Irish Volunteers during the Irish Civil War. The vast space hasn't been filled yet, and the museum is a bit out of the way, but it is worth coming here because the displays of Irish silver, ceramics, glassware, and period furniture are both exceptional and beautifully presented. Closed Mon. Benburb Street; 677-7444.
Click here for more info at www.visit.ie
Outside of Dublin
THE KILDARE HOTEL & COUNTRY CLUB Twenty-five miles southwest of the city, this hotel is the epitome of a grand country manor. The main house was built in the 1600s and gained an addition in the 1800s. Surrounding it are 330 acres of grounds, including an Arnold Palmer golf course— site of the 2005 Ryder Cup—and a mile of the Liffey for salmon and trout fishing.
The 36 rooms in the main house are by far the best. Scattered around the grounds are 42 bland, detached suites. (These are mostly privately owned and furnished, but managed by the hotel.) The largest and most atmospheric rooms are in the original wing of the house. Of these the best are on the ground floor. Best room: the 900-square-foot Viceroy Suite, which has the finest view of the gardens.
The hotel restaurant, the Byerley Turk Room, is splendid-looking: hand-blocked wallpaper, stone pillars, handwoven carpets, and Chippendale reproduction chairs. The food, however, isn't on the same level—mushy prawns in a flavorless cream sauce and greasy pheasant. The pear tarte Tatin was delicious but, unfortunately, charred. $395-$1,270. Straffan, County Kildare; 800-323-7500; 601-7200; fax 601-7297.
CAVISTONS I had heard about this eight-table hole-in-the-wall repeatedly, and finally took the train to Sandycove, 20 minutes southeast of the center, to try it. The restaurant, attached to a gourmet deli that also sells fresh fish from the local market, specializes in seafood.The menu is executed with great respect for the ingredients. Dishes like a salad of Boston shrimp with cashews in a lemon herb dressing, Thai fish cakes with cucumber pickle, and black sole on the bone with lime and thyme butter were vivid interplays of clean, wonderful flavors. The finest meal I had in Dublin. $40-$50. $ Lunch only; Tues.-Sat. Sandycove, County Dublin; 59 Glasthule Road; 280-9120; fax 284-4054.
Click here for more info at www.cavistons.com
JAMES JOYCE TOWER The opening scene of Ulysses is set in this granite tower, one of 15 built in 1804 to defend the city against invasion by Napoleon. Joyce lived here, but only for a week, as the guest of poet Oliver St. John Gogarty, the model for Buck Mulligan in Ulysses. There is a small museum within of Joyce memorabilia, including an edition of Ulysses illustrated by Henri Matisse. Open April-Oct. Sandycove, County Dublin; 280-9265.
BUTTERSTREAM The private garden of Jim Reynolds occupies three acres around his house in Trim, County Meath, 24 miles northwest of the city. It is by turns classical, cottagey, and woodsy. By appointment only. 353-46-36017; fax 353-46-31702.
Click here for more info at www.clubi.ie
At Your ServiceThis Car for Hire
Jim Nolan of Chauffeur Drive Ireland is charming, smart, and knows his way around, both in town and out in the country. He takes clients around in a Mercedes-Benz for $30 an hour in Dublin, $350 a day outside, plus overnight expenses for longer trips. 821-1768; mobile 87-253-5700; mobile fax 87-201-0440.
The city's Georgian townhouses are closed to the public, but Sue Uda, managing director of A Touch of Ireland, which arranges custom tours in the city and throughout Ireland, can get the keys to some of the best. 668-0888; fax 668-0292.
Custom Tour Organizers
COUNTRY HOUSE TOURS specializes in themed itineraries, such as antiques shopping or gardens. Contact John Colclough. 668-6463; fax 668-6578.
Val Dillon operated his own antiques business here for 25 years. Now he specializes in putting together collections of furniture and art. He's the man to call if you need a house worth of Irish antiques. (Note that Dillon does not source single pieces.) Fees vary by project, or if buying at auction, 10 percent of the hammer price. $ 45 Sandford Road, Ranelagh; tel/fax 497-1308.
Private Garden Tour
Helen Dillon is a garden designer whose work is featured in some of the grander houses in the country. Her own garden is available for view daily (2&-6 p.m.) in March, July, and August or on Sundays in April, May, June, and September. $ 45 Sandford Road, Ranelagh; 497-1308.
Probably the best table linen you can buy in Dublin is Ferguson Imperial Damask, available at Brown Thomas (88-95 Grafton Street; 605-6666). Made in Donegal, it comes in both single and double damask. In the latter the weave is tighter, the pattern more distinct.
Chester Beatty Library
American-born mining tycoon Sir Alfred Chester Beatty bequeathed his collection of Western European and Asian manuscripts and art to Ireland, earning him the distinction of being named Ireland's first honorary citizen. The collection was recently installed in the 18th-century Clock Tower Building in Dublin Castle, which opened its doors to the public in February. An exhibit of Joyce's handwritten draft of Ulysses starts June 13th. It is the first time that the manuscript has been on view in Ireland. Through September. 407-0750; fax 407-0760.
Click here for more info at www.cbl.ie
ROXANE MOORHEAD Georgian mahogany furniture, 18th-century Neoclassical mantelpieces and giltwood mirrors from the 18th and 19th centuries.
$ #65-66. 453-3962.
GORDON NICHOL Gilded mirrors and 18th- century Irish furniture.
$ #67-68. 454-3322.
Premier dealers in important Irish Georgian furniture. By appointment.
$ #69-70. 473-2384.
ODEON The only shop specializing in Art Deco in Dublin.
O'SULLIVAN ANTIQUES Flamboyant pieces, frequently with particularly interesting provenances, such as a Connemara marble fireplace made for George V's country house and gold sconces that once belonged to Mata Hari.
#43-44. 454-1143; fax 454-1156.
PATRICK HOWARD Ornate European 18th- and 19th-century candlesticks as well as intricate rosewood and mahogany boxes, some with mother-of-pearl or abalone inlay.
#60. Tel/fax 473-1126.
UPPER COURT MANOR ANTIQUES Georgian, Regency, William IV, and early Victorian Irish and English furniture, including consoles and dining tables. Most of the pieces date from 1800&-50.
The new Four Seasons, scheduled to open in late spring, occupies a newly constructed Georgian-style building. It will have the largest rooms in Dublin. What it won't have is a central location: It's in Ballsbridge, an affluent residential neighborhood southeast of the center, and a 20- to 25-minute taxi ride from St. Stephen's Green. $340&-$1,900. Simmonscourt Road; 665-4000; fax 665-4099. U.S. reservations: 800-819-5053.
Dublin pubs are overly romanticized. The better ones are reproductions, so they are not authentic, while the authentic ones are either very touristy (The Brazen Head) or grimy (O'Donoghue's) and filled with cigarette smoke. I loved the latter (15 Merrion Row) nonetheless. Following are two bona fide places where the air is fairly clean: Kehoe's (recommended for its nicely preserved '50s bar, which is usually jammed; 9 South Anne Street; 677-8312) and Doheny & Nesbitt (which is great for eavesdropping on media gossip; 5 Lower Baggot Street; 676-2945).
About This Guide
Prices In U.S. dollars.
Hotel Prices Double occupancy, from the least expensive double room to the most expensive suite, excluding service.
Restaurant Prices Three-course dinner for two without beverage or service.
Telephone Numbers Only the local number is given. See Dublin Basics.
Travel Tips For flight and car-rental information, see Dublin Basics.
Platinum Card Travel Service (PTS) or Centurion Travel Service (CTS)
For assistance with your travel to Dublin or any destination, call 800-443-7672 (PTS) or 877-877-0987 (CTS). From abroad, call 623-492-5000 collect.
Hotel/resort is member of Platinum Card Fine Hotels, Resorts & Spas. Accomodations must be booked through PTS or CTS to obtain benefit.
$ Establishment accepts no charge/credit cards or accepts cards other than the American Express Card.
Disclaimer: The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication in May/June 2000, but we suggest you confirm all details with the service establishments before making travel plans.