Guides

Where to Eat, Stay, and Explore in Dublin

A native Dubliner showcases all the best things that Ireland’s most famous city has to offer.

(The Interior Archive - James Fennell/Trunk Archive)

DUBLIN CAN FEEL like a city that never changes. Even during the recent pandemic, the spirit of the city remained fully itself. Everyone realized the glories of eating outside in good weather (and how to manage the odd shower of rain), and the demand for outdoor dining ultimately led to the permanent pedestrianization of major thoroughfares like South William Street and Capel Street. The food scene itself is thriving, with new chefs making their mark and a renaissance of Irish cooking using local produce.

The city is known for its old pubs, but Dubliners like to chat over a cuppa too (and all those nights out require a dose of caffeine), so the coffee scene is excellent; you won’t go far without stumbling across a cafe or brew you like. Dublin was once the world’s whiskey capital and there’s been a reemergence of the whiskey distilling scene as well, with four new distilleries and an Irish whiskey museum opening in the last few years. When a glut of new hotels threatened to dim some of the city’s old-world character, locals came out in full force to save bookshops and traditional music pubs like The Cobblestone, which remains a vibrant fixture in Dublin’s nightlife.

Dublin has a rich literary heritage, but I think some of the most moving experiences are those that explore Dublin’s less glamorous past. A tour at 14 Henrietta Street brings you through the life of a Georgian house from eighteenth-century grandeur to nineteenth-century tenement, while the EPIC Irish Emigration Museum and the nearby Jeanie Johnston ship on Custom House Quay tell the moving story of Irish emigration and the mark that various Irish characters have left on the world.

As a local, another aspect of Dublin’s appeal is that it’s on a bay — you can escape the city for a day (or even just half a day) for beach or cliff walks, sea swims, and boat trips. Dubliners love picnics in the park, pier walks, pints of Guinness in cozy pubs, and coffee and cake. Or maybe that’s just me.

Where to Eat and Drink

Irish food has changed in recent years, with a move away from European influences (like classical French cuisine) and a focus on local, seasonal ingredients. I’ve selected restaurants where flavor comes first and chefs are putting together creative combinations with supplies from traditional or artisan food producers, award-winning Irish farmhouse cheeses, smoked fish and meats, and foraged, wild produce.

Variety Jones

Creative culinary excellence in the Liberties.
It has a Michelin star, but don’t expect fancy white tablecloths in this relaxed, low-key restaurant in the Liberties (there isn’t even a sign outside). The focus is very much on the food — a six-course sharing menu might feature a goat’s curd tart with tomato and celery, or a pork chop with... It has a Michelin star, but don’t expect fancy white tablecloths in this relaxed, low-key restaurant in the Liberties (there isn’t even a sign outside). The focus is very much on the food — a six-course sharing menu might feature a goat’s curd tart with tomato and celery, or a pork chop with buttermilk and nduja polenta. Unique wines are all sourced from small producers; go for the wine pairing for the best experience.

Delahunt

Tasting menu with foraged Dublin ingredients.
Not only is Delahunt focusing on seasonal Irish ingredients, but a fair proportion of them are from Dublin itself, with a smattering that are wild and foraged. Dublin-born head chef Chris Maguire forages on the hill of Howth for everything from plums to wood sorrel and wild garlic. The... Not only is Delahunt focusing on seasonal Irish ingredients, but a fair proportion of them are from Dublin itself, with a smattering that are wild and foraged. Dublin-born head chef Chris Maguire forages on the hill of Howth for everything from plums to wood sorrel and wild garlic. The five-course tasting menu features dishes like goat’s curd agnolotti with cabbage broth, or a dessert of peach, hay, and pine. Leave time for pre- or post-dinner drinks in the upstairs Sitting Room.

The Winding Stair

Local flavors and Liffey views.
At The Winding Stair, cooking is centered around local flavors — expect to see potted Dingle Bay crab, dillisk (seaweed) bread, hand-smoked haddock poached in milk, or Andarl Farm bacon chops with mustard cabbage. Best of all, the room and setting are full of character — above a bookshop, with... At The Winding Stair, cooking is centered around local flavors — expect to see potted Dingle Bay crab, dillisk (seaweed) bread, hand-smoked haddock poached in milk, or Andarl Farm bacon chops with mustard cabbage. Best of all, the room and setting are full of character — above a bookshop, with wooden floors and gorgeous views of the River Liffey and the landmark Ha’penny Bridge outside.
(Simon Watson/Trunk Archive)

Where to Shop and Explore

The most enjoyable shopping in Dublin involves finding traditional, unusual, and Irish items — bespoke crafts or collectors’ items — which are great for souvenirs or gifts for family or friends. Many shops will arrange shipping so you don’t have to make space in your suitcase.

Powerscourt Townhouse Centre

An elegant Georgian townhouse.
This is one of those places worth visiting for the atmosphere as well as the shops. Set in an elegant Georgian townhouse, overlooking an inner atrium with a lively cafe, and often a live piano player, even the main entrance takes you through a flower shop. Check out the antiques and silver shops... This is one of those places worth visiting for the atmosphere as well as the shops. Set in an elegant Georgian townhouse, overlooking an inner atrium with a lively cafe, and often a live piano player, even the main entrance takes you through a flower shop. Check out the antiques and silver shops on the first floor, with everything from spoons to jewelry dating back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Francis Street

Antiques and Irish art.
You could spend hours on Francis Street, Dublin’s antiques quarter, where we writers drool over things like old globes and atlases, rolltop desks and wooden tea caddies, in shops like O’Sullivan Antiques and Patrick Howard. While shops offer international shipping for big purchases, there are... You could spend hours on Francis Street, Dublin’s antiques quarter, where we writers drool over things like old globes and atlases, rolltop desks and wooden tea caddies, in shops like O’Sullivan Antiques and Patrick Howard. While shops offer international shipping for big purchases, there are plenty of small items like silver or trinket boxes. Don’t miss Gallery Zozimus on the same street, which has Irish ceramic sculptures and art, with colorful pieces by artists like Eileen Singleton and Thomas Wollen, and geometric paper art by Ireland-based Miriam Fitzgerald Juskova.

Ulysses Rare Books

First editions of Irish classics.
Booklovers will find all the most renowned Irish authors here — Behan, Beckett, Wilde, Yeats, Heaney — with both old copies and first editions of classics, like Irish epic “The Táin” and “Gulliver’s Travels” by Jonathan Swift, to suit all budgets. Collectors will be in heaven. The most expensive... Booklovers will find all the most renowned Irish authors here — Behan, Beckett, Wilde, Yeats, Heaney — with both old copies and first editions of classics, like Irish epic “The Táin” and “Gulliver’s Travels” by Jonathan Swift, to suit all budgets. Collectors will be in heaven. The most expensive book when I visited recently was a copy of James Joyce’s “Ulysses” illustrated by Henri Matisse and signed by both Matisse and Joyce, for 27,500 euros. A first edition of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” from 1897 will set you back 14,500 euros, but most prices start from around 30 euros.

Kilkenny Shop

Irish gifts and crafts.
The Kilkenny Shop on Nassau Street is a Dublin institution — it’s been here since 1976 — and it remains the go-to for contemporary Irish design and crafts, with everything from candles and clothing to jewelry and pottery. Look out for cozy woolen throws and scarves from McNutt of Donegal, quirky... The Kilkenny Shop on Nassau Street is a Dublin institution — it’s been here since 1976 — and it remains the go-to for contemporary Irish design and crafts, with everything from candles and clothing to jewelry and pottery. Look out for cozy woolen throws and scarves from McNutt of Donegal, quirky statement jewelry with miniature moving pieces from Alan Ardiff, colorful prints of Dublin landmarks by printmaking studio JANDO, or pottery in sea greens and blues from Paul Maloney of County Wexford.

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Where to Stay

Dublin has hotels of all types — historic luxury five-stars, modern docklands builds, and cozy boutique hotels in old Georgian buildings. I always favor a hotel within walking distance of the city center and what’s best about these three in particular is not only their super locations but that once you are inside, the rooms themselves are blessedly quiet for a great night’s sleep.

The Merrion

Elegance in the Georgian quarter.
This is where you can soak up all things Georgian: antiques, open fires, sash windows, gilt mirrors, and cozy bedrooms. The rooms in the main townhouse feature high ceilings, rococo plasterwork, period-style furniture, and original fireplaces. The hotel is also home to the 2-Michelin-star... This is where you can soak up all things Georgian: antiques, open fires, sash windows, gilt mirrors, and cozy bedrooms. The rooms in the main townhouse feature high ceilings, rococo plasterwork, period-style furniture, and original fireplaces. The hotel is also home to the 2-Michelin-star Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud and a short walk from the National Gallery and two National Museums (Natural History and Archaeology).

The Marker Hotel

Cool, modern space in the Docklands.
Set in the south Docklands and overlooking the waterfront at Grand Canal Square, The Marker is a cool, modern space — factors that will ramp up in early 2023 as the hotel undergoes a revamp to join the Anantara brand. Even though you’re near the city, make time to check out the hotel’s swimming... Set in the south Docklands and overlooking the waterfront at Grand Canal Square, The Marker is a cool, modern space — factors that will ramp up in early 2023 as the hotel undergoes a revamp to join the Anantara brand. Even though you’re near the city, make time to check out the hotel’s swimming pool, rooftop cocktail bar, and seasonal dining spot The Brasserie.

The Wilder Townhouse

Boutique hotel near St. Stephen’s Green.
This is a boutique hotel on a tree-lined road within a few minutes’ walk of St. Stephen’s Green. It’s set in an old Victorian home for governesses and is full of character; each room is unique in both design and size. The colorful breakfast spreads feature tiered trays of pastries, and gin lovers... This is a boutique hotel on a tree-lined road within a few minutes’ walk of St. Stephen’s Green. It’s set in an old Victorian home for governesses and is full of character; each room is unique in both design and size. The colorful breakfast spreads feature tiered trays of pastries, and gin lovers will enjoy post-sightseeing refreshments in the Gin and Tea Rooms, featuring craft Irish gins like Blackwater Barry’s Tea from Waterford or Ha’penny Rhubarb gin, named after the landmark Dublin bridge.

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Yvonne Gordon Writer

Yvonne Gordon is an award-winning writer and photographer from Dublin, Ireland. She specializes in travel and features, and writes for outlets like the Sunday Times, Irish Independent, the Washington Post, BBC Travel, Hemispheres, and AFAR.com.

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