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 DrinkIrish 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 JonesCreative culinary excellence in the Liberties.
DelahuntTasting menu with foraged Dublin ingredients.
The Winding StairLocal flavors and Liffey views.
Where to Shop and ExploreThe 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 CentreAn elegant Georgian townhouse.
Francis StreetAntiques and Irish art.
Ulysses Rare BooksFirst editions of Irish classics.
Kilkenny ShopIrish gifts and crafts.
Where to StayDublin 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 MerrionElegance in the Georgian quarter.
The Marker HotelCool, modern space in the Docklands.
The Wilder TownhouseBoutique hotel near St. Stephen’s Green.
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.