Dubliner Aoife O’Riordain knows the best places to get away from the crowds and find the cutting-edge in Ireland’s trendy capital.
0700-0900. Dublin has been enjoying something of a coffee revolution in the last few years so start your day with one of the city’s best examples at the appropriately named Cup Cafe (15 South Leinster Street, 01 664 0000). Pair it with one of their freshly baked scones, croissants or, if it’s not too early, a slice of their delicious lemon drizzle cake.
0900-1100. Take a walk through the pretty cobblestoned campus of the nearby Trinity College, first founded in 1592. A highlight for visitors is its 18th-century Old Library, which also contains The Book of Kells – a priceless illuminated manuscript dating from the ninth century. It is a short walk from the college’s Nassau Street entrance to the National Museum of Ireland (Kildare Street, 01 677 7444) which houses over two million artefacts from many periods of Ireland’s rich archaeological history, such as the Ardagh Chalice, the Tara Brooch, and one of Europe’s most important collections of gold. Afterwards pay a visit to one of the capital’s newest museums, The Little Museum of Dublin (15 St Stephen’s Green, 01 661 1000). Amid the elegant surroundings of the first floor of a Georgian townhouse overlooking St Stephen’s Green, this museum tells the story of Dublin down the ages through a thoughtfully curated collection of artefacts and memorabilia, mainly donated by the city’s residents.
1100-1300. Stroll along the banks of the Liffey River and then cross to the north side of the city via the spectacular Samuel Beckett Bridge. Inaugurated in 2010, and designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, its audacious lines were inspired by an Irish harp. Pick up a bike at one of many dublinbikes stations dotted around the city, and cycle east towards Dublin Bay, where you can then follow the wide cycle path skirting the north bank of the Grand Canal.
1300-1500. Coppinger Row (off South William Street, 01 672 9884) is a bustling, bistro-style eatery with a long zinc bar and a great location, tucked down a small alley in the heart of the city centre. Its simple Mediterranean menu offers tapas-style dishes such as garlic and chilli prawns a la plancha, as well as soups, salads, a good array of wines by the glass, and an atmosphere that makes you want to linger.
1500-1700. St Stephen’s Green is the largest of central Dublin’s five Georgian garden squares and one of the city’s best-loved parks. It contains a riot of flowers and carefully tended lawns, edged on all sides by imposing Georgian mansions. But tucked just behind it is another of Dublin’s slightly more overlooked green spaces, Iveagh Gardens (Clonmel Street) – a verdant haven dotted with benches and criss-crossed by gravel paths, which makes it the ideal place to escape the hustle.
1700-1900. Grafton Street is Dublin’s premier shopping street and Brown Thomas (88-95 Grafton Street, 01 605 6666) is its swankiest department store with the same owners as London’s Selfridges, and crammed with designer labels for men, women and children. Avoca (11-13 Suffolk Street, 01 677 4215) was originally known for its hand-woven rugs and throws, which it first started producing in 1723. Its city centre store sells an extensive range of its covetable blankets, rugs and throws, as well as homewares, clothing, toys and food. Powerscourt Centre (59 South William Street, 01 679 4144) is one of the city’s most impressive shopping malls – a sensitive conversion of a sprawling Georgian townhouse that used to serve as the city centre home of Lord Powerscourt.
1900-2100. Dublin’s pubs need little introduction. They offer the perfect excuse, if any were needed, to indulge in a pint of Guinness or two. The city is littered with many atmospheric traditional-style pubs, and a firm favourite with locals is The Stag’s Head (1 Dame Court, 01 679 3687). Tucked away on a side street, it is one of the capital’s best-preserved Victorian pubs with wooden fittings, brass and stained glass windows. The Long Hall (51 South Great George’s Street, 01 475 1590) is another Victorian relic with a carved mahogany bar and twinkling chandeliers. One of Dublin’s newest wine bars is Bagots Hutton (28 South William Street, 01 534 3956). Its name is a homage to its predecessor, which opened in the same vaulted basement space in 1829 but closed around 30 years ago. In its new guise, it serves over 30 wines by the glass as well as antipasti-style bites. The Shelbourne Hotel’s diminutive Horseshoe Bar (27 St Stephen’s Green, 01 663 4500) is also something of a local institution with a veritable red carpet’s worth of A-list visitors.
After 2100. The no-reservation trend is alive and well in the Irish capital, with 777 (7 South Great George’s Street, 01 425 4052) one of the main exponents. This Mexican stays true to its origins with upmarket renditions of tuna tostadas, taquitos, fish and meat dishes cooked over a wood-burning grill and expertly mixed cocktails. With modish Mexican-meets-Manhattan décor and a long bar for dining duos, it is one of the city’s most happening places to dine. Set across a warren of rooms in a Georgian townhouse, Bite (20 South Frederick Street, 01 679 7000) puts a gourmet spin on traditional fish and chips. With a buzzing atmosphere, it stays open well in the early hours due in part to an adjoining open-air courtyard and cocktail bar. Movie buffs will enjoy a visit to The Lighthouse Cinema (Market Square, Smithfield, 01 872 8006). This independent, four-screen cinema is quite unlike your average multiplex with its soaring ceilings, minimalist lines and a programme of predominately independent and art house films. Those in search of traditional music should look no further than O’Donoghue’s (15 Merrion Row, 01 660 7194), which has nightly sessions featuring an array of traditional musicians.
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Written by World Travel Guide.