With a flight time of under seven hours from many East Coast cities (and the ability to clear customs before you land in the US!), Dublin is one of the easiest European destinations to visit from America. But its proximity isn’t what keeps us going back for more; it’s the wealth of innovative restaurants, live music around every corner, and charming, walkable neighborhoods. Read on for Hotels Above Par’s guide to Ireland’s capital city.
Where to Stay:
At 199-years-young this year, there are few places in Dublin more iconic than this historic grande dame situated on the famed St. Stephen’s Green. With three of the city’s most popular watering holes, a stellar afternoon tea, and a new partnership with Swissline at the on-site spa, it’s no exaggeration to say that The Shelbourne is a beating heart of this capital city. But if you can tear yourself away from the action, you’ll be rewarded with guest rooms featuring deep soaking tubs, sumptuous Italian linens on king-size beds, and postcard-perfect views of the verdant park.
For those hunting for a more intimate hotel experience, look into snagging a room at boutique townhouse Number 31. Inspired by the city’s bohemians of yore, the 19th-century Georgian property boasts whimsical and unique guest rooms; each one an eclectic mix of bright prints, colors, and textiles. Breakfast here is also rightfully famous. The menu includes everything from house-made cranberry-walnut bread to organic porridge with Irish honey to—of course—a full Irish breakfast.
Where to Eat:
Surprisingly, Dublin’s finest restaurant is a bit hidden; it’s located in a sleek subterranean space in Parnell Square. But the exterior is the only part of Chapter 1 that’s unassuming; the two Michelin-starred restaurant is home to some of the city’s most innovative cuisine, all under the watchful eye of chef Mickael Viljanen. For a luxurious midday treat, reserve a table for their three-course lunch, which currently features dishes like Castletownbere cod served with lobster cappelletti.
For a modern take on traditional Irish cuisine, head to this Michelin Bib Gourmand spot, located in the chic Portobello neighborhood. The menu is a love letter to many of Ireland’s most famed dishes, including a grilled haddock starter served with blood orange and samphire; and a celeriac and squash pie made modern with the addition of pesto. Save room for the date pudding, paired with gingerbread ice cream and a delightfully rich toffee sauce.
Where to Drink:
Dublin’s traditional pubs may get the lion’s share of attention when it comes to bars, but the city offers much more than frosty mugs of brew. One of its coolest spots would be right at home in a city like Berlin or New York: Glove Box is both an immersive art gallery and a cocktail lounge, all located on level five of Trinity St. Car Park (a garage, for us Americans). We recommend grabbing a Frozen Yuzu Margarita and then wandering around the repurposed space to take in all the art.
Located on the perpetually buzzing Dawson Street just off St. Stephen’s Green, Peruke & Periwig’s unique cocktail menu is inspired by different genres of music; a fitting tribute considering the importance of music in this town. Organized by categories like Pop, Soul, and Blues, the menu features hits like the Smells Like Teen Spirit (basically an appletini) to Sage Against the Machine (their take on a Tom Collins).
A quick primer for the uninitiated: Temple Bar is not a bar, but a bustling area of Dublin on the south bank of the River Liffey. Yes, it’s touristy and sometimes overcrowded, but bar hopping here is still a damn fun time if you know where to go. For traditional Irish music while you sip your pint of Guinness, head to The Auld Dubliner or Oliver St. John Gogarty. And for a classic pub experience that takes you back to Victorian times, you cannot beat the vibe at The Palace Bar.
Where to Visit:
Irish whiskey is the fastest growing spirit in the world. And if your knowledge of this storied spirit is still lacking, there’s nowhere better to learn (and taste!) than the Irish Whiskey Museum. Visitors can hop on a guided tour of the museum’s four main areas—each representing a distinct period in the history of the liquor—and finish by tasting four different varieties and choosing your favorite. Those interested in mixology can also opt for specific tours on the history of Irish coffee or an interactive whiskey blending experience.
Located in the heart of the city center, Dublin’s most famous park sees over 8 million visitors each year. The Victorian-era gardens in the 22-acre park are lovely for just for a meandering stroll, but those interested in the park’s storied history should sign up for a tour through The Little Museum of Dublin. The knowledgeable local guides explain everything from the connection to the famed Guinness family to the story of the park’s ubiquitous ducks.
If you’re a Normal People superfan, then this prestigious university was probably already on your to-do list. But even if you’ve never read the book or seen the miniseries, it’s worth carving out some time to see the leafy squares and elegant school buildings at Ireland’s most famed educational institution. Of special note is the stunning Long Room; one of the world’s most beautiful libraries and home to the Book of Kells, widely considered Ireland’s greatest cultural treasure.
One of Dublin’s most vibrant neighborhoods for shopping, food, and bars can be found just north of the Grand Canal. Portobello has a scrappier, more independent vibe compared to other parts of Dublin, which means a walk here is sure to turn up boutiques and watering holes you won’t find anywhere else. You can start your exploration on the main thoroughfare of Portobello Road (right next to the canal), taking time to pop into shops like Christy Bird’s for antiques or The Copper House Gallery. Don’t forget to grab snacks along the way: Bretzel Bakery for a loaf of the city’s finest sourdough, healthy bites (and yoga!) at Little Bird, and Eatyard for the Thursday – Sunday street food market. We recommend finishing off the night (or perhaps the early morning) at lively bar The Barge.
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