Hidden gems in Ireland’s capital: Dubliners are famous for their dark humor, irreverence, and their Guinness. There will never be a dull moment in Dublin. Walking around the city is a pleasure. But the magic of Dublin also lies in its extracurricular scene. This is a city that really comes alive at night.
So, what is the best thing to do, where to stay, eat, drink, have fun? Here’s everything you need to know for a more alternative getaway in the city.
What are the best parks in Dublin?
At first glance, Dublin seems to be a rather urbanized city, but you will soon find that there are many green areas and parks here. St Stephen’s Green in Dublin’s most famous park. It is next to Grafton Street, one of the city’s busiest shopping streets, and is a quiet place to sit after a busy day in the city.
Flowerbeds bloom all spring, and mallards, swans, and moorhens glide over the glass surface.
Aside from “Stevens Green,” as the locals call it, you can’t miss the huge 1,750-acre Phoenix Park, which even houses the Dublin Zoo, the largest urban park in Europe.
The Irish National War Memorial Park is another peaceful place to stroll, as well as the National Botanic Gardens and St Anne’s Park on the north side with a classic Chinese garden.
What are the best places for history buffs?
Dublin boasts a rich history, having been founded by the Vikings in 841 AD. Obviously, it has changed a lot since then but remains the main city of Ireland, as well as the cultural, educational, and industrial center of the island.
One of the most interesting museums that any history buff will appreciate is EPIC, the Museum of Irish Emigration, located on Dublin’s docks. It tells the story of the Irish diaspora and emigration to other countries in today’s digital environment.
This is a fully interactive museum walk where you’ll discover the dramatic and inspiring stories of Irish people who traveled the world reliving some of their greatest accomplishments in music, literature, sports, politics, fashion, and science.
The Little Museum is another little gem that you must visit while you are there. This is a sightseeing tour of an alternative, weird and beautiful side of Dublin – and a very quirky one. Make sure you get one of their guided tours with a local history expert to get the most out of it.
Trinity College’s “Long Room” is often referred to as “the greatest room in Ireland”. The last thing I would like to say is to make sure you leave time for the Book of Kells in the Long Room of Trinity College. What you are visiting is the oldest living bible in existence, extravagantly illustrated and adorned with beautiful peacock symbolism. Peacock meat does not rot, which is why it is associated with Jesus and the resurrection.
Trinity College itself is very regal, akin to Oxford or Cambridge in the UK, and the Long Room (which houses the Book of Kells) is the reason you visit. It is 64 meters long and looks like a corridor full of thousands of books that students still refer to. There are 38 marble busts of both classical and contemporary figures – and the atmosphere is eerie and dimly lit as window blinds shield ancient books from the sun.
It is often referred to as “Ireland’s greatest hall”.
Where is the best place to eat in Dublin?
A meal in Dublin should start at The Seafood Cafe (formerly known as Klaw Cafe). Serving fresh fish with a wonderful selection of wines makes for mouth-watering food with great service to top it all off.
The best choice is the selection of oysters they offer… if that’s what you like.
They even have an “oyster hour” where you can go and try a lot of different kinds – I think the torch oysters were the tastiest.
It’s not exactly a place to eat, but when it comes to food, you can’t leave Dublin without visiting Sheridan’s, Ireland’s most famous cheesemonger and “the best cheese shop in Britain and Ireland”.
They source high-quality artisan cheese from across the country, from fenugreek-seed Killeen goat cheese or the tougher Crozier Blue to traditional Gubbin cow cheese that tastes like it’s fresh from the farm.
Walking through the historic center of Powerscroft in the city center, you may stumble upon the Pepper Pot Cafe, a small but thriving establishment that is enduringly popular with Dubliners. This is a quaint teahouse with a terrace serving cakes, an all-day breakfast, salads, and sandwiches. The real hits are their Victoria sponge cake, homemade black soda bread with molasses, and smoked Irish salmon bagels. The chef studied at the Ballymaloe Cooking School, famous among the pioneers of the slow food movement in Ireland.
You might think that sushi and Ireland are incompatible, but you are wrong. Ukiyo is a fun Japanese-Korean restaurant that even has karaoke booths serving sushi bento, sake, and dishes like cauliflower katsu and fish tacos.
Where should you stay?
Dublin has some great Airbnb super hosts if you want to stay in the city center and pay a little less. Many of them are private rooms in residential buildings, so you can stay with your family and learn all about Dublin from the locals themselves. There are also cheaper hotels such as Jacobs Inn, Harcourt Hotel, or Abbey Court Hostel.
But if you’re looking for something a little more sophisticated, just a short walk from Stevens Green and downtown, I’d go with The Wilder Townhouse. This little-known boutique hotel is located on the tree-lined Adelaide Road in one of Dublin’s wealthiest areas.
What is the nightlife like?
There are a lot of French-style wine bars in Dublin which surprised me. I was visiting over the weekend when France played Ireland in rugby – France won, spoiler. So there were a lot of French people hanging around taking advantage of the à in bars on offer.
Bustling Dawson Street has a particularly chic café called the Café on the Seine, which is reminiscent of a movie, with an ambient jazz piano overhead and a long marble bar that runs the length of the place.
And if you prefer natural wines, there is a whole bar for them. It’s called Loose Canon and you’ll find it in the Georges St. Arcade.
They do tastings of meats and cheeses and the product is also local and fresh. My favorite was Claus Preisinger’s “Ordinaire” Pet Nat 2020 – not quite pink and not quite red, but something in between. This is an Austrian sparkling wine with hints of pomegranate and, according to the sommelier, “teasing sourness”.
It would be a great place for a date, with candles decorating the bar tables and a cozy, intimate atmosphere.
If you feel like dancing to end the evening, check out the nearby Copper Face Jacks bar, perhaps the city’s most legendary nightclub.
The Dean Hotel is another great place to have a drink in the evenings.
They have a rooftop restaurant on the top floor called Sophie’s which serves great pasta and pizza dishes and on the ground floor, there is a dark and sexy bar with a wooden interior and delicious cocktails.
And if you feel like dancing to end the evening, head to nearby The Dean at Copper Face Jacks, arguably the city’s most legendary nightclub.