Dublin - Lucky Charms
In tribute to Saint Patrick’s Day, galavante to Dublin, the city of lucky charms. And unlike U2, you will find what you are looking for in Dublin, especially if it’s the quintessential pub, the irresistible Irish brogue and surprisingly grown-up cuisine. This is the place to let loose for a weekend, where you can go high-brow at the National Gallery of Art to not-so-high-brow pub-crawling through Temple Bar, in pursuit of the iconic pint of Guinness.
To hang your cheery old top hat, indulge in pure luxury at the Four Seasons, the enclave for the local elite. It’s here that the term five-star will really meet your expectations. The Four Seasons has the largest rooms of Dublin’s high-end hotels, where you can sink into modern baths and creature comforts after a long tour of bed-and-breakfast stays. The service is unparalleled, coupled with a charming Irish welcome. While the hotel sits just outside the center of town, it’s only a five- to ten-minute cab ride to most sights, which is less time than it takes to walk from other city center hotels to the sights. For a chic boutique experience – with the clientele to match – cool your heels at the Dylan, where the later the hour, the more seductive the scene. The Dylan’s adequately cool bar is a nice spot to begin and end your evenings. A bordello-esque bar with deep red booths to sink into, they make a killer cocktail. Do yourself a favor and skip the Merrion and the Morrison, which are second-tier hotels on the luxury and hip scale.
On a first-time visit to Dublin, there are plenty of sights to take in. After a classic Irish breakfast at your hotel, stroll through Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, a reverent sight no matter what your religious views. From there, head to Trinity College to tour the campus with a student guide, before viewing the impressive Book of Kills and Old Library. By this time, it’s probably a lovely day for a Guinness, and The Stag’s Head is the perfect induction into the art of the Irish pub. Lunch at the Clarence Hotel’s Tea Room, which is owned by none other than Bono of U2, and serves surprisingly good food. The ballontin of Sole will be a refined break from fish and chips, and their version of meat and potatoes – the Black Angus Ribeye – will get you primed for a long night of Guinness. It’s an institution that may not be around much longer, since the Clarence Hotel was recently acquired by a hotel developer.
After lunch, head over to Dublin Castle, which is Castle 101 in the scope of Irish history, but still a major sight in Dublin. The star of the visit is the Chester Beatty Library next door, which features an impressive collection of art from the Orient.
Dublin is not a shopping city, but it is worthwhile to head to Powerscourt for the gorgeous local designer threads at Covet, and a to browse the antique and art gallery on the second floor. For souvenirs, pick up small handicrafts at the Drawing Room, a beautifully presented jewel box of a shop. Afterwards, munch on the best macaroons in the city at Cocoa Atelier, and then it’s time for an afternoon pub crawl in Temple Bar. The namesake bar of the area, Temple Bar, is touristy, but it’s a rite of passage to stop in to the labyrinth of rooms for good music, another perfect pint of Guinness and outstanding oysters. For the traditional fish and chips, amble over to the Brazen Head, where it’s served with a generous side of Irish music. This may shock you, but most locals don’t eat fish and chips as a normal part of their diet. When they do eat it though it’s here. Top off your evening at the locals’ hangout Porter House.
After a Guinness-fueled nap and refresher at your hotel, Dublin’s culinary world beckons. For the highest quality food, dine at the French-inspired L’Ecrivain. Alternatively, Chapter I, a Dubliners’ favorite, serves exceptional gourmet cuisine. To balance out a high-end meal, hit the pubs. On your circuit, be sure to knock back pints at The Long Haul, Grogan’s Castle Lounge, Hogan’s and a new outpost, Bar No Name, because as of the publication date, it still has no name. Also in the area is the classic Kehoe’s, where there ’s no doubt that you’re in Ireland. If you’re still frisky after the pubs close, stop by Lillie’s Bordello or Krystal for the loungey club scene.
The next day, greet the morning at Lemon Crepes and Coffee or Gibson’s for a casual coffee and pastries. Walk along the famed Grafton Street, though it’s more of a tourist circuit than where you’d want to buy anything. For essentials, Dublin’s upscale store is Brown Thomas and there’s a Top Shop store nearby. Come lunchtime, fill up at Coppinger Row, a new café that serves excellent Mediterranean food. Standouts are the open meatball sandwich and the dressed crab. They also pour Lebanese wines, which is a welcome break from all the beer and whiskey.
On your second day of sights, check out the impressive Western European art at the National Gallery. For fans of history and of the movie In the Name of the Father, the Kilmainham Gaol makes for a sobering visit. Afterwards, you’ll surely be in the mood for enlightenment, which the nearby Guinness Brewery can deliver. Here, a museum tour culminates in learning how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness, which you can guzzle in Gravity Bar while enjoying the best views in Ireland. It’s certainly kitschy, but a visit to Dublin is not complete without it.
Dining in Dublin need not be haute cuisine to experience culinary nirvana, with low-key gems like The Winding Stair,orOne Pico for a more refined evening. Afterwards, continue on to the Irish pubs of O’Donohough’s for a few pints, before heading over to Doheny & Nesbitt for a few more. Switch up the pub crawl by rubbing shoulders (and hips) with Dublin’s beautiful people at Residence, which will have you dancing until the wee hours. Unlike Krystal and Lillie’s Bordello, this is not a scene for the kids, showing you that the Working Jet Set can still do a proper club scene.
The last day, stop by Fallon & Byrne, the Dean & Deluca of Ireland, for local cheeses and baked goods. With your supplies, take a half-day breather outside the city to Howth, where you can walk along the Irish coast and breathe in the salty ocean air. While Dublin is a bookend to a trip to the Emerald Isle, the real Ireland is the countryside, and Howth is where to get a glimpse of this experience. Come back to the city for lunch or early dinner at The Exchequer, a gastropub that serves everything from roasts to shepherd’s pie. On Sundays, they offer an Irish dinner for four for about 40 Euro, which includes unlimited mashed potatoes, stuffing and veggies. It’s the perfect way to end your Dublin experience – and definitely beats green beer.