Dublin is cool. It has a Viking past (which earns the city major cool points), captivating combination of elegant Georgian architecture, medieval and Gothic structures and modern design, rich literary history (the Irish capital earned its UNESCO City of Literature accolade in 2010 – shared only by 27 other cities worldwide) and, for all you foodies, an up-and-coming culinary scene. Not to mention Dublin’s epic, one-of-a-kind, world-class pub culture, which guarantees an excellent night out. So if you are heading there soon (I mean, Saint Patrick’s Day is just around the corner!), or planning to travel there in the future for the first time…
here is how you spend your first weekend in Dublin:
• FRIDAY evening
– Pub, pub & pub:
Landed in Dublin? Time for a drink! There’s no better way to start your Dublin weekend than by enjoying a cold pint of Guinness in one of the city’s many, many, many Irish pubs (although in Ireland they are just called “pubs”). Even if you don’t drink at all, have no fear. Pick a place with live music, such as The Merchants Arch, The Cobblestone (whose tagline is “a drinking pub with a music problem) or O’Donoghue’s Pub, and you will end up having a great time, singing along and dancing (or, at least, clapping enthusiastically) to the fun folk tunes whilst chatting to some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. Dublin pubs don’t just guarantee a good night out; a lot of them serve yummy food, from hearty burgers to delicious stews. Visit the Brazen Head (Ireland’s oldest pub, standing proud since 1198!) for their top notch Guinness beef stew or seafood chowder, the Stag’s Head for a mouth-watering pulled pork sandwich and The Duke for a proper roast.
Don’t want to have to walk far or bother looking for a taxi after your awesome (and
maybe tipsy) night out ? No problem! All you need to do is strategically choose a pub that also serves as a hotel (which is exactly what I did when visiting Dublin – thank you, O’Sheas Merchant!). Just remember that staying in such place may be a tad noisy. Good accommodation picks also include the Clayton Hotel Burlington Road [4*] (~£160/night for a double room), the Roxford Lodge Hotel [3*] (~£150/night for a double room), the Clayton Hotel Ballsbridge [4*] (~£130/night for a double room), East Park Lodge (~£98/night for a studio apartment) and Jacobs Inn Hostel (~£30/night in a 4-bed mixed dorm). And, yes, Dublin is pricey.
• SATURDAY morning
– College & Cathedrals:
Having enjoyed your eggs and bacon (or avocado and toast, whatever floats your boat) at one of Dublin’s many fab breakfast joints (I recommend feasting on Lovinspoon’s no-nonsense, awesome Irish breakfast), it’s time for sightseeing. Start from Trinity College (also known as Coláiste na Tríonóide in Irish Gaelic), Ireland’s oldest and most prestigious university. Founded in 1592, it not only features a beautifully elegant and green Georgian campus decorated with 18th- and 19th-century buildings and statues, but it also houses the magnificent Trinity College Library (don’t forget to take a picture of the Long Hall) which, in turn, has the historic Book of Kells. A 9th century illuminated Latin manuscript Gospel book containing, amongst others, the four New Testament Gospels and decorated with complex and extravagant iconography.
Continue your Dublin tour by visiting the grand gems of gothic architecture (you know I love a gothic building) that are the Christ Church and St Patrick’s cathedrals. Founded in 1030 and 1191, respectively, these beautiful structures played a central role in Dublin’s and Ireland’s religious history. My personal favourite is St Patrick’s cathedral due to its magnitude (it’s Ireland’s tallest and largest church) and the lovely garden surrounding it.
• SATURDAY afternoon
– Castle, Crypts & Parks:
Lunch time! Five minutes walking from Christ Church cathedral is the great Fish Shack Café, serving fresh, comfort seafood. Feeling fancy? Get the lobster. Feeling hungry? Get the fish n’ chips. Want a sandwich? Get the shrimp and crayfish one (yum!). Allergic to fish? Get the chicken or cheeseburger. Vegetarian? How does halloumi, avocado, beetroot and blueberry salad sound like?
A short walk from Fish Shack Café (literally, just 3 minutes) is Dublin Castle, opened in 1204. I must say, having visited my fair share of castles, this feels more like a mansion tower sort of building. But still worth a visit (particularly to the luxurious throne room and the beautiful St Patrick Hall), especially if you are a history lover (admission: €7 for adult tickets, €6 for students). Do take the time to wander around the beautiful Castle gardens, especially on a sunny day. More beautiful green spaces that you should visit are the romantic St Stephen’s Green, which is right in the heart of the city, or Phoenix Park which is home to a herd of wild deer (a bit further away from the city centre though).
Next sightseeing stop is another church. St Michan’s Church to be exact. What’s so special about it? Its quirky nature. Oh, and its mummies. Yep, you’ve read correctly. The church’s crypt, which is open only on Saturdays, holds many mummified remains, including the bodies of two brothers who fought in the 1798 Irish rebellion against the British rule in Ireland.
• SATURDAY evening
– Dublin night out:
I would personally recommend repeating Friday’s evening plan, because there are only so many places in the world that you get to enjoy proper Irish live music and ambiance, and you should absolutely take advantage of Dublin’s splendid pub options. However, if you don’t feel like going to a pub two nights in a row for food and drinks, there are certainly fine alternatives. Dax and Michelin star-awarded Chapter One restaurants will serve you contemporary Irish cuisine with a French twist, whereas you can enjoy delicious Italian meals at Osteria Lucio. Want to drink something other than Guinness? Then visit the Vintage Cocktail Club or the Chelsea Drugstore for cocktails and a more relaxed atmosphere.
• SUNDAY morning
– Guinness and Jameson:
Even if you don’t enjoy beer, like myself (yes, I’m the weirdo who orders wine in the pub), there is no way you are leaving Dublin, the birthplace of Guinness, without a visit to Ireland’s national drink’s actual birth place. I am referring to the Guinness Storehouse, which was one of my favourite Dublin experiences and definitely deserves a visit. Not only is the building amazing, spanning over 7 floors and being surrounded by glass that allows the interior to be beautifully illuminated by natural daylight, but the actual exhibition is superb, interactively telling the story of making and advertising this legendary stout. Some of my top moments there included the tour guide teaching us how to use all of our senses to properly enjoy a pint, and having a complementary
pint sip of Guinness (I gave the rest to my boyfriend – told you I’m not a beer person) on the storehouse’s amazing top-floor Gravity Bar, surrounded by jaw-dropping views. If you are there during lunchtime, then drop by the 5th floor’s restaurant for a variety of great meals, most of them infused with Guinness (such as my all-time favourite Guinness stew and Guinness bread – yes, they are delicious).
Fun Fact: As a scientist who used this test a gazillion times, I had to share this. William Sealy Gosset, also known by his pen name “Student”, was a chemist hired by Guinness to apply biochemistry and statistics to the beer’s industrial process. In 1908 Gosset published his work on t-test, applied by every single person that uses statistics nowadays, which he devised as a tool to help monitor the stout’s quality.
Of course, Guinness is not the only famous beverage out of Dublin. Jameson Irish whiskey, founded by James Jameson in 1780, was produced in Dublin until 1976 (now produced in Cork, Ireland) and at one point was the best selling whiskey in the world. Dublin’s Bow Street Distillery serves as an awesome attraction, with knowledgable staff and a lot of great whiskey (and whiskey-containing cocktails) served on site.