Dublin – 10 Best Things To Do
As is often the case with capital cities, Dublin has a certain reputation that has cemented over time. It’s one of friendly local pubs, lively Irish music and of course, Guinness Guinness Guinness. While this reputation is not unfounded – the locals are friendly, the music is lively, and the Guinness is delicious – it is by no means all Dublin has to offer. If you explore a little further in this city, you’ll find iconic modern architecture, hip and edgy districts, stylish cocktail dens, and beautiful wild countryside on the doorstep.
1. Creative Quarter
The block stretching from South William Street to George’s and from Lower Stephen’s to Exchequer Street is known as Dublin’s Creative Quarter. With a long-standing history of specialist design, the area is a hub of creativity, boasting artisan boutiques, design studios, cafes and unique arty shops. This is a more modern and edgy area of the city, where you will find hip coffee shops spilling out onto the pavements and street art adorning the walls. Be sure to poke your head into George’s Street Arcade – an ornate shopping plaza stuffed with indie clothing boutiques and vintage curios, where you’ll rub shoulders with Dublin’s coolest city-dwellers.
2. Guinness Storehouse
If you only do one museum in Dublin, it has to be this one. The Guinness Storehouse is more than a museum, it is an experience. Interactive, sensual and immersive, you’ll go on a journey through the history, brewing stages and modern day brand that built Ireland’s most famous drink. Have a lesson in Guinness tasting, try pouring your very own pint, watch some of the best TV adverts, and learn about every stage of the brewing process from harvesting the hops and grain to building the barrels to store the brew in. Once you’ve toured the museum, make your way up to the Gravity Bar to savour your complimentary pint, where you can admire panoramic views over Dublin.
3. Vintage Cocktail Club
If you’re on the hunt for a particularly special place to wet your whistle, see if you can find Vintage Cocktail Club – or VCC, Dublin’s best kept secret. A hidden bar reminiscent of the Prohibition era, it won’t be easy to find, but it’s well worth the hunt. Every cocktail is deliciously unique, artfully crafted by expert mixologists. The extensive menu takes you through every era in the history of cocktail making, from maritime to the prohibition to present day. The bar itself is lit only by candles and a few sparse lamps, with risqué photos adorning the walls and sumptuous vintage furnishings. You have to book a table in advance and the drinks don’t come cheap, but they’re well worth the extra euros.
4. Wicklow Mountains
Dublin sits in the shadow of the dramatic Wicklow Mountains – a must-visit for any outdoors or hiking enthusiast while holidaying in Dublin. Soaring mountains provide stunning panoramic views over tranquil lakes and beautiful wooded areas, and what’s more, this is where the water is sourced to make Guinness.
Coaches embark from Dublin every day to Glendalough – a small settlement in the mountainous area. Here you’ll find an ancient monastery and crumbling graveyard in the picturesque valley, and a range of walking routes to suit all abilities which meander through the hillside and loop around the two serene lakes.
5. Ely Bar and Brasserie
Located in Dublin’s stunning Docklands, Ely Bar and Brasserie is famed for its enviable wine selection. Thematically homed within the beautifully restored 1821 wine vaults, the bar and restaurant boasts over 500 wines by the bottle and 100 by the glass. The intimate, elegant setting is the perfect choice for a special occasion. Fresh and flavoursome Irish food is complemented with the perfect wine, which the friendly staff will be happy to recommend. Organic beef, pork and lamb is sourced locally, and their vegetables are planted seasonally and grown to order. To say Ely revolutionised the wine and wine bar scene in Dublin would be completely true.
6. Dublin Docklands
This newly regenerated post-industrial area is a marvel in landscaping and design. It spans both sides of the River Liffey and features innovative open spaces such as Grand Canal Square, the super-modern Grand Canal Square Theatre building, and the sublime and iconic Samuel Beckett Bridge, which is unmistakeably shaped to resemble a harp – the national symbol for Ireland. Take a walk around the square and admire the modern design of the buildings surrounding it. Attend a theatre show, dine in one of the many restaurants, and be sure to admire the view of the bridge at night, when it is softly illuminated to become a timeless piece of architecture.
7. The Woollen Mills
Housed in an historic and iconic building in Dublins history, this is an unpretentious yet incredibly cool eating house. James Joyce himself used to work in the building, so the restaurant has a lot to live up to in terms of Irish heritage, but you won’t be disappointed. Set back from the River Liffey and overlooking Ha’penny Bridge, The Woollen Mills spans four floors, with double aspect windows making the place incredibly light and airy. It’s the perfect spot for a hearty Irish Breakfast, a smooth, rich coffee, or a craft beer or two. If the sun is shining you could even sit outside on the roof terrace and watch the world go by.
8. Temple Bar
Dublin’s nightlife district is simply teeming with pubs, bars and taverns. No matter what time of the day or night you venture along the lanes, you’re sure to find live music, traditional and contemporary Irish cuisine, a raucous and inclusive atmosphere, and of course Guinness aplenty. Scope out a pub for an Irish breakfast, listen to a live band or dance the night away. Every Saturday Temple Bar Food Market winds through the streets, where you can sample the very best home-grown produce including cheeses, pies, meats, seasonal fruits and vegetables, jams, chutneys and preserves from local vendors.
9. Irish Music
If there’s one thing that can be said about the Irish it’s that they love to make music. Most pubs and bars in Dublin play host to live music in some form or another. Traditional Irish music is often accompanied by one or several Irish dancers, who are more than happy to encourage the audience to join in and learn a few steps. While Temple Bar is an obvious choice to scout for Irish music, the taverns off the beaten track are no less enjoyable. It’s here where you’re more likely to wander in to the middle of a “pub session” – a spontaneous and relaxed musical experience where anyone with an instrument is free to join in the fun.
10. The Brazen Head Inn
Dublin’s oldest pub is a ramshackle building with sloping floors, low ceiling and aged beams. A wild array of pictures, photographs and adornments cover the walls. It’s a tradition for American visitors to the pub to pin a dollar onto one of the walls with their name and the date they visited, which gives the impression that the whole façade could blow away at any moment. With a lively and welcoming atmosphere and hearty food served with a smile, the Brazen Head is the archetype of Irish pubs. You simply have to sit down and enjoy a freshly poured pint of Guinness. If the weather holds up, make the most of the cobbled courtyard.
About the Author:
Olivia Lazenby is a travel, sustainability and lifestyle blogger. A northerner from the fringes of Manchester, UK, she has lived in France and Australia as well as Liverpool and Leeds. She is currently planning her next adventure to South America. Her favourite things to do while travelling include discovering cocktail bars in new cities, rummaging in second hand shops and flea markets, and climbing to the highest point in the vicinity to admire the views.
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