Dublin stands sure in its skin – old and modern and uncomplicated. Its parks very green, its art very edgy. Its buildings are often painted a deep red, a screaming pink, clover green, old-lady-purple.
There’s a certain New-Yorkness to this wee city, especially when you zoom in through the lens of a camera. Parts of it reminded me of Williamsburg in Brooklyn: the red-brown bricks and art-splattered streets, the large loft-like spaces converted into cafes, derelict buildings with funky shops, feet in clean canvas shoes.
With all it’s history hugged tightly to its chest, Dublin seems to have marched headlong into the Now. You could walk into a 12th-century pub for a glass of Guinness and some beef stew, or lunch at a restaurant where modern Irish cooking bends expectations, often blending fresh local ingredients with Middle-Eastern flavours.
And if you’re lucky (as we were), you could be sitting in an old, old pub with your dark, dark pint, when suddenly, a group in the corner takes out their guitars and breaks into unprepared song. Strong and clear. Their acoustics bouncing off the wood-lined walls. And everyone cheers and claps and they sing one more song, and then another. And you leave Dublin humming the city like a well-worn tune.
The Nitty Gritties: where we slept and ate and drank, and the places we loved in Dublin.
Where we stayed:
The Dean Hotel. Very retro-chic, complete with vinyls in the room. And a rooftop restaurant and bar that’s hard to beat.
Where we ate and drank:
We tried lots of lovely places, but there were some clear winners. I’ve put them together in one perfect day of eating and drinking.
The Fumbally. It was one of our favourite places in Dublin; try their fantastic brunch, and enjoy the gorgeously haphazard space!
O’Donaghue’s. A pint of Guinness at this pub, amidst that impromtu jam of guitar and song, was one of my best afternoons in Dublin, and one that I’ll remember for a long time.
The Pig’s Ear. Modern Irish cooking at it’s best, and a short walk from O’Donaghue’s. The restaurant also sits near the National Gallery of Ireland where we really enjoyed the Sean Scully exhibition.
Sophie’s at The Dean. That’s the rooftop restaurant I mentioned earlier. Have a cocktail by the wall of glass and look down at the city and the mountains beyond as the sun sets. You can’t do better. The pizzas are great, as is the rest of the food.
Coppinger Row. A Mediterranean restaurant in the hub of Dublin. Our meal here was faultless, fresh and full of flavour, and all whipped out of a busy, open kitchen. (Oh, Beyoncé and Jay Z dined here, if that counts!)
Dublin for kids:
Dublin is very child-friendly. People would bend down to have one-to-one conversations with Chotto-ma as if she were a solo traveller, and we weren’t there at all!
There are great galleries and museums to keep kids interested, to learn a bit about Ireland and the influences of other cultures that passed through this island country. Chotto-ma loved these –
The National Gallery of Ireland
The Chester Beatty Library
National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology
In good weather (which we amazingly had almost everyday of our stay) head to –
St Stephen’s Green is one of the loveliest city parks, with a duck-filled pond, fountains, gazebos and nooks and cranies to explore.
Merrion Square has a wonderful playground themed on The Selfish Giant. Chotto-ma had finished reading Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince and Other Stories just before the holiday, and had loved The Selfish Giant, so she especially enjoyed this park. (It’s also very close to the National Gallery of Ireland).
(None of the places mentioned above have sponsored this post. They’re just mentions of things we enjoyed, so others might enjoy them too. I don’t do reviews on the blog.)