Dublin is one of those places where the tourist trail stares you right in the face. Spots like Temple Bar and the Guinness Storehouse are frequently over-run with visitors, and sometimes it can get a little overwhelming. The good news is that Dublin is a city of many layers, and there’s plenty here for the curious traveler looking for something new.
I spent some time in Dublin while producing my book about the UK and Ireland, and fell in love with the alternative side to the city. The people who live here are passionate, friendly, and creative, and this insider’s guide to Dublin shows you where they eat, drink, and hang out – and where you can too.
Located just south of Temple Bar and spread over just a couple of blocks, Dublin’s newly-formed Creative Quarter is a good place to start your exploration of the city. A collection of bars, restaurants, and shops line the streets, nearly all of which are independent. The district used to be filled with rag factories, and this essence – an industrial, edgy feel – has been carried through to the core values of this modern neighborhood today.
Grab coffee at Kaph, one of the city’s beloved indie coffee shops. Hop over the road to the Irish Design Shop to peruse through products sourced solely on the Emerald Isle – this is a great place to pick up some gifts, the homewares and jewelery are particularly beautiful. Head down the road to Drury Buildings for cocktails, to Hogan’s for a pint of Guinness in a traditional Irish pub, or Market Bar for tapas and craft beer. Also don’t miss the Powerscourt Centre here, a Georgian townhouse that’s now a shopping space filled with unique design stores that you can’t find anywhere else.
…Dublin is a city of many layers, and there’s plenty here for the curious traveler looking for something new.
Weather will inevitably factor into your plans when exploring Dublin. Counter to popular belief it’s not always raining here, and there are lots of things to do if you want to get outdoors. Head to the National Botanic Gardens, just a couple miles north of the city center, to enter a haven of calm. With a wide variety of flora, the gardens make for a beautiful place to take a stroll and feel cut off from the world for a while. Look out for the wrought iron glasshouses, which were constructed in the mid-19th century. Entrance to the gardens is free.
Dublin’s suburbs are also worth visiting while you’re in town. To the north you have Howth, a fishing village on a peninsula that protrudes out into the Irish Sea. Howth is less than an hour from Dublin city center by train, and here you can amble along the waterfront, have traditional fish and chips, and take a look at Howth Market, where you can pick up some Irish products and check out some vintage antiques.
To the south of Dublin’s centre is Killiney and Dalkey. Go for a walk up to the top of Killiney Hill to find views down the eastern shores of Ireland and over to the Wicklow Mountains. Then wander down in Dalkey and stop off for some craft beer at the Magpie Inn. This Dublin suburb is thought of as particularly fashionable (Bono has a house here), and there’s a laid-back, authentic vibe running through the streets.
If the weather’s not on your side, no problem. There are dozens of museums here, and if you want something a little different from the well-healed National Museum of Ireland, try the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA). This centre is dedicated to showcasing modern artwork from across Ireland and some international artists, too. As it’s an artist-led organization, the RHA is offers one of the most authentic pictures of Irish artwork currently on the scene, and makes a peaceful places to wander around on a rainy day.
Also swing by The Icon Factory, a cooperative and not-for-profit art project. This collective’s main focus is to educate people about significant individuals in Ireland’s history, from writers to rock stars, and the county’s rich and varied heritage. There’s also an Icon Walk, Ireland’s largest open-air exhibition, located along once neglected alleyways in Temple Bar. The panels of artwork along this trail depict pivotal people in Ireland’s history, including Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, and Bob Geldof.
Whether you’re in town for a weekend or staying for a little longer, there’s something interesting to do in Dublin on any given day. This friendly city always has a surprise in store if you’re willing to dig a little deeper to find it.
Have you uncovered any surprising gems in Dublin? Where?
Images via Emma Higgins