A hundred thousand welcomes! Undoubtedly you’ll know this phrase by heart before you bid Ireland adieu. Every host, guide, fellow drinker, vendor and driver welcomed me with this lovely and traditional Irish greeting. Set on the stage of Vikings pastimes , Dublin presents a show of all things modern. From luxury hotels to hostels jam packed with your former backpacking self, Dublin offers a unique experience for every traveller at a range of budgets. There’s a great selection of history, shopping, dining and watering holes with music and dance to discover. We’ll outline a few of our favourites for you here.
AerLingus and RyanAir offer direct, affordable flights from Brussels to Dublin. A taxi from Dublin airport to the city centre takes about 30 minutes and will run approximately €40. An equally convenient and cheaper alternative is the AirLink 747 and Aircoach which run every 15-30 minutes for €10-12 round-trip, lasting just under an hour with several drop-off points. If you plan to use public transport during your trip, I suggest buying a LEAP card from the in-airport shop Spar and topping it up with around €15 – you can use it on the AirLink as well as the local tram and bus systems for transport around the city.
If you plan to do a lot of site seeing, look into the Dublin Pass www.dublinpass.com. This also includes a one-way airport transfer along with a discounted return.
Dublin is speckled with colour thanks to the brightly painted, iconic arched doors found throughout the Georgian streets and squares. Merrion Square is the best known and loved square representing this style. Enjoy the serenity of this city-centre oasis and stop into Number Twenty-Nine on Fitzwilliam Street for a well preserved example of a Georgian period home.
I always encourage friends to tour Kilmainham Gaol, a former prison and now museum, this site will take you through the political and penal histories of Ireland from the 18th century to present day. A perfect way to kick-off a weekend and learn more on the political history of the island. Restoration works are ongoing, but don’t be discouraged – many areas are still open and the museum is fully operational.
Visit the beautiful Trinity College, home to the Old Library and Book of Kells Exhibition. Christ Church is spectacular and for “The Tudors” fans out there, take this opportunity to view some of the casts costumes as much of the series was filmed in the crypt! Wander across the street to experience Viking and Medieval Dublin at Dublina. This is a particular favourite amongst those traveling with wee ones. Combination tickets are available for Christ Church and Dublina.
For gifts I can’t stay away from the Kilkenny Store. Choc-a-bloc with gifts made in Ireland, you’ll be hard pressed to choose amongst the great selection of Newbridge ornaments, Galway Crystal and Orla Kiely bags. From fashion to furnishings, I like to peruse the Avoca Suffolk Street and Café – treat yourself to one of Avoca’s Woollen Mill blankets – I opted for a beige mohair throw! For high street shopping cruise Grafton Street and don’t miss top department store Brown Thomas. Treat your feet to your new favorite loafers from Dubarry – unbeatable quality. Trust me, I have done my research!
I’ll admit it, I’m not a lover of Guinness – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t! In fact, the sheer output of Guinness worldwide is proof enough that millions disagree with me! Did you know that 10 million glasses of Guinness are enjoyed every day around the world! You simply can’t visit Dublin without stopping into the Guinness Storehouse. There is one “must-do” here: Book a “Connoisseur Experience” tasting session. This is for the VIP imbibers who really love the black stuff! You can’t top having a perfectly poured pint in the luxurious private bar, discretely tucked away in a secluded area of the drinks birthplace. Take your taste buds on a journey and learn all about the process, traditions, and stories of this porter stout. Tastings are limited to 16 guests and sell out quickly, so book in advance!
Did you know that the origin of the word Whiskey derives it’s name from the Gaelic term “Uisce Beatha”. Originally termed by monks who translated it from the Latin “aqua vitae,” the mispronunciation of “uisce” resulted in the anglicised name “whisky.” Dublin was considered the forefront of quality whisky and many counterfeiters produced imitation copies of her whiskies. In attempt to distinguish Dublin whisky from that of imitators, manufacturers changed the spelling to whiskey. Not surprisingly, it was soon after that imitators too changed their labels – but herein we find the birth of the term whiskey in lieu of whisky. To date, Ireland and the US still preference the spelling whiskey whereas Scotland, Canada and Japan elect to use whisky. To find out more about the history, creators and folklore surrounding Irish whiskey, make sure to visit the newly opened Whiskey Museum located in the heart of the shopping district and across from Trinity College. All tours are guided and conclude with a tasting session by a Master Whiskey Taster. To find out more, visit their site at: www.irishwhiskeymuseum.ie
Reviving the spirit of Dublin, the Teeling Whiskey Company is opening its doors to the first new distillery in Dublin in over 125 years. With the capacity to produce 500,000 litres of whiskey annually, The Renaissance of Irish whiskey is alive and well. Whiskey is ranked the fastest-growing spirit in the world every year for the past 23 years, with Irish whiskey being the fastest growing segment of category. Drop into the new, fully functioning Teeling Whiskey Distillery and discover for yourself the unique nose, taste and finish of their whiskeys. For the true aficionados a trip to the Jameson Middleton distillery should be in your future. You can make this stop before or after your visit to nearby St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
I always enjoy finding less known gems! If you’re looking for a dinning experience that will leave you loving more than just the food, look no further. Bia Beatha or “food of life” is a journey of discovery into Irish cuisine, its people and society. Host and culinary historian Máirtín Mac Con Iomaire will guide you through your meals place in Irish mythology, history and culture while enjoying the ornate grandeur of the United Arts Club. He’ll sing, entertain and be that stranger who is just a friend you haven’t met. Enjoy an authentic night of Irish music, story telling and food. My only complaint? This splendid evening is offered but once a month. Check their website for dates and to make your reservation. I’ll be sure to return! www.biabeatha.net
If quick and quirky is more your speed, test your luck with one of Dublin’s bustling burrito scene makers. I’m partial to Pablo Picante, Boojum and Burritos & Blues. For an equally spicy sit-down experience, drop into 777 on South Georges Street for tapas and tequila.
For more formal affairs make reservations at the chic members club The Residence just off of St. Stephen’s Green, Matt the Thresher or Fire at The Mansion House.
You don’t need me to tell you about Ireland’s long thriving music scene. You can always pop around the ever popular, cultural quarter, Temple Bar – for first timers to the city this is a bit of “craic” (Irish for fun). Some popular options include The Brazen Head, O’Shea’s Merchant Pub and The Cobblestone. A bit off the beaten path is the Merry Ploughboy Pub in Rathfarnham. They offer shuttle services or a taxi is well worth the trip for an evening of music and dancing.
Everyone knows you should never ask a lady her age, but in the case of the Grande Dame of Dublin hotels, that figure is a source of great pride and no secret – she’s 191. The Shelbourne is the largest five star hotel in Dublin and boasts19 suites named after their famous guests – Princess Grace, John F. Kennedy, Michael Collins… it is also the hotel of choice for the Irish national rugby team. Room 112 served as the local for the drafting of the Irish Constitution in 1922, one of the two original copies is found in the Constitution Suite to date. Located within walking distance of Dublin’s most famous landmarks and across from St. Stephen’s Green, you couldn’t do better.
Not interested in spending much time or funds on your room but still want a hot spot? Worry not, we’ve got you covered. Book into Kelly’s Hotel Dublin located above Hogan’s bar and home to the secret Bar With No Name. A great boutique feel, very central location and the best deal in town. Another bargain for your needs can be met at the Fleet Street Hotel. This funky boutique offers small rooms at a bargain. Both fill-up quickly so make your reservations online in advance.
In the words of Irish novelist W.B. Yeats: “There are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t met yet.”
For more information visit www.ireland.com or stop into Tourism Ireland located on Avenue Louise 66.
For expert local knowledge ask the Visit Dublin team @VisitDublin
By Cassandra Morton
Correspondent at The Brussels Times