Travel writer and editor Pól Ó Conghaile reveals where to go in Dublin to get a feel of the city’s unusual and quirky side. Pól Ó Conghaile is the author of “Secret Dublin: An Unusual Guide”, which takes both tourists and locals off the grid in Ireland’s gregarious capital city.
Pól is Travel Editor with The Irish Independent and Independent.ie. You can follow him on Twitter at @poloconghaile.
Bram Stoker Festival, Dublin
Photo courtesy of bramstokerfestival.com
WHERE SHOULD WE GO FOR A MEMORABLE MEAL IN DUBLIN?
The Irish House Party runs dinners with a backdrop of traditional Irish dancing. Elsewhere, I love K Chido Mexico for tacos. You’ll find the blue and pink Citroen HY food truck hidden away in a warehouse on Chancery Street.
THE MOST ROMANTIC PLACE IN DUBLIN is the last resting place of St. Valentine. You’ll find the saint’s relics in Whitefriar Street Church on AungierStreet.
THE BEST PLACE TO BREAK-UP WITH A LOVER is at the Iveagh Gardens, a leafy and lovingly landscaped oasis near Stephen’s Green. Things could go quiet or loud here without drawing a crowd of rubber-neckers. Taxi!
Dublin’s weather isn’t the most picnic-friendly, but its sandwiches can be stunners. Grab a free-range rotisserie chicken special from Poulet Bonne Femme in the basement of Avoca on Suffolk street, and take it to the Dubh Linn gardens in Dublin Castle.
MY FAVORITE PLACE FOR A NIGHTCAP IS the Vintage Cocktail Club on Crown Alley. It’s the most un-Temple Bar-like bar in Temple Bar – marked by a small doorbell just south of the Bad Ass Café. Its “Daily Mule” is a good vodka pick me-up. Or try the “Single Elix”, a Connemara single malt whiskey with orange bitters, lemon oils, and the “Bitter Truth Elixir.” Sláinte.
GO TO Mulligan’s on Poolbeg Street or Grogan’s on Castle Market FOR AN UNFORGETTABLE NIGHT OUT IN DUBLIN. Both are old-school Dublin boozers serving great Guinness and greater conversation. You never know where the night will lead from here.
The Convention Center Dublin
THE BEST PLACE TO HAVE WHISKEY IN DUBLIN IS AT the Irish Whiskey Museum. You can get up to speed with Ireland’s craft whiskey before settling into the upstairs bar at The Palace on Fleet Street. Try a dram of their own-label whiskey.
THE BEST YET MOST UNDERRATED VICTORIAN PUB is The Stag’s Headon Dame Court. Any Dubliner will point you towards this Victorian beauty. Drop in during the day
for quietude or in the evening for full-on quaffing. Atmosphere guaranteed.
AFTER A TIRING WEEK, I LIKE TO UNWIND AND RECHARGE by walking through neighborhoods I haven’t explored in ages and just following my nose. Recently, it was Stoneybatter, a historic quarter rapidly headed for gentrification, but still full of Victorian houses, a great gastro pub called L Mulligan Grocer, and local street life.
A LOVELY SPRING DAY SHOULD BE SPENT walking through Trinity College to soak up the April blossoms. The National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin is another off-radar treat – visit in January or February for the first droves of snowdrops.
Stay away from Temple Bar at night. Aside from the odd exception, it’s a tourist trap that’s
over-priced and way over the top. Explore it by day instead.
The Stag’s Head Mosaic, Dublin
FOR A TASTE OF MYSTERY IN DUBLIN, YOU SHOULD take a tour of the limestone crypts beneath St. Michan’s Church. Amidst stacks of cobwebbed coffins, clearly visible in the vaults are a few that have been cracked open, revealing the eerily preserved “mummies” inside. One is said to be a 650-year-old “crusader.”
WHAT’S ONE FESTIVAL YOU NEVER MISS?
Did you know Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, was born in Dublin? The Bram Stoker Festival, held at the end of October near Halloween, is a deadly celebration of Dublin’s dark side.
THE MOST HAUNTED PLACE IN DUBLIN IS the 40 Steps behind St. Audeon’s Church at Cornmarket. They twist around the church down to a surviving stack of old City Walls, and this area is said to be haunted by the ghost of Darkey Kelly, an 18th-century madam burned at the stake for suspected witchcraft. GO GHOST HUNTING IN GlasnevinCemetery, the resting place of over one million souls and home to some amazing Dublin stories. HiddenDublin Walks also offers north side ghost tours. For something more theatrical, try the Dublin GhostBus.
THE BEST PLACES TO TAKE A FILM LOVER IN DUBLIN are Dublin’sLighthouse and the Irish Film Institute for art-house and limited release movies. But check the listings at The Sugar Club, too. Its stage, screen, cabaret tables, and velvet banquettes host everything from live bands to classic films and cheesy 1980s hits. Expect a late night.
Hell Fire Club, Dublin
I ALWAYS TELL FRIENDS VISITING DUBLIN FOR THE FIRST TIME to go to Francis Bacon’s reconstructed studio at The Hugh Lane. In the late nineties, the entire – and chaotic – contents of the artist’s studio were moved from London to Dublin and painstakingly reassembled, along with the dust. It’s a weird and wonderful exhibit in an oft overlooked gallery.
WHERE IS THE BEST PLACE TO GO FOR HAPPY HOUR?
Dublin has several grand old hotels that lay the atmosphere on thick and fast at cocktail o’clock. Get the glad rags on and hit the five-star Merrion Hotel for drinks in its gorgeous Georgian drawing rooms.
WHERE IS THE BEST PLACE TO HAVE A BEER WITH FRIENDS?
It’s loud, clattery, and straight out of the hipster pub-design playbook, but I often meet friends at The Workshop on George’s Quay. It’s a reboot of Kennedy’s, an old boozer that we remember fondly, and the menu has a decent range of Irish craft beers and
I LIKE LISTENING TO LIVE MUSICAL PERFORMANCES AT Whelan’s or The Button Factory, where up-and-coming bands play in intimate, sticky-floored venues. “I saw them back when they played Whelan’s,” is the Dublin muso’s trump card.
Fish plate from Winding Stair, Dublin
TO CLEAR MY MIND, I GO TO the roof garden in the Chester BeattyLibrary. It’s a surprising space with great views in the middle of Dublin Castle.
THE MOST PICTURESQUE SPOT IN DUBLIN IS a short walk up Mountpelier Hill which gives breathtaking views over the city and as far as Northern Ireland. It’s got a haunted building (The Hell Fire Club), too.
TOURISTS SHOULD NOT MISS visiting the old churches of Dublin. Take some time to pop into the medieval church of St. Audeon’s, or John’s Lane Church in The Liberties. Pugin’s design is one of the finest pieces of ecclesiastical architecture in the city – indeed, Ruskin is said to have dubbed it “a poem in stone.” The mosaics inside are amazing, too.
THE SHOW MUST GO ON
The best entertainment is often just a few friends chin-wagging over a pint. But you can catch comedy (good and bad) at The International. First-time visitors should check out some theater at The Abbey, The Gate or Smock Alley.
I AM CURRENTLY IN LOVE WITH Dublin’s North side. Relatively few tourists venture across the River Liffey, but there’s so much to do here – from the GPO’s new Witness History exhibition to The Winding Stair bookshop and café overlooking the river, and the Georgian architecture of Henrietta Street. It’s not as postcard-pretty as the south side,
but any work you put in here is very much rewarded.