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15 Favorite Things to Do in Dublin

EUROPE,    CITY,    FOOD    /    DECEMBER 06, 2015 



Dublin Travel streets of Dublin

I have just returned from my first visit to Dublin, Ireland. I had only had three days, but I went for it and ….what a trip! When you’re in Dublin, check out some of the places on this list. (I’ve only included my favorites). Enjoy!

1.  Ha’Penny Bridge: There are many ways to cross the River Liffey, which separates north and south Dublin; there are 17 bridges in all. But the most famous is the Ha’Penny (so called because the toll used to be a half penny) and for some reason I really wanted to cross it. Walking the little bridge with Dubliners during rush hour was one of the first things I did upon arrival and it was a great introduction to the city.

2.  The Winding Stair Bookshop & Restaurant: Near the Ha’Penny Bridge on the North Side is a cozy little book store with a great used book section at the back. I saw a fella sipping tea as he browsed a stack of books while seated at a tiny table dotted with clusters of dainty cups and saucers. There is a wonderful restaurant upstairs reached by, you guessed it: a winding staircase. The Winding Stair Restaurant is a perfect lunch spot serving delicious food sourced from Irish artisans and fruit and vegetable growers. The dining room is a light, airy respite with a River Liffey view.

3.  Trinity College: In Dublin for the first time, I headed to the Trinity College campus to soak up the atmosphere and paid my  €9 to view the Book of Kells. The exhibit is beautiful and informative but what really wowed me was the adjoining Long Room: nearly 200 feet long and crowned with a barrel ceiling, this library is lined with marble busts of great writers and philosophers and houses over 200,000 of Ireland’s oldest books. I was there in the early evening, when light streamed across the room in ribbons. Breathtaking.

Dublin Ireland Travel Trinity College

4.  Queen of Tarts: On a chilly Dublin afternoon, it is hard to imagine anything better than drinking tea in pretty mismatched floral cups and nibbling on berry stained tarts. Or have a bowl of soup (I had sweet potato ginger) with a slice of Irish brown bread. Queen of Tarts has two locations, one tiny (my favorite, on Dame Street) and one larger (around the corner on Cow’s Lane) near Dublin Castle and Gutter Bookshop.

5.  Vintage Cocktail Club: Look for the dark, unmarked door at 15 Crown Alley next to Temple Bar Square. Don’t give up! Ring the bell and make your way inside the Vintage Cocktail Club, a mysterious and beautifully decorated lounge with some of the best cocktails in the world. I had a “Trouble & Strife” while my friend went for a “Flip Out” (which she is still flipping out about.)

6.  Brother Hubbard: Brother Hubbard has everything going for it: perfect coffee (they work with 3FE and only use organic milk), delicious comfort food and a nice setting (warm wood, plaid bench blankets and a living wall in the back room.) I loved their friendliness as well as “The Home-Baked Beans”: cannellini beans in a rich & lightly spiced tomato sauce, with a soft fried egg, topped with whipped feta, olive & lemon yogurt, served with slices of toasted bread.


7.  The Gutter Bookshop: Dublin is home to an extraordinary list of poets, novelists, playwrights, artists and activists, all of whom are well represented in various public installations throughout the city. I thought often of Oscar Wilde and Frank McCourt  and the great Irish playwrights I studied in college: Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw, Harold Pinter. But where were the women? I hadn’t seen a word by Elizabeth Bowen and I wondered who else I should be reading? The Gutter Bookshop has a great selection and suggested Edna O’Brien, Anne Enright and Claire Keegan. If your trip to Dublin inspires you to read more about Ireland find a bit of time to browse collected works at The Gutter Bookshop.

8.  Gravediggers Pub: I have a thing for this dark and gritty pub. I stumbled upon it while exploring Dublin’s far North Side. On a tip from a local photographer, I walked up to Glasnevin Cemetery and Museum. I was stunned by the beauty in this vast, sacred place from the pristine order of costly tombs to the leaning headstones further out. At Gravediggers (officially called Jon Kavanagh’s but commonly known as Gravediggers) I chatted with the Italian bartender and met a guy from Howth, a picturesque coastal village near Dublin, who crafted a detailed hand drawn map and arranged a boat tour with a friend for my upcoming day trip. The highlight was witnessing an intimate and open conversation with few old guys; they were deep in a discussion about need and independence within their relationships with women.

Dublin Travel Glasnevin Cemetary

9.  3FE Coffee: Famous in Dublin, 3FE is well loved and well awarded for it’s outstanding coffee. Friends drop the name often and the shop displays it’s many accolades along the walls. It’s no joke, the coffee is delicious and goes well with their equally delicious scones. I marveled at the lively atmosphere and interesting mix of people; from young hipsters to aging aristocrats, I sensed a bit of drama in everyone playing their part and yet everyone seemed at home.

10.  Lolly and Cooks: I was tipped off to Lolly and Cooks by a local chef and I am so glad. Duck inside George’s Street Arcade on Drury Street and hit this stall for a gourmet snack. I chose a Rosemary and Garlic “Savage Roll”, which is a  flakey pastry filled with sausage. So good! It didn’t hurt that I followed it with a Raspberry Coconut Cupcake while strolling through St. Stephen’s Green which was once a “marshy common”  but since 1880 has been a lovely city park.

11.  Murphy’s Ice Cream: Nevermind that it was freezing cold outside, I devoured two scoops while sitting on the indoor swing at Murphy’s Ice Cream. Flavors like Dingle Gin, Brown Bread and Toasted Irish Oats are “hand made the old fashioned way” in Dingle, County Cork. They are generous with samples and let me try almost everything before I settled on Sea Salt and Irish Coffee with Whiskey. Yum.

12.  Sheridan’s Cheesemongers: If you love cheese you will feel like a kid in a candy shop in Sheridan’s Cheesemongers. I was offered several samples and had the Irish Cheese conversation of my life, including a guided leafing through two recommended books: Farmhouse Cheeses of Ireland and Gubbeen. (Did you know: Irish cheese began it’s journey in the late 70’s. Wow, have they caught on fast.) Half an hour later I said thank you and goodbye and walked away with Crozier Blue, Coolea Mature, Diliskus and Killeens Goat cheeses, three seed crackers, tart olives and sundried tomatoes, all of which I noshed discreetly with a pint of Guiness at a back table inside Kehoe’s next door.

13.  Kehoes: In the heart of S. Anne Street, Near Grafton Street and many other places on this list, Kehoes was recommended to me by twenty somethings as a classic Irish Pub with great atmosphere. Grab a pint of Guiness and choose from the many available sitting areas tucked between stained glass windows and mahogany doors and partitions. What I love about this and other Irish pubs is the diverse mix of characters (and ages) and the warm, friendly banter which is often extended to me – amazing!

14.  The Cobblestone: Widely considered Dublin’s best place for traditional Irish music (trad), the The Cobblestone is small, cozy and friendly. Musicians enjoy a spontaneous, informal gathering along benches lining the main room while pub goers watch, listen, talk, dance and drink. Instruments in attendance the night I was there: violins, flutes, an accordion, a banjo, a bouzouki and a few lovely voices. I took a cab there and back; it’s on the North Side (up from the Jameson Distillery.)

15.  Day Trip to Howth: At everyone’s urging, I hopped the DART to Howth. I went for the famous cliff walk with its views of Bailey Lighthouse and Dublin Bay, for a “gargle” at the Summit Inn and for fish and chips on the pier. One Dubliner told me that the place is “f—ing heaven on earth.” I thought it would be more fishing village than upper class suburb, but had a great time nevertheless. Check out the West Pier Art Studio (I got to chat with artist Alan Mcleod about his fascinating mapping project and documentary “Peril and Pearls”), get your fish and chips at Beshoff’s and take time to have a drink by the fire at The Bloody Stream before returning to Dublin. (Trains run about every 15 minutes.)