A guide to Dublin, Ireland
The constant traveller: Dublin
Words— Kaitlyn McInnis
When most people envision a trip to Dublin, they think of a whirlwind of Guinness, whiskey, and pub hopping -- and they’re not wrong. Dublin is home to nearly 800 pubs and bars across the city, and the drink culture is certainly one of the draws. But there are also handfuls of sobering reasons to visit The Republic of Ireland’s capital city.
Despite (or perhaps due to) its turbulent history and civil unrest in the early twentieth century, Dublin is well known as a historical and contemporary hub for writers and artists -- with countless best-selling authors of past and present-day calling the city home, which fuels the city’s warm Celtic charm and love of storytelling and getting to know one another.
Here, we’re laying out how to spend an ideal week in the small Celtic capital -- whether you’re planning to spend your days at the pub, museum-hopping, or somewhere in between.
Where to eat
First thing’s first: L. Mulligan Grocer is not an actual grocer. It’s a picturesque, cozy pub that just happens to serve some of the best-elevated pub food in the city. Head to this dimly lit gastropub for a decadent Scotch egg (vegetarian Scotch eggs are available) paired with a Whiplash Body Riddle beer. Be sure to stay for the main course. Fan favourites include vegetarian haggis and lamb tomahawk.
Though she is but tiny, she is fierce! Nestled just outside of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, this Dublin institution may be small, but the snug corners and booths are conducive to getting to know your neighbours over a perfectly poured pint of Guinness and a “toastie” -- or toasted sandwich. A toasted “special” with ham, cheese, tomato, and onion on batch bread will run you about $5.
A more contemporary dining outpost, The Oak has become well-loved for their freshly shucked Dungarvan oyster -- which are some of the best in the world. While you’re there, do yourself a favour and order an Irish coffee before you leave. Made with Powers whiskey, coffee and a sort of condensed milk and chocolate, this velvety-smooth drink is not to be missed.
An ode to Irish literary hero W.B. Yeats, and a former meeting place for writers and poets, The Winding Stair is a decadent multi-level Irish restaurant, overlooking the River Liffey and the Ha'penny bridge. The ground floor is a functioning bookshop, and the second and third floors (accessible by a winding stair!) are where the culinary magic happens. The farm-to-table menu is ever changing but you can’t go wrong with their selection of fresh seafood.
After more than a few pints, there’s really only one thing to do: go for pizza! The Yarn does pizza extremely well. Don’t expect traditional pies here. The Yarn goes for shareable, fun pizzas with Irish and American influence. Try the Asparagus & Pea or if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, try the hot dog pizza, which is topped with frankfurter, fried onion, gherkin, cheddar and French’s mustard.
Where to drink
Colloquially known as Gravedigger’s Pub, this Dublin institution dates back to 1833 -- a time when gravediggers from neighbouring Glasnevin Cemetery would stop by for a pint of Guinness on their break. Locals will tell you that it has since become a home for ghosts but don’t let that deter you. Recently, Gravediggers Pub won the award for the Best Community Pub in Ireland -- it’s not uncommon to see the entirety of the pub -- friends and strangers alike celebrating -- a birthday or having a good ‘craic’ together.
While you’re in town, be sure to make a stop at the oldest pub in Dublin (it dates back to at least 1613). This indoor-outdoor establishment guarantees a good time. With handfuls of different rooms, nooks and crannies to settle in with a pint, and live trad music throughout the place, this sprawling pub will make you reevaluate your local pub back home.
The Long Hall
Dublin just does pubs well. The Long Hall is exactly what it sounds like—one long, single-roomed pub; it’s well-loved, with a perfectly preserved Victorian atmosphere. Grab a pint of Guinness and post up at the bar for a bit. You’re guaranteed to meet some interesting characters—or at least have a good chat with the bartender.
Skip the Temple Bar tourist traps and head to The Stag’s Head. A swirling mess of locals and visitors alike, this traditional Irish pub is a great spot to start the night. Records of the pub date back to 1770 and is well loved for its Victorian interior and friendly bar staff.
For a slightly more contemporary spot, head to Bernard Shaw. This indoor-outdoor beer garden is much bigger than it looks from the street. Enter through a small front pub, walk down the hall and into the sprawling back terrace, complete with a double-decker bus serving up pizza.
Galleries and museums
Most consumer-based museums can feel like a bit of a bore or a cash grab, but the Guinness Storehouse is well worth the visit, even if you’re not necessarily a fan of the stuff. The multi-floor, interactive museum boasts a “Guinness University” where guests can learn to pour the perfect pint, a built-in art museum that displays the many Guinness collaborations throughout the years, and a restaurant at the very top, where guests can stop for one last pint while taking in the exquisite Dublin views.
The Celtic capital has a rich history—a lot of which involves civil unrest and a fight for independence. This people’s museum chronicles the incredible history of Dublin from the 1916 Rising to John F. Kennedy's visit to Dublin and more social and political touchpoints.
Nestled into an original 18th-century house, the Dublin Writers Museum was originally built to promote interest in Irish Literature but has since become a go-to spot for visitors and locals alike. Here you’ll find various artifacts from prominent Irish writers. Some highlights include a twentieth-century letter from W.B. Yeats, opening night programs for Oscar Wilde plays, and handfuls of other treasures from the likes of Jonathan Swift and James Joyce.
Trinity College Library
You’ve probably seen this spectacular university library while mindlessly scrolling on social media. The long room in the old library was built between 1712 and 1732 and is arguably one of the most jaw-dropping libraries in the world. Literature buffs and architect lovers alike flock to this popular destination to catch a glimpse of the striking architecture and of the many Irish artifacts held within its walls.
While not as grand or Harry Potter-esque as some of the castles you’d find out in the country, a visit to the Dublin Castle is still worth the walk. Nestled into the popular Temple Bar area, this historical site dates back to 1204 and boasts a medieval tower, Viking excavation, and more.
Things to do
Kilmainham Gaol is a former prison turned museum and educational facility. Guests can tour through the carefully preserved prison -- highlights include the original cells that the leaders of the Easter Rising were held --many of which still display the names of prominent figures like Patrick Pearse and Constance Markievicz. Guests will also walk through the Main Hall, which feels distinctly like something out of 1984. Movie buffs will likely recognize the hall as well -- it’s often used as a set for big box Irish films.
To lighten the mood after a sombre day exploring Kilmainham Gaol, head to International Bar Comedy Show. The Irish are known for their sense of humour, and what better place to see it in all its glory than at a comedy show? The show is hosted in a traditional Victorian pub -- simply grab a pint, climb the slender staircase to the performance venue, and get ready to laugh at the pro-am local acts.
Not your typical church visit, Christ Church Cathedral history runs much deeper than religion and high arches. Founded in 1030, this historic landmark is certainly gorgeous, but what’s really impressive is its underground crypt (the largest crypt in all of Ireland and Britain). Here you’ll find the mummified remains of a cat and rat, which were made famous by James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, along with the mummified heart of a saint, and much more underground artifacts.
Where to shop
Literature fans won’t want to miss this former pharmacy turned bookshop and James Joyce touchstone (Sweny’s was prominently featured in Ulysses). The mirrored walls of the one-room shop are stocked with colourful apothecary bottles, literature, and James Joyce artifacts. Visitors are welcomed to take in the plethora of artifacts, and copies of prominent Irish literature are available for purchase.
Lovers of luxury and sustainability will particularly love this sweet little shop. Siopaella is a well-stocked consignment shop, where shoppers can sell their pre-loved designer wears or shop for the pre-loved wears of others. High-end brands like Louis Vuitton and Chanel are abundant, but local designers are also prominently featured.
This Victorian style red-bricked indoor market opened in 1881 and has since become a shopping hub for just about every type of shopper. Here you’ll find everything from health food stores and cafes to used bookstores and antique stands.