If the Dirty Old Town enjoyed a complete cosmopolitan overhaul during the Celtic Tiger boom, its characteristic warmth and unpretentious nature endured. So there’s still no better place in the world for a creamy pint and some genuine craic.
Where to Stay in Dublin:
Dublin’s popularity as a travel destination with Americans seeking their roots and Europeans seeking a piece of the rare auld times means there are plenty of great places to stay to choose from. Fans of John Rocha’s pared down minimalism should book themselves into the Morrison (Lower Ormond Quay; +353 1 887 2400), a bastion of modern design looking right on to the River Liffey. From the minimal to the maximal, the Dylan (Eastmoreland Place; +353 1 660 3000) is a bold and buzzy hotel situated in a leafy part of central Dublin, where the five-star service, killer cocktails and cool interiors make it a perennial draw for the style set. For something a little quirkier, Number 31 (31 Leeson Close; +353 1 676 5011) is a gem of a boutique hotel hidden away down a pretty mews, while despite being more restaurant with rooms than hotel proper, the Cliff Townhouse is a great place for a romantic dinner and a stay.
Where to Eat in Dublin:
While Irish cuisine never really made it onto the world stage, the country as a whole has enjoyed a culinary renaissance in recent years and is now able to boast a lot more than just top-quality beef and the cardiac-inducing full Irish breakfast (substitute the English sliced pan for a slice of soda bread and a potato farl, and it’s pretty much the same thing). The latter of these is well showcased in hot new hangout Bear (34/35 South William Street). Based on the happening street known to many as South Williams(burg) street, the restaurant is a hip no-reservations spot with house music on the sound system, pretty staff, flattering lighting and some of the best steak ‘n’ chips you’ll get in the city (unless you head up the road to the legendary Shanahan’s on the Green for an incredible €50 steak).
For something a little more high-end, Chapter One (18 Parnell Square; +353 1 8732266) is one of the proudest accomplishments of Dublin’s restaurant scene. Michelin-starred food without a hint of the haughtiness that often goes with it, the restaurant – based in the beautiful Georgian Writer’s Museum – has had the punters raving since day one. L’Gueleton (1 Fade Street; +353 1 675 3708) is a less pricey but just as buzzed-about option – fine French food with a no-booking policy that means it’s always hopping. Hungover Dubliners head to Odessa (14 Dame Court; +353 1 6707634) on a Saturday morning for a well-mixed Bloody Mary in elegant members' club-like surrounds, before meandering down to Temple Bar Market (Meeting House Square, 10am – 4.30pm) for their pick of artisan foods and maybe a bit of dessert from the Gallic Kitchen stall.
Where to Go Out in Dublin:
All roads in Dublin begin and end at the pub, and there are more great watering holes than you can shake a pint glass at. Skip the tourist trap of Temple Bar and instead head for South Great George’s Street where some of the city’s best and most vibrant drinking spots are to be found. Start at the Long Hall (51 South Great Georges Street; +353 1 4751590), a Victorian bar with glittering mirrors and a quirky interior that looks like it hasn’t been updated since about the time of Queen Victoria. Move on to Kehoe’s (9 South Anne's Street; +353 1 6778312) for another creamy one (read: Guinness) with a great local crowd getting warmed up for the night ahead – bag a snug and you won’t want to move on. Landing a seat at Grogan’s (15 South William Street; +353 1 1 6779320) on South William Street is another coup – the 70s décor and cosy feel always draws an eclectic crowd who love the unique atmosphere as well as the fact that all the art on the walls is available to buy).
Dublin is small enough that you can go where the wind takes you without making much of a commitment, so if after your pub crawl you fancy something a little harder, hit Pygmalion (59 South William St; +353 1 6334479) a hipster honeypot serving excellent cocktails to the beats of Berlin DJs, or you could head up to Camden Street where spots like Whelan’s (Wexford Street; +353 1 478 0766) and Anseo (18 Camden Street Lower; +353 1 475 1321) dish up live music to a young and enthusiastic crowd.
For traditional Irish music there’s no better spot than The Cobblestone (77 King Street North; +353 1 872 1799) or, just a hop across the River Liffey, on Smithfield Square. But if you’re more into techno and bass than jigs and reels you’d be best advised to finish off your night in Dublin’s flag bearer for the dance scene, Twisted Pepper (54 Middle Abbey Street; +353 86 325 2471).
Where to Shop in Dublin:
The compact size of Dublin’s city centre means you can move from ramshackle flea markets to upscale designer stores in little more than 20 minutes’ easy stroll. Brown Thomas (88-95 Grafton Street; +353 1 605 6666) is Dublin’s best department store and is a shrine to designer living with five beautiful floors of tastefully laid out international brands. Grafton Street is the main drag, housing recognizable brands like Tommy Hilfiger and River Island as well as Irish high street staples A|Wear and Dunnes. If you’re looking for something a little more idiosyncratic slip off to Drury Street, where you’ll find interesting boutiques such as Costume (10 Castle Market; +353 1 6794188), for choice pieces from Antonio Berardi or Mackage, and Smock (31 Drury Street; +353 1 6139000), Dublin’s best left-field establishment which stocks brands like Maison Martin Margiela and A.P.C.
Wend your way down to Suffolk Street to find the best of Irish crafts, foods and fashion at Avoca (13 Suffolk Street; +353 1 677 4215), and be sure to check out Cow’s Lane market for one-of-a-kind Irish design and jewellery before finishing off with a cup of Barry’s Tea and a cake at Queen of Tarts (Cork Hill, Dame Street; +353 1 670 7499).
What to Wear in Dublin:
Dublin girls aren’t afraid of a towering heel and a glossed lip, so when you’re hitting the town you may as well use the excuse to up the glamour ante. The cool girls hit the town in separates from home-girl Simone Rocha bought at Havana Donnybrook (2 Anglesea House; +353 1 2602707), or vintage pieces they’ve picked up at Fluorescent Elephant (9 Sprangers Yard Crow St; +353 86 3389669). Dublin girls love to experiment and like to have fun with dressing up – and it always makes for better chat in the pub later on.
Where to Go for Pampering in Dublin:
All the pretty people are usually to be found buzzing around the back streets of Grafton Street, and that’s where they prettify themselves too, at places like Brown Sugar (50 South William Street; +353 1 6169967) where some of the country’s finest editorial hair stylists and make-up artists work their magic on everything from eyebrows to full heads of highlights. Nearby Therapie (24 Wicklow Street; +353 1 633 9900) goes deeper, specializing in Eve Lom facials, body massages and top-to-toe beauty packages to get you looking your best. For a real escape head to the bijoux Mandala Spa (La Stampa Hotel & Spa, Dawson Street; +353 1 671 7099) in the chic La Stampa townhouse hotel – dark wood and trickling water provide the perfect backdrop for a range of Eastern-inspired beauty therapies using natural and organic skincare products by Luzern.
Don’t leave Dublin without:
An Aran knit from Trinity Sweaters (30 Nassau Street Dublin 2; +353 1 6712292). The weather may be warming up now but you’ll be glad of it for winters to come.