If “a hundred” thousand welcomes” is just a starting point, imagine how much craic you can cram into one day in Ireland’s capital, writes Lee Tulloch.
Joyce, Beckett, Shaw, Swift, Wilde, Stoker and Yeats. Dublin’s literary ghosts hover in the UNESCO City of Literature, perhaps in their favourite corners of the city’s pubs, which number about 750. The pubs are also where you’ll find the Dubliners, who are rightly famous for having a good time and help make Ireland’s capital the friendliest of places. One of Europe’s most beautiful cities, Dublin is graced with elegant Georgian architecture, medieval castles and towers, majestic colleges and cathedrals, and flowering parks and squares that rival London’s. But the city has also undergone something of a tech revolution, which has revitalised its Docklands area as a cosmopolitan, youthful and stylish quarter known as the “Silicon Docks”. You’ll want to walk among it all – Dublin is compact and great to experience on foot. Not feeling quite that energetic? A one-day Dublin Pass (adult €59, about $92) includes transport on the City Sightseeing double-decker hop-on-hop-off bus and entry to 25 city attractions so there’s no excuse not to pack a lot into your day.
Take a turn around the gardens
08:00 Even if it’s lovely weather for ducks, pop on the gumboots and bring an umbrella for a morning constitutional around the largest of central Dublin’s main Georgian garden squares, St Stephen’s Green Park. The 11 landscaped hectares centre on a formal garden edged by a lake that’s inhabited by some of the largest swans afloat. A stroll reveals all kinds of delightful nooks such as the Yeats memorial garden featuring a sculpture by Henry Moore and a section for the blind with plant labels in braille.
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Breakfast like the Irish
09:00 Time to hunker down somewhere cosy for breakfast. Directly across from St Stephen’s Green Park is the excellent Hatch & Sons, an all-day kitchen that celebrates Irish ingredients, tucked away downstairs in an elegant Georgian townhouse. If it’s sunny, there’s a handful of outdoor tables but be quick – they’re popular.
Hear the story of Dublin from its locals
10:00 It’s just a walk upstairs from Hatch & Sons to one of Dublin’s most enchanting museums. The Little Museum of Dublin chronicles the history of the city in the 20th century through a collection of more than 5000 artefacts loaned or donated by its people. Exhibits include the cultural, political and personal. Staffed by full-timers and volunteers with many a yarn to tell, it’s homey, quirky and completely adorable.
See the city that Guinness built
11:30 Take the City Sightseeing hop-on-hop-off bus from St Stephen’s Green Park to the Guinness Storehouse at St James’s Gate. Yes, this is tourist central but don’t let the crowds deter you. The magnificent seven-floor steel-framed building, completed in 1904, was used as a fermentation plant until 1986 and the interior has been brilliantly revamped as an interactive museum that takes visitors through the history of Guinness, concluding with a free stout at the Gravity Bar with 360-degree views of Dublin.
Take a literary lunch
13:00 Sated with stout, you may not be hungry so take the hop-on-hop-off bus for some sightseeing along the rest of its circuit to Ormond Quay, arriving at The Winding Stair restaurant for a late lunch. Named after a Yeats poem, it serves hearty Irish grub sourced from artisan producers. The bookshop (incorporating a café) downstairs is one of the oldest in Dublin.15:30 Walk across Ha’penny Bridge over the River Liffey. Grab a hit of caffeine from the food hall at Fallon & Byrne then continue on to Clarendon Street in the Creative Quarter, Dublin’s best district for local designer and craft shopping. George’s Street Arcade is one of Europe’s oldest and those with an eye for style will want to head straight for Powerscourt Centre (59 South William Street), which is a collection of boutiques, antique shops and great cafés in what was a grand Georgian home. Here, visit Marion Cuddy for innovative Irish designer fashion.
Shop local talent
17:00 Take a stroll through Trinity College Dublin’s splendid gardens before arriving at Merrion Square, which is lined with handsome Georgian buildings. The Merrion hotel, one of the city’s finest, is known for its exceptional collection of 19th- and 20th-century Irish and European art. Each afternoon, the hotel hosts a unique Art Tea in its sumptuous drawing room, including a lavish traditional tiered cake stand and three pastries inspired by the paintings on the walls.
High art tea
19:30 Have a tourist moment. Meet your guides at The Duke hotel on nearby Duke Street for the hilariously entertaining Dublin Literary Pub Crawl of the watering holes frequented by Joyce, Behan, Beckett and other colourful Dublin characters. The tour is hosted by actors, who sing and perform scenes from literary works at each stop, and there’s time built in to sample the hospitality of the city’s pubs.
Pub crawl with Dublin’s writers
21:00 There’s the option to eat at one of the pubs on the tour. But if it’s Wednesday to Saturday, leave the group early and take a taxi to Forest Avenue, a “neighbourhood dining room” named for the street in Queens, New York, where co-owner Sandy Wyer (her husband, John, runs the kitchen) grew up. Considered one of Dublin’s best food experiences, this hip, friendly restaurant serves inventive, flavourful dishes based on the best seasonal ingredients.
Dinner in the neighbourhood
23:00 There may still be time to catch some traditional Irish music. Pubs take last orders at around midnight but there are plenty of bars that kick on into the night. Take a taxi across the river to The Cobblestone on Smithfield Square, where the Mulligan family has been playing Irish music for five generations, now seven days a week. Sessions start at 7pm Mondays, 5pm Tuesday to Friday and 2pm on weekends, and run through until close at this “drinking pub with a music problem”. ￼