A historic city brimming as much with culture as it is with great heritage and pubs both stylish and quaint, Dublin offers a metropolitan experience with small-town charm. To ensure you make the most of your next visit, we asked David McNally, Concierge at Four Seasons Hotel Dublin, to share recommendations for the best things to see and do within Dublin—from where to discover the Emerald Isle’s storied past to which kid-friendly places to visit on a family vacation.
For anyone interested in Irish heritage and genealogy, a visit to Glasnevin Museum and Cemetery is a must. Located on Dublin’s Northside, about 7 kilometres (4 miles) from the Hotel, this modern, interactive attraction offers an introduction to Ireland’s rich history. While you’re in the area, try a tipple (or two) in one of Dublin’s most notable Victorian pubs, John Kavanagh’s Gravediggers at 1 Prospect Square. Unless you’re familiar with the city centre’s traffic lanes and routes, we advise taking a taxi.
Dublin doesn’t hold back when it comes to showcasing the country’s acclaimed literary talents. Ireland’s national theatre, also known as the Abbey Theatre, is dedicated to the preservation and production of plays by Irish authors past and present. For a more international programme, visit the Gate Theatre, where classic and contemporary European and American works are performed. The Gaiety Theatre and the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre both feature a wide variety of dance shows, musicals and other productions.
Come evening, music and laughter fill the air in and around Dublin’s neighbourhood pubs. You’ll find offerings of Guinness and Irish whiskeys almost anywhere, of course, but three not-to-miss stops are conveniently located within a short distance of the Hotel: Drop into Toners for a quiet pre-dinner drink, admire the lovely Victorian interiors at Doheny & Nesbitt, and cap off your evening with traditional Irish music at O’Donoghues.
On the menu
Dublin boasts a culinary community that is rich in both traditional Irish dishes and Continental fare. For some of the city’s best dining (and smartest décor), get to the St Stephen’s Green area, where Thornton’s Restaurant, Cliff Townhouse and Shanahan’s on the Green serve fresh, contemporary Irish dishes. If you’re inclined to lighter, more Continental dining, try The French Paradox wine bar, just a short walk from the Hotel. With its broad range of French tapas and a dizzying array of European wines, this spot is très chic.
Brown soda bread, made with wholemeal flour and buttermilk, has been a staple of Irish cuisine for centuries. The addition of Guinness stout to the dough makes for a darker loaf with a richer flavour. This bread, along with traditional blood sausage known as black pudding, turns up on breakfast tables throughout the country. Sample these and other classic Irish foods at the Winding Stair restaurant, overlooking the river Liffey in the city centre.
Ireland is home to some of the world’s most beautiful—and challenging—golf courses. The wayward winds of the links courses on Ireland’s coast entice experienced players, but novices can enjoy a round, too. Portmarnock Golf Club, some 18 kilometres (11 miles) north of the Hotel, is considered one of the top courses in the world, while the top-ranked European Club, just 61 kilometres (37 miles) south of the Hotel at Brittas Bay, offers the exceptional scenery of County Wicklow.
Shop the city
Whether you’re looking for local wares or luxury goods, you will find them in Dublin, where glossy boutiques, department stores and independent specialty shops sit side by side. For opulent shopping under one roof, stop into Brown Thomas, which houses a range of stylish European clothing brands and the very best of Irish fashion designers, as well as cosmetics and accessories. Lovers of vintage clothing and accessories shouldn’t miss Jenny Vander, where a nostalgic mix of high-end and middle-range pieces draws a distinctly hip clientele. Avoca, Kevin & Howlin and Cleo offer authentic Irish goods and textiles such as tweeds, cashmeres and other knits.
Walking, biking, sailing—there’s no better way to experience Dublin than by being outdoors. Howth Harbour, on the north side of Dublin Bay, is one of the city’s most scenic spots, although Sandycove, Dalkey and Killiney also offer superb views from the south side. A sailing trip on the bay is a great option for travellers who prefer a bit of action. Those hoping to explore the diverse terrain on foot should head to Sandymount Strand for a stroll along the beach, or Howth Head for cliff walking and stunning seascape views. Dublin Area Rapid Transit (the DART) stops at the aforementioned spots.
The Dublin Zoo, located in Phoenix Park, draws animal lovers of all ages, and is a favourite spot for visitors and residents alike. Family art workshops and tours make both the National Gallery of Ireland and Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane popular places for imaginative children, while the National Leprechaun Museum is bound to entertain visitors with its interactive lessons about Irish mythology.
In the heart of Dublin’s city centre, Trinity College Dublin is an oasis of calm amid the bustle of the capital. Visit on a weekday morning and enlist the company of a student guide, who will lead you through the grounds on foot. Don’t miss the Old Library, which boasts stunning, historic architecture and houses one of Ireland’s greatest treasures: the ninth-century Book of Kells. While there, be sure to spend some quiet time in the Long Room, where you can marvel at the collection of more than 200,000 antique books.