Dublin is a small capital with a lot to say. This is something I’m often reminded of, whether I’m exploring the vibrant streets of Temple Bar, hanging out in historic arts venues, or sipping cocktails in brand new bars. Dublin is a city of endless surprises, where rich heritage meets current creativity and the old is celebrated along with the new.
City break in Dublin | layers of culture in Ireland's capital
SEE | explore Dublin's past and present
To experience Dublin to it’s fullest, spend some time learning about its cultural heritage, before exploring some of its most diverse neighbourhoods heaving with pubs, arts venues, upmarket boutiques, and thriving coffee shops.
Trinity College Dublin
As Ireland’s oldest, and most prestigious university, Trinity College Dublin holds a significant place in the capital’s history. Its 16th-century buildings cluster around cobbled squares, a surprisingly peaceful retreat in the heart of the city. Whenever I need a break from the madness of nearby Grafton Street, I stroll through Trinity’s arched entrance and take a breather. The university’s notable former students include Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, and Jonathan Swift and its legacy is still going strong.
What really draws the crowds to Trinity is the chance to see the Book of Kells. Displayed in the university’s Old Library, the Book of Kells is considered Ireland’s greatest cultural treasure. Created in the 9th century, it’s a vividly decorated medieval manuscript and a copy of the Four Gospels. But the queues to see it are usually long, so buy your ticket in advance.
Continue your exploration of historic Dublin with a trip to Dublin Castle. Once the seat of British power in Dublin, these days it’s used for functions by the Irish government. Take an hour-long guided tour for the chance to see the State Apartments, the Medieval Section, and the Chapel Royal. One of my favourite cultural gems in the city, the Chester Beatty Library, also sits in the castle grounds. A gorgeous two-floor museum, it’s home to Sir Alfred Beatty’s extensive collection of manuscripts, paintings, prints, and rare books.
Dublin’s biggest new attraction, EPIC Ireland, is an interactive visitor experience. Designed to celebrate the journeys and the impact of Irish emigrants, it uses sleek media exhibits to keep things interesting. Discover what it means to be Irish as you swipe your way through video galleries, remastered audio, and sensory quizzes.
Smithfield and Stoneybatter
For a glimpse of local life in Dublin, leave the centre behind and make your way to the adjoining neighbourhoods of Smithfield and Stoneybatter. Traditionally working-class areas, these North Dublin neighbourhoods still have an edge. But the emergence of hip coffee-shops, yoga studios, and restaurants is a sign of how much things have changed.
In Stoneybatter, get yourself a sugar fix with an almond croissant from The Green Door Bakery, before stopping off at The Lilliput Press. An independent publishing house, Lilliput represents some of Ireland’s greatest writers and there’s a bookshop on site.
The Luas, Dublin’s light-rail transit service, is one of the easiest ways to get around the city. And if you’re staying in Dublin for a week, I’d recommend investing in a seven-day flexi ticket so you can hop on and off whenever you like.
STAY | enjoy a warm welcome in Dublin’s classic and contemporary hotels
Dublin’s reputation for being one of the friendliest cities in the world means you can expect a warm welcome. Hospitable locals, excellent service, and easy-going neighbourhoods are all part of the city’s charm. To top it off, you can choose from an impressive range of elegant guest houses and hip hotels for a truly comfortable stay.
Classic | boutique hotel in the heart of the city with renowned restaurant
If you’re looking for a stylish base in the heart of Dublin, Brooks Hotel is great choice. A four-star boutique hotel, Brooks is family-owned and perfect for a classy weekend in the capital. So you can explore Dublin’s central landmarks, before coming back to relax in total comfort. Get settled in a Classic Room, surrounded by handcrafted furniture. Or treat yourself to a luxurious Executive Room – perfect for a romantic weekend. And don’t worry if you don’t feel like going out for dinner, because the restaurant is what really sets Brooks apart. At Francesca’s Restaurant, the team is passionate about wild food and foraging, so each dish is packed with fresh, local produce.
Classic | cosy guest house with full Irish breakfast for travellers on a budget
Although Dublin hotels are notoriously expensive, it is possible to enjoy the city on a budget. Ariel House, a Victorian guest house in the leafy neighbourhood of Ballsbridge, offers elegant rooms at affordable rates. For an extra-peaceful stay, book a room with a view of the garden. Or splash out on the spacious Junior Suite and relax in your four-poster bed. And after a comfy night’s sleep, you can prepare for a day of sightseeing with some homemade granola, freshly-baked scones, or a full Irish breakfast.
Contemporary | modern central boutique with cocktail bar for the ultimate nightlife experience
The Dean’s has contemporary chic covered. A hip design hotel right in the heart of Dublin, The Dean is the ultimate spot for a wild weekend. With it’s own rooftop cocktail lounge, ‘The Vintage Cocktail Club’, you can hang out and sip unusual inventions before heading out for a night on the town. And if you try to party two nights out in a row, be warned, the plush rooms are so comfy that you might find yourself tempted to stay in and watch Netflix on your Samsung TV! The rooms range from the small and comfy Modpod to the supersized Penthouse, so there really is something for everyone here, whatever your budget.
Contemporary | retro-inspired hostel with rooftop bar
At Jacobs Inn Hostel, you won’t have to spend an evening trying to find a cool rooftop bar in the city – just head up to the fourth floor and enjoy views of the skyline with a bottle of local stout. As well as socialising up on the roof, the hostel has a retro-inspired dining and games room with cartoon-style artwork and industrial-inspired lighting. Get competitive over a game of pool or foosball before unwinding in front of the TV. Eager for adventure? This hostel is only a 2 minute walk from Busaras Station so it’s really easy to get out and about, plus Buzzing Temple Bar is only 15 minutes’ stroll.
EAT | feast on pub grub and fresh cuisine
Dublin’s food scene has transformed in recent years. An increase in creativity, innovation, and commitment to using local, high-quality ingredients have all seen to that. But don’t worry, it’s still just as easy to find a hearty bowl of Irish stew as it is to find a hip lobster roll.
O'Neil's Pub & Kitchen
For a night of satisfying local food in a proper Irish pub, head to O’Neill’s Pub & Kitchen. Just a quick walk from Temple Bar, O’Neill’s is an ideal spot to recover after a day of exploring. And if you’re hoping to get a taste of Irish culture, you’re in for a treat. O’Neills has regular Irish traditional music (also known as trad) sessions, a welcoming atmosphere, and lots of cosy corners to settle into. Meanwhile, the menu of satisfying dishes is exactly what you’d expect from traditional pub food. Choose from chunky sandwiches, seafood platters, and hearty mains like fish and chips and Guinness Pie.
The Winding Stair
A Dublin landmark since the 1970s, The Winding Stair is symbol of Dublin’s rich literary heritage. Once a meeting place for writers, musicians, and artists, you can still see the original features of the ground-floor bookshop. And in the upstairs restaurant, the focus is on nourishing, home-cooked food. The team sources ingredients from all around Ireland, so expect to enjoy Kilkeel scallops, Toons Bridge Dairy, and Dingle Bay crab, among others. And if someone’s up for sharing with you, don’t miss the Irish Cheese Board – a delicious combination of local cheeses, homemade crackers, and plum chutney.
If you like seafood, you’re going to love Klaw. Crabshack-style dining with a fun and casual vibe, there’s nowhere else quite like it in Dublin. I’m not a huge fan of oysters, so I usually opt for their delicious shellfish dishes – think Crab Mac n’ Cheese, Grilled Prawns, and Klaw’s famous Lobster Roll. But if you’re feeling fancy, try pairing their oysters, fresh from Irish waters, alongside a glass of prosecco or a pint of Guinness.
Forest & Marcy
One of the most exciting new restaurants to hit Dublin’s food scene, Forest & Marcy is the place to go for modern, Irish cuisine. Choose between the four-course and six-course Tasting Menus and enjoy creative combinations like steamed cauliflower, smoked mussels, and seaweed. Using high-quality ingredients to create seasonal dishes, Chef Ciaran Sweeney is very much focused on flavour. Just don’t blame me when you can’t get enough of their incredible potato bread.
When the sun comes out in the capital, run to Murphy’s Ice Cream shop on Dublin’s Wicklow Street. Using ingredients like Irish milk, organic sugar, free-range eggs, distilled rainwater, and homemade sea salt, the team make some of the best ice cream in the country.
DRINK | classic pints and creative cocktails
When it comes to finding places to drink, you’ll be spoiled for choice in Dublin. From classic pubs to opulent cocktail bars, Dublin seems to have its unfair share of impressive venues.
For a true Dublin pub experience, there’s nothing better than enjoying a drink to a backdrop of trad music. The Cobblestone, a beloved Irish pub in Smithfield, centres around a deep respect for Irish music and culture. And it’s still one of the best places in town to catch fiddle players, uilleann pipers, and traditional singers doing what they love. The Cobblestone is a cosy, laid-back pub, known for its excellent pints of Guinness.
The Hairy Lemon
As unconventional as it is historic, The Hairy Lemon is right in the centre of Dublin. The 19th century walls are covered in pictures and memorabilia and the pub oozes with character. As one of the filming locations for “The Commitments”, a well-known Irish film, The Hairy Lemon also has a long musical tradition. This is still going strong today in the form of regular trad sessions. So order a pint, sit back, and enjoy the surroundings of this unique pub.
The Little Pig
Dublin’s obsession with sumptuous cocktail bars is showing no signs of slowing down. And the arrival of The Little Pig has taken things to the next level. An opulent, 1920s-style speakeasy, The Little Pig is a luxurious mix of red velvet walls, tasseled lamps, and intimate seating. Sip excellent martinis and champagne cocktails, and if you’re feeling daring, try the absinthe fountain. In true speakeasy style, this is a hidden bar. So you’ll need to reserve a table online before you receive the address and entry password.
The Big Romance
If you like the idea of drinking in a vinyl shop, then you’ll love the The Big Romance. A new bar on Dublin’s Parnell Street, The Big Romance offers cocktails, craft beer, and good music. It’s a lovely place to try the products of small Irish breweries – Kinnegar, Whiplash, and Rascals Brewing are available on tap. There’s also a small, but thoughtful, cocktail menu with classics like Rum Old Traditional and Aperol Spritz. And good luck trying to resist the bar snacks. The tasty toasties, cheese boards, and mediterranean bites are perfect for nibbling on while you drink.
In Dublin, non-alcoholic drinks are becoming increasingly popular, and increasingly delicious. The Virgin Mary Bar, due to open soon as Ireland’s first alcohol-free bar, will offer a unique menu of botanical-infused cocktails.
DO | experience nature and culture in the city
You’ll be thankful for Dublin’s compact size when you’re trying to explore as much of the city as possible. Balance your sightseeing with some urban adventures for a truly memorable trip.
If you’re looking for a huge slice of nature in Dublin, you’re in luck. Phoenix Park, the biggest enclosed public park in a European capital, stretches for about 1,750 acres through the city. The highlight for me is the graceful herd of deer that roam the park, a reminder of its former life as royal hunting grounds. But Phoenix Park is also home to a Victorian flower garden, Dublin Zoo, the Magazine Fort, a prehistoric burial chamber, and Ashtown Castle. So if you only have time for a quick visit, plan your route and stick to it.
Now a classic Dublin landmark, the Guinness Storehouse is seven floors of Guinness-related information. Located in the huge St. James’s Gate Brewery, the Storehouse is filled with audiovisual and interactive displays. By the time you’ve explored each floor, you’ll have learned everything there is to learn about Guinness and its brewing history. And when you finally reach the top-floor Gravity Bar, you’ll be rewarded with a creamy, cold pint of your own.
Dublin is an excellent base for experiencing Ireland’s outdoor adventure scene. But these days, you don’t even need to leave the city to get started. The River Liffey flows through the heart of Dublin and you can get a whole new perspective of the city by kayaking its meandering route. Starting at Dublin City Moorings, City Kayaking runs tours through the centre of the city. You’ll even get the chance to paddle under the historic O’Connell and Ha’penny bridges. And with a bit of luck, it won’t rain.
If you’re in the mood for something less strenuous, check out some of the most exciting boutiques in Dublin’s Creative Quarter. Atrium Dublin, a concept store in the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, carries clothes by Irish and international designers. MoMuse, also in the Powerscourt Centre, has a contemporary collection of fine jewellery that’s hard to resist. And just a short stroll away, Scout offers a timeless collection of Irish-made clothing, gorgeous accessories, and wholesome homewares.
To experience Georgian Dublin at its finest, take a walk around the historic Merrion Square. Originally built in the 1760s, the square is looking better than ever, thanks to recent improvement works. And as you wander around, you’ll find plaques dedicated to former residents, such as W.B. Yeats, George Russell, and Oscar Wilde.
A weekend in Dublin always leaves me feeling refreshed. The city’s mix of culture, adventure, and fun is hard to say goodbye to, and as I plan my return, I feel inspired in the knowledge that as city continues to evolve, there will always be something new to discover next time.