How to have a craicing good time in Dublin

By | Category: Travel destinations, Travel tips & opinions

Darren Keating, winner of Great Hotels of the World’s recent Insider’s Guide competition, tells us how to have the perfect ‘Dub’ day in Dublin’s fair city

This year has seen the Queen of England and President Obama both visit Dublin. There can only be one reason why: the legendary hospitability. All and sundry knows that Dublin is the world capital for ‘great craic’ and carousing the night away – but there is so much more to this historic city. History is everywhere – from the 5,000 year-old artifacts in the National Museum (that’s 1,000 years older than Stonehenge) to the literature, countless modern dining and shopping options, which add shine to this Celtic city. But how do the locals spend the day (the ‘Dubs’ as they are known!)?

President Obama visited Dublin in May 2011

Here are some recommendations for the perfect ‘Dub’ day in Dublin – most of the recommendations below are based in the city centre, which is easy to navigate on foot. The two main thoroughfares are O’Connell Street and Grafton Street, which is pedestrianised.

Start your day with an early-morning shot of caffeine to get you going in Bewleys Cafe on Grafton Street. It’s been around since 1927, and has six beautiful and famous Harry Clarke stained glass windows. Right next door in Whitefriar Street Church are the bones of St Valentine, who gave us Valentine’s Day. Pop in and say “hello” as the locals do for good luck and a romantic day.

Brown Thomas

An Irish institution, Grafton Street is great for shopping so beat the crowds and visit the city’s main department store – like an Irish Macy’s – is Brown Thomas (or as the locals say, ‘BT’s’). All the leading Irish and international brands found under one roof.

A short walk away you can spend some time digging up the past to really get to grips with how old this city is. Take a walk around Trinity College – the grounds are open to the public and used well by the locals. Pick up a daily newspaper (the Irish read more news per person than anyone else) or perhaps a book of short stories by one of the famous students like Samuel Beckett, Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde who have passed through the cobbled courtyard. The library in Trinity is home to one of the world’s most famous books, The Book of Kells, painstakingly written by monks in cold, dark cells over 1,200 years ago. Local tip: a new page is on display every day!

The Dublin Spire

Not far from here is a modern sight that’s great for photo opportunities. The gleaming Dublin Spire has become like the Eiffel Tower of Ireland, so you can’t really miss it. And don’t feel embarrassed about snapping ‘arty’ shots looking up at at the clouds from the base – the locals have seen it all before – and have their own special names for the Spire…  ask and you will be told! They are very funny and tongue-in-cheek!

Mid-morning, you’ll need a hearty brunch, so a good place not far from the spire to go is the Kingfisher It’s a small, family-run place at the top of O’Connell street. The cafe serves a legendary full Irish breakfast – delicious and is guaranteed to keep you going all day, a real local diamond.

Also nice to visit is the Georges Street Arcade which is off the tourist trail and has been around since 1881. An eclectic redbrick indoor market for Irish souvenirs – especially Aran sweaters, crystal, and linen – you can buy almost anything for the folks back home. Otherwise, keep your eyes peeled for the plentiful souvenir shops you’ll pass in the city centre.

Viking Splash Tour

Even the most independent, hardcore traveller likes to jump onto a tour every now and then, and Dublin has a few that are funny, useful and well-lubricated. For some cheesy fun, get yourself on the Viking Splash Tour. The 90-minute tour is full of silliness, including the Viking roar – screaming at passersby who always scream back! – and the donning of plastic-horned helmets. But aside from the gimmicks, the tour is pretty unique. The old WWII vehicle is amphibious – and so you’ll roll into the canal at the end!

A good spot not far from here is The Brazen Head. They say it’s Ireland’s oldest pub, and haunted too, and you’ll usually find music and storytelling happening inside. If it’s cold, there’s a fire lit in the fireplace, and if it’s warm, you can enjoy your pint and a good dinner in the cobbled courtyard.

Temple Bar

Finally, into the wee hours, it has to be spent in the area known as Temple Bar. Take a tour of the bars, all open ’till late. Done? You’re now a true Dub!

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