Dublin Travel Guide

Dublin Travel Guide

Curation by Bastiaan Ellen, words by Laura Tucker

Full of cordial characters who’ll win you over with their lilting accents and rust-tinted beards, Ireland’s capital Dublin is an alternative city break that will embrace you with charisma like no other. A small city with an outsized reputation for multiculturalism and hedonism, where centuries of heritage fuse with breath-taking natural landscapes and the odd stag do, Dublin is bound to leave an impression. Boasting a cosmopolitan outlook with old school charm, this mercurial city quietly embraces progressive culture, gradually shedding its conservative past. Despite the presence of Catholic orthodoxy, Gay Dublin is out and proud, having legalised gay marriage by popular vote in 2015 and playing host to tonnes of queer events throughout the year. In June there’s Pride month centred on Merrion Square, or alternatively come during May for the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, a celebration of famed gay literary legend Oscar Wilde and gay accomplishments in theatre. Other events include the LGBTQ+-focused Gaze Film Festival and Béar Féile where otters, bears, admirers and friends come out en masse to crown Mr Ireland Bear. For your ultimate Dublin gay travel guide, look no further.

The best hotels in Dublin

Whether you decide to visit Dublin in June for Pride month, or during one of the many other international city-wide events, Mr Hudson’s gay travel guide recommends that you book accommodation well in advance – particularly if you want to stay at one of the stylish beauties below. Of our top picks, 5-star The Westbury Hotel is a real winner, voted the number one hotel in Ireland by Condé Nast Traveller Readers’ Choice Awards in 2018. Providing guests with lush comfort in a great central location close to bustling Grafton Street and the historic Trinity College, The Westbury Hotel features elegant heritage décor and an impressive original art collection. During your luxurious stay, feel free to take afternoon tea in The Gallery, sip a martini in Gatsby-esque bar The Sidecar, fill up on fine Parisian cuisine on Balfe’s brasserie terrace, or marvel at the city view in 1930s-style at signature restaurant WILDE. Another purveyor of 5-star luxury is The Marker Hotel on the cultural hub of Grand Canal Square. Combining architectural features drawing on the Irish landscape and a sleek, modern aesthetic, The Marker Hotel knows its art, showcasing a unique gallery of Irish multimedia stunners all available to buy.

The Wilder Townhouse

The Wilder Townhouse

Next up is the Clontarf Castle Hotel, a fusion of boutique modern styles and luxury comforts, just 10 minutes from the city centre. Its tranquil location and ancient architectural form make this hotel a real oasis, with its surroundings of golf courses and rugged coastline a definite bonus. For a stylish yet cosy stay, opt for The Wilder Townhouse, a 4-star minimalist guesthouse with individually designed rooms and a relaxed atmosphere. The history of this stunning townhouse is another selling point, located as it is on Adelaide Road, a famed hub of some of the most important creative, literary and political revolutionaries from days gone by. Those who have breakfast as a firm feature on their minds should check in at the Avoca House B&B, based in the leafy residential area between Drumcondra and Glasnevin, just a short drive from the city centre. Family-run by the Turner family and their friendly pups, Peanut and Chilli, Avoca House B&B offers all guests a full Irish or continental breakfast, kindly accommodating any dietary requirements.

Clontarf Castle Hotel

Clontarf Castle Hotel

Clontarf Castle Hotel

Clontarf Castle Hotel

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Recommended hotels in Dublin
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Stretch your legs while retracing the steps of one of history’s great homosexuals, on the Oscar Wilde Guided Walking Tour

Things to do in Dublin

Quite literally boasting old-school charm, the Arts and Business Campus Drumcondra (ABCD), formerly a school for the deaf, is now a self-sustaining creative hub promoting collaboration in the arts. Sister to The Chocolate Factory, ABCD welcomes all-types for art and photography classes, various exhibition viewings or just a coffee break in cool, comfy surroundings. Other features of the hub include a pizza joint, wholefoods store cum café, gallery space, fitness centre and doughnut stand! Those on the hunt for more art should check out IMMA, a modern and contemporary art museum of worldwide importance featuring a mix of temporary and permanent collections, including the National Collection which rotates as many as 3,500 works from Irish and international artists. Take your time exploring the breath-taking formal garden and grounds of this former 17th-century Royal Hospital before taking a rest at the on-site Itsa Café.

A cultural experiment bridging the gap between art and science is an interactive, educational space, the Science Gallery. Home to research scientists keen to answer questions and enlighten visitors on new findings in diverse fields covering biomimicry and even child’s play, the hugely popular Science Gallery hosts an array of exhibitions, programs and events, also recently launching a Global Science Network spanning the US, India, Australia and Italy. Another hybrid institution worth a look is the Chester Beatty Library, one of the world’s finest book museums, often referred to as the best museum in Dublin. To find it, prepare for a little hunt ending at the back of the Dublin Castle’s landscaped gardens. Inside the remodelled 18th-century structure, you’ll find an exquisite collection of handcrafted and richly illustrated books across two galleries. From 16th to 18th-century hand-painted Japanese fairy tales to 18th-century gilded Qur’an manuscripts from Turkey, the museum is sure to wow you – and that’s just the first floor! Other marvels include a 12th-century bible featuring several famed biblical scenes, and the extremely rare early Christian papyri fragments from the Roman Empire.

Howth | Photo: Savino Minerva

Howth | Photo: Savino Minerva

After all, that reading, stretch your legs while retracing the steps of one of history’s great homosexuals, on the Oscar Wilde Guided Walking Tour. An LGBT icon with his own tumultuous tale of oppression and martyrdom, as well as a vital body of trailblazing queer culture works, Oscar Wilde has a story worth telling. Take the tour through Gay Dublin to explore Wilde’s early life, glimpsing the sites and influences that shaped his mind and writing from birth through to adulthood. For when you can afford to lose an afternoon in a tipsy haze, a visit to Teeling Distillery is one of the top things to do in Dublin for whiskey connoisseurs and lushes alike. Despite taking a 125-year hiatus, the Teeling family have been a popular pub name since the 18th-century, recently reopening their facilities for educational tours in 2015, where visitors can explore the impressive copper storage vats before taking a tasting session that is not advised on an empty stomach.

Bang Bang Bar

Bang Bang Bar

Cliff of Moher | Photo: Alfred Schrock

Cliff of Moher | Photo: Alfred Schrock

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Recommended experiences in Dublin
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What to see in Dublin

Get your walking shoes on because the streets of Dublin await, bursting with interesting sites and things to see. In addition to its bubbly city centre packed with people, there are numerous Dublin points of interest offering a quieter version of the life. The Grand Canal on the south side of the city is one place to go for a canal-side wander, where you’ll come across picturesque bridges, cafes and quiet swan-feeding spots. As drinking on the streets is illegal in Ireland, make a visit to The Barge, a floating vessel devoted to quenching the thirst of canal walkers day and night. On the weekends throughout summer visitors can also expect to find small festivals and markets dotted along the walkway. Part open-air installation, part artists’ collective, The Icon Factory is another nice walking spot. Surrounding the exhibition space itself there are a series of laneways, including Aston Place, Bedford Lane and Price’s Lane, where sightseers can peruse artworks celebrating Irish heroes past and present, from playwrights to sporting heroes, among various local landmarks.

Liffey River | Photo: Thomas Vogel

Liffey River | Photo: Thomas Vogel

Fans of queer national treasure Oscar Wilde should make a visit to the Oscar Wilde Memorial Sculpture top of their Dublin sightseeing list, a collection of three colourful stone statues at the tree-lined northern end of Merrion Square. Standing since 1997 after a commission from the Guinness family, Oscar Wilde’s flashily attired self sits immortalized in green jade. Other important stonework in the city lies at the Malahide Castle & Gardens, about a half day trip from the city centre, along the north Dublin coastline. This regal 12th-century setting is among the best of what to do in Dublin to experience the nation’s rich cultural heritage surrounded by tranquil natural beauty. For something a bit more tropical, head to the National Botanic Garden, northwest of the city centre in Glasnevin, the first of its type in the country, open since the late 18th-century, home to a glass Palmhouse crammed with a canopy of exotic trees, besides which lies an indoor cacti garden.

Trinity College is Ireland’s oldest and most prestigious university, founded in 1592 and boasting awesome historical grounds that feature original 18th-century architecture. The Trinity College Old Library, in particular, the university’s earliest surviving building, is where you can immerse yourself in another time. Inside the library, you’ll find an exhibition room dedicated to the 9th-century Book of Kells as well as the impressive main chamber packed with 200,000 other centuries-old manuscripts, books and marble busts under a jaw-dropping barrel-vaulted ceiling.

Malahide Castle | Photo: Brendan Lyon

Malahide Castle | Photo: Brendan Lyon

Trinity College | Photo: Van Williams

Trinity College | Photo: Van Williams

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Coddle and brown bread, bacon and cabbage, fish and chips; Ireland’s two-component dishes have truly stood the test of time

Where to eat in Dublin

It’s hearty homemade fare and pub grub all around in Ireland and Dublin is no different, with a few modern bistros and Michelin stars thrown in for good measure. Coddle and brown bread, bacon and cabbage, fish and chips; Ireland’s two-component dishes have truly stood the test of time, while recently experiencing a modern revival among cutting-edge chefs and fine dining menus. Seafood is a much-loved favourite in Ireland and at informal restaurant Klaw in the Temple Bar neighbourhood, you’ll be surprised to find some of the city’s best. Whether you like your oysters sharp and raw or spicy and scorched, Kraw can help you out. Or, if you’re on the move, get one of their divine buttery lobster rolls to go. Not your ordinary ‘chipper’, Fish Shop on the north side is the place to go for flaky and succulent battered fish accompanied by fluffy-yet-crunchy chips in an intimate setting.

In the unofficial foodie district of Dublin 8, there are many gastronomic treats to be had. Modern Irish restaurant Bastible is one of them, serving up delicate yet oh-so-punchy dishes in light and airy surroundings. From the scallops among broad beans to the gooey cheese dumplings with chanterelles, Bastible doesn’t mess around, also offering bar snacks of poached oysters and a family-style Sunday lunch menu. Over in the leafy suburb of Harold’s Cross, simplicity is the order of the day at Irish bistro Craft, with its minimalist décor and a pared-back menu featuring pork belly and roasted potatoes. If a relaxed pub setting is more your vibe, try The Legal Eagle based in the Four Courts area, covering all seasons and all budgets with its indulgent menu featuring sourdough crisp sandwiches slathered with “too much butter” for €5 and even a full kilo of steak for €75, where sharing is advised.

While you don’t need a special occasion to try this next one, a meal at Michelin-starred international restaurant Chapter One is a real vacation-making treat. Cooking with unusual Irish ingredients sourced from suppliers across the country, head chef Eric Matthews will take you through a foodie odyssey starting with the basmati cracker laden with sheep’s cheese and peaking with the rare Lambay Island Crab. Catering to the discerning veggies out there meanwhile is Sova Vegan Butcher, an upmarket vegan and vegetarian restaurant in Portobello. Another healthy option is Brother Hubbard which provides a simple, nourishing menu of interesting dishes made entirely from scratch, fresh from local suppliers. Last up is Bibi’s Café a brunch café located in a residential redbrick neighbourhood serving up moreish sweet potato coconut and lime soup and the best avocado toast in town. As well as being a daytime spot, Bibi’s is also open for dinner two nights a week.

Bastible Restaurant

Bastible Restaurant

Bastible Restaurant

Bastible Restaurant

Every Saturday from 10 am on Cow’s Lane, the outdoor arts and crafts market known as Designer Mart Temple Bar emerges

Shopping in Dublin

With its many wonky cobbled streets and hidden ivy-laden alleyways, Dublin is the ultimate city to uncover various hidden independent stores and cutesy boutiques, run by down-to-earth locals. Right in the heart of the lovely Powerscourt Townhouse Centre shopping centre is a homeware store Article. With a backdrop of original features dating back to 1780, Article offers a selection of functional designs sourced from local and international designers, ranging from coloured glass curios to mid-century armchairs. For your fill of functional hand-thrown pottery and ceramics in a series of colourful designs, head to studio shop Arran St East tucked away among the Victorian fruit and veg market on Little Green Street. Influenced by its fruity locale, Arran St East blends delicate hues of pomegranate, lemon and grapefruit on its sustainable, environmentally friendly stoneware collection.

Article Store

Article Store

Every Saturday from 10 am on Cow’s Lane, the outdoor arts and crafts market known as Designer Mart Temple Bar emerges. Showcasing the best of Ireland-made handicrafts, design and artworks, Designer Mart is a great place to go for a slow morning of browsing and gift scouting among a selection of fabulous retailers, selling everything from wooden homeware to hand-printed graphic tees. Owned by an Irish illustrator and German-Spanish author pairing, At It Again is a love song to great books and artistic design. Home of the ‘Romping through’ Irish literature series allowing readers access to iconic local stories in an easily-digestible format, At it Again is the perfect stop for cute literary souvenirs that promote Irish businesses. If you have room for one more souvenir in your case, make it one from Bean and Goose, an independent chocolate manufacturer based in the Irish countryside with its own store in Dublin city.

Not easily missed on Aungier Street near the foodie paradise of Camden, is menswear store Nowhere with its incredible sleek glass façade displaying a curated collection of high-end streetwear labels such as Marni and Christopher Raeburn. Injecting the Irish menswear scene with individualism and pizazz since 2014, Nowhere plays with the idea of Irish masculinity in forward-thinking style. Another menswear cum concept store is Indigo & Cloth, a stockist of wide-ranging brands such as Levi’s and other lesser-known labels. The unexpected bonus of Indigo & Cloth is its side collection of craft Irish chocolate. To complement your new kecks, head next to The Grooming Rooms dedicated to getting you looking dapper for your night on the town. Offering classic barbering services as well as a number of other grooming treatments, The Grooming Rooms is a relaxed place to go to the city centre for some much-needed pampering.

Temple Bar | Photo: Diogo Palhais

Temple Bar | Photo: Diogo Palhais

Sidestep the stag do’s to discover there’s more to Dublin than its traditional pub scene; sophisticated elegance, as well as diverse gay nightlife, is easy to find once you know where to look

Dublin nightlife

Sidestep the stag do’s to discover there’s more to Dublin than its traditional pub scene; sophisticated elegance, as well as diverse gay nightlife, is easy to find once you know where to look. First, up in our Dublin gay scene guide are the best cocktail joints. The subterranean den of delight known as The Liquor Rooms is one of Dublin’s most cutting-edge cocktail bars, run by the aptly named Denis Bourbon and his team of creative liquor craftsmen. Winning multiple awards, The Liquor Rooms is sure to set your taste buds alight with original flavours while also bringing a fun-filled, dance-happy evening in chic surrounds. Then there’s Sophie’s, a decadent rooftop bar at The Dean featuring incredible views of the city’s skyline as well as fine cocktails and laid-back vibes. Come on the weekend for more of a party atmosphere, when she stays open until sunrise.

Signposted by a thicket of rainbow flags flying high over the entrance, gay bar and club The George is a gay Dublin institution, standing at the corner of South Great George’s Street for 30 years, making this the longest-running and largest gay bar in the city. Providing a safe haven for gays since the less-liberal 1980s, now, The George is an open-to-all establishment featuring regular drag shows, raucous karaoke nights and sometimes even celebrity clientele. Over on the north side of the city in Capel Street is youthful gay bar Pantibar, run by legendary drag queen and vocal gay-rights activist Panti Bliss and his bunch of super-hot Brazilian staff. Pantibar itself is both edgy and laid-back, attracting diverse local crowds of gay, lesbians and heterosexual women all looking for a good time, especially for Miss Panti’s performances and late DJ sets on Fridays and Saturdays.

Known as one of the best gay clubs in town, despite only being open on Saturdays from 11 pm, is Temple-based Mother. A unique offering in the city, Mother breathes class with its focus on good music and straight dance action headed by resident DJs Ghostboy and Kelly-Anne Byrne. For something a bit wilder with more flexible opening times is Bukkake, the longest-running gay club night in Dublin, founded 10 years ago and organising regular bank holiday parties held at Café en Seine on Dawson Street. Check their Facebook page for all the must-have information.

Photo: Louis Hansel

Photo: Louis Hansel

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