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For the kind of traveller who’d rather be absorbed into the everyday life of a city than wear themselves out hunting down every last tourist attraction, Dublin’s neat size and distinctly charactered neighbourhoods make it easy to explore in bite-sized pieces. Here are a few areas where you can spend a day truly making yourself feel at home in this welcoming city, without the need for comfortable shoes.
Dublin’s compact Creative Quarter can be found just off the busy south-side shopping area of Grafton Street and is an ideal place to experience the essence of the city while making plenty of relaxing stops along the way. Here, you will find some of Dublin’s best cafés and restaurants, plus independent design shops and the much-loved George’s Street Arcade – a red-brick indoor market dating back to 1881, where you can peruse records, used books, art and vintage clothing.
The Powerscourt Townhouse is another historic building in the vicinity worth visiting, now housing luxury boutiques, the ever-fragrant The Garden flower shop, and The Pepper Pot Café – home to what is quite possibly Dublin’s best sandwich (roast pear, bacon and Mount Callan Cheddar).
Wandering around the Georgian Quarter – stretching from Saint Stephen’s Green and Trinity College to the canal – in your own time can be just as informative as a guided tour. As well as seeing Dublin’s famous colourful doors, you can dip in and out of museums like the National Gallery of Ireland, the National Museum of Ireland: Archeology and the National History Museum if you so wish, or just grab a coffee and a pastry to enjoy on the grass in Merrion Square.
A quick walk around the edges of the park will show you the former homes of famous Irish people like Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats and Daniel O’Connell. Afterwards, splash out on the Art Tea at The Merrion Hotel – an afternoon tea inspired by the works of artists like Jack B. Yeats and Louis Le Brocquy, which hang on the hotel drawing room’s walls.
Where to eat: Dunne & Crescenzi, Bang, The Pig’s Ear
Where to get a coffee: Hansel and Gretel Bakery and Patisserie (takeaway only), Lolly and Cooks, Science Gallery Café
Where to drink: The Ginger Man, O’Donoghues, The Shelbourne Hotel
The western end of Dublin’s Temple Bar is an often underrated area to explore. On Cow’s Lane alone, you will find an independent bookshop, a vintage homewares shop and the Dublin Ink tattoo parlour, as well as Queen of Tarts café – a lovely spot to sit and watch members of the city’s creative community come and go.
Dublin Castle and the Chester Beatty Library are a short walk from here if you’re interested – if not, heading west will bring you past Christ Church Cathedral and through the area known as Medieval Dublin. To the south is the part of the city known for its antique stores, home to Dublin Flea Market on the last Sunday of every month. A little further west is one of Dublin’s most historic neighbourhoods, The Liberties. The beloved Vicar Street music venue is nearby, as well as The Brazen Head – billing itself as Ireland’s oldest pub – and the National College of Art and Design. This lively and creative area is as authentically Dublin as it gets.
Where to eat: The Fumbally, Darkey Kelly’s Pub, Leo Burdock Fish & Chips
Where to get a coffee: Two Pups Coffee, Cross Gallery and Café, Mannings Bakery
Where to drink: The Bull and Castle, The Brazen Head, Arthur’s Pub
Travellers sticking to the regular tourist path might miss out on Smithfield and Stoneybatter in Dublin 7, an area of the city that has undergone extensive rejuvenation over the last several years. A short walk, bus or Luas journey from the centre, this locale has a ridiculously high concentration of high-quality food and drink, plus its own unique charm.
From the teeny but well-stocked Lilliput Stores greengrocer and coffee shop – with their independent publishing press nearby – to the Lighthouse Cinema with its programme of arthouse and classic screenings, this is an exciting area loved by artists. Close by is the National Museum of Ireland: Decorative Arts and History, where a permanent exhibition of Eileen Gray’s work is on display.
Where to eat: L. Mulligan Grocer, Fish Shop, Slice
Where to get a coffee: Love Supreme, Proper Order Coffee Co., Lilliput Stores (takeaway only)
Where to drink: Dice Bar, The Cobblestone, Generator Dublin