Since I don't drink beer, I thought Dublin, the city famous for its pubs, had nothing to offer for me. But boy was I wrong! I quickly discovered the city has many spots to please hipsters, countless colorful facades and a surprisingly urban vibe. It is confusing to see people drive on the left, but other than that Dublin is very easy to approach: They have the euro, you don't need to worry about public transport since distances are short and the general atmosphere is laid-back. So grab your raincoat and off we go!
Lunch at The Cake Café | The Daintree Building, 8 Pleasants Pl, Saint Kevin's, Dublin
Hidden in a deserted street you'll find The Cake Café, a lovely coffee shop famous for its cakes of course, but where you can also enjoy a great lunch (soup, sandwiches, tart...) for max. €10,00. On the outside they have a cute terrace which I'm sure is amazing in summer, whereas on the inside the interior is very much vintage inspired, with tiled floors and mismatched crockery. The staff is very friendly and they use mostly local products. The Cake Café has been featured in countless magazines, yet it has kept its original low key character and I love it for that!
Visit of the Long Room at Trinity College | College Green, Dublin
The University of Dublin almost made me want to be a student again, with its beautiful historic buildings and perfectly green lawns. Can you imagine that this is the place where Oscar Wilde studied? The most famous chamber of the University lays in the Old Library and is called the Long Room: a 65 meters long hall with over 200 000 old books, making it one of the most impressive libraries in the world! To access it, you have to go to the Library Shop and buy yourself a €11,00 ticket to the exhibition and the Book of Kells (a renowned gospel manuscript of the 9th century). If you plan on visiting it during the weekend, you might want to consider buying your ticket online to avoid waiting lines.
Wander around the Dublin Castle | Dame Street, Dublin
The Dublin Castle was built in 1204 and is rather odd because of its location in the middle of the city, on ground level. Don't bother visiting the castle from the inside, but instead wander around it and make sure to enter the garden hidden behind, it is really charming!
Drinks at The Long Hall | South Great George's Street 51, Dublin
You can't go to Dublin and not enter a pub. So I suggest you go to some of its best, like The Long Hall, one of the oldest pubs in the city where the interior has been kept unchanged since the 19th century. It is a beautiful Victorian relic, complete with wood carvings and red upholstered seats and the crowd present is a happy mix of seniors, corporate guys and the occasional tourist.
Dinner at Dunne & Crescenzi | South Frederick Street, Dublin
Being in Dublin shouldn't prevent you from enjoying some fine, yet affordable foreign gastronomy. So for dinner I suggest you go to Dunne & Crescenzi for a genuine Italian experience. The staff is Italian and the pasta is definitely as well! I'm sure you'll enjoy your evening surrounded by shelf's filled with dozens of bottles of wine. Vegetarian options are limited but for dessert you'll have trouble choosing!
Visit of the National Gallery of Ireland | Merrion Square W, Dublin
The National Gallery of Ireland has the world's most comprehensive collection of Irish art, but also masterpieces by artists from the major European schools of art, such as Bruegel and Monet. Entrance is free so you don't have any excuse not to immerse yourself in a little local art history.
Exploring the city center and its shopping arcades
I'm personally not a big fan of shopping centers, but the ones in Dublin are a little different (and you're happy they exist when it starts to rain)! First explore Drury Street where George's Street Arcade is located, one of the oldest shopping centers in Victorian style with stalls and independent stores. Two other noteworthy addresses in that same street that will certainly please hipsters are Industry & Co, an interior shop where you can also grab a bite to eat, and Considered by Helen James, a café where the tableware items from the collection of the same name are for sale. If you're into vintage, make sure to stop at The Harlequin, a boutique where you can search through items that could have belonged to your grandmother or grandfather to find that one special treasure.
Another interesting indoor shopping area is the Powerscourt Townhouse Center. Inside a Georgian building, you'll find all sorts of small boutiques and restaurants on three levels. Fashion, jewelry, antiques, ... In total there are about 40 shops inside and it's a really pleasant place to wander in. And then finally there is the Stephen's Green Shopping Center where the shops aren't worth mentioning, but the architecture is! With its delicate details and mint green accents I was immediately under its charm.
Visit of St Patrick's Cathedral | St Patrick's Close, Wood Quay, Dublin
St Patrick's Cathedral is worth visiting as it is the largest cathedral in Ireland. It features beautiful stained glass and surprising eclectic tiled floors. You can visit it everyday between 09:00 and 17:00 (except on Sunday when visiting hours are more limited) and entrance fee is €6,50. A little further up North you'll find Christ Church Cathedral which I wouldn't recommend visiting (one cathedral per day is enough) but I would definitely walk over there to have a look at the picturesque covered bridge that connects the Cathedral to the old Synod Hall.
Exploring the Temple Bar area
This area is packed with pubs and bars, making it a favorite among tourists, especially at night. I enjoyed it for its colorful facades, street art and pedestrian streets. You'll also find another great vintage shop over here called Nine Crows which is more hip and young than The Harlequin.
Dinner at Bóbós | 50 Dame Street, Dublin
For dinner on Saturday night I suggest Bóbós on Dame Street (there are two other locations in Dublin). They have a wide variety of burgers on the menu, of which two vegetarians, and their sweet potato fries are probably the best I've ever had. Its location is perfect if you want to have drinks afterwards but you should definitely make a reservation.
If you wish to experience the local gay scene, head to The George, one of Ireland's first gay bars where every night is a celebration. For example, on Saturday it is karaoke night hosted by the exuberant drag queens Veda and Davina. And unlike gay clubs in Belgium, it is a place where straight people mix happily with gay men and women.
Two days are sufficient to enjoy the best Dublin has to offer. But if you're staying three days, you can spend your last day in Howth, a beautiful coastal village with perfect settings for long hikes, that is easily accessible by bus. That is at least if isn't raining, because in that case the experience can be quite miserable.
If the weather gods aren't in your favor, I suggest you stay in Dublin and start by having pancakes at this cute place called Goose on the Loose. After that, you can visit the Guinness Storehouse (I didn't but it's supposed to be a must see) or do some shopping around Grafton Street as shops are open on Sunday. If you're looking for pubs to hang out, I suggest Farrier & Draper, Kehoe's or O'donoghues.
Dublin is just a 1h30 flight away from Brussels. You can easily find tickets for less than €50,00 via Ryanair. At the airport, there's a bus that will take you to the city center in about 15 min (€10,00 for a round trip).
I dedicate this post to my dear friend Etienne who went living in Dublin for his studies and whom I was paying a visit.