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Imagine Dublin and visions of Guinness, Leopold Bloom, and hearty breakfast plates piled high with Irish bacon and farm-fresh eggs might spring to mind, backed by a U2 soundtrack. Dublin is all that, and so much more; in fact, Ireland's largest city (and capital for more than a thousand years) is currently enjoying its status as one of the hottest, most livable cities not just in Europe, but in the world.
Set on Ireland's central east coast along the banks of the Liffey River, where so many literary greats were born (James Joyce, yes, but also Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett, to name a few), Dublin now shows off trendy coffee houses, foodie-friendly restaurants and smart boutiques filled with Burberry-clad shoppers. However, there's still much to see from days gone by in this historical city.
The city center is bisected by the River Liffey, which makes a good orientation point for visitors. The Royal Canal forms a skirt through the northern half, and the Grand Canal does the same through the southern half, which is where most of the major sights are found. Within the south portion, aim for the triangle between O'Connell Bridge, St. Stephen's Green, and Christchurch Cathedral, where you'll find Trinity College, Grafton Street (for shopping), Temple Bar (for hot nightlife), and Dublin Castle.
The city's upscale neighborhoods and the majority of hotels, restaurants, shops and sights lie south of the river. The main shopping thoroughfare is Grafton Street, but you'll find the more exclusive shops along the side streets. Dublin's most beautiful squares -- St. Stephen's Green, Merrion Square and Fitzwilliam Square -- are within 10 minutes' walking distance of Grafton Street. Temple Bar lies along the Liffey near Ha'penny Bridge. North of the river is working-class Dublin, but also Dublin's most important theaters, the Gate and the Abbey. There is also a pocket of fine Georgian townhouses on and around North Great George's Street.
Dublin has a mild, temperate climate, and though showers can come up suddenly at any time of the year, they usually pass just as quickly. Average temperatures in summer range from 16 to 20 degrees Celsius (60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit) and in winter from 4 to 7 degrees Celsius (39 to 44 degrees Fahrenheit).
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Skip the mixed drinks and tip a pint of tar-colored Guinness Stout or sip some Irish whiskey. Guinness doesn't taste as strong as you might think, and there's a real art to serving it properly. Watch as a bartender tips and fills the glass partway, then lets it rest so the head subsides, before finally topping it with just the right amount of creamy foam. As for the whiskey, you won't taste the "peaty" characteristics of Scotch, but you'll discover that brands like Jameson are smooth and dangerously easy to drink. If you must mix it, go for an Irish coffee. Invented in County Limerick, this drink combines hot coffee, Irish whiskey and sugar, topped off with thick cream.
Stock up on fine Irish linens, especially the ones from Bottom Drawer, which is nestled sweetly inside the Brown Thomas department store (88-95 Grafton Street). Hand-knit woolen anything can be found practically anywhere, but we love the soft-as-butter hand-loomed cashmere knits from hot Irish designer Lainey Keogh, also available at Brown Thomas and several other shops in Dublin.
Tip: If you've got your heart set on a traditional Irish fisherman's sweater, shop carefully. Many that you'll find in souvenir shops are imported or machine-made. If it seems like an unbelievable bargain, don't believe it.
English is the primary language in Ireland. Irish, also referred to as Gaelic or Gaelic Irish, is the ancient Celtic language of the country, spoken by about five percent of the population, particularly in the western counties.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The national currency in the Republic of Ireland is the euro. Currency exchange can be made in most banks and post offices, as well as some hotels and travel agencies. Traveler's checks should be exchanged at banks or exchange offices, as very few businesses will accept them; ATMs and credit cards have made them nearly obsolete. For the best exchange rate, use ATMs, which are found almost everywhere. Check www.xe.com for the latest currency exchange information.
Note: Many European ATMs display only numerals on the keypad. For pin codes that include letters, commit to memory or jot down the translation to numbers.
If you're visiting from outside the European Union, you can get back the Value Added Tax (VAT) you paid on certain items, which can be as much as 17.36%. You will need to carry your passport with you and fill out a form at the time of purchase. Present the forms to Customs at your final departure from the European Union, but keep in mind the agents will most likely ask to see the purchased goods as well. Mail the forms, and once it all works through the system, you'll get your refund. There's also a program operated by Global Blue, which gives you a refund on the spot when you leave the EU, but they take a cut for the convenience and you have to shop at a store displaying the Global Blue Tax-Free Shopping logo.
Where You're Docked
North Wall Quay Extension: Smaller ships can dock on the River Liffey at North Wall Quay Extension, near the East Link Bridge; it's less than a 10-minute taxi ride into Dublin's center. There's not much when you disembark, as the area is mostly industrial, so your best bet is to board one of the shuttle buses most cruise lines arrange for a trip into town or, alternatively, take a cab into town. If you want to walk to the city center, it's about a two-mile walk along the river.
Alexandra Quay: Larger ships can dock at Alexandra Quay, near the mouth of the River Liffey. There is city bus service near the terminal, as well as taxis, and the nearest tram stop is about a mile away. Some cruise lines provide a shuttle service, but double-check to make sure a taxi isn't cheaper. Walking isn't advised due to heavy traffic in the area. Dublin Port Company has plans to redevelop the Alexandra Basin to include two cruise ship berths and to accommodate larger ships than can currently be served.
Dun Laoghaire: Some lines choose to dock in a completely different area. Dun Laoghaire, a suburb about seven miles south of the city center. This historic port is just over 200 yards from shops and other services. There's also a Dublin rapid transit system (DART) station located near the pier; from there, it's about 20 minutes to the city center. Taxis are available, too; the drive is also about 20 minutes. This port is closer to attractions like County Wicklow and the mountains, which is ideal if you enjoy the countryside.
Services are lacking at both Alexandra Quay and North Wall Quay Extension, which are both are essentially industrial ports.
North Wall: At North Wall, you're docked near the architecturally interesting Convention Center Dublin (CCD), which offers free Wi-Fi. You're within walking distance of the lovely Georgian-style 1791 Customs House (Custom House Quay), which is illuminated at night. (Be warned, though, that the area is a hangout for homeless people.) The Jeanie Johnston Tall Ship and Famine Museum (353 01 473 0111) is also nearby. Tours last approximately 50 minutes (times vary by season), taking you aboard the ship, an authentic replica of a vessel that made 16 trips to the U.S. transporting emmigrants during the potato famine. Mannequins and personal belongings of travelers give visitors a real sense of life aboard the ship.
Alexandra Quay: Near Alexandra Quay, you'll find the ferry terminal (Terminal 2), which has toilets and pay phones, but little else.
Dun Laoghaire: This terminal has the most services. At the port, there's a ferry terminal with drinks, snacks, free Wi-Fi and pay phones. But it's just a short walk to the center of this affluent suburb, where you'll find restaurants, shops and banks with ATMs. The nearest banks are Ulster Bank (Dun Laoghaire Shopping Centre, George's Street Upper), AIB Bank (George's Street Upper) and Bank of Ireland (George's Street Upper).
By Taxi: Taxis are usually plentiful. Some Dublin taxi companies operate a 24-hour radio-call service, among them Co-Op (353 01 677 7777) and VIP Taxis (353 01 478 3333). Calling for a cab will add an extra fee.
By Bus: Dublin has a large bus network, and you can purchase short-distance fares or Rambler day passes. Fares depend on the number of stages you travel; most trips within the City Centre are between one and three stages. You can't buy tickets from the driver; they must be purchased at outlets displaying the black-and-yellow Dublin Transit sign. You can also save by purchasing a Leap Card, which requires a refundable deposit with a minimum balance (usually 5 euros for each).
By Tram: The tram network, called Luas, has two stops that are convenient if you're docked at North Wall. The Mayor Square and Spencer Dock stops are located at the rear of the CCD building.
By Rapid Transit System: From Dun Laoghaire, the DART system gets you into central Dublin in approximately 20 minutes. The line runs primarily along the coast, and you can also use the Leap Card to pay your fare.
By Air: Dublin Airport is a 25-minute drive from Alexandra Quay and North Wall Quay. Most cruise lines offer airport transfers, or shore excursions combined with transfers. There's also an Airlink bus that stops outside the CCD (usually best for ships docked at North Wall) and 3Arena (best for ships at Alexandra Quay).
On Foot: Once you get to the city center, most attractions are within walking distance. There are also plenty of walking tours that cover literary sights, pubs, food and history, and more.
Watch Out For
When you pay with a credit card, you may be asked if you want to pay in euros or dollars. Always opt for euros. Otherwise, you'll be socked with a "convenience fee" for converting your payment to dollars, and the exchange rate won't be favorable either. Known as Direct Currency Conversion (DCC), this practice is prevalent in Ireland, and will usually cost you at least 3% more that if you pay in euros. Check the receipt every time you pay with a credit card, and demand that the charge be cancelled and re-run in euros if it appears in dollars. We also recommend getting a credit card that doesn't add a charge to foreign transactions.
Dublin Pass: The Dublin Pass grants you free admission to 33 top Dublin visitor attractions, with extra benefits for those attractions that are free, plus discounts on other sightseeing and shopping options. You also get the ability to jump to the front of the line at most attractions. The passes are available in one-, three- and six-day versions; all but the one-day pass include a free transfer from the airport into town.
Historic Walking Tours: A cool way to get an overview in no time flat is with the group of history graduates who run Historical Walking Tours. On a tour of the city's top historic sights (Trinity College, Old Parliament House, Dublin Castle and Christ Church Cathedral), you'll be filled in on everything from Viking origins to political struggles with Britain to today's economy. The same group also offers tours at other times and days that focus on the 1916 Easter Rising, The Irish and Sexuality, Dublin Architecture and even a historical running tour. (6 Palmerston Place; 353 0 87 688 9412; tours run daily at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m from May to September, daily at 11 a.m. in April and October, and at 11 a.m. Friday through Sunday only from November to March. All tours depart from the front gate of Trinity College, on College Green at the bottom of Grafton Street.)
Dublin Castle: Built in 1204 by King John, Dublin Castle was the seat of British rule in Ireland for 700 years. It was the official residence of the Viceroy who implemented the will of the British royalty when, in 1922, the Brits handed power over to Michael Collins and the Irish. The 45-minute tour takes you through the many rooms and lavish apartments, and gives a look at the foundations of the Norman tower, the best remaining chunk of the 13th-century town wall. (Palace Street off Dame Street; 353 01 645 8800; open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., and Sunday and holidays from 12 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.)
Trinity College: There are many reasons to visit ivy-draped Trinity College, but the biggest draw is the priceless Book of Kells, a Christian manuscript of the four Gospels that were established by staunchly Protestant Elizabeth I in 1592 in an effort to stop "popery." Doggedly Protestant until 1793, when Catholics were theoretically allowed in (although the Catholic Church banned its faithful from entering until 1970), the college went coed in 1903. George Salmon, provost from 1886 to 1904, famously carried out his threat to allow women into the college "only over his dead body" by promptly dropping dead the moment the bluestockings walked through the door.
Elite alums include Jonathan Swift, Samuel Beckett, Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde. A self-guiding walking tour is terrific here, but there is a 30-minute guided tour led by students, weather permitting, which includes entry to the Old Library, home to the Book of Kells. If you wish to see the Book of Kells on your own, along with the dozen surviving original copies of the "Proclamation of the Irish Republic" read by Patrick Pearse outside the General Post Office on April 24, 1916, starting the Easter Rising that led to Irish independence, just follow the signs. (353 01 608 2308; open Monday to Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Walking tours start inside the main gate in front of the small blue kiosk, and run Monday through Saturday at 10:15 a.m. and 3:40 p.m., and Sunday at 10:15 a.m. from late May through late September; weekends only from late February through early March.)
Tip: There's usually a long line to purchase a ticket for the Book of Kells exhibit, so if you can, buy a timed ticket online or get a Dublin Pass; both let you skip to the head of the line.
National Gallery of Ireland: The impressive National Gallery of Ireland is the city's main art museum, with works from Rubens and Monet to Gainsborough and Picasso, along with a wonderful Caravaggio that was rediscovered in Dublin. One of the most interesting galleries houses the paintings of Ireland's own Jack Yeats. (Merrion Square West; 353 1 661 5133; open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.)
The National Museum: The National Museum is an eclectic buffet of treasures from the Stone Age to modern times. It's home to everything from a section on traditional country life to a word-class collection of medieval ecclesiastical objects and jewelry (don't miss the Ardagh Chalice and the amber, 18th-century Tara Brooch) to reconstructed furnished rooms spanning four centuries. (2 Kildare Street; 353 01 677 7444; open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.)
St. Patrick's Cathedral: Enjoy a visit to St. Patrick's Cathedral (Patrick Street and Upper Kevin Street), where Jonathan Swift (author of "Gulliver's Travels") was dean in the 18th century. Ireland's largest church, this 13th-century cathedral was founded near a well where St. Patrick is thought to have been baptized in 450 A.D. You can also stop by Evensong, held Sundays at 3:15 p.m. and Monday through Friday at 5:30 p.m. (St. Patrick's Close; 353 01 453 9472; open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 to 6 p.m. from March to October, and Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. from November through February.)
Music and Beer: No trip to Ireland would be complete without experiencing live Irish music in an intimate setting. You'll find it in numerous pubs, but for an outstanding evening of music, storytelling, history and food, consider joining Irish Folk Tours for "An Evening of Food, Folklore and Fairies," held in the city's oldest pub, The Brazen Head. The evening starts at 7 p.m. and runs until 10 p.m., and advance reservations are required. (353 01 218 8555; 20 Bridge Street Lower; tours daily from March through December, and Thursday and Saturday only in January and February.) Or get outside the city for a Rural Pub Tour, a small-group outing that takes you on a crawl to six countryside pubs including Johnnie Fox's Pub, the highest pub in Ireland. (353 01 495 8111; tour offered Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 3 p.m. to midnight.)
Temple Bar: One of the city's oldest areas, the neighborhood of Temple Bar and its zigzag maze of cobblestone streets is a hot destination. You'll see it at its wildest on weekends, when hordes of eager revelers pub-crawl 'til all hours.
Fishamble Street: This is Dublin's oldest thoroughfare. Take a peek at Read's Cutlers (4 Parliament Street), a shop opened by Thomas Read (of Irish corkscrew fame) nearly 250 years ago, making it Dublin's oldest. Head for Meeting House Square off Essex Street for free street theater and a food market that runs on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Christ Church Cathedral: Christ Church Cathedral (Christchurch Place) is a majestic mix of Norman, Gothic and even Victorian neo-Gothic style. Its unusually large crypt is Dublin's oldest building. If you want to make a short stop here (which is all we suggest), make a small donation to the church so you can get into the crypt to see the statues and silver coins. There are also tours of the cathedral and belfry Monday through Saturday. Otherwise, we recommend stopping by Thursday at 6 p.m. or Sunday at 3:30 p.m. to hear the 45-minute Evensong, performed by either the girls' or adults' choir. (Christchurch Place; 353 01 677 8099; tour times vary so check the website.)
St. Stephens Green: Built by the Guinness family, the 22-acre St. Stephens Green is Ireland's oldest park. It was enclosed in 1664 and gradually became surrounded by the fine Georgian buildings you see today. Join the locals any sunny afternoon on this grassy oasis.
Been There, Done That
James Joyce Center: Literary types might enjoy visiting a site dedicated to James Joyce. The James Joyce Center has an in-depth display on his novel "Ulysses," as well as a recreation of his study and other exhibits; it also offers Joyce tours. (35 North Great George's Street; 353 01 878 8547; open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.)
James Joyce Tower and Museum: If you'd like a little jaunt outside the city, the James Joyce Tower and Museum, about six miles south from Dublin along the coast road, houses letters, photographs and some of the author's personal possessions. (Sandycove Point; open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) It's located in the area affectionately dubbed the Dublin Riviera. You'll love the wonderful walks around the harbor piers dotted with fancy yachts, and you'll most likely spot more than a handful of bathers at the Forty Foot, where people swim year-round. Yeats lived here, and George Bernard Shaw lived up the road a piece in Dalkey, which boasts seven castles plus stunning hillside homes belonging to Bono, Enya and Van Morrison.
Dublin Writers Museum: You won't regret a stop at the Dublin Writers Museum to see wonderful memorabilia of Ireland's best storytellers, including W.B. Yeats and Jonathan Swift, spanning more than 300 years. (18 Parnell Square; 353 01 872 2077; open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. from September to May, and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. from June through August.)
Alcohol-Related Pursuits: Practically everything you ever wanted to know about Ireland's famous brew can be found at the Guinness Storehouse. Arthur Guinness began brewing on this site -- now an honest-to-goodness museum -- in 1759. Top off your visit with a stop at their store or take in the 360-degree view of Dublin from the top-floor bar. (St. James Gate; 353 01 408 4800; open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m, and from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. in July and August. For more potent, potable fun, check out the Old Jameson Distillery. It dates back to 1780, and though the brewery itself is no longer in operation, the tour gives you a great background in the art of Irish whiskey-making, and includes a tasting. There's also a bar and a restaurant in the complex. (Bow Street, Smithfield Village; 353 01 807 2355; open daily with guided tours available Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) If you're inspired to sample more whiskey or stout, why not do a crawl of some of Dublin's most famous pubs, including the oldest (The Brazen Head, 10 Bridge Street Lower), the smallest (The Dawson Lounge, 25 Dawson Street) and the longest (The Hole in the Wall, Blackhorse Avenue)?
Abbey Theatre: Theater buffs must stop at the Abbey Theatre. Founded by Yeats, it opened in 1904. All these years, it has enjoyed fame for its impeccable staging of Irish classics. A fire in 1951 destroyed the original theater, along with the neighboring Peacock; the current theaters have stood on the same sites since 1966. Though some might say the newer Abbey doesn't have the passion of the old theater, efforts are being made to preserve some of its history. One way they do this is with a wonderful collection of portraits -- some saved from the 1951 fire -- hanging on the walls of the lobby. (26 Lower Abbey Street; 353 01 878 7222; open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.)
Gate Theatre: The Abbey may be more famous, but the circa-1764 Gate Theatre is now the best, at least for contemporary drama. Visit the website for more information on performance schedules and ticket prices. (1 Cavendish Row; 353 01 874 4045; open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.)
Irish Jewish Museum: A visit to the Irish Jewish Museum will give you an opportunity to peek into Jewish life in the early- to mid-20th century. You'll climb the stairs to the former Walworth Road Synagogue in the Portobello neighborhood; before it fell into decline when a large number of Jews moved out to the Dublin suburbs, more than 150 men and women came here to worship. The museum has a substantial collection of memorabilia that dates back 150 years. (3 Walworth Road; 353 85 706 7357; open from Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. from May through October, and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. from November through April.)
Irish Traditional Music Archive: If you love "Riverdance," you'll love the Irish Traditional Music Archive, a multimedia archive and resource center for the traditional song, music and dance of Ireland. First established in 1987, it now holds the largest collection of books, recordings, photographs and videos on the subject in the world. (73 Merrion Square; 353 01 661 9699; open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thurdsay from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and select Saturdays.)
Traditional Irish cuisine is hearty, homey and filling -- think Irish stew, made with the famous local stout. Potatoes frequently make an appearance, and might be mashed with cabbage or kale in a dish called colcannon, or with scallions in a dish known as champ. Potatoes even top shepherd's pie, a savory blend of meat and vegetables. Irish soda bread is delicious, usually baked fresh and served warm. And Irish dairy products are particularly good, so slather on the butter! The Irish also take pride in their cheeses; you'll find this reasonably priced fare in both restaurants and pubs.
Should you be overnighting ashore in Dublin, you'll likely encounter the famed Irish breakfast. This includes sausage, Irish bacon (which is rather like ham), black pudding (blood sausage with oatmeal), white pudding (pork and oatmeal sausage), baked beans, grilled tomato, eggs, potatoes, soda bread and maybe even cheese. Needless to say, once you've polished off all that, you may not need lunch -- or dinner, for that matter.
Chefs are creating modern takes on Irish food as well, drawing from an abundance of local ingredients such as fresh seafood. British celebrity chefs including Gordon Ramsey have opened outposts in Ireland, but there are also local stars on the scene. In Dublin, Oliver Dunne of Bon Appetit (Malahide Village, North County Dublin; 353 01 845 0314) and Derry Clarke of L'Ecrivain (109A Lower Baggot Street; 353 01 661 1919) are two Michelin-starred chefs at the top of their game. Perhaps the queen of Irish chefs is Rachel Allen, a TV celebrity, author and teacher at the renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School (353 21 464 6785) in County Cork.
Epicurian Food Hall: This bustling, budget-friendly spot offers an international array of food-court style eateries, including Irish fish and chips, Japanese hand-rolls and Turkish kebabs. Along with Italian, Brazilian, Greek and even Mexican food, there's also free Wi-Fi. (1 Liffey Street Lower at Abbey Street; 353 01 283 6077; open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
The Pig's Ear: The perfect example of Irish seasonal cuisine, this restaurant was created by TV chef Stephen McAllister. It's located in a Georgian building overlooking the Trinity playing fields, but the feel is casual. Look for dishes like Earl Grey-cured salmon and maple-glazed pig belly with toasted oats. Reservations recommended. (4 Nassau Street; 353 01 670 3865; open Monday through Saturday from noon to 2:45 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.)
One Pico: Imaginative Continental cuisine and fixed-price menus make this a great choice for an upscale (but not stuffy) lunch. Don't miss the passion-fruit souffle, prepared to order and served warm. Reservations required. (5 Moleworth Place; 353 01 6760 300; open Monday through Saturday from noon to 2:45 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., Sundays from noon to 8 p.m.)
Bad Ass Cafe: This quirky institution in Temple Bar offers everything from burgers to pizza -- and it's actually pretty good. Live music many evenings adds to the atmosphere. (9 - 11 Crown Alley; 353 01 675 3005; open Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to late; Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m. to late)
Thorntons: Ranked as one of the Top 50 Restaurants of the World, the eponymous domain of acclaimed chef Kevin Thornton offers modern Irish cuisine, including his riffs on classics such as bacon and cabbage terrine with pea sorbet and thyme sauce. Reservations required. (Fitzwilliam Hotel, St. Stephen's Green; 353 01 478 7008; open Thursday through Saturday from 12.30 p.m. to 2 p.m., and Tuesday through Saturday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.)
Peploe's Wine Bistro: Sure, wine's the name of the game there, but there's also an eclectic menu that ranges from wild Irish venison to monkfish pie to fritto misto. For a great value, dine before 6:15 p.m. on the three-course, fixed-price menu. (16 St. Stephen's Green; 353 01 676 3144; open Monday through Saturday from noon to 11 p.m., and Sunday until 10 p.m.)
Chapter One: Located in the basement of the Writers Museum, and well worth a splurge, this Michelin-starred restaurant effortlessly blends modern design with historic architecture. Equally artful dishes like Achill Island black faced lamb, roast salt marsh duck breast, and wood pigeon terrine with smoked quince demonstrate chef Ross Lewis' commitment to local ingredients. Reservations essential. (Writers Museum, 18 - 19 Parnell Square; 353 01 873 2266; open Tuesday through Friday from 12:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 10.30 p.m.)
Total Splurge: The Merrion hotel (Upper Merrion Street; 353 01 603 0600) is beloved by travelers for its stylish Georgian architecture, warm service and excellent location near the National Gallery, National Museum and Grafton Street shops. And if you can't splurge on a room, you can always enjoy afternoon tea in the lobby. Prefer a brand-name option? Four Seasons Hotel Dublin (Simmonscourt Road; 353 01 665 4000), located in a tranquil area that's home to many embassies, has the usual fine service you expect from this hotel group.
Middle of the Road: Stylishly quirky and set in the heart of Temple Bar, The Morgan Hotel (10-12 Fleet Street; 353 01 643 7000) is within walking distance of Trinity College and St. Stephen's Green. For a larger room, ask for one with a bathtub; for quieter accommodations, request to be on a high floor and away from the street. The Brooks Hotel (59-63 Drury Street; 353 01 670 4000) benefits from an excellent location near pubs, shopping, restaurants and Trinity College. Though rooms are on the small side, the windows open.
On a Shoestring: If you want to avoid the hubbub, consider a stay at Ariel House (50 Lansdowne Road; 353 01 668 5512), which is away from the heart of the tourist zone, but has good transportation connections. This guest house is located in two Georgian row houses. Another budget choice in the area is Bewley's Hotel (Merrion Road, Ballsbridge; 353 01 668 1111), where rooms are clean and comfortable; it's part of a small, U.K.-based hotel group.
Staying in Touch
Many restaurants, coffee houses and cafes have free Wi-Fi with purchase. In addition, there are these options:
Ilac Shopping Centre: There you'll find free Wi-Fi on the main concourse and also in various cafes. (Henry Street off O'Connell Street; 353 01 828 8900; open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.) Inside the complex is the Central Library (353 01 873 4333; open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.), which offers free Wi-Fi and broadband, as well as computers.
Central Internet Cafe: This place offers high-speed Internet on flat-screen computers, plus printing and other services. (6 Grafton Street; 353 01 677 8298; open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
Best for First-Timers: Every line will offer a Dublin highlights tour, which is a great way to get an overview of the city and see plenty of iconic sights, including the National Gallery, Dublin Castle, St. Stephen's Green, the city's famous Georgian doorways around Merrion Square and Christ Church Cathedral. Typically, you'll actually visit Trinity College's Book of Kells exhibit, as well as the interior of St. Patrick's Cathedral, with fly-bys or photo stops at the other attractions; check your line's offerings to be sure you'll be able to spend time at the sights that most interest you.
Best for Nature-Lovers: If you'd prefer to head out to the countryside, consider an excursion to Powerscourt Estate, located in County Wicklow just south of Dublin. Dubbed the "Garden of Ireland," Wicklow has mountains, glens and wooded valleys, with some gorgeous scenery. At Powerscourt Estate, you'll visit the spectacular gardens. A blend of formal beds, sweeping terraces and classical statuary linked together with secret hollows, rambling walks and walled gardens, it's home to over 200 variations of trees and shrubs. The restored circa-1740 house is home to a hand-weaving center, as well as boutiques offering Irish-designed jewelry, clothing and children's goods.
Best for Ramblers, Drinkers and Literary Buffs: A Walking Tour and Pub Visit with an Irish raconteur will take you on a crawl to spots favored by Dublin's writers, accompanied by quotes by leading scribes, from Joyce to Yeats to Wilde; two adult beverages are included. It's a great way to soak up Irish culture and hear some good yarns.
Best for Foodies: On the Trail of Fabulous Food takes you to lesser-known parts of the city, where you'll get to savor history and culture. The itinerary includes visits to food halls, fruit and flower stalls, cheese makers, fishmongers, butchers, bakers and more. There are frequent and generous tastings, as well as a stop for coffee or a pint of stout. Or, if you fancy making the food yourself, try Baking Scones at Ballyknocken House. You'll take a coach ride to scenic County Wicklow to the cooking school of TV chef and food writer, Catherine Fulvio. You'll see a scone-baking demonstration and then -- appetite whetted -- enjoy fresh scones with a cup of tea. Afterwards, enjoy free time to explore the Victorian farmhouse and herb garden.
On the Web: Visit Dublin
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The Independent Traveler: Europe Travel Guide
--By Gayle Keck, Cruise Critic contributor