Food and Drink in Dublin
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.)
Best Cocktail in Dublin
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.
Don't Miss in Dublin
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.
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.)