The Perfect Weekend in Dublin

If you’re in Dublin for the weekend, bike through the Phoenix Park, enjoy tea and scones at Queen of Tarts or take in some culture at the National Museum or National Library. A weekend in Dublin isn’t complete without a stroll across the Ha’penny Bridge, a traditional music session at O’Donoghue’s pub or—what else—a perfect pint of stout in any of Dublin’s lively pubs.

College Green, Dublin 2, Co. Dublin, Ireland
Pass through the iconic arched doorway at College Green and enter the elegant quads, handsome architecture and verdant lawns of Trinity College, one of Ireland‘s most prestigious universities. Among its many attributes is the atmospheric 18th-century Old Library, whose most precious tome is the 1,200-year-old Book of Kells, a priceless illuminated manuscript. Also worth a visit are the college’s Douglas Hyde Gallery, devoted to contemporary art, and the thought-provoking Science Gallery.
Kildare St, Dublin 2, Ireland
The National Museum of Ireland is free to enter and is spread across four sites in Dublin, covering archaeology, decorative arts and history, country life, and natural history. The archaeology museum is in an imposing building of columns, vaulted ceilings, and marble staircases situated on Kildare Street. It traces Ireland’s history from prehistoric times through the Roman, Viking, and medieval periods. The exhibitions are well set out and clearly labelled. The section on Ireland’s prehistoric gold, including exquisitely-wrought jewellery from the bronze and iron ages, is particularly interesting. But the most mind-blowing exhibition is called Kingship and Sacrifice, and displays findings related to the ritual killing of presumed royals during the iron age. As part of what are thought to be sovereignty and kingship rituals, people were sacrificed - sometimes brutally - and their bodies tossed into peat bogs (which often marked the boundaries between kingdoms). The anaerobic conditions of the bogs preserved the bodies, some of which are on display. Even after thousands of years you can still make out facial expressions, and in one case, hair! The museum also hosts important religious icons and relics from medieval Christianity, for example the twelfth century Cross of Cong - said once to have contained a fragment of the true cross. If you are at all interested in ancient history, set aside a good couple of hours and explore the museum thoroughly. It’s well worth it!
15 Merrion Row, Dublin, Ireland
O’Donoghue’s Bar, which dates back to the eighteenth century, is arguably the most famous pub in Dublin for traditional Irish music. The bar is lively, rammed with a mainly—but by no means exclusively—local crowd, and has a great, welcoming atmosphere. There is a huge beer garden, and on busy nights there will be someone serving the tables outside. The main draw, of course, is the live traditional music, which kicks off mid-evening seven days a week. Unlike many other venues that boast live trad and there is no sense that the music at O’Donoghue’s is a performance put on for the tourists. In fact it’s quite the opposite: you get the feeling the musicians are playing solely for themselves, and don’t care whether you listen or not. Which is lucky, really—the night we were there the bar was so crowded, and the conversation so raucous, that you had to get really close to hear the music. If you’re a fan of, or curious about, traditional Irish music, O’Donoghue’s is definitely a place to check out. And make sure to keep your eyes open as well as your ears: such local musical luminaries as the Dubliners and Christy Moore have been known to swing by in the past!
15 Bachelors Walk
The Ha’penny Bridge, officially the Liffey Bridge, was built in 1816 over the River Liffey in Dublin. For over 100 years it had cost between half a penny and a penny and a half to cross the pedestrian bridge but today it is free. I found myself crossing the aerial pathway a couple of times daily during my two-week stay in Dublin. The Temple Bar area, just south of the bridge, is the main tourist area of the city and well worth a visit but when you want true “craic” (bar banter), and a more affordable Guinness, venture further out of the Temple Bar area.
47-48, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, D02 N725, Ireland
Arriving in Dublin on the morning of St. Patrick’s Day is like experiencing the calm before the storm. The cobblestone streets of Temple Bar are quiet and nearly empty, and bicyclists can cycle through the narrow streets with ease. This is the time to have breakfast while devising a plan: Do you want to find a place near the parade route? Should you claim a table at a pub? We filled up on eggs and coffee at Elephant and Castle in Temple Bar, and then saw the end of the parade. By noon, streets were clogged with people from all over the world -- singing in the streets, painting shamrocks on strangers’ faces -- and pubs rang out with traditional Irish songs. Don’t be shy if you don’t know the lyrics, since there’s a good chance you’ll hear the songs again. Have a Guinness (or two) and join in!
St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland
St Stephen’s Green is a welcome spot of calm and green set in a Georgian square in the centre of Dublin. At around 20 acres, it’s large enough to feel you have escaped the bustle, but not so large that you can’t easily return to the fray once you are ready. There are formal manicured lawns and gardens in the middle, a large lake to the north - good for swan-watching - a bandstand and play area, and plenty of benches and other picnic spots. St Stephen’s is probably not the sort of place you’d deliberately set out to visit, but chances are good you’ll end up there anyway: it’s just off Grafton Street (one of the main shopping streets), and near other attractions dotted around what is known as Georgian Dublin, such as Merrion Square and Leinster House (the seat of Irish parliament).
Dublin, Ireland
Gravity Bar has wonderful 360-degree views of Dublin and all the Guinness you can drink. You can even try your hand at pouring the perfect pint. The bartenders know what they’re doing, and to prove it, they make shamrocks into the foam with a flourish. Guinness is a serious deal in Ireland. It is fun to start a debate amongst your new local friends as to which pub serves their favorite pint. For me, it was the Gravity Bar. The combination of having my very first non-imported Guinness along with the excitement of our honeymoon and relief of my ankle made it the perfect pint for me. When we arrived at the Gravity Bar in Dublin, I was in pretty bad shape. Not even a week before our much planned honeymoon, I had a cast taken off my leg and my broken ankle had not finished healing. It was our first day in Ireland and we were enjoying the sites using the hop on, hop off bus. We decided to visit the Guinness Storehouse, an interesting museum dedicated to the famous Irish brew. By the time we finished, my leg was very swollen and I could barely walk so we decided to head to the very top floor, home to the Gravity Bar. When I had finished my icy cold drink, I realized my ankle felt much better and I could once again navigate the cobblestone streets of Dublin. I quickly learned that every time I had a Guinness, my ankle would feel better and soon enough, we had the locals of different pubs cheering “Guinness for strength!” when I put my order in.
Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Military Rd, Kilmainham, Dublin 8, Co. Dublin, Ireland
The Irish Museum of Modern Art is located in Kilmainham, just a short trip out of Dublin’s City Center on the Luas. Housed in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, the building and its grounds are vast. The grounds are littered with contemporary public sculpture from Lawrence Weiner to Richard Long, and an equally impressive (though still relatively small) collection from Abramović to Gillick. While much of the building remains under construction the museum is a must for any art enthusiasts visiting Dublin!
Meeting House Square, Dublin Southside, Dublin, Ireland
At the Temple Bar Food Markets, you can enjoy roasted pork with potatoes, onions, and red cabbage. It comes in two sizes, well described for the size of your appetite.
Christchurch Pl, Wood Quay, Dublin 8, Co. Dublin, Ireland
Founded in 1028 and built overlooking a Viking settlement, this incredible cathedral is nearly 1,000 years old and is Dublin’s oldest building. The 12th century crypt is one of the largest in Ireland or Britain and here you can check out the treasures of Christ Church exhibition, with its fascinating manuscripts and artefacts. There are also 16th Century costumes from the historical series The Tudors on display here and there are audio tours of the cathedral. Pop over to nearby St Patrick’s Cathedral to complete the experience.
31 Leeson Close
Ask someone who’s stayed at Number 31, a downtown Dublin house-hotel, what it’s like and he or she likely won’t get past the breakfast: the pears poached in vanilla syrup, Wexford strawberries, eggs scrambled with smoked salmon from the west coast, and slices of zesty cranberry loaf. Such homey food served in a sunlit dining room is part of what makes Number 31 feel less like a hotel and more like the pied-à-terre you’ve always dreamed of. Comfortable rooms and unobtrusive staff add to the urban townhouse vibe; the hotel owners, Noel and Deirdre Comer, manage to be warm and welcoming while also leaving guests to make themselves at home around the peat fire in the sunken lounge.

A wild garden separates the hotel’s two buildings, a Georgian terrace house and the coach house, and the overall modernist-meets-classic design owes to architect Sam Stephenson, who lived in the house as he renovated it in the 1950s. Number 31 is a favorite of Dublin insiders, from artists to architects to the designer John Rocha.
11-17 Exchequer Street (basement), Dublin, D02 RY63, Ireland
Whether you choose the wine bar in the basement, the gourmet food hall on the ground floor (where you can also buy hot food to eat in the wine bar), or the fine dining restaurant in a big, bright open space on the first floor, you won’t be disappointed with the quality of food in this Exchequer Street emporium, much of which is organic. Main courses on the menu include dishes like grilled Irish lamb rump with broad bean succotash, black garlic and aubergine purée and smoked potato croquette, or aged Irish rib-eye steak with a choice of Béarnaise, brandy peppercorn or truffle butter sauce. There’s also an excellent lunch menu and the pre-theater dinner menu is good value and runs all night Sunday to Tuesday and from 5.30 to 7pm, Wednesday to Saturday.
18-19 Parnell Square N, Rotunda, Dublin 1, Ireland
Chef Ross Lewis continues to wow by merging carefully sourced Irish ingredients with more exotic flavors at this refined dining room in the basement of the Dublin Writers Museum. The Michelin-starred menu might include a feta cheese mousse with salt-baked beets, or brown crab with pickled dulse, a native seaweed.
21 Merrion Street Upper, Dublin 2, Co. Dublin, D02 KF79, Ireland
Starched white linen, stellar service and consistently delicious food are what keeps diners returning to this two-Michelin-starred institution in the luxurious Merrion Hotel. The emphasis is on Irish produce paired with classical French cooking—think an artfully presented plate of Clogherhead lobster ravioli. In-the-know locals book for the excellent value lunch.
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