Enjoy the Irish capital’s historic landmarks, including art galleries, a 500-year-old university, the lively bar scene and delicious Irish meals.
1 - St. Stephen’s Green
Georgian townhouses surround this pristinely kept park in the city centre. The nine-hectare rectangular green was opened to the public in 1880, and features 750 trees, seasonally changing flower beds, a large lake and a sensory garden with signs in Braille for the visually impaired. If you time it right during the summer months, you might also get to experience a lunchtime concert at the bandstand.
Aside from picturesque scenery, the park provides a path down memory lane, with 15 commemorative statues of historic figures dotted across the green. These include a recently restored Henry Moore bronze sculpture Knife-Edge in the Yeats Memorial Garden – the structure (also known as the ‘standing figure’) pays tribute to Irish poet William B Yeats. Other notable statues include a bronze bust of literary figure James Joyce, and the Three Fates statue at the centre of a limestone fountain at the Leeson Street entrance – the latter was gifted to the Irish by the people of Germany for the help given to refugee children after the Second World War.
2 - National Gallery of Ireland
Exit the square to the north-east and turn left onto Merrion Street Upper, passing by the stately Department of the Taoiseach on your left – the office of the Irish PM – and the landscaped Merrion Square Park on your right. The free-to-enter National Gallery of Ireland was founded in 1854 and features more than 16,300 artworks from well-known names
including Monet and Picasso. Wander through the ground-floor galleries, making sure to visit the room illuminated by Harry Clarke’s stained-glass works. Then make your way to the impressive Grand Gallery upstairs. This room is dedicated to the Enlightenment era, featuring oeuvres linked to Ireland, including Jan Wyck’s The Battle of the Boyne (1693). The Sir Hugh Lane Room is home to the free ‘Celebrating Ulysses’ exhibition until August 21, while ‘Giacometti: From Life’ is installed in the Beit Wing until September 4, with 50 works by the renowned Swiss sculptor.
- Tickets from €5
3 - Trinity College
It’s near impossible to visit the Irish capital without passing through the prestigious university buildings of Trinity College Dublin. The university, founded in 1592, is one of the oldest in Western Europe and modelled after Oxford and Cambridge. To get a sense of scale, enter through the old wooden doorway from College Green, passing under the archway that opens up into cobbled Parliament Square. Straight ahead lies the Campanile bell tower, flanked by impressive buildings, though it’s unlikely you’ll see students beneath it – legend has it those who pass beneath it when it tolls will fail their exams. Queues form at the Old Library Building which is home to the magical Long Room, a 65m working library filled with 250,000 books and historical documents, as well as the 1,000-year-old medieval manuscript Book of Kells in the Treasury.
Then head to brutalist Berkeley Library to see Italian artist Arnaldo Pomodoro’s bronze sculpture Sfera con Sfera (Sphere within Sphere) in the forecourt. Installed in the mid-1980s, the cracked globe-like structure is similar to its variants at the United Nations Plaza in New York and the Cortile del Belvedere at the Vatican Museums.
- Tickets for entry to the Book of Kells and Old Library from €18
4 - Temple Bar
Return to the College Green entrance and walk west on the R137 until you reach Crane Lane, turning right to reach East Essex Street in Temple Bar. This lively area on the south bank of the River Liffey is home to the city’s dive bars (the clue’s in the name), which blare live folk music until the early hours – even on normally sleepy Sunday evenings.
Take a break from singalongs and duck into Crampton Court, a gallery-like alleyway which connects to Dame Street. The narrow lane begins with the mural C’mere ’til I tell ya and the Love Lane wall, upon which pastel-coloured tiles have been emblazoned with heartfelt messages, before opening onto the love-heart-painted floors at the back entrance of the Olympia Theatre. Then stroll across the pedestrianised Ha’Penny Bridge, an elliptical iron arch that takes its name from the price of the original toll to cross it.
5 - Dining out
Dublin is rightly famed for its fantastic foodie scene. For dinner, reserve a table at Fade Street Social located on the namesake trendy street on the corner of Drury Street. The three-storey, 743 sqm venue from chef Dylan McGrath offers Irish produce across two brick-walled dining rooms and a rooftop winter garden. Head to the second-floor cocktail bar to experience tasty wood-fired food – from sourdough flatbreads to grilled seabream with artichoke purée and buttered cavolo nero, plus fun signature cocktails.
If you only have time for lunch, reasonably priced Brother Hubbard café, on the northside’s Capel Street, is a vast leafy space. It serves homemade Middle Eastern dishes with plenty of gluten-free and vegetarian options. We loved the chicken party sandwich, and the seasonal soup with soda and caraway bread and hummus. There is an additional café on Harrington Street south of the city.