James Joyce once said in the The Dubliners that “one by one they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.” Dublin is old. Dublin is drunken. Dublin is musical. Dublin is imbued with “the full glory of some passion.”
Since one third of tourists going to Ireland are Americans, there’s a good chance that you too might be headed to Dublin soon. So here are some of our favorite spots in Dublin to eat, drink, and be merry with some movies and music to help guide your way.
€1 = $1.06
WHERE TO SLEEP
People tend to pick either the Northside or Southside of Dublin to set up camp. This refers to the the two sides of Dublin cut down the middle by the river Liffey. Today there isn’t going to be that huge a difference once you get close to the city center. Basically find your price point and see how close you can get to where the action is.
You can find a decent Airbnb room for around €40 if you’re willing to take a 15-ish minute bus ride up from Ranelagh (a posh neighborhood on the southside). And expect to pay anywhere from €150-€200 for an entire apartment around Dublin’s city center.
Hostels are ubiqutous in Dublin and often located on a good bus line or tram line that’ll get you everywhere you need to go. Isaacs Hostel has dorm beds starting at €16 per night and private rooms for €65. Plus you’ll have the advantage of a staff that is more than happy to direct you around the city. If you’re on a budget, this is definitely the play, so you can save up your cash for all that Guinness and whiskey you’re going to want to drink.
WHERE TO EAT
Breakfast — The Full Irish Breakfast is a marathon of eating, but you kinda have to try it at least once. The meal is a big ol’ plate of fried sausages, bacon, black and white puddings (blood and liver sausages basically), baked beans, sunny side up eggs, and toast. It’s a fat and calorie bomb to get you out of the dregs of a wicked hangover and prepare you for another day of pub crawling. While you can find this breakfast of champions almost everywhere in Dublin, check out The Bakehouse on the northside of the Ha’penny Bridge. Their excellent full breakfast will set you back €10.95. You’ll also be able to get a lighter breakfast like porridge, granola, and a bacon buttie (bacon and egg on a soft roll).
Lunch — If you’re in Dublin, the chances of spending a day bar hoping, or pub crawling if you will, is high. It’s worth eating some iconic ‘pub grub‘ in that case. A lot of pubs, especially on the northside will serve Dublin Coddle. That’s a thin stew that has everything but the kitchen sink in it — so sausages, bacon, cabbage, potatoes, onions, and maybe a few beans. It’s supposed to be the leftovers thrown in a pot and served hot. The classic joint to grab a bowl is by the Glasnevin Cemetary in the northwest of Dublin at John Kavanagh — The Gravedigger. And that’s how you name a pub, people.
Growing weary of the pub? Then try Bunsen for some of the best burgers in Europe — that’s not hyperbole. Bunsen bakes their own Amish dinner rolls, sources all their meat and cheese from local farms, and puts it together for a deeply satisfying burger.
Dinner — If you want to spend a little scratch on modern Irish cuisine outside the pub, hit up The Winding Stair near the Ha’penny Bridge. The restaurant has been lauded for its original takes on Irish classics. Just look for the rad little bookshop of the same name and head up the winding stairs. Expect to pay around €10 for a starter and €20-€30 for a main course. The ‘Steamed cockles and Roaring Bay mussels with Clogherhead crab, brown shrimp mayo toast and chips’ will give you a great sense of Ireland’s seafood bounty.
Dessert — Dessert is a forgone conclusion to the day in Dublin. So if you can handle some more food after dinner, hit up the Queen of Tarts. Just south of the Liffey in the Temple Bar area you’ll find this wonderful little cake shop. Gorge yourself on the wickedly decadent cakes, torts, pies, cupcakes, and sweets day or night.
One Can’t Miss Spot — Leo Burdock Traditional Fish And Chips is a century old institution. Hitting the ‘chipper’ for slab of beer-battered and deep fried white fish over a bed of soggy, salty, and vinegary fries is a must. Try the Smoked Cod and Chips. The fish is smoked before it’s battered and fried, giving it a little more complexity and depth. You’re going to spend around €10 for a meal big enough for two. Expect a line.
WHERE TO DRINK
Pub Life — Finding a pub in Ireland is probably the easiest task any visitor will be charged with. Seriously, there are pubs everywhere. Pubs generally open at 10:30AM by law and smaller, neighborhood spots will close between eleven and midnight. Over those 12-ish hours expect a lot of beer from the taps. Obviously Guinness is king beer in Dublin and every pub will have a standard nitro tap that’s cellar temperature and an “Extra Cold” Guinness for those of us who are used to extra cold beer.
The craft beer and whiskey scene is exploding in Ireland so don’t be afraid to ask for something local and new. Expect to pay around €4 for a pint in the outskirts and closer to €6 for a pint at Temple Bar. A decent pour of whiskey is going to cost a similar price, or around €5 on average.
Cheap Drinks — It’s not that much cheaper to drink anywhere in Ireland outside a pub. Alcohol is heavily regulated and taxed in an attempt to control alcohol abuse. A corner shop is going to sell cans of beer and bottles of whiskey, but you’re not going to save much and you can’t really drink on the streets like other cities across Europe. It’s really best to stick to the pubs and look for some decent happy hour deals.
In The Club — A lot of bars and pubs in central Dublin will drop the lights after midnight, fire up the DJ booth, and transform into party spots. The Globe on Great George’s Street is a prime example of this scene, with a young crowd enjoying cheap booze very late into the night. A whiskey and a beer will set you back less than a tenner.
For something a little more upscale and cocktail driven try Peruke & Periwig until around midnight or the Vintage Cocktail Club for a very late night perfectly crafted cocktails. And for an all out party night of booze, music, and more booze try The Grand Social right in the center of the city on Liffey Street.
TOURIST FOR A DAY
There are two choices to make in Dublin to be as touristy as possible and they’re both kinda brilliant (if you love alcohol). First head over to the Guinness Storehouse for a full on tour of all things Guinness. You’ll be taken through the malting process for the barely, the brewing processes, the history of the brand, and end up on a rooftoop bar over-looking Dublin drinking a perfectly pulled pint of Guinness. It’s a great way to spend a couple hours and a worthy historical tour of Ireland’s most famous beer. Tickets are €14.
Keeping in that theme, the Jameson Distillery At Bow Street just reopened last month (March 2017) with a fantastic new museum, bars, and maturation room on the hallowed grounds of part of the original Jameson Distillery (Jameson is now made at the Middleton facility in Cork). The tour will take you through the history of Jameson, whiskey, and Ireland before leading you to a tasting room where you’ll compare American whiskey with Scotch whisky and Jameson. From there you can learn how to blend Irish whiskey and take some home with you. And you can even take a mixology course and learn to whip up some gorgeous Jameson-inspired cocktails with a master bartender. You might stumble out of the tour a bit tipsy, but you’ll have a new found love for all things Irish Whiskey. Tickets range from €18 to €55 depending on how much fun you want to have.
From either location, you’ll be able to stroll in and out of Dublin’s city center with ease on foot.
MOVIES TO WATCH BEFORE YOU GO
Ireland has always been home to a wonderfully expressive cinema. Directors like Ken Loach, Jim Sheridan, and John Carney are essential to understanding Irish strife and joy.
The Wind That Shakes The Barley — Ken Loach
Ken Loach’s realist examination of what draws people into a war is a fascinating historical look at the Irish Revolution, which eventually brought a modicum of independence to the Irish.
My Left Foot — Jim Sheridan
Jim Sheridan’s heart-breaking and unflinching look at the life of Dubliner Christy Brown offers a glimpse into working class struggles of average people and the above average genius that can be born into it. Plus it propelled Daniel Day-Lewis to an acting superstar on the international stage.
The Commitments — Alan Parker
The blues, soul, and RnB were born out of social strife, so it makes perfect sense that those genres would fit into the Irish music psyche. The Commitments is a fun and tragic window into an Irish musical world with a great soundtrack to boot.
Once — John Carney
John Carney is a bit of an Irish cinema legend because of this micro-budget film. It’s all substance and zero flash. The acting and music stands on its own as a couple people try and find a better life through art on the streets of present day Dublin.
Sing Street — John Carney
Carney stuck gold again with almost the opposite of Once. Sing Street is all fashion, nostalgia, and teenage lust rolled into another Irish musical classic.
MUSIC TO LISTEN TO
It’s hard to think about Ireland and not think about music. From the endless list of sing-along pub songs to the great rock of Thin Lizzy to (early) U2 to three of the five films mentioned in this post — music is an inextricable part of the Irish experience. So here are some classics to enjoy around Dublin.