For many, a brief visit to Dublin might consist of a few pubs in the Temple Bar area, a meander around Christchurch College and a brief prayer at the temple of beer in St James’s Gate. However, thanks to the capital’s compact size, it’s easy to scratch a little deeper into Dublin life, even on a short timescale. After visiting the city for the Dublin Fringe Festival, we discovered everything from pop-ups to Irish icons to food markets and all the tarts you ever could dream of. So to see more of the Irish capital, here’s an insider’s guide to Dublin that helps you see that little bit more.
The Faces of Dublin
The capital has a reputation for nurturing creatives, with many of the world’s most famous writers, comedians and poets once calling the city home. If you’re on a fly-by visit, there are few better places better to get a snapshot of Irish culture than the Icon Walk. Billing itself as the ‘Greatest Story Ever Strolled’ (did you see what they did there?), the open-air display is a walkable exhibit tucked away in the backstreets of the Temple Bar area. Once you’ve located the public art installation, you can learn about famous Dubliners from all disciplines, playwrights, novelists and crackpots alike. The impressive display helps to succinctly encapsulate the charming Irish identity.
Located in a hipster area looking out onto a vinyl record store and a Hong Kong BBQ restaurant, Fade Street Social is the spot to come to for those indulgent holiday libations. This three-story restaurant and bar is run by award-winning Irish chef Dylan McGrath, so there are no issues food-wise if you get peckish mid-drink. During the warmer months, grab one of the tables outside for maximum people-watching opportunities, or head to the stylish rooftop for a cosy drink. Boasting a selection of Prohibition-style cocktails, you get your choice of bitter, sweet, fizzy or house faves.
For something altogether more underground, see if you can hunt out Dublin’s most mysterious bar, the Blind Pig. In true Prohibition style, you are given directions and instructions to follow to find this hush-hush drinking den. Once you’re in (reservations are a must), the menu of indulgent cocktails will see you settle in for the long haul, but remember to keep the location a secret!
Pop-Ups and Markets
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, the foodie scene in Dublin won’t let you down. The fast-paced gastronomic scene here is an essential part of the Irish experience so keep your eyes peeled for pop-ups in restaurants and market stalls across the city. When we visited, brunch champions Taco Taco were in residency of Odessa in Dame Court. Serving up tacos stuffed with Jamaican jerk chicken, pulled pork and tempura-battered fish, they have comfort food down to a tee. Besides the generous mains, the enormous Super Nachos with BBQ chilli beef and soft avocado are worth a crack, and word on the street is that their poutine is to die for.
Foodies in need of Irish cuisine should hit up the street vendors at the Temple Bar Food Market. Taking place every weekend on Saturday, the vast array of fresh produce ranges from Irish potato cakes to fresh oysters and everything in-between. Expect to be lured in by the smell of hog roasts and artisanal cheeses but stay to explore the baked goods and craft Irish chocolate. Also make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the Irish Village Markets which spring up in various spots around the city and serve up everything from classy fish ‘n chips to perfect paella.
If you can’t comprehend the thought of missing your hourly cuppa, have no fear – Dublin’s streets are lined with charming teatime retreats. For those with a sweet-tooth, straight to the Queen of Tarts. For over 16 years, this café has created a reputation for patisserie perfection with their incredibly moreish range of lovingly homemade cakes, breads and signature tarts. Eat anything and everything, you won’t regret it.
The coffee scene in Dublin is currently experiencing a boom, with independent, artisan coffee makers springing up all over. One of the most pioneering coffee spots is Roasted Brown, which is located on the top floor of the Project Arts Centre. Surrounded by creative types, the independent coffee producer offers a rotating blend of different origin coffee, all perfectly roasted for maximum flavour.
From cultural hotspots to barfly hangouts, this insider’s guide to Dublin will help you enjoy Ireland’s dynamic capital city.
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About the Author: Chris is the editor of the travel blog Make New Tracks. Having written for some of the top travel companies in the UK, he’s always on the lookout for lesser-travelled destinations, unusual bars and the secret places hidden around the world.