Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine


Essential Dublin with Kevin Chaffee

If you haven’t visited Dublin recently, you’ll be amazed by the changes in Ireland’s ancient capital. It’s once grimy, soot-stained buildings have been cleaned up, grand new hotels have been built and the streets are filled with well-dressed crowds jostling for admittance to an ever-increasing number of trendy shops, galleries, cafes and restaurants. It’s all the “Celtic Tiger,” of course, the economic miracle that transformed what was once considered a “Third World” country into one of the richest nations on earth in only a few short years. Yes, prices have risen, and sometimes astronomically (don’t even speak of the brutal real estate bubble), but don’t let that deter you from experiencing the beautiful Georgian architecture, verdant squares, excellent theater, lively music scene and throbbing night life.

Somehow the Irish remain unspoiled by the free-for-all; they’re still wonderfully friendly, always eager to welcome visitors with smiles, laughter and a bit of legendary blarney—especially over a pint of Guinness—any time of day or night.

Ha’penny bridge over the river Liffey

Take time to admire the elegant 18th-century townhouses lining Merrion Square (where a most wonderful statue of Oscar Wilde is located). On a rainy day, you can easily pass the time with a visit to the National Gallery, where 54 galleries are filled with art from all the major schools, plus a major collection of works by Irish artists. Be sure to take a walk through nearby St. Stephen’s Green, once a common for public whippings and executions, now a delightful place to read, hear live music or just watch the interesting cast
of characters pass by.

Ireland’s most prestigious university well merits a lengthy visit. Be sure to stroll through College Green (which has barely any grass), see the famed 9th-century Book of Kells, perhaps the world’s most famous illuminated manuscript, then tour the Long Library, where 200,000 rare books are stored under an incredible barrel- vaulted ceiling. .

Housed in the grounds of Dublin Castle is one of the finest museums in Europe, a shrine to the high taste of an American industrialist, traveler and collector who made Dublin his adopted home. The stunningly choice displays of Medieval and Renaissance European, Islamic, Chinese, Japanese and Tibetan work are an absolute must-see.

Yes, it’s full of tourists, but you’d be ashamed to say you had been in Dublin if you didn’t tour this funky area of cobblestone streets between the famed River Liffey and Dame Street. Pubs, shops, restaurants and clubs to suit every taste.

Dublin rivals London and New York for the quality of its theater, so it would be a shame to miss one of the top-notch productions regularly staged at the Abbey, Andrew’s Lane, Civic, Gaity, Gate and Olympia, among others. Check local listings and expect to pay anywhere from $15 to $40 (bargain rates!) for a ticket.

Pat Liddy is the city’s most charming and informed personal guide. Pat Liddy’s Walking Tours of Dublin• (353-87) 252-6701 • www.walkingtours.ie

This elegant 125-room hotel was created in 1997 from four magnificent 18th-century townhouses (one of them said to be the birthplace of the Duke of Wellington) with the addition of a contemporary Garden Wing. Situated in the heart of Georgian Dublin near St. Stephen’s Green, Trinity College and major museums, the complex features a spectacular collection of Irish art, full-service Tethra Spa, gymnasium and indoor swimming pool, and exquisite ground floor drawing rooms where one may savor tea (or stronger spirits) beside a roaring fire. From $450. (Tip: Rooms in the townhouse wing are well worth the extraprice.)Upper Merrion Street • (353-1) 603-0600

If you fancy rubbing elbows in the wee elevator with visiting movie and rock stars, you’ll definitely like this minimalist oasis overlooking the River Liffey in the city’s throbbing Temple Bar district. You might even run into Bono (one of the owners) on his way to soak in the hot tub in the penthouse suite. R ather smallish rooms from $350. (Tip: Bring ear plugs and ask for upper floor accommodations to help avoid street noise.) 6-8 Wellington Quay • (353-1) 407- 0408 • www.theclarence.ie

With 21 bedrooms split between a gracious Georgian townhouse and the modernist former home of architect Sam Stephenson, this quirky B&B is a popular alternative choice and only a short walk from St. Stephen’s Green. The gourmet breakfasts served in the conservatory by the super friendly staff are definitely something to write home about. From $185. (Tip: Make sure you don’t get a dingy ground floor room.) 31 Leeson Close • (353-1) 676-5011 • www.number31.ie


Dublin’s famed cobblestoned streets
Strolling along the riverbank


Ireland’s only 2-star Michelin restaurant is hallowed ground for visiting foodies who won’t want to miss the roast Challans duck “Biguarde,” lobster from Clougher Head and other innovative French/Irish fare served in this suitably elegant gastronomic temple. Lunch from $50. Dinner from $150, not including selections from the awesome wine list. (Tip: Lunch is easier to reserve and a relative bargain.) Merrion Hotel • Upper Merrion Street• (353-1)676-4192

Owned by two handsome Danes, identical twin brothers Simon and Christian Stokes, Bang is the place to dine if you’re looking for buzz, pretty people and innovative modern European food. Reservations a must. Lunch from $45. Dinner from $60. (Tip: Excellent seafood.) 11 Merrion Row• (353-1) 676-0898

“Seedy on the outside and impressively Art Deco within” (as one guidebook put it), Dublin’s flacks, hacks, thespians and music industry types love to dine on the Troc’s hearty fish, steaks and rack of lamb and so will you. Dinner from $40. (Tip: Warm atmosphere, so no attitude, please.) 3 St. Andrew’s Street • (353-1) 677-5545

There are more than 700 pubs in Dublin, so one is bound to fit your mood. Here are just a few:
An eclectic mix of neighborhood types, rugby players and t ourists gather to sip Guinness and hear traditional Irish music in the pub where the famous folk group the Dubliners got their start 40 years ago. (Tip: Male pub crawlers never buy anything smaller than a pint and should take their turn buying rounds.) 15 Merrion Row • (353-1) 661-4303.

Grubby haunt of actors, painters and other Bohos gathering to discuss the meaning of life or their next big break. (Tip: good natured “slagging,” or teasing, is de rigueur, especially after a couple of pints. You’ll be a hit if you give as good as you get.)15 South William Street (353-1) 677-9320  THEBANKTrendy uber-bar nestled inside what was once a Victorian- era bank. Dazzling architectural details to admire while you chat up good looking strangers. (Tip: Factor in long waits for the unisex loos.) College Green • Dame Street (353-1) 677-0677


Your well-tipped hotel concierge should be able to arrange admittance to this plush but strictly private club featuring luxe food and drink in a “tranquil but vibrant setting.” (Tip: Overseas memberships cost about $100, a good deal for frequent visitors.) 13/14 Dame Court (353-1) 670-3080 • www.theodessaclub. ie

Spy’s velvet ropes ensure that only the rich, beautiful and celebrated gain access to its lavishly furnished rooms. Downstairs at Wax, there’s easy entry and the dancing gets hot. 59 South William Street • (353-1) 679-0014

Exceptional mohair throws, and other handwoven items, contemporary kitchenware,
women’s clothing, toys. 11-13 Suffolk Street• (353-1) 667-4215 • www.avoca.ie
Upscale department store featuring high-end international designers, cosmetics, and its own line of bed linens. Louise Kennedy, 56 Merrion Square, (353-1) 662-0056. Tailored tweeds, cashmere shawls, silk gowns, crystal and home accessories. 88-95 Grafton Street• (353-1) 605-6666 • www.brownthomas.com

Lobby of the Merrion hotel

The trendy Temple bar district
Corned beef and cabbage at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud

Trinity college


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