By Al Navaroo, Co-Founder & COO
Ireland was never on my travel bucket list, but when my in-laws suggested a 3-generation trip to the Emerald Isle with my wife and kids this summer, complete with a rented farmhouse in the countryside for a week, how could I say “No”?
We were in Ireland for two weeks, and saw/did many things, but I am going to limit this article to Dublin, the country’s capital and where we spent about a week in total, bookend-ing our stay at the farmhouse in County Donegal.
For starters, I should admit that I was totally charmed by Dublin. So much so that I plan to return sometime. Perhaps even soon. It rivals Paris as a top European destination in my mind, with many of the same attractions: great history, food, and lots of museums (many of them free). Just substitute the Liffey for the Seine. And friendly Dubliners for aloof Parisians. Plus, the flight to Dublin is about an hour and a half shorter from the east coast than the flight to Paris.
If you’re still hung up on the fact that I listed food as one of Dublin’s main draws, it’s time to drop all pre-conceived notions you might have about Irish food. It’s not all meat and potatoes — unless of course your want it to be. See below for details. (Note that you won’t see me recommend the Guinness Storehouse, which was one of the most “meh” parts of my visit…but I know you’ll go anyway, and you probably should.)
Where to stay:
I recommend staying in the heart of Dublin if you can. That way you can walk out the door and start exploring instead of having to worry about catching a train or bus. The Clarence Hotel and Number 31 Guesthouse are both interesting, upscale (but not absurdly so) places to rest your head. If you don’t mind walking a bit and want something out of the ordinary, go for Number 31, which is a boutique hotel fashioned out of two buildings connected by a courtyard. The Clarence is right on the edge of the Temple Bar area, with small and simple (but tastefully appointed) rooms.
What to see/do:
I was very skeptical when my older daughter asked to go to “The National Leprechaun Museum”, but this attraction — run by a couple of former ad execs — offers a wonderful taste of Irish folklore, served up by talented storytellers. I’m usually not a fan of double-decker tourist buses, but the Green Bus line run by the city transit authority is a good value and allows you to get a feel for the layout of the city while offering transport to some of the major attractions. Kilmainham Gaol (pronounced “jail”) , which played a role in the aftermath of the famous 1916 “Easter Rising”, was definitely a highlight of our visit. One caveat is that the tours book up fast and they don’t take reservations. So plan on getting there early and having to wait (or come back) for the next available tour.
Where to eat:
I found the food in Dublin to be phenomenal…perhaps because we steered clear of most of the “touristy” places. On exception is Gallagher’s Boxty House in Temple Bar. A great way to get your fill of meat and potatoes…the “boxty” is a traditional potato pancake that gets served with your choice of fillings. Hatch & Sons was a wonderful find near St. Stephen’s Green, a perfect place for breakfast or lunch. The same could be said for Brother Hubbard, a casual café on the “other” side of the River Liffey (but very walkable from Temple Bar area). My final recommendation is
L. Mulligan Grocer in the Stoneybatter section of the city. It’s a traditional Irish pub reimagined and reinvigorated. The food, drink, and overall vibe of the place were all amazing.