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Dublin: a portrait of a city

February 24, 2017

From its intellectual heart to its love of a craic-ing good time (and tale), here’s our guide to fully embracing the literary heritage of Dublin city while taking in the famous charm and hospitality of its inhabitants.

A Pint of History

No trip to Dublin is complete without a pilgrimage to the Guinness Storehouse or the Old Jameson Distillery, or both! Regardless of whether you fancy these tipples or not, the informative, interactive presentations at both venues offer a wealth of insight into Irish commerce, marketing (check out the advertising exhibit displaying the evolution of the iconic Guinness adverts over the years), and the exact chemical processes behind the art of distilling and brewing these two famous beverages. Take a visual swim inside a maturing barrel of Jameson in rooms where they have full barrels cross-sectioned so you can see the liquid turning mahogany inside. Drink in the stunning 360-degree view of the entire city and beyond from the top of the Guinness Storehouse.

Quick tip: If you volunteer during the introduction of the tour at the Old Jameson Distillery, you might be selected for a special tasting at the end. Sláinte!

Dublin Written in Your Heart

Celebrate the masterpiece of one of Dublin’s greatest writers by taking a trip down to Sandy cove and visiting the James Joyce Tower and Museum. Climb the steep, crooked stone stairs of the turret memorialised in the opening chapter of Ulysses and feast your eyes on eclectic memorabilia, including a ceramic statue of the infamous black panther and a collection of posters visualising the writer’s words (spoiler alert: one of them contains the last lines of Ulysses, just in case you ever get around to reading it, as you’ve promised yourself repeatedly).

Quick tip: Take a dip nearby at the Forty Foot, a rocky outcropping with a deep natural inlet where brave souls have been swimming year-round for more than two centuries.

The World Is Full of Magic Things

Bring the words of Yeats to life by wandering along the River Liffey at sunset. If you’re lucky, a break in the rain will mean plenty of shredded clouds in the sky to capture the colours, which will then be vividly reflected in the still waters of the river, along with the bright hues of the lights under the bridges and of bordering buildings as the city becomes lit for the night ahead. If you start in the Docklands, you can experience a uniquely moving past-meeting-present moment in the juxtaposition of the Irish Famine Memorial’s heart breaking statues with the soaring harp of Calatrava’s stunning, ultra-modern Samuel Beckett Bridge.

Quick tip: Finish your stroll at The Cobblestone in Smithfield, a genuinely welcoming pub that hosts live, traditional Irish music seven nights a week.

Literary Libations

Few city tours pack the intellectual and entertainment punch of the delightful Dublin Literary Pub Crawl. Follow two charismatic actors through the cobblestoned streets and into the words and haunts of the famous writers that helped make Dublin the fourth UNESCO City of Literature.

Quoting blithely from pieces by Beckett, Joyce, Yeats and other literary greats, your tour guides will be more than happy to oblige you with offbeat trivia and memorable arcana, all while offering an astute insight into exactly why this city has been a muse for so many authors and what makes it so amenable to crafting the written word.

Quick tip: If you’re a bit peckish after your creative pints, head to Zaytoon for an affordable Persian feast, or if the lines are too long, stop by nearby Mezza for a tasty Lebanese meal.

Sunlight on the Garden

When all is told, there are countless of other worthy pursuits in Dublin to try to cage the minute within its nets of gold (just a quick nod to Louis MacNeice). Take a trip to the stately grounds of Malahide and/or Dublin Castle, explore Irish sporting legend at Croke Park, pay homage and perhaps invoke the romance of Once with a walk down Grafton Street, polish the marble feet of the master of wit (aka Oscar Wilde) in Merrion Square, quaff one of the best pints in Dublin at the bustling John Kehoe’s, gobble some donuts from the legendary stand on O’Connell Street, or discover the complete history of the city with a tour of the Dublin Castle, or Caisleán Bhaile Átha Cliath, resting afterwards in the plush grass of the park outside, sunlight abiding.

And through it all, go dté tú slán.

Jack O'RiordanView all posts

    Jack is the editor of The Leisure Lounge. Expert in the art of writing things and putting them online. Loves travelling, especially anywhere in southeast Asia. Hates mushrooms.