National Gallery of Ireland
Merrion Square West, Clare St., CityCenter
Considering Dublin’s small size, the National Gallery is a testament to the central position it allows art and culture. A mix of old and new, the original building on Leinster Lawn has been in place since the 1800s, while the newer hyper-modern Millennium Wing opened in 2002. A huge campus-like space, the gallery has quite the collection of European art, with Velazquez, Rembrandt, Titian, and Van Gogh represented as well as a sizable collection of Irish works. The gallery’s crowning glory, however, is Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ, a long-lost work incredibly rediscovered in the '90s hanging in a Jesuit dining room in Ireland. Booking a tour or reserving tickets is not necessary; you can simply wander in and admire the art at your own pace. For those looking for more structure, the gallery runs a series of educational outreach programs and workshops for adults and kids alike.
111 South Circular Rd., Portobello
A "bastible" is a type of old-school, flat-bottomed cast-iron pot, used to cook everything from bread to meat in times long past. This place goes back to basics, reimagining the good, solid food of an Irish childhood for the modern palate. Contemporary Irish cuisine has borrowed a few tenets from the new Nordic—an obsession with seasonality and no cut corners are especially evident at this restaurant. Chef Barry Fitzgerald (formerly of Etto and London’s Harwood Arms) is turning out 48-hour fermented sourdough ready to be slathered in house-made butter, scallops, and salty seaweed potatoes, duck eggs with crispy parmesan croutons...you get the idea. The menu is set, with Sundays reserved for bigger pieces of meat or fish for the obligatory family-style roast dinner.
Meet Me in the Morning
50 Pleasants St., Portobello
Dublin's café culture has exploded, with no corner of the city left untouched by the whiff of a well-made flat white. Meet Me in the Morning is one of the newer kids on the block, with a chef slash artist manning the kitchen and a champion barista handling the espresso. The short menu lists the kind of dishes you want to eat in the morning, some heavy, some light, all extraordinary. The nut butter is no ordinary chalky almond spread; instead, it's a blend of toasted hazelnuts and cacao smeared on toast with local honey and flaky sea salt. The egg and greens? A sautéed mix of leek, spinach, and chard served on garlicky toast with yogurt and paprika. Grab a seat outside and work your way through the coffee menu while you wait for some of the most beautifully plated food in Dublin.
Sprout & Co
81B Campshires, Sir John Rogerson's Quay, Grand Canal Dock
What started off as a solo health-centric café concept has grown into a half a dozen locations across the capital. Dublin-born chef Jack Kirwin and his brother Theo noticed an appetite for the seasonal, vegetable-heavy, build-your-own-bowl food taking off stateside, and Sprout was born. The aesthetics of each location are broadly similar—subway-tile walls, cheery green menus, communal wood tables, plenty of greenery, and fridges stacked high with fresh cold-pressed juice (Kirwin essentially introduced Dublin to the concept). The food never disappoints, and for those craving a break from heavier Irish fare, Sprout is a welcome dose of SoCal-style cuisine—the falafel salad and kale Caesar drawing daily lines out the door. For a proper sit-down lunch, head to the Rogerson's Quay location, an old converted boathouse with stellar views, now topped with its own greenhouse, meaning that the lettuce in your salad was grown within minutes, not miles, of your plate.
The Guinness Storehouse
St. James's Gate, Ushers
The Guinness Storehouse is the most popular tourist attraction in Dublin for good reason. It's so much more than just a place to sample a few pints where it all began: Guinness has created a full interactive experience that immerses you in the world of hops and wheat. Arthur Guinness himself signed a 9,000-year lease on this exact spot in 1759, so we can all rest assured the brewery won’t be moving anytime soon. Fresh water is pumped in directly from the Wicklow Mountains—which is evident in the cascading waterfall held within the structure—and barley is literally growing out of the walls. In the tasting room, futuristic pods pump out the different aromas that make the perfect pint. All of this sensory overload leads you through the building up to the end game: a pint of Guinness enjoyed at the greenhouse-style gravity bar while you take in the panorama of the city.
Christ Church Cathedral
Christchurch Pl., City Center
A major Dublin Landmark, Christ Church Cathedral has been rooted in the city center since 1028. Originally a Viking church, the cathedral has of course changed hands in line with Ireland's successive waves of invaders. Today it appears fairly Victorian, with a mix of Gothic and Romanesque features, like flying buttresses. Inside you’ll find not only a fully functioning Anglican church with regular services and a stellar choir (stop in for Evensong) but a thousand years' worth of ancient manuscripts and artifacts, including Ireland’s first copy of the Magna Carta. Walk down to the country’s oldest medieval crypt and be sure to stop at the burial tomb of Strongbow, the Welsh warlord who brought the Anglo-Norman invasion to Ireland in the 12th century.
Dame St., City Center
A historic landmark as well as a major government complex, Dublin Castle was built in the 13th century on the site of a Viking settlement (remnants of which can still be seen today). Until 1922, the castle was the British headquarters in Ireland. The structure is a Georgian palace with the requisite grand reception hall and palatial apartments, a Gothic Revival chapel, and several museums. Today it is used to inaugurate presidents and host state dinners, and it has been used to entertain everyone from Nelson Mandela to John F. Kennedy. In addition to the Chester Beatty, there is a second museum that houses paintings, sculpture, and textiles spanning ages.
Dublin Writer’s Museum
18 Parnell Square N., Parnell Square
The Irish know how to write—this is after all the country that gave us Joyce, Yeats, Beckett, and so many others. This museum documents and celebrates the history and achievements of Ireland’s literary talent, past and present. In an 18th-century mansion, amid the Georgian grandeur of Parnell Square, the windows of the museum look over the Garden of Remembrance, a memorial that commemorates a struggle often referenced in Irish literature (brush up on your W.B. Yeats poetry, "Easter 1916" in particular, if you want to know more). The museum is a lovely resource for visitors and city residents looking to learn more about Ireland's great writers and poets. It's an interactive space with regular exhibits, lunchtime theater, readings, and a special room dedicated to children’s literature.
The Garden of Remembrance
Parnell Square E., Parnell Square
A small, almost discreet garden at the top of one of Dublin’s most imposing boulevards, the Garden of Remembrance is dedicated to all those who gave their lives in pursuit of Irish freedom. The memorial is nestled into one of the many Georgian squares that dot the city (this one is aptly named for the nationalist statesman Charles Stewart Parnell). A sunken stream cuts through the length of the garden, leading the eye up to a fleet of steps topped with a moving sculpture of the Children of Lir (an Irish mythological tale) and a monument inscribed with a poem commemorating the six uprisings across seven generations that led to Ireland's emancipation. Despite being in the center of the city, the garden has a quiet calm—and gravitas.
Irish Museum of Modern Art
Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Military Rd., Kilmainham
The Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), Ireland’s premier contemporary museum space is imaginatively, if somewhat ironically, housed in the country’s oldest classical building, the Royal Kilmainham Hospital. It was founded in 1684 as a home for retired soldiers and very much based on Les Invalides in Paris. IMMA’s mission is to merge modern Irish life with contemporary art exhibits, live performances, and educational initiatives that are open and participatory. A recent coup for the museum is securing 50 of Lucien Freud’s greatest works on loan for the next five years. This has spurred a deep dive into the world of Freud with the exhibit itself, a lunchtime lecture series, and a special Freud Project residency (won by Irish artist Bridget O’Gorman and artist, writer, and researcher Sue Rainsford). After a wander through the airy galleries, pick up a hot coffee from the pretty little café and wander aimlessly through the surrounding gardens.
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