National Botanic Gardens
Hop on the bus or take a taxi to Glasnevin, just outside the city center, to the tropical oasis—yes, tropical oasis—that is the National Botanic Gardens. The gardens were initially founded in 1795 to promote the scientific study of agriculture and were later used for further botanical studies and research, which led to—luckily, for Dubliners—the arrival of thousands of tropical plants from around the world. While you walk around, take note of the beautifully constructed greenhouses that reflect the rolling clouds (and, less frequently, the sun). Check out the orchid collection, the cactus house, the herbarium, and, of course, the rose garden. The café serves great coffee and baked treats. It’s really a perfect respite for visitors with little kids or anyone who craves the calm and peace of a big garden while in a big city.
Phoenix Park, City Center
The single largest enclosed park in any city in Europe, Phoenix Park is basically a 1,752-acre backyard to Dublin. The grounds were initially used as a royal hunting ground in the 1600s and have evolved to include hundreds of trails, historic monuments (like the Papal Cross and the Wellington Testimonial), Victorian gardens, and the Dublin Zoo, as well as Áras an Uachtaráin, the president's official residence (one he shares with hundreds of deer). Walking, biking, or even driving through the park early in the morning as the sun rises or at dusk is one of Dublin's great pleasures.
The Hugh Lane
Charlemont House, Parnell Square
The Hugh Lane is the world’s first known modern art gallery, housed in a classically designed Georgian townhouse overlooking the Garden of Remembrance. Small and intimate, this well-curated space features a sizable collection by modern Irish artists, like Louis Le Brocquy, Jack B. Yeats, and Sean Scully, alongside Impressionist masterpieces by Manet, Degas, and Monet. This gallery’s biggest draw is the complete installation of Francis Bacon’s studio, meticulously re-created in all its chaotic brilliance. You can see this installation from all angles thanks to glass panels. It also provides a complete computerized archive—the first of its kind in the world. Browse through the well-appointed bookstore, then step out into the heart of Parnell Square, one of Georgian Dublin’s oldest neighborhoods.
The Little Museum of Dublin
15 St. Stephen's Green, City Center
A small but mighty gem of a museum that does its best to untangle the messy web that is Dublin's history through a series of rooms in a Georgian residence right on St. Stephen's Green. Each room traces different threads of the city's fabric including some of its more famous occupants (there's an entire room dedicated to born and bred Dubliners U2). For an informative but fun cultural activity with kids and teens, the guides are excellent raconteurs and bring 1,000 years of history to life with humor and insight. Afterward, walking down an extra flight of steps to the basement restaurant Hatch & Sons for some stellar Irish fare is never a bad idea.
Trinity College Dublin
College Green, City Center
Smack in the middle of Dublin is the walled campus of Trinity College. Inside the walls: beautifully maintained Georgian buildings built around three squares and playing fields dotted with sculptures by Alexander Calder, Henry Moore, and other artistic heavyweights. Alongside several thousand students, most of Dublin uses the campus (built by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592) to cut across the city, partially because it’s a shortcut but mainly because it’s beautiful. The walkway between the cricket and rugby pitches is lined with cherry trees. The front square, with its campanile and imposing columned buildings, is an architectural feat, and the many manicured green spaces are ideal lunch spots. The Georgian buildings contain historical treasures, like the Book of Kells (a ninth-century illustrated manuscript of the four gospels and life of Jesus), and the old library and long room are filled with an impressive 200,000 books and lined with marble busts of great Western philosophers and writers.
Chester Beatty Library
Dublin Castle, City Center
The Chester Beatty, founded initially to hold the collections of mining magnate Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, has expanded its collections, exhibit schedule, and educational offerings to encourage cultural and religious understanding. Within the labyrinth of Dublin Castle, the museum is one of Dublin’s most serene spaces—quiet, dark, set off with lush tapestries, ancient manuscripts, and small pieces of art. The museum, like most of Dublin’s cultural institutions, seeks to be a living, breathing space for city dwellers and visitors alike. Aside from the 6,000 culturally significant works on display—love poems from 1160 B.C., Egyptian Books of the Dead, the earliest papyrus sources of the Bible—the Chester Beatty hosts regular drop-in-and-draw sessions, interactive art tours for those suffering from dementia, Qigong on the rooftop, and family-friendly film screenings.
6-8 Wellington Quay, The Quays
A 19th-century building on the River Liffey, the Clarence is known for its impressive stained-glass windows as well as being the hotel of choice for musicians and creative types. U2’s Bono and The Edge first injected the old building with a dose of urban cool in 1996, and the improvements keep coming, most recently the addition of Cleaver East, run by Ireland’s youngest Michelin-starred chef, Oliver Dunne. A sociable stay for sure, The Octagon Bar—so-called for the Art Deco octagonal dome that caps it—still has one of the cozier snugs (the much coveted corner booth) in the city, while the basement Liquor Rooms keep the craft cocktails flowing all night. The rooms are fairly sparse, minimalist before the Scandinavians made it fashionable, yet all are equipped with the essentials, like the softest bathrobes you could imagine.
33 Harcourt St., City Center
Dublin's answer to Brooklyn, the Dean has been heartily embraced by Dubliners as a place for staycations, eating, drinking, and late-night anything-ing. The hotel is in the heart of the city's concentrated nightlife scene—fantastic if you love noise and action, not so much if you're looking for quiet (although each room does come equipped with headphones). Rooms are on the small side but smartly done with chevron wood floors, a muted palette, and big windows looking out on the rooftops. Each comes tooled up with a mini Smeg fridge, a Nespresso machine, a record player, and Netflix. The Dean is a great option for someone who wants to be in the heart of the urban mix, appreciates smart design, and is looking to take in the whole cityscape with their drink. And to those, may we recommend the glass-walled rooftop bar Sophie's.
The Marker Hotel
Grand Canal Sq., Grand Canal Dock
One of the newer kids on the block, the Marker brings a dose of modernism to predominantly Georgian Dublin. It was designed by Portuguese architect Manuel Aires Mateus to look like it was carved from rock (it does). Set in the heart of the regenerated Grand Canal Dock, wryly known as Silicon Docks thanks to the proliferation of tech companies, the location is hard to beat: The River Liffey is behind you, the docks in front, and the city center a short walk away. The interior is futuristic looking: undulating walls, lots of reflective surfaces, and spacious rooms comfortably done in a wildly bright color palette. You’ll look past the purple carpets once you hit the rooftop bar, with panoramic views over the city, cozy seats strewn with blankets to ward off the chill, and an excellent mixologist at the bar. The spa and gym are top class, and often host well-known wellness personalities—and the clean menu is a welcome relief from Dublin’s signature rich meat- and fish-heavy fare.
Merrion St. Upper, City Center
The grande dame of Dublin’s hotels comprises four beautifully maintained Georgian houses, each decorated in the style of the period with walls covered in 19th- and 20th-century art. The Merrion is small and feels more intimate than the city’s other hotels. Each of its elegant, stately rooms are done up in a Paul Henry–inspired neutral palette (the painting hangs in the hotel’s front hall), with 400-thread-count sheets, large marble bathrooms, and generous windows to take in the Georgian rooftops. Fireside afternoon tea in the drawing room (with scones covered in clotted cream) never disappoints, particularly on a cold, wet Irish day. The spa has a tempting treatment menu and infinity pool, and nearby, the two-Michelin-star restaurant Patrick Guilbaud and lively cellar bar make leaving the hotel a hard sell. But walk a few steps from the lobby and you’ll find St. Stephen’s Green, a dozen of the city’s best restaurants, and the National Gallery.