In Part 1 of our guide to Dublin, Ireland, we went over the area’s must-play golf courses, but this vivacious city has plenty to do off of the course as well. From 12th century pubs and castle hotels to Michelin-starred restaurants and luxury resort hotels, the city provides some great options for any budget.
Where to stay in Dublin: Best hotels and resorts
- The 5-star Merrion Hotel is centrally located in the heart of Dublin’s historic city center. The hotel maintains a classic Georgian-style look, all while providing the amenities and beautiful furnishings one would expect from a world-class hotel, including the largest private art collection in Ireland and Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, the only two-star Michelin restaurant in Dublin. Also on the property are the Merrion Gardens, which are overlooked by many of the hotel’s rooms and give visitors a feeling of tranquility amid the Dublin’s busy city center.
- Just west of Dublin in the idyllic countryside town of Straffan sits one of Europe’s best luxury resort hotels, the Kildare Hotel at the K Club. Situated on the banks of the River Liffey, the hotel was built in 1832 and modeled after a French chateau. The beautiful 550-acre estate features activities such as falconry, fly-fishing, horseback riding and, of course, golf on the 2006 Ryder Cup host course. Each of the hotel’s rooms is exquisitely and luxuriously appointed to the highest standards, so if you want fun and relaxation in the lap of luxury, there is no finer option in Ireland.
- If you are looking for a moderately-priced stay in an old Irish castle (and who isn’t!), I would recommend the Clontarf Castle Hotel, located 10 minutes north of the city center. The castle has been rebuilt since its original construction in the 12th century and now stands as the perfect blend of enchanting Irish architecture and stylish modern sumptuousness. Each of the hotel’s rooms is individually decorated with period charm, and the grand common areas are equally inviting.
Where to eat in Dublin: Best restaurants
- Of the Dublin-area’s seven Michelin-starred restaurants, Chapter One stands out. It is uniquely located in the basement of the Dublin Writers Museum in Parnell Square and, with the Gate Theatre just a short stroll away, the pre-theatre menu is a great option. The restaurant’s vaulted basement space was renovated in 2009 and a chef’s table was added to seat a group of guests in the heart of chef Ross Lewis’ award-winning kitchen. The menu changes with the seasons but you can expect nothing but beautifully prepared dishes that stimulate your taste buds and your imagination. This popular restaurant can book up well in advance so a reservation is strongly recommended.
- The Winding Stair, named after a volume of poems by W.B. Yeats, has long been established as one of Dublin’s trendy hangout spots. The building overlooks the Ha’penny Bridge, which crosses the River Liffey in the center of Dublin, and the ground-floor Winding Stair Bookshop still exists today. The restaurant’s self-proclaimed “good old-fashioned, homemade grub” is made from distinctly fresh ingredients and the craft beer list is exceptional.
- If you are looking for a quality pub meal, I would suggest Doheny & Nesbitt. The family owned pub is one of the oldest in Dublin and has retained its classic Irish feel with original Victorian snugs and wooden floors. Don’t expect anything gourmet, but rather a full plate of good Irish food, a pint of Guinness and a fun atmosphere with a great mix of locals and tourists.
Where to drink in Dublin: Best bars
- Centrally located along the River Liffey, The Brazen Head stands in a class of its own among old Irish pubs. The bar is believed to have been around since 1198 and the well-worn stone walls have appropriately captured the aura of a different time. It is the perfect place to grab a Guinness and soak in a distinctly-Irish pub experience.
- Another longstanding player in the Dublin pub scene is The Stag’s Head, a flamboyant Victorian-style pub on the outskirts of the Temple Bar district. The picturesque bar has been known to serve the “perfect pint of Guinness” and also has a highly-regarded food menu. It’s accessed through a side alleyway off of Dame Street and sits just far enough off the beaten path to attract a great mix of local college students and older Irish blowhards.
- As a general rule, I don’t often recommend the overcrowded, overpriced bars of the central Temple Bar district, but the one exception is The Old Storehouse. The nightly music is always great, the prices are decent, the bartenders are friendly, and the food is pretty solid, too. Unlike the other bars in the heart of Temple Bar, this one isn’t usually jam-packed with tourists, so you might actually get a bit of good old Irish “craic.”
Jonathan Alden is a contributor at Golf News Net and the founder of Worldwide Golf Adventures, a golf travel company based in Austin, TX that offers dream vacations to the world's top golf destinations.