See the Contemporary Side of Dublin

1. Where to Stay

A modernist bedroom at Number 31.Photo: Courtesy of Number 31

Sink into a deep soaking tub at the 44-room Dylan Hotel (from $216), located in the affluent, leafy Ballsbridge neighborhood. It’s a family-run property that features five-star design accents like Murano glass lighting, ornate mirrors, and striking photographs of the city.

Skip the better-known boutique hotels and open the gate to Number 31 (from $192), a modern guesthouse designed by Sam Stephenson, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. The spot had its heyday in the sixties when actors and politicians regularly gathered around the peat-burning fireplace; now it boasts 21 rooms and a complimentary breakfast that’s won awards from Irish foodie organization Georgina Campbell Guides. Book a room in the adjacent Georgian house for a quieter stay.

Admire views of the twinkling River Liffey from your balcony at the Clarence Hotel (from $155), owned by U2’s Bono and the Edge, where a three-night stay gets you 15 percent off the total bill. If you’re looking for a rock star experience, book the duplex penthouse suite (from $1,564) with a baby grand piano, private terrace, and outdoor hot tub—it’s where Bono stays when he’s in town.

2. Where to Eat

The Winding Stair became a landmark in the seventies as a famous meeting place for writers, musicians, and artists. Photo: Courtesy of The Winding Stair

Grab a table overlooking the river at the Winding Stair, a former bookstore turned cozy restaurant with Irish cooking that gets a boost from largely organic ingredients from local farmers and suppliers. Have a hearty entrée of rhubarb-stuffed Black Pig pork fillet with roasted potatoes and a warm mixed-bean-and-spinach salad ($35) and skip the traditional pint of Guinness for a selection from the extensive wine list ($8–$22) highlighting floral whites and decadent reds.

Amp up your afternoon tea experience at Art Tea at the five-star Merrion Hotel, where pastry chefs turn original art hanging on the walls into edible replicas. Available from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily, the service ($51) includes scones, finger sandwiches, and the art-inspired pastries, but you can get extra indulgent with the champagne version ($7). Reservations are required, and make sure to ask for a table in the garden.

Take a seat at the chef’s table at Michelin-starred Chapter One Restaurant, where you can watch the chef craft your meal from start to finish in the stone-walled, underground space beneath the Dublin Writer’s Museum. If the six-course tasting menu ($120) seems too extravagant, the pre-theater three-course set menu ($52) is a good value, and offers elaborate options like Japanese-style marinated mackerel and braised short ribs of Angus beef.

3. What to Do

The Abbey Theatre, also known as the National Theatre of Ireland, houses two stages.Photo: BJaglin/Flickr

Skip the quotidian Temple Bar pubs full of tourists to rub elbows with Dublin’s artistic set at the Irish Film Institute. People-watch at the IFI Café Bar before and after the nightly screenings ($12.60), which feature the Best of Irish filmmaking but also foreign-language and art films. Drinking in the cinema is encouraged, so don’t be afraid to ask your bartender to pour your cocktail into a plastic cup.

Witness the avant-garde side of the local performing arts scene at the Abbey Theatre’s Peacock Stage (tickets from $25), an experimental 157-seat venue known for productions featuring less clothing and more alternative music than what happens on the main stage upstairs. Recent production Perve looked at film, paranoia, and sexuality, while forthcoming 16 Possible Glimpses promises a stylized, highly visual look at the life of Chekhov.

Get an interactive experience at the National Library of Ireland (free), where you can explore the personal notebooks of Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet W.B. Yeats. Using touch-screen technology, leaf through the pages, zoom in on the poet’s scribblings, and get a sense of the man behind the work. Yeats is further brought to life by video installations and recordings of his poems by notable Irish personalities like Sinéad O’Connor and Seamus Heaney.

4. Insider’s Tip

One of 44 locations to rent a ride from dublinbikes.Photo: Courtesy of Dublin Tourism

Dublin might be one of the only European capitals without a subway system, but that doesn’t relegate visitors to taking expensive taxis or renting cars. Since 2009, dublinbikes has offered 44 central locations with bikes for rent (€2 for a three-day ticket, Mastercard or Visa only). Other local forms of transportation include the DART train ($3–$4) used to reach outlying neighborhoods, and the towns of Howth Harbor, Sandymount, and Dún Laoghaire, or the LUAS trams ($2.40–$4.20) used to reach Smithfield, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, and a neighborhood with local bars and polished restaurants called Ranelagh.

5. Oddball Day

The manicured grounds surrounding the Irish Museum of Modern Art.Photo: William Murphy/flickr

Find alternative style and international cuisine in a city that’s not known for either. Start your day in the historic Portobello neighborhood with an almond croissant or hot bagel ($3–$7) at the Bretzel Bakery, the oldest Jewish bakery in the city. Next, head into the city center to shop for 1930s dresses at Dirty Fabulous, a vintage women’s apparel store that sources from Berlin and Paris. Then add to your vinyl and book collections at the nearby Secret Book and Record Store, where locals head to find an eclectic assortment of titles on philosophy and literature. For lunch, stroll through some of Dublin’s most picturesque streets to reach L’Gueuleton, a French restaurant that earns widespread praise and is among the most authentic Gallic options here. Afterward, hop on the LUAS for a quick ride to the Irish Museum of Modern Art (free), where the permanent collection of 1,650 works ranges from painting to photography to video. The selection is heavy on Irish artists, but recent exhibitions have featured pieces by Klee and Picasso. Return to the city center by tram, and transfer to the DART train to get to the Pearse Street station. From here, stroll through elegant Merrion Square toward Diep Le Shaker, a Thai restaurant with authentic ingredients flown in from Bangkok. Savor traditional flavors in dishes like larb ped ($13), finely-shredded duck breast with lemongrass, chili, lime, and coriander served in lettuce cups, or pla neung manow ($42), whole roasted sea bass infused with garlic, chili, fish sauce, and lemongrass. Round out the day with after-dinner entertainment at Ukiyo, a Japanese karaoke bar that stays open until 2:30 a.m. on weekends.

6. Links

The Dublin Convention Bureau has the latest information on deals, as well as downloadable PDFs for walking tours of the city.

The Irish Times is an award-winning daily newspaper with excellent theater, arts, and culture coverage.

Locals rely on Hotpress for the latest music, comedy, and lifestyle news.

RTE, the national television and radio broadcaster, is an excellent source of current listings for entertainment, sports, and more.

The Metro is Dublin’s free morning newspaper that covers the arts, restaurants, entertainment, and more.

In Dublin has extensive listings of live music, festivals, theater, clubs, and events.

See the Contemporary Side of Dublin