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Detours with locals. Travel tips you can trust.
Gardens at the Commons at MoLi.
Gardens at the Commons at MoLi.

A local’s guide to Dublin

Gardens at the Commons at MoLi.
Gardens at the Commons at MoLi.
  • By Yvonne Gordon
  • Photos by Mark Duggan
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Wander the streets, people-watch from a cafe or spend the evening in Dublin’s old pubs, and soon you’ll understand its essence.

This is a city where you’ll find excellent live music — even on the streets, in atmospheric pubs and in innovative restaurants serving Irish produce with a clever twist. You can tour old castles and cathedrals, visit art museums and theaters, see street art or read local writers. Shoppers will find the latest fashions alongside antiques and vintage clothes that are hundreds of years old. Best of all, you can just relax, make new friends and find your own favorite haunts in this small but vibrant Irish city.

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Yvonne Gordon is an award-winning travel and features writer based in Dublin.

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South City
Base yourself near St. Stephen’s Green and the Harcourt Street area, and you’ll be only a few minutes from the buzzing heart of the city’s shopping, cafes and restaurant district around Grafton Street. You’ll also be close to the museums and galleries in the Georgian areas around Kildare Street and Merrion Square and some of the city’s best nightlife and clubs. Find this neighborhood.
The tree-lined roads of Ballsbridge were traditionally popular with embassies and five-star hotels, and now there’s a good mix of mid-price- to upper-end hotels and guesthouses. Ballsbridge is just a couple of miles from the city center, so it’s easy to reach by foot or public transport. There’s a handful of pubs and restaurants, plus the Aviva Stadium and RDS Arena for concerts and sports events. Find this neighborhood.

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This Smithfield favorite has a real neighborhood feel. Both locals and visitors flock here to fill up on the “Full Irish” breakfast (pork and leek sausages, bacon, black and white pudding, baked beans, eggs, potato and chive cake, and sourdough toast), breakfast burritos or bacon and sausage baps (a floury roll). Brunch runs until 4 p.m. from Wednesday to Sunday, where there’s beer on tap, if you need the hair of the dog, and sweet coffees, if you need a pick-me-up. Ferrero Rocher latte, anyone? It gets busy, so be prepared to wait, but tables move fast.
BTW: Order a “Small Irish” for a smaller version of the “Full Irish” breakfast.
Wuff, 23 Benburb St. Dublin 7, Ireland
The decor at this cafe and patisserie is minimal, with glossy white walls and tables, but the dishes are an explosion of color, with local ingredients. Chorizo croquettes come with onion and red pepper jam, poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce. Try the hot smoked salmon and crab on a sourdough crumpet with poached eggs, or a Gubbeen (farmhouse cheese) chorizo croissant with avocado, tomatoes and pepper and caraway caponata. Eathos has two locations on Baggot Street, serving breakfast and brunch until 2:30 p.m.
BTW: Order the vegan chocolate tart.
Eathos, 8-11 Baggot St. Lower, Dublin 4 and 13 Baggot St. Upper, Dublin 4, Ireland
The Winding Stair
This Dublin favorite, with bare wood floors and tables and bookcases in the corners, is full of character. Each of the restaurant’s two levels (reached by stairs, of course) has some of the best views in Dublin: The huge windows look over the River Liffey and the Ha’penny Bridge. The menu changes seasonally, but favorites that remain year-round include cockles and mussels and smoked poached haddock. After lunch, browse the great collection of Irish titles (new and secondhand) in the Winding Stair bookshop on the ground level.
BTW: Leave room for the cheese board, plum chutney and Irish strawberry wine pairing for dessert.
The Winding Stair, Lower Ormond Quay, North City, Dublin 1, Ireland
The Commons at MoLi
This elegant spot at the Museum of Literature on St. Stephen’s Green was once the student dining hall of the original University College Dublin, which stood here years before the museum. The cafe has a separate entrance to the museum, and during good weather, you can grab a shaded table in a small garden connecting to the Iveagh Gardens, a city park. The menu went casual during the pandemic, with tasty blaas (traditional Irish rolls) with bacon and sausage, soups and salads, plus cakes, scones and pots of tea.
BTW: The grilled cheese on sourdough has two types of Co. Wicklow cheese — brie and cheddar.
The Commons at MoLi, 86 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland
The menu at Featherblade is simple and all about steak, with unusual cuts like featherblade or picanha, as well as rib eye, all from grass-fed Irish beef. Add a side like truffle mac and cheese, or some seriously chunky sweet potato wedges, plus a sauce (brandy peppercorn, béarnaise or chimichurri), and you are all set. With wooden benches, chalkboards and QR codes to access menus, the design is contemporary and atmosphere upbeat. For drinks, there’s wine, beer and a nice selection of cocktails and spritzes, plus refreshing alcohol-free treats such as apple and elderflower fizz, or lemongrass and ginger kefir.
BTW: The set menu includes a starter, main, side, sauce and dessert for €34-€41 (depending on the steak).
Featherblade, 51b Dawson St., Dublin 2, Ireland
Fish Shop
Set in a tiny space on a quiet stretch of Benburb Street, Fish Shop has signage that’s so inconspicuous, you could miss it altogether. The catch of the day is the main attraction — light beer-battered fish served with chips (fries) and tartar sauce. The fish changes daily, depending on the North Atlantic catch, but most common are haddock, cod and hake. The extensive wine list has biodynamic, natural wines from small independent winemakers, and most suit seafood pairings. Fish and chips can be served take-away, but if you’re dining in, try the tasty bar snacks, like haddock croquettes or squid sliders.
BTW: The shop also has a take-away wine menu to go with your fish and chips if you are dining out.
Fish Shop, Benburb St., Benburb Street, Smithfield, Dublin 7, Ireland
Whatever time of evening you dine here, you’ll find a warm atmosphere with plush red velvet seating, old-style lamps (some rescued from a theater) and black-and-white photos of screen and stage stars adorning the walls. The restaurant has been around since 1956 and is a Dublin favorite especially with the theater crowd. It’s popular for post-show dining for both guests and actors (last orders are around 10:30 p.m.). The decor may be old-time elegance, but the menu is up to date, with Italian influences in dishes like spinach and ricotta ravioli or salmon puttanesca, plus prime cuts of 28-day dry-aged Irish Angus beef.
BTW: Leave room for the cheese board; Trocadero has a great selection of Irish cheeses.
Trocadero, 4 St Andrew St., Dublin 2, Ireland
The Port House
Tapas, raciones and Basque pintxos are all here in this Spanish-style bar, with everything from croquetas to tortillas, paella and empanadillas. The Port House is cavern-like; you step down from street level into a dark but cozy space. The menu has a large selection of meat, seafood and vegetarian options — nearly 80 dishes. The secret is to order a few main dishes, add bread, tortilla and patatas, and pair with port, sherry or a pitcher of sangria for an authentic flavor of Spain.
BTW: Make sure to order the tasty patatas bravas (with tomato) or alioli (with garlic) as sides.
The Port House, 64 South William St, Dublin 2, Ireland
(Dublin illustrator Aaron Croasdell for The Washington Post)
  1. It doesn’t rain half as much as people think it does in Ireland, but wear layers and bring a hooded waterproof jacket rather than an umbrella. If it’s windy, umbrellas don’t survive.
  2. Dublin is easily walkable and if you are right in the center, walking can be faster than sitting in traffic in a bus or taxi.
  3. We nickname all our landmarks. The Molly Malone statue, for example, is called “the Tart With the Cart.”
(Dublin illustrator Aaron Croasdell for The Washington Post)


Bike in Phoenix Park
Walkers, cyclists, joggers, dog walkers, tour buses, friends playing Frisbee or soccer, cricketers: They’re all here on the weekends. With nearly seven miles of perimeter wall, this is one of Europe’s largest enclosed parks, and there are plenty of great cycle routes. Start at the Victorian People’s Flower Gardens, then decide whether to visit Dublin Zoo, the tearooms, or book a tour of Farmleigh House or Aras an Uachtarain, the home of the Irish president. For a more relaxed visit, bring a picnic or cycle around and see whether you can spot members of the park’s herd of wild fallow deer.
BTW: Rent a bike from sharing app or Phoenix Park Bikes.
Phoenix Park, Dublin 8
Have a drink in an old pub
Dublin has some pubs that are hundreds of years old (one dates back to 1198), but our favorites are those from Victorian times in the 1800s, with lots of wood, glass, mirrors and snugs (small rooms beside the bar, from the times when women weren’t allowed at the main bar). The Swan Bar on Aungier Street first opened in 1661; its wooden interior dates from 1897. The pub is in the center of the city but a little off the main tourist track. Grab a stool at the counter and listen to the locals while you watch your Guinness being poured.
BTW: Check out the pub’s extensive whiskey selection.
The Swan Bar, 58 York Street, Dublin 2, Ireland
Iveagh Gardens
It’s not far from St. Stephen’s Green, but this Victorian garden is one of the city center’s lesser-known parks, hidden between the National Concert Hall, on Earlsfort Terrace, and Harcourt Street. Office workers from the area flock here for alfresco lunches and coffees during the summer. The park dates to 1865 and has formal lawns, benches and fountains in the center; follow the paths to the wilder, more wooded walking areas at the concert-hall end. The benches in the rose garden are a peaceful spot, and there’s also a small yew maze with a sundial in one corner.
BTW: Access the gardens from Harcourt Street, Hatch Street or behind the National Concert Hall.
Iveagh Gardens, Clonmel St, Saint Kevin’s, Dublin, D02 WD63, Ireland
Jenny Vander
There’s “vintage,” and then there’s vintage. With clothing dating to the 1700s and Victorian times, Jenny Vander is a treasure trove of original period finds — so much so that outfits from the shop are sometimes used in TV and film shoots. Older items include Chantilly silk bodices, blouses and accessories, and there’s a great selection of hats, plus beaded bags and scarves from the 1920s. Don’t miss the designer jewelry: You’ll find pieces from Dior, Chanel, Haskell, Weiss and many others.
BTW: If you don’t have a designer budget, smaller jewelry pieces start at 10 or 20 euros.
Jenny Vander 50 Drury Street, Dublin, D02 K462, Ireland
Poolbeg Lighthouse/Great South Wall
It’s not far from the city center, but you’ll need a car or a taxi and a good set of directions to find the start of this walk — a spot more known to locals than visitors. The Great South Wall was originally built to keep the sand away from the opening of Dublin Port, and it stretches 2½ miles right out into Dublin Bay. That leads to some breathtaking views south across Dublin Bay to Dun Laoghaire and the Wicklow Mountains or, if you look north, to Howth. The picture-perfect red Poolbeg Lighthouse is at the wall’s end. You can watch ships and ferries coming into Dublin Port from here.
BTW: The last part of the North Bull Wall, across the channel, is submerged at high tide.
Poolbeg Lighthouse/Great South Wall, Poolbeg, Dublin 4
People’s Park Market
This coastal park comes alive every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a food and crafts market in a super setting near Dun Laoghaire pier. There are crafts, books, jewelry and every type of cuisine by the sea here — including falafel, grills, kebabs, Thai, Japanese, Italian and Spanish, plus rows of tempting pastries and cakes. Look out for Man of Aran fudge; Irish apple and pear juices from Llewellyn’s Orchard, which serves a warm mulled winter tonic with apple juice and spices; and the sea salt caramel chocolate truffles from the Truffle Fairy.
BTW: The park has lots of green space. Bring a picnic blanket and make a day of it.
People’s Park market, Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin
Yvonne Gordon
Yvonne Gordon is an award-winning travel and features writer based in Dublin.
Mark Duggan
Mark is a contributing photographer to The Washington Post based in Dublin.