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Detours with locals. Travel tips you can trust.
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Coliemore Harbor in Dalkey.
Coliemore Harbor in Dalkey.
CITY GUIDE

A local’s guide to Dublin

Coliemore Harbor in Dalkey.
Coliemore Harbor in Dalkey.
  • 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.

Meet Yvonne Gordon

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

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IN THE ACTION
Temple Bar
Just south of the River Liffey, the cobbled streets of Temple Bar are lively and packed with small shops, pubs and restaurants. It can be noisy at night, but if you want to be at the center of it all and have a good set of earplugs, this is the place to base yourself. Find this neighborhood.
LOW-KEY
Ballsbridge
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.
Neighborhoods

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Eat

BREAKFAST
Bread 41
Under a railway bridge on Pearse Street, you’ll find this lively sourdough bakery, where tempting loaves and pastries are lined up in front of a wood-fired oven. Bread is made from fermented starters, using stone-ground organic flour with no additives or preservatives. Creative breakfast dishes include a seven-seed Shackleton sourdough bread with avocado, kimchi and kimchi mayonnaise, and mushrooms on sourdough toast with an egg, blue cheese and house pesto. The art of conversation is valued over WiFi, and there are some communal tables. Plus, you can buy fresh loaves of everything to take away.
BTW: At 3 euros, the family pan is a good-value take-home loaf.
Bread 41, Pearse Street, Dublin, Ireland
BREAKFAST
KC Peaches
The sign reads “Eat Well, Live Well,” which is the philosophy of this informal central cafe focused on all-natural foods. The Nassau Street branch opens at 7:30 a.m. (there are also branches at St. Stephen’s Green, Dame Street and Pearse Street), and you can get a full Irish breakfast — sausages, bacon, two eggs, black and white pudding (similar to sausage), fried mushrooms, baked beans, toast and tea or coffee — for 10 euros (about $11). Lighter breakfast options include a vegetarian version, toast, porridge, granola, eggs and breakfast sandwiches.
BTW: Give in to your sweet tooth without feeling too guilty with the vegan maple pecan bar.
KC Peaches, Nassau Street, Dublin 2, Ireland
LUNCH
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
LUNCH
The Fumbally
Locals flock for the neighborhood vibe here; at any one of the communal tables, you might find friends catching up, someone on a laptop, someone else with a dog and someone deep in a book. One thing uniting them all is the wholesome food: soups, falafel, salads, sandwiches and daily specials. Check out the experimental house-made fermented drinks, such as lemon, turmeric and ginger fizz, or down a shot of probiotic fermented cabbage and ginger juice to set you up for the afternoon.
BTW: Lunch stuff sells out. Arrive early.
The Fumbally, Fumbally Lane, Merchants Quay, Dublin, Ireland
DINNER
Fallon & Byrne
There are lots of choice for food in this large space on Exchequer Street — a beautiful dining space on the top floor, a wine bar in the basement and gourmet grocer/food hall on the ground floor with everything from the best produce to coffee and chocolate. The main restaurant menu centers on seasonal meat and seafood; try the Carlingford Lough oysters, aged beef or Clonakilty black pudding.
BTW: In a hurry? Get hot food at the deli counter and eat in the food hall cafe.
Fallon & Byrne, Food Hall, Exchequer Street, Dublin, Ireland
DINNER
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
LATE-NIGHT
Izakaya Sake Bar
The basement bar at Izakaya is Yamamori’s take on a traditional Japanese izakaya, an informal tavern, and it’s open until 2:30 a.m., with daily late-night DJing. House cocktails include Osaka Spring, made with rum, and Matcha Mule, made with Jameson whiskey. The sake menu has nine styles of sake — they vary in dryness or sweetness and are served warm, chilled or at room temperature. If you’re in before 11 p.m., order some sushi or sashimi, too (portions range from two to 18 pieces). There’s also seating in the bar area upstairs.
BTW: If you like spice, try the Spicy Asian cocktail.
Izakaya Sake Bar 12-13 S. Great Georges St. Dublin 2
LATE-NIGHT
Dublin Pizza Company
The fresh pizzas from the wood-fired oven are so good at this popular takeout spot that there are often queues even into the early hours. (It’s open until 4 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights.) The DPC is the pie to go for, with Toons Bridge mozzarella from County Cork, tasty Dingle whiskey-cured salami and 18-month extra-mature Coolea shavings. The vegetarian version has the mozzarella plus Toons Bridge scamorza and wild mushrooms. The pizza is Napoli-style, but a lot of the ingredients are homegrown and organic. Some pubs will allow you to order it for delivery there, including the Fourth Corner Bar, steps away on Patrick Street, or the South William.
BTW: Try the house-made black garlic-and-truffle aioli dip.
Dublin Pizza Company, Aungier Street, Dublin Southside, Dublin, Ireland
(Dublin illustrator Aaron Croasdell for The Washington Post)
LOCALS THINK YOU SHOULD KNOW
  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. Not all areas of Dublin are safe. Ask locals which ones are best avoided after dark.
  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)

Do

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 DublinBikes.ie or Phoenix Park Bikes.
Phoenix Park, Dublin 8
The GPO (General Post Office)
Whether you’re buying stamps, mailing a parcel or just looking, the General Post Office has such grandeur from the outside and inside, you can’t help feeling a sense of awe when you’re lining up at the counters. This landmark is the headquarters of An Post (Irish post), and there are rows of wooden counters for addressing and stamping mail, plus giant letterboxes for Dublin and non-Dublin pieces. The GPO was used as the headquarters of the 1916 Easter Rising, during the Irish fight for independence from British rule, and the GPO Witness History exhibition tells the story around this important period of Irish history.
BTW: Drop in at lunchtime in December for traditional Christmas caroling with piano and violin.
The GPO (General Post Office) O’Connell Street Lower, Dublin 1
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.
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Mark Duggan
Mark is a contributing photographer to The Washington Post based in Dublin.
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CITY GUIDES