Rituals City Guides: Dublin, Ireland 

Good times and fresh air are guaranteed in coastal Dublin, where the craic is legendary.

This friendly, mood-boosting city sits on Ireland’s east coast. Bisected by the River Liffey, the south side has traditionally been wealthier, with its lovely Georgian architecture and leafy squares, and the north side grittier and more urban, but there is plenty of craic (the Irish word for fun) to be had on both.   


If you’re new to Dublin, you’ll be spending a lot of time on the south side, with the main thoroughfare and principal shopping area O’Connell Street situated here, as well as the pedestrianised Grafton Street. Deservedly proud of its bookish heritage, Dublin is the 4th UNESCO City of Literature. It is the birthplace of James Joyce and Oscar Wilde and has played home to four Nobel Prize of Literature winners, W B Yeats, Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw and the poet, Seamus Heaney.  It boasts Trinity College, Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett’s alma mater, which is also home to the ancient Book of Kells, and now even more famous after being the setting for Normal People. 


Fans of Irish writing will find plenty to entertain them with the annual International Literary festival and literary tours aplenty. First stop should be the excellent Museum of Literature (MoLI), with its interactive exhibits, films and recordings by some of Ireland’s finest writers. 


Seamus Heaney fans will love the National Library of Ireland, which holds a wealth of his work and mementos, and its audiovisual exhibition Listen Now Again at the new Cultural and Heritage Centre, Bank of Ireland.  


Stop for coffee at Bewley’s Grafton Street, with its upstairs lunchtime theatre. A favourite of Joyce, Yeats and Beckett, it has been Dublin’s main literary hangout since 1927. Whilst literary pub crawls are on offer from Walking Tours, as is the annual Bloomsday Walk, which retraces the steps of Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of James Joyce’s Ulysses. 


Head out to the Martello Tower, where Joyce spent six nights in 1904, it is now the James Joyce Tower & Museum, and holds many of his letters and memorabilia. Sweny’s Pharmacy on Lincoln Place, was made famous in Ulysses as the place where Leopold Bloom bought his bar of lemon-scented soap (still on sale). Although no longer a working pharmacy, it is run by volunteers who entertain you with Joycean anecdotes. 


The statue of another literary giant, Oscar Wilde, languishes on a quartz boulder in Merrion Square, opposite his house, which you can tour.   


For wild swimming, join the 11 o’clock group at The Forty Foot in Sandycove for their daily bracing dip in the Irish Sea; or book a Sea Sauna, two wood-fired saunas overlooking Portrane’s Tower Bay Beach.  Catch the DART train to Sandycove, and the bus to Portrane but if you’re short on time book a private car to take you to both. 


For more invigorating sea air, take a Dublin Bike out to the beautiful Howth Penisula, north of Dublin Bay, on the scenic coastal cycleway, or ride to Dalkey, the lovely seaside resort south east of Dublin, which is home to Bono and Enya.  



You’ll find the usual High Street names, and luxury department store Brown Thomas, on Grafton Street but for one-of-a-kind boutiques seek out Stable of Ireland, where former models Francie Duff and Sonia Reynolds champion the ancient craft of Irish weaving, with gloriously hued tweeds and linens. Glove-maker to the likes of Lady Gaga and Madonna, Paula Rowan has soft-as butter leather accessories, and Siopaella is a wonderful designer exchange shop, with top notch vintage and pre-loved pieces. Browse Dublin’s Creative Quarter and the Powerscourt Centre, for plenty of fashion, food, jewellery and antiques, and The Irish Design Shop for Irish craft and design.  



Foodies will love this tasting walk with Fab Food Trails, a 2.5 hour ramble around the city’s most delicious food outlets, such as Sheridan’s Cheesemongers and the Pepper Pot Café in the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre (try the Burren Smokehouse salmon and Irish soda bread). 


For a treat night, Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud in The Merrion Hotel, has two Michelin stars, as does Mickael Viljanen’s Chapter One , serving an exquisite twist on Modern Irish cuisine. 


For wow interiors, see the elegant art deco Café en Seine, and for modern European with a buzzy vibe, try Etto. Hugo’s manages to be both cosy and sumptuous, a perfect date spot for oysters and seared scallops. At the Art Tea at The Merrion hotel, pastry chef Paul Kelly creates cakes inspired by works in the Merrion’s extensive art collection.  



The EPIC Irish Immigration Museum, an absorbing testament to the bravery and resilience of the Irish diaspora. 


Traditional Irish music at the following pubs and bars: The Cobblestone, in Smithfield, O’ Donoghues, Merrion Row, and The Celt and Pipers Corner on the north side.   


Windmill Lane Recording Studios: Get the lowdown on the production of some of the most iconic songs of the past 40 years.  


Susan Ward Davies

Susan Ward Davies

Susan Ward Davies has been a travel editor and writer for more than 30 years- most of them spent as Travel & Lifestyle Director of British ELLE & elleuk.com, and now as Travel & Lifestyle Editor of thecalendarmagazine.com, where she writes about sustainable travel. She also freelances for a wide range of British publications including The Telegraph, The Times and Good Housekeeping. She is happiest on her way to the airport, suitcase in hand, setting off for an - as yet  - untried destination,  and loves nothing more than seeking out new places and experiences