If you’re a drinker of Guinness — and let’s be honest, who isn’t? — it’s likely you’ve already considered a trip to Dublin. You’re in luck, because Dublin is cooler than ever. The Irish capital has grown from a small city into a bustling metropolis filled with great bars, hotels, and restaurants. And it’s only just getting started.
Due to Brexit, Dublin may soon welcome corporations that are currently based in London but wish to keep their headquarters in the EU. (While the five counties of Northern Ireland are still a part of the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland has been independent of the crown since 1922.)
This means Dublin is poised to become the second-most important economic city in the European Union, after Berlin. If there was ever a time to visit, it’s now.
I’ve been lucky enough to travel a bit since I co-founded VinePair in 2014. Dublin remains one of my all-time favorite drinking cities. It has incredible energy, with proper pubs and literary history, plus emerging craft whiskey and cocktail scenes, and, of course, the best Guinness you can drink. Here’s how to make the most of an exceptional destination.
Dublin is a very short flight from the eastern United States, about the length of a trip from New York City to L.A. That means, though, that you’ll probably land in the morning, without having slept much on the plane the night before.
One of the best places to grab what will be a much-needed coffee is Kaph, located in what’s known as Dublin’s Hipster Triangle. While there are much cooler neighborhoods now, this is the OG hipster hood, and there are still some great places to check out.
One such spot is No Name Bar. Located in Kelly’s Hotel, No Name has become something of a hang for the city’s “in” crowd. Revelers stay late into the night so, while the hotel itself is a good budget option with very nice rooms, only stay here if you plan to help close the bar down. Kelly’s also has a great restaurant, l’Gueuleton, located on the ground floor. It does fantastic French fare and is worth a reservation.
Dublin has lots of solid hotel options but, if you want to splurge, The Merrion is far and away the best hotel in the city. Formed by combining a block of townhouses, from the street the hotel is quite modest — which is probably why so many celebrities like to stay here — but once inside you’ll encounter five-star treatment at every turn.
While The Merrion’s restaurant, Patrick Guibaud, has a Michelin star, what makes the hotel truly special is its Bar No. 23. Located on the main floor, the bar is intimate with wonderful cocktails and a staff that really knows its Irish whiskeys. The Irish reputation for being welcoming and friendly is particularly apt here. It’s very likely someone you don’t know will strike up a conversation with you over a drink. (On a recent stay, I actually found myself chatting with the family who created Riverdance. You don’t get much more Irish than that.)
The Merrion is also a great base for exploring Dublin. It’s directly across the street from the Natural History Museum, one of the quirkiest, most interesting museums I’ve ever visited. It was founded in the 19th century by a former hunting club that needed someplace to store its “trophies.” The museum is now home to thousands of taxidermied animals. It’s worth a visit just for the photo op.
A few steps away from the museum sits the statue of Oscar Wilde in Merrion Square. The park is across the street from where Wilde used to live in Dublin. The city’s incredible literary history is on display at the Dublin Writers Museum, an exhibition space in an 18th-century building in Parnell Square, a little more than a mile north of Merrion Square.
Drinking and writing have gone hand-in-hand for centuries, making this as good a time as any to start your drinking tour of the city. Kick things off at one of Dublin’s two classic pubs.
If you’re a fan of James Joyce’s novel “Ulysses,” or just Irish literature in general, head to Davy Byrne’s pub, which was frequented by the novel’s main character, Leopold Bloom. While Bloom had a gorgonzola cheese sandwich and a glass of Burgundy, the pub also pours a proper pint of Guinness. It’s a great place to sit and read.
If you’re more of a whiskey drinker, start at the Palace Bar. Opened in 1823, the pub has an incredible selection of whiskey, including an eponymous one made specifically for them. Start with a dram of that and then ask one of the bartenders what else they recommend. The Palace was the destination of choice for the city’s writers throughout the 20th century, hosting everyone from Flann O’Brien to Patrick Kavanagh to Irish Times editor Robert “Bertie” Smyllie.
It wouldn’t be a visit to Dublin without a visit to the Guinness Storehouse. It’s the city’s No. 1 tourist attraction for a reason: The facility is a sight to behold. You’re going to have to brave the crowds, but it’s worth it. People often claim Guinness tastes better in Dublin, so you might as well go to the source to see if they’re right.
The perfectly poured pint of Guinness you receive at the end in the Gravity Bar will put those questions to bed. In the bar you’ll also enjoy 360-degree views of the city from high above, making it a pretty memorable place to enjoy a pint.
Following a successful Guinness visit, your next inclination might be to head to the Jameson Distillery. That would be a mistake. While the Guinness tour takes place at a working brewery, Jameson hasn’t been distilled in Dublin in a very, very long time. This means what you’ll encounter is instead a “reenactment” of what happens at a distillery, not the real thing. It’s like going to Epcot to see the Eiffel Tower instead of actually going to France.
Instead, head to Teeling, the first operational distillery in Dublin in over 125 years. At Teeling you’ll get a great overview of what makes Irish whiskey unique, and you can tour the distillery while it’s in operation. Depending on when you go, you might get to see fermentation, distilling, or both. Following the tour you can taste through Teeling’s portfolio and ask lots of questions to your extremely knowledgeable guides. Then, as with all tours, you’ll end in the gift shop — though we’d opt instead to have another drink at Teeling’s bar next door.
Now that you’ve gotten a taste of some the great craft whiskey coming out of Dublin, head to L. Mulligan Grocer for great food and an amazing beer selection. Located in the northern part of the city, a newer hipster enclave, L. Mulligan pours some of the most exciting beers being made in Ireland right now. (Just don’t ask for Guinness. It’s one of the rare Irish pubs where you won’t find it on tap.)
Still thirsty? Here are a few of my other favorite spots to get a drink in Dublin.
Vintage Cocktail Club
This speakeasy-style spot is located in Temple Bar, the extremely boisterous and extremely touristy district. You’ll find Vintage Cocktail Club by looking for a black door simply inscribed with the letters VCC. Ring the buzzer. As long as your party isn’t too large, you’ll gain entry to one of the city’s best places to grab a very creative cocktail.
Located in the Hipster Triangle in a former pharmacy, the drugstore makes inventive cocktails and holds masterclasses for budding mixologists.
Half restaurant, half cocktail bar, Bow Lane makes delicious drinks. The Bowsie is its version of an Old Fashioned, made with Jameson Black Barrel, Crème de Mure, Grand Marnier, gomme syrup, and grapefruit bitters. It arrives beneath a dome filled with smoke. It’s both theatrical and delicious.
For a Proper Pint
This is an excellent oasis for a low-key beer outside of Temple Bar’s craziness. It regularly hosts live Irish music and operates a guest house with rooms above the bar.
The Cellar Bar
A modern pub in the basement of The Merrion Hotel, this is a good spot for a pint and some classic pub food.
The Brazen Head
Oldest pub in Ireland. Enough said.
For a Glass of Wine
What are you doing drinking wine in Ireland?