In focus... Dublin

| February 18, 2015

Are you keen to discover some of the most interesting destinations closer to home? Dublin, with its fabulous architecture, excellent restaurants and fascinating museums, is a fine choice.

Ha'penny Bridge. (Photo credit: Thinkstock/ Stockbyte)

When it comes to travel, it is easy to think that the best experiences lie further afield; however, in truth there is often much of value close to home. Take Dublin, for example. Situated approximately an hour's flight from London, Ireland's dazzling capital combines beautiful architecture and delicious produce with an atmosphere imbued with classic Irish craic.

If you're curious to find out what the city has to offer you, today we will introduce you to its main attractions, while Cox & Kings' expert Jessica Cater uses her wealth of Dublin knowledge to offer some fantastic local recommendations.

Why visit Dublin?

Not only is Dublin quick and convenient to visit from the UK, but it possesses a wealth of attractions – its great ambience, beautiful architecture and many museums and galleries. Jessica comments that, in her opinion, one of the best reasons to visit is simply that it's a charming city to explore on foot – somewhere that you can really get under the skin of with a pleasant stroll. And indeed, Dublin is a city that combines compactness with myriad charms, so it's easy to see where this enthusiasm comes from. Ease of exploration makes it a wonderful weekend destination, while the abundance of attractions in the surrounding area – including glorious countryside and historical sites – make for fabulous day trips during longer stays.

Buildings not to miss

Renowned for its beautiful architecture, Dublin truly is a feast for the eyes. While finding scenic structures certainly takes little effort, there are some that are worth purposefully seeking out. Jessica particularly highlights Trinity College, which has long been one of the Irish capital's best-known attractions.

While by no means a hidden gem, Trinity College wholly deserves the grandeur of its reputation. Firstly, there is the architecture of the building and the quadrangle, which instantly command attention. However, within its library is another slice of historical intrigue, in the form of the Book of Kells – a stunning illuminated manuscript that is believed to date back to the year 800.

Another highlight is Dublin Castle, which is nestled in the city's historic centre. It is believed that it started its life as an early Gaelic ring fort, before becoming a Viking fortress and then the castle you see today. The site now covers an impressive 11 acres, and includes two museums, gardens, two cafes, the State Apartments and more.

It's also interesting to bear in mind that the castle has ties to the city's name. The Black Pool, or Dubh Linn, that was in the fortifications garden earned it its title.

Other notable buildings include Dublin City Hall, Mansion House and rows of Georgian houses.

Dublin's most interesting pubs

Dublin is home to so many pubs, but some particularly stand out for their history, atmosphere or excellent Irish music. Jessica particularly recommends the Long Hall, which is an old Victorian pub on South Great Georges Street. It is, in fact, one of the oldest pubs in the city and has managed to retain much of its historic charm – the main draw of visiting.

O'Donoghue's Bar is another pub that's well worth visiting. In addition to its age, it has its music to recommend it – this is a brilliant place to go to hear live Irish melodies. Located on Merrion Row in the city centre, it offers live music seven nights a week.

Cuisine and restaurants in Dublin

When asked about Irish cuisine in Dublin, Jessica recommends seeking out restaurants and cafes that serve fresh, local Irish produce, as opposed to trying particular dishes. Dublin has a fabulous food culture and a wealth of restaurants serving wonderful fare – but not always meals that are Irish by tradition. If you are desperate to have some traditionally Irish food, Jessica suggests the simple delights of soda bread or an Irish breakfast, both of which have a long history.

In terms of individual restaurants, there is one that particularly stands out for her – and again, excellent produce is a significant factor here. Known locally as the Troc, the Trocadero is fabulous restaurant that serves up fresh, local shellfish and fish, as well as Irish beef. It's also an old, characterful restaurant, which really adds to the overall experience of dining here.

Another good place to visit is Bewley's in Grafton Street, which pairs a fascinating history with an atmospheric setting. An old coffee shop built in 1927, it has since spawned an entire chain of coffee shops and hotels. This is the original and possesses a host of charms. For instance, its stained glass dates back to 1931, it was frequented by the author James Joyce, and you will even find it mentioned in Dubliners. Jessica recommends getting a table on the ground floor if you can, which has been preserved in its historic style.

Museums and other attractions

Of course, part of the city's charm is that within its compact borders it offers so many wonderful things to see and do. Among Jessica's recommendations is the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts and History, which is particularly interesting thanks to its pairing of a venue imbued with history and fascinating artefacts. The museum itself is not an old one, Jessica explains, but its setting – an old army barracks – is. So, you get a sense of its history while you are perusing the displays, which include silver, ceramics, furniture and weaponry.

If you are taking a walk around the city, Jessica suggests taking a stroll along the Ha'penny Bridge, which is one of the earliest cast iron structures of its kind. This lovely little bridge is a charming place to walk, particularly in the evening, as well as photograph; O'Connell Bridge is a good place to get shots of it.

Another favourite of Jessica's is Number 29, ESB Georgian House Museum, which is on Fitzwilliam Street. Having been restored to its historic Georgian style, this house gives you the opportunity to do more than simply admire the city's celebrated architecture – here, you can take a step into Georgian life. Exploring it with a tour won't take any longer than an hour, meaning it's also easy to fit into your trip.

Cox & Kings offers short breaks and holidays to Ireland, both visiting Dublin >

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