Why You Should Visit Dublin for Design, Not Beer
We’re calling it: The Irish capital is the next hip destination for design-savvy travelers.
Published Sep 28, 2018 6:27 PM
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First things first: Take your assumptions about Dublin and kindly throw them out the window. The capital of Ireland is having something of a renaissance, and a visit to this city is guaranteed to surprise you.
Intimate in size, Dublin is a delightful urban destination that, despite a history that traces back to the Vikings, feels youthful. This is no doubt thanks to a young generation of creative Dubliners who are taking ownership of their culture and investing in the city, be it through food, fashion, design, the arts, or all of the above.
Over the last few years, Dublin’s creative industries have flourished during the recovery from the recession that followed the Celtic Tiger boom years. In the wake of the recession, people were more aware of where their food and products were coming from, which allowed a community of local artisans to take root and thrive, and remake whole neighborhoods in the process.
The once rundown Temple Bar area is now filled with delightful bohemian bars and cafes. The Creative Quarter is overflowing with new clothing boutiques, home decor shops, and design studios. Former docklands and warehouses along the Liffey River are being revitalized into trendy mixed-use developments (in fact, a city-wide building boom is attracting millennial-focused companies: Airbnb and Slack both recently moved into new offices designed by notable architects).
All of that is to say that Dublin has a serious growing design scene that is fresh, deeply authentic, and very accessible. Here’s how to experience it.
WHERE TO STAY
With tourism steadily increasing, Dublin has seen a shortage of hotel rooms in recent years, but that will soon change: Last fall, the Irish Times reported that more than 5,300 new hotel rooms will be added to the city by 2020. Here, a few of our favorites available now.
Balfe Street, Dublin 2
Rooms from $324/night
Located just off Grafton Street in the middle of the Creative Quarter, the Westbury is one of the best choices if you’re looking to immerse yourself in Dublin’s design scene. Not only are dozens of home decor and design shops located just blocks away, but the hotel itself puts local Irish design at the core of its interiors. The art collection, valued at more than €2 million, consists of work by notable Irish artists, like Sir John Lavery and Louis le Brocquy, and the hotel’s design team is constantly refreshing the public spaces and private quarters, all of which feature Irish wool carpet and Irish linens.
Opened in 1984, the Westbury has been the center of Dublin society for decades, and recent years have seen a complete overhaul of the public spaces to create an atmosphere that’s elegant but not pretentious. You can relax here: Flop down on an overstuffed chair in the Gallery for tea, or wrap yourself in one of the provided blankets while you enjoy a meal at Wilde with the windows open.
The 178 guest rooms and 27 suites are designed with a calming color palette and sumptuous textures—velvet chairs, quilted bedding, an upholstered headboard—for a luxe, yet deeply comfortable atmosphere. The marble bathrooms feature heated floors and mirrors, and Aromatherapy Associates toiletries.
33 Harcourt St, Saint Kevin’s, Dublin 2
Rooms from $150
Since opening in late 2014, the Dean has become *the* spot for Dublin’s young, hip crowd, and is a favorite among style-conscious travelers. Fun is key for the Dean, and that’s evident from the moment you walk into the lobby, with its neon “I fell in love here” sign and laid back bar.
The 52 guest rooms are designed to “make you smile,” with moody blue walls, specially commissioned Irish art, mini Smeg fridges, record players, and local snacks. Fair warning: The cheaper rooms are quite small, measuring around 136 square feet. But with a happening bar and a glass-enclosed restaurant on the roof, you probably won’t be spending too much time your room.
10 Waterloo Rd, Dublin 4
Rooms from $200
For those looking for more boutique accommodations, the Waterloo House offers 19 guest rooms in two Georgian houses. The beds are plush, the rooms are quiet, and a homemade breakfast is served daily in a sunny conservatory—what more could you ask for? There’s also a small garden and parking is available.
WHERE TO SHOP
Dublin has an impressive and growing local design scene centered around Drury and South William streets in the Creative Quarter. At its core, Irish design is marked by a deep love of craft, pride of place, and a minimalist simplicity.
Irish Design Shop
41 Drury Street
Pottery, prints, jewelry, plush children’s toys—the Irish Design Shop has a little bit of everything. Founded in 2008 when Irish craft was experiencing a revival, the shop features a rotating selection of goods by local artists and Irish designers. Consider it the perfect souvenir shop.
Stable of Ireland
2 Westbury Mall, Balfe Street, Dublin 2
Stable sells an irresistible collection of linen and wool scarves, hats, pillows, towels, blankets, and more made by Irish weavers and small manufacturers. You’ll often find founders Francie Duff and Sonia Reynolds in the two-year-old shop, ready to chat about the latest pieces and give styling tips for their classic herringbone scarves, which are handwoven in western Ireland from Donegal yarn.
April and the Bear
1 Cows Lane, Temple Bar, Dublin 8
This carefully curated home design shop may be small, but you could spend hours browsing the floor-to-ceiling shelves, packed with on-trend decor (think textured pillows, metallic vases, mid-century modern-inspired lighting), cheeky greeting cards, handcrafted jewelry, and design books—including the Domino book.
Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, Ground Floor, Dublin 2
While plants are not the most practical souvenir, who can resist a picture-perfect flower shop? Stop by the Garden while shopping at Powerscourt Centre to pick up some fresh blooms for your hotel room, or just to snap a selfie in the shop’s large gold-framed mirror that hangs above an Instagram-ready stepped display of cacti, leafy plants, and small florals.
27 Drury Street, Dublin 2
It’s hard to miss the bright pink storefront of Om Diva on Drury Street. The clothing store carries a selection of vintage items, as well as the cutting-edge work of new designers just out of fashion school.
5 Essex Street West, Dublin 8
This cozy shop just a block from the Liffey River in Temple Bar stocks mostly Irish brands, as well as a few international clothing designers. You’ll find leather brogues and boots, plush knitted sweaters, and timeless staples. The shop also recently expanded into home decor and now carries a handful of Irish home designers, like Donegal design studio McNutts (just try to resist their wool blankets), Dublin-based candle company Clean Slate, and pottery studio Arran Street East.
Powerscourt Centre, South William St, Dublin 2
Article is a dangerous store for pottery lovers and home decor addicts. With floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with colorful coffee mugs, sculptural vases, patterned bowls, and so much more, it’s impossible to not find something to love here. The shop also carries a delightful array of paper and office goods, like miniature greeting cards and stationery almost too pretty to use.
Powerscourt Centre, Ground Floor, Dublin 2
Founded by designer Margaret O’Rourke, MoMuse makes and sells an understated and elegant collection of 9kt gold fine jewelry, from necklaces and bracelets to simple stacking rings and earrings. Organized by color, the shop also carries a curated selection of pieces from fellow Irish designers.
41 a/b Drury Street, Dublin 2
At Dublin’s largest independent design store, you’ll find a mix of Irish-made goods and international imports, with a healthy dose of Scandinavian minimalism from brands like Ferm, Lumi, and Hay. The shop also has a small Middle Eastern-inspired cafe.
29 Drury Street, Dublin 2
Appassionata is the secret to the stunning floral displays at the Westbury: The small shop has created all of the hotel’s arrangements for nearly a decade. The Drury Street storefront always has a colorful and photo-ready sidewalk display, but don’t just Instagram it and move along—head inside to shop a chic collection of planters and small home goods as well.
25 Westbury Mall, Dublin 2
This tiny shop in the Westbury Mall packs a pretty punch. Here you’ll find a unique selection of rare and special scents chosen by founder and creative director Marija Aslimoska. The knowledgeable staff is happy to spritz as many scents as your nose can handle, and can tell you about every ingredient in any bottle. Go for the gold and try the super pricey Roja Parfums that have notes of Ambergris, aka whale vomit.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
Irish cuisine is so much more than just potatoes and Guinness.
The Westbury, Harry Street, Dublin 2
Located inside the Westbury, Wilde is a fine dining restaurant that specializes in elevating seasonal Irish ingredients. You probably don’t think fresh greens and a rainbow of vegetables when you think of local Irish food, but thanks to a moderate climate, the country sees a year-round growing season. And at Wilde, you’ll see that on full display, with dishes like heirloom beet salad with figs, cauliflower and pomegranate, and charred sweet corn.
Ireland’s geography also means that they have a robust fishing industry, as well as cattle, and Wilde sources the best of both, offering five different cuts of grass-fed beef and a seafood selection that includes a Dublin Bay prawn cocktail, tempura fried soft shell crab, linguini with Castletownbere scallops, and a market catch of the day.
The Westbury, Harry Street, Dublin 2
The recently reopened bar at the Westbury is the chicest place to grab a cocktail in Dublin. The bar channels the 1920s with its Art Deco design and elegant atmosphere, complete with white coat-clad bartenders, a shiny zinc bar, and a roving martini cart to mix your drink tableside (even if martinis aren’t your thing, go for it; bartender and James Bond lookalike Michael makes a dangerously smooth cocktail). The Sidecar also has an impressive list of Irish gins and a long list of signature G&T’s.
The Pepper Pot
Powerscourt Centre, second floor, 60 William Street, Dublin 2
Stop by the Pepper Pot when you need a break from browsing the shops of Powerscourt Centre (our top picks above). The unassuming cafe is spread out over the second floor balcony of the shopping center, and features an ever-changing menu of fresh baked goods and seasonal soups and salads. The homemade bagels are the fan favorite, followed closely by the scones topped with fresh jam and cream.
Balfe Street, Dublin 2
This all-day eatery is the Westbury’s more casual dining option, with an open kitchen and bistro-inspired design and menu. If you’re looking for something on the healthier side, Balfes partners with Paul Byrne of Bodybyrne Fitness (where all of Dublin’s A-listers workout) to create a selection of creative, healthful dishes like oat pancakes cooked in coconut oil, a turkey burger with guacamole, and a roasted sweet potato wrap.
5A Crown Alley, Dublin 2
This tiny hole-in-the-wall serves up some of the best seafood you’ll find in all of Dublin. Located in the Temple Bar area, Klaw prides itself on simple, super fresh ingredients, sourced directly from the fishermen. Oysters come from Galway Bay, Waterford, Dooncastle, and the Flaggy Shore, and they have an ever-changing menu of larger dishes, including a lobster roll, crab mac ‘n’ cheese, and daily specials. When Domino visited, the snack of the day was luscious smoked salmon drizzled with olive oil and chives served on grilled bread with a side of sparkling wine.
Afternoon Tea at the Westbury
The Gallery at the Westbury, Harry Street, Dublin 2
Most Americans associate tea time with the British, but the Irish take their tea just as seriously, if not more so. And Afternoon Tea at the Westbury is a Dublin institution. You will never feel more sophisticated than you will when you’re relaxing on a sumptuous sofa, munching on delicious sandwiches, scones, and dainty pastries, and sipping tea and champagne while looking out over Grafton Street.
The Green Hen
33 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2
Located in the thick of central Dublin, the Green Hen serves Franco-Irish cuisine in a warm and cozy space that’s lined with vintage movie posters and black-and-white photos of Hollywood stars. Dishes are prepared with fresh, local ingredients. If the the fisherman’s pie happens to be a daily special, order it—you won’t regret it.
11 Anne Street, Dublin 2
This family-owned shop just off of Grafton Street is a must-stop for cheese lovers. They source the highest quality products from around the country and 80 percent of the cheese they sell is made in Ireland (try the semi-soft Durrus from West Cork). They also work directly with farmers to develop new cheeses that you’ll only be able to find here, like the 15 Fields Cheddar, created in the Knockanore region. You can also pick up cured meats, European wines, Italian pastas, as well as prepared sandwiches, perfect for an easy lunch in St. Stephens Green.
WHAT TO DO
Dublin has no shortage of historic sites—try to squeeze in a few in between the shopping and eating.
National Gallery of Ireland
Merrion Square West, Dublin 2
A stunning six-year renovation has completely revamped the National Gallery of Ireland into an open, airy museum that deftly combines historic architecture with modern features. Windows were uncovered, a new roof was added, passageways were opened, a full courtyard was discovered—this is truly a full transformation if there ever was one. The massive project was lead by Heneghan Peng Architects, and it gives the gallery’s collection of Irish masterpieces a worthy home.
Trinity College Library
College Green, Dublin 2
The Trinity College Library is famous for a reason. Even if you’re not a bibliophile, it’s near impossible to not be in awe of the 18th century space. The 200-foot Long Room features a barrel-vaulted ceiling and two levels lined with floor-to-ceiling shelves, filled with 200,000 of Trinity’s oldest historic texts. Its most famous text, the Book of Kells, dates to 1661, and can be viewed in the lower level galleries.
Bridges of Dublin
Take an afternoon to stroll along the Liffey River, which cuts through the center of the city, and enjoy the architectural diversity of Dublin’s many bridges, from utilitarian stone structures that date back hundreds of years to Santiago Calatrava’s soaring, super modern Samuel Beckett Bridge.
St. James’s Gate, Dublin 8
Visiting the Guinness factory may seem like the most touristy thing you could do in Dublin—and that may be true—but ask any local what you can’t miss while you’re in town, and it’s likely to be their answer. The tour takes you through seven floors of interactive exhibits that tell the history of Guinness and reveal what goes into the perfect pint. There are some trippy design elements, like the neon-lit corridor that leads you to the tasting room, and a Yayoi Kusama-esque display that showcases the number of bubbles in a pint. You’ll end at the Gravity Bar, where you can enjoy a beer (free with your ticket) and take in views of the city.
St. Stephens Green
This four-century-old park may be small, but it’s a fabulous site for people-watching. Grab a coffee and take a leisurely weekday stroll through the Green to see the many faces of Dublin—aimless tourists, casual business ladies on their lunch, old Irishmen feeding the ducks, gleefully screaming schoolchildren. Keep an eye out for historical markers and statues throughout the park.
Fab Food Trails
If you’re looking to be super efficient with your shopping and eating, book a tour with Fab Food Trails. The expert-lead walking tours take you to roughly 10 eateries and shops in just a few hours. You’ll get to try plenty of tasty bites and chat with the shop owners. During ours, we hit Klaw, the Pepper Pot, Cocoa Atelier, and Sheridan Cheesemongers, as well as Stable, MoMuse, Article, Om Diva, Scout, and Parfumarija in just three hours.