Where we’re at: I’m recapping my travels in 2019, including this trip to Ireland in June.
Confession alert: Ireland was never really at the top of my travel wish list. (I know, I know!) But I’m a big believer that there’s no better way to experience a country than to visit friends who live and love it there, and so I was thrilled when friends Gemma and Tommy invited us to their wedding on the Emerald Isle. While I was tempted to make a go of it and explore the full country, time was of the essence, and so we spent two nights in Cavan for the wedding, and three in Dublin for fun before catching our flights.
I think in general, I’m just not the target audience for Ireland — I didn’t have a huge amount of interest in staying in a castle, drinking Guinness, or looking at old churches. Luckily, I was with much more sensible travel buddies who dragged me to a few of the more classic local experiences. Mostly, I was just craving the city life, and was quite happy to eat dumplings, go to hot yoga, and discover the super hipster version of the Dublin of my dreams.
Looking for an offbeat version of Dublin, too? Read on for the best rooftops, the hippest yoga studios, the most instagrammable street art, and more.
We rolled into Dublin quite later after getting our lives together, and dropping off our rental car and checking into our Airbnb, we were starving. We were very lucky indeed to nab a table at the packed and tiny Lucky Tortoise, a hip little dumping joint in the heart of the city. We did the “all in” menu for 20 euros per person, a great deal that allowed us to try literally everything on the menu, served family style.
It was out of this world good — a must-do for dumpling lovers in Dublin, and my favorite meal of the trip!
But there’s always room for desert, right? I was drawn into Bow Lane Social Bar like a moth to a neon-sign flame, and was beyond thrilled when I located a marshmallow nutella donut dessert on the menu. Was this place made for me or what?
The next morning, after the length and quality of slumber that can only be associated with recovering from an Irish wedding, we rallied for brunch at Sophie’s at The Dean. This chic rooftop overlooking the city sits atop a hip boutique hotel that I’m sure would have been a dreamy place to stay, had we felt like a major splurge.
But, brunch was a much more affordable experience. With a menu of hangover friendly foods, breakfast cocktails, and pizzas from a wood-fired oven, we were in heaven.
After brunch, my sensible travel companions were eager to see a few of Ireland’s great treasures — and I was eager to hang out with them, so I went along.
Voracious reader Ian was keen for the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript containing the four Gospels of the New Testament, and the Old Library at Trinity College. The crowds were enormous and the tickets pricey, and while I wouldn’t have headed there if I were on my own, I did try to absorb the magnitude of the Long Room that houses 250,000 of Trinity College’s oldest books. It’s regularly ranked as one of the world’s most beautiful libraries — and it was a stunner.
After, we continued our walking tour, admiring various castles and cobblestoned streets and eventually winding past Temple Bar. While we didn’t go in, it was fun to see the most iconic Irish pub in the world in person.
I once went to an Irish bar in Key West that has a livestream of the front of Temple Bar running 24/7 — how fun! This place really is the epicenter of all the Irish obsession we’ve been groomed for via a lifetime of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
One thing I didn’t expect to find so much of in Dublin? Amazing street art! I was enamored with the front of the Abbey Court Hostel, which we had looked into for this very trip.
It had a prime location too, right next to The Rolling Donut. Dublin was actually chock full of artisanal donut spots, one of my favorite things to look for when I travel. Score!
Back to street art! Personally, one of my favorite ways to get to know a new city is through its public art. While I absolutely love taking street art tours on my travels, we were pleasantly surprised to find Dublin as such an epicenter of. We most spotted most of the following walking towards Butt Bridge — yes, we are 12 years old and yes, this is an actual place — but you could also create a little DIY walking tour out of the Grey Area Project.
That night, we headed to Camden Exchange for street food and great cocktails. I have to confess that I struggled with how smokey everywhere in Dublin was — and this was one of the worst offenders. While it is technically illegal to smoke inside, the covered patios are often wide open to and hard to distinguish from the “indoor” areas — leaving those super sensitive to smoke like me hacking away.
Just a heads up for anyone else who can’t imagine life without an indoor smoking ban! Otherwise, it was a super buzzy and beautiful spot. After, we hopped a bus to the deep outskirts of Dublin, where we met Gemma and Tommy at their “local” — their go-to neighborhood pub, where we got a really authentic look at life in the city.
The next morning, Janine and I were craving some movement, and headed out for a vinyasa flow class at The Yoga Hub. I loved the chic setup of the studio, as well as the conforming lilt of the instructor’s accent. It actually made the whole class so fun, I was a little bummed when I attended a yin class at Dublin Hot Yoga before my flight and the instructor was an American expat.
While we didn’t eat there, The Yoga Hub is attached to Happy Food Cafe, making it the perfect spot for a brunch and flow date.
Instead, we headed over to POG Cafe, which I had eyed up earlier in the trip. Pog is Gaelic for kiss, which is every bit as cute as the cafe itself. Plus, they had one of the most amazing menu items I have personally ever laid my little eyes upon: The Millennial Dream, a mini acai bowl accompanied by a mini avocado toast. No longer must you suffer choosing between the two!
On our next stroll through the city, we stumbled on one of my favorite hidden gems of the trip — Jam Art Factory. Forget the touristy trinkets sold around Temple Bar area — if you’re looking for a souvenir from your trip or a gift for someone back home, head here to find original works by Irish artists.
Our next stop was essentially my gift to Janine — visiting the Guinness Storehouse, a celebration of 250 years of beer that I don’t like.
I’m being a bit silly — no, I actually really don’t like Guinness even a little bit. But I had heard amazing things about the six stories of interactive experiences stacked up in a building the size of a big pint glass, and as a museum lover I knew there would be something I’d love here.
And I did. The exhibits were not only incredibly designed, but also interesting even to a non-beer drinker. I felt like I learned quite a bit about the history and culture of of Ireland! And I loved the Iconic Advertising floor, which featured ads from across time and the globe.
Our tickets included a complimentary pint or a soft drink — and needless to say I was probably the only legal loser sipping on a Diet Coke, but I didn’t mind. From Gravity Bar you can see basically all the sights of Dublin, from St. Patrick’s Cathedral to Trinity College and beyond.
Also needless to say, my favorite moment was the interactive add-on exhibit where you can get your selfie on a Stoutie! After hopping in a photo booth, a fancy little machine printed our drinkable-photo on the foam atop a pour of a half-pint of Guinness. How amazing is that?
For my final dinner in Ireland, I naturally was craving… Mexican food. We’d seen a sign advertising 777 Sundays at 777 Restaurant, where all dishes are €7.77. Suckers for a fun promotion, we headed here for one last meal together before we sadly set off in different directions around the globe.
While it wasn’t my favorite Mexican meal I’ve ever had, it was fun and lively and well-located in Dublin — not a bad choice if you’re craving a margarita over a malt beer one evening.
The bad news? The Airbnb we stayed in was quickly unlisted after our stay, so I can’t specifically recommend it. But we were happy in general with our decision to stay in a Dublin Airbnb in general — hotels were expensive and we were a group, so it was nice to be able to stay altogether for an affordable price.
While it wasn’t as central as most hotels, it was right next to the bus line which made it easy to pop in and out of downtown, and to feel smug about our skill for navigating public transportation in a new city.
It was also cute and quirky — just like our Dublin trip.
You don’t have to go to Buckingham Palace when you’re in London. You don’t have to go to the Walk of Fame when you’re in Los Angeles. You don’t have to go see that weird leaning tower when you’re in Italy (though actually that sounds kinda fun TBH.) You don’t have to tick any boxes that make you feel like you’re ticking a box rather than having a great adventure, when you travel.
Once I got comfortable with that, life just got better.
Have you been to Dublin? Would you do a more traditional trip, or an offbeat one like me?