With a cultural map in one hand and a culinary compass in the other, savor the treasured sights then seek the best places nearby to grab some food.
NATIONAL GALLERY OF IRELAND
While many of the highlighted works in the National Gallery are Irish in origin, it’s Italian master Caravaggio’s “The
Taking of Christ” that gets much of the attention. The 1602 painting was once presumed lost or destroyed, only to be rediscovered in Dublin in the 1990s and put on indefinite loan to the museum. Certainly take a peek—but don’t miss the Yeats room, and particularly, Jack B. Yeats’s painting “For the Road.”
Classic food option: It’s easy to walk right by Pearl Brasserie, a subterranean French restaurant tucked under Merrion Street—do your best not to miss it. Once inside, the open fire, artfully presented food, and alluringly cozy dining nooks make it an excellent choice for intimate get-togethers. Once you’ve eaten, go for a Guinness at O’Donoghue’s. You won’t have the place to yourself, but the traditional Irish music played live seven nights a week is worth sharing.
Trendy food option: You know you’re in for a fresh, seasonal meal when the menu is stamped with a date and changes daily. At Etto, a small Italian place right on Merrion Row, a rotating repertoire of small plates includes dishes such as tuna crudo and braised pig cheek. A meal here is best finished with a stiff Italian espresso and a trip to the theater afterward, where you might be lucky enough to see the work of Shaw, Wilde, Beckett, or Yeats on their home soil.
Unexpected food option: If it’s a nice day, you can cut through St. Stephen’s Green on your way to the National Gallery, stopping to pay respects to the bust of Dublin writer James Joyce along the way. But it’s perhaps more entertaining to lunch with the flamboyantly colored statue of Oscar Wilde, who reclines in perpetuity in Merrion Square Park. Either way, pick up a freshly made sandwich from the Green Bench Café first. The soups are gluten free, produce and bread arrive fresh daily, and the meats are cooked, roasted, or baked on-site. Lunch is served promptly at noon—don’t be late.
THE GUINNESS STOREHOUSE
Even if you’ve never had a pint of Guinness, it’s impossible to ignore the long-running advertising campaign claiming “the Black Stuff” gives you superhuman strength. True or not, the Guinness Storehouse is a fascinating tribute to the legacy that began in 1759 when founder Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease for the brewery. The view from the top-floor Gravity Bar is undeniably better these days, but the brew is still (basically) the same.
Classic food option: Any bar that claims to be the oldest in Ireland and has hosted everyone from James Joyce and Jonathan Swift to Van Morrison is likely to attract a crowd; lucky for the Brazen Head, it has more than enough character to absorb the fame. The beef-and-Guinness stew is legendary here, but the seafood dishes give it a run. Frequent live music and traditional storytelling sessions keep the atmosphere jolly and the Guinness flowing.
Trendy food option: The carefully mismatched chairs, a list of fermented drinks, and a street food-inspired menu are your first clue that the Fumbally isn’t another generic coffeehouse. The comfy vibe and plentiful windows make it feel like you’re having a cup of tea at a friend’s house, while the Fumbally’s legendary falafel and diverse menu remind you that you’re in the hands of professionals who know their stuff.
Unexpected food option: Nestled among the kebab shops, halal restaurants, and ethnic supermarkets of Leonard’s Corner is the Irish-as-it-gets Bastible. While the eatery’s sourdough may not be baked in the cast-iron pot for which the restaurant is named, the bread is made in-house and served with delectable Euro-style butter. It’s a 20-minute walk from the Guinness Storehouse, but well worth it. Take a quick detour to Mannings Bakery if you need a sweet treat to fuel the journey.
Trinity College, founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I, is Ireland’s most prestigious college, but few visitors to its lovely campus are interested in its graduating class. Instead, most head straight to the treasury in the Old Library, where the magnificent Book of Kells resides. The richly illustrated manuscript is thought to be the work of monks from Iona who fled to Ireland in A.D. 806. Also take a moment to appreciate the whole of the Old Library, with its 210-foot-long tribute to the written word and its illustrious graduates, including Nobel laureate Samuel Beckett.
Classic food option: You may share the room with Trinity College students being treated by their parents, but Trocadero is a classic pre-theater destination that serves excellent food and drink in an atmosphere reminiscent of The Great Gatsby. All red velvet and ornate light fixtures (some even sourced from the grand old Theatre Royal) and housed in two elegant Georgian buildings, the “Troc” prioritizes locally sourced ingredients—and its fillet steak with béarnaise sauce is legendary.
Trendy food option: With a name like Bear, it’s not particularly surprising that this South William Street eatery is a haven for carnivores. Meat may be the main event at this trendy spot—with its reclaimed-wood ceilings and Edison bulb “chandeliers”—but you’ll find plenty of inventive brunch dishes, too. And don’t worry: You can always have a rasher of bacon with that salad.
Unexpected food option: Perhaps 777 doesn’t look like much from the outside, with its all-black exterior and a single neon sign, but once inside you’ll discover a hip crowd digging into authentic Mexican food and washing it down with blue agave tequila. You won’t find cheddar- or sour cream-drenched tacos here, but rather marinated steak tartar, pig’s head carnitas, and sashimi tostados, all served up on a bright orange Formica bar.