We spent one-and-a-half days and two nights exploring the highlights of Dublin, where we experienced the culture, food, history, and two great hotels.
We arrived from Paris Charles DeGaulle airport at about 3 p.m. in Dublin, after a two-hour flight, and it took 25 minutes by taxi to get to the center of the city.
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Our first hotel, The Fitzwilliam, is located in the middle of the city, facing St. Stephens Green, an historical park. The premier boutique hotel of Dublin, The Fitzwilliam strives to give personal attention to each guest and to fulfill their specific needs, as explained to us by Bronagh Kelleher, director of sales and marketing. During our conversation, we told Kelleher what cultural things we were interested in seeing in Dublin, and within the hour we received an email with a list of current museum and gallery exhibitions.
Our deluxe-category room was more than spacious (almost 400 square feet) and decorated in a dark color palette of purple, cranberry and taupe. A daybed built into the picture window was a smart touch, and the contemporary, four-poster bed with a thick, cushioned headboard gave us a good night’s sleep.
During our visit with Kelleher, she informed us that they were in the midst of refurbishing parts of the hotel, and showed us a few of the updated rooms, done in a lighter and airier color scheme of mauve and sage green.
After we checked in, we took a stroll through St. Stephens Green, a lush garden with manicured grass, flower beds and stone fountains. There were a number of sculptures throughout the gardens of historic Irish citizens, including James Joyce, and we also discovered a Yeats memorial garden with a Henry Moore sculpture.
Dublin is known for its Georgian architecture, in the form of townhouses made of brick, constructed from the start of the reign of King George I in 1714 until the end of King George IV’s reign in 1830. Our attention was drawn to the bright-colored, lacquered doors in shades of red, royal blue, yellow and bottle green, which were a welcoming contrast to the dull brick. We later found a great poster in a souvenir shop with photos of the doors.
We later stumbled upon a unique shop, The House of Names, which specializes in heraldry, the practice of assigning individual coats of arms to families. A longtime tradition dating back to the 1200’s, the shop can track your family history and research your coat of arms. They can recreate your coat of arms with either a wall shield mounted on wood, a crest printed on parchment or an embroidered version on a banner. All the products, many made by hand, are manufactured in Ireland by local artists specializing in heraldry. You can also order products online from The House of Names on their website: https://houseofnames.ie/
That evening we dined at Glovers Alley, the gourmet restaurant in the Fitzwilliam Hotel. Andrew Mc Fadden, making a big splash in London by becoming the youngest chef to earn a Michelin star in the UK, decided to return to his native Dublin.
The contemporary dining room, a perfect match for McFadden’s elegant but modern cuisine, has marble-topped tables, tangerine-colored, plush banquets and club chairs, floral-patterned carpeting, and Art Deco-inspired lamps and sconces.
Our starter of Dublin Bay prawns with tarragon and carrots was a delicious introduction to Irish seafood, and our main course of venison with pear and parsnips in a black currant sauce further proved McFadden deserved his Michelin star. A lemon and chocolate souffle was the high note of our dinner.
The next day was dedicated to museums and exhibitions. The Little Museum, the most-visited museum in Ireland, is a former, stately home from the late 1800’s, of an old, distinguished Irish family. We booked the Directors Tour, given every Friday at 1 p.m., with the director of the museum leading the tour. We met Trevor White in the elegant drawing room on the second floor, and he proceeded to win us over with his charm, wit and great sense of humor. He led us through the house and related the history of Dublin through the posters, photos and objects in the various rooms.
After the tour, we had a delightful lunch at Hatch and Sons on the garden level of the museum. Proudly sourcing the best local, artisanal products, including handmade jams, cheeses and yogurt, Hatch and Sons delivers a true Irish dining experience. We enjoyed a hearty Irish stew with beef and Guinness, followed by authentic scones with raisins and the famous Irish butter.
Next we visited the Hugh Lane Gallery, the official modern art gallery of Dublin, housed in a former mansion from 1763. Hugh Lane, a successful London art dealer and collector, established the gallery in 1908 with a collection of contemporary art of the time, including Impressionist paintings by Manet, Degas, Renoir and Vuillard.
The highlight of the museum is a replica of Francis Bacon’s studio. Bacon was born and raised in Dublin by a wealthy family, and later moved to London, where he flourished as an artist. In 1998, after Bacon’s death, the director of the gallery secured the donation from Bacon’s heirs of his studio. The studio is in a sealed room, with windows you can look through. The studio, much like the laboratory of a mad scientist, is a fascinating glimpse into the physical elements which help to make Bacon the greatest artist of the last century.
Theater is a significant part of Irish culture, and we booked tickets to The Lieutenant of Inishmore at the Gaiety Theatre. Constructed in 1871, The Gaiety is Dublin’s longest-established theater and has had every type of performer grace its stage, including Peter O’Toole, Sarah Bernhardt, Luciano Pavarotti and Julie Andrews. The Lieutenant of Inishmore, written in 1994 by award-winning Irish playwright Martin McDonagh, is set in Northern Ireland in 1993. It’s a wild, black comedy about the feud of two families with lots of awkward humor and violent twists and turns.
We spent our second night at the Westbury Hotel, a grand hotel located right off Grafton Street, the prestigious shopping street of Dublin. The Westbury, the first modern luxury hotel in Dublin, opened in 1987, and it is part of the Doyle Collection, a group of upscale hotels operating in Dublin, London, and Washington, D.C.
We stayed in a gorgeous Studio Suite on the sixth floor, with great views of Dublin. The generously sized suite has a café table, writing desk and a living room area with burgundy velvet club chairs and a coffee table. A decadent bathroom has natural-color marble and floor-to-ceiling mirrors all around. The oval-shaped, free-standing tub had our favorite feature, a wood shelf going across that has an easel on it to place a book on, but we replaced it with our iPad and watched a movie while taking a much-needed, long, bath.
The Westbury has a sprawling lobby dotted with cozy seating nooks for drinks, coffee, tea and light snacks. Wilde is the formal restaurant on the lobby level, which has a 1930’s vibe to it, and Balfe, at the street entrance of the hotel, is a French-style brasserie. Condé Nast Traveler voted the Westbury the best hotel in Ireland in the Readers Choice Awards in 2019.
127, 128 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin, D02 HE18
Contact: Bronagh Kelleher [email protected]
Glovers Alley Restaurant at Fitzwilliam Hotel
The House of Names
26 Nassau St, Dublin 2, D02 TH70
The Little Museum
Hatch and Sons
15 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2
Hugh Lane Gallery
Charlemont House, Parnell Square N, Rotunda, Dublin, D01 F2X9
South King St, Dublin 2
Balfe St, Dublin 2, D02 CH66
Contact: Sarah Mortell [email protected]
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