As the Irish capital prepares to celebrate all things Joycean, Aoife O'Riordain reveals a city as rich in fine cuisine and great shopping as it is in cultural gems
Saturday 07 June 2008
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WHY GO NOW?
One of the highlights of Dublin's literary calendar is nigh: 16 June commemorates the day in 1904 when James Joyce's Ulysses is set. A week of activities is planned from 9 to 16 June; for details call 00 353 1878 8547 or visit www.jamesjoyce.ie. Next Thursday sees the start of Taste of Dublin (00 353 1 662 0140; www.tasteofdublin08.ie), a three-day celebration of its culinary scene. For details, contact Tourism Ireland (0800 0397000; www.discoverireland.com).
The main airlines that service Dublin are Ryanair (0871 246 0000; www.ryanair. com), Aer Lingus (0870 876 5000; www.aerlingus.com), FlyBe (08717 000 535; www.flybe.com) and BMI (08706 070 555; www.flybmi. co.uk). Last Sunday, British Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com) introduced a new service, daily except Saturdays, from London City Airport.
Dublin airport is 12km north of the city centre. A 24-hour shuttle service is provided by Aircoach (00 353 1 844 7118; www.aircoach.ie), every 10 minutes at peak times, and takes around half an hour. It costs €7 (£5.80) one-way and has several stops in the city. The most useful are O'Connell Street (1) for the Northside and Trinity College (2) for the Southside.
Dublin is easily accessible by ferry from the UK. Irish Ferries (08705 17 17 17; www.irishferries.com) and Stena Line (08705 70 70 70; www.stenaline.co.uk) operate from Holyhead; Norfolkline (0844 499 0007; www.norfolkline.com) and P&O Irish Sea (0871 66 44 999; www.poirishsea.com) from Liverpool.
GET YOUR BEARINGS
Dublin city and its suburbs creep around the gentle curve of Dublin Bay. The river Liffey divides Northsiders from Southsiders. Its main crossing is O'Connell Bridge (3) at the southern end of O'Connell Street, a thoroughfare considered the city's spiritual heart. Most of Dublin's sights are within easy walking distance of each other; the townhouses of Georgian Dublin, St Stephen's Green (4) and the cobbled streets of Temple Bar, the city's self-styled cultural quarter.
The main office of Dublin Tourism is housed in the Church of St Andrew (5) in Suffolk Street (00 353 1 605 7700; www.visitdublin.com). It opens 9am-5pm Monday-Saturday (until 7pm in June, July and August); Sunday 10.30am-3pm (5pm in June, July and August).
Shelbourne Hotel (6), 27 St Stephen's Green (00 353 1 663 4500; www.marriott.com) reopened last summer after two years of renovations. In pole position overlooking St Stephen's Green, this was where the Irish constitution was signed in 1912. Doubles start at €219 (£170), room only.
For more idiosyncratic style, Number 31 (7) at 31 Leeson Close (00 353 1 676 5011; www.number31.ie) is hard to beat. This small, upmarket B&B has also been recently refurbished and is part-Georgian townhouse, part-Seventies-style mews. Doubles start at €150 (£125), including breakfast. Those on tighter budgets might consider Avalon House (8) at 55 Aungier Street (00 353 1 475 0001, www.avalon-house.ie), a well-located hostel that offers double rooms from €32 (£26.60).
TAKE A HIKE
Start at the western corner of Merrion Square (9). Bear left down Nassau Street. When you reach the intersection with Dawson Street, duck into the leafy confines of the 400-year-old Trinity College. Straight ahead you can find the Old Library (10) (00 353 1 896 2320; www.tcd.ie/library) where you can marvel at the Book of Kells, a ninth-century illuminated Gospel. It opens daily from 9.30am-5pm (Sundays to 4.30pm), admission €8 (£6.70).
Cross Parliament Square and exit the college through the main arch to College Green. Facing you is the 18th-century Bank of Ireland (11), once home to the Parliament. Continue up Dame Street and bear right at Anglesea Street, where you will be plunged into Temple Bar. Cross the Liffey over the Ha'Penny Bridge (12) and turn right down the quay over O'Connell Street with the 120m Millennium spire (13) on your left. Soon, you will reach one of the city's finest buildings, Custom House (14) designed by James Gandon in 1791.
LUNCH ON THE RUN
A converted Victorian telephone exchange provides the backdrop for Fallon & Byrne (15) at 11-17 Exchequer Street (00 353 1 472 1010; www.fallonandbyrne.com), a stylish food market. At its ground-floor café you can graze on home-made soups and sandwiches. Expect to spend around €10 (£8.30).
The Chester Beatty Library (00 353 1 407 0750; www.cbl.ie) is housed within the confines of the sprawling Dublin Castle (16). Go there to see its collection of manuscripts, prints and miniature paintings. It opens Monday-Friday 10am-5pm, Saturdays 11am-5pm, Sundays 1pm-5pm, admission free.
The National Gallery (17) (00 353 1 661 5133, www.nationalgallery.ie) houses a collection that spans the 14th and 20th centuries, including works by Caravaggio and Goya and Irish artists such as Jack B Yeats. It opens daily 9.30am-5.30pm, Sundays noon-5.30pm. Admission is free.
The final element in the cultural trinity of the capital is the National Museum of Ireland (18) in Kildare Street (00 353 1 677 7444; www.museum.ie), which has some superb prehistoric gold artefacts. It opens Tuesday to Saturday, 10am-5pm, Sundays 2pm-5pm. Admission free.
Grafton Street is Dublin's premier shopping street. To give your credit card a thorough workout, Brown Thomas (19), 88-95 Grafton Street (00 353 1 605 6666; www.brownthomas.ie) is Dublin's ritziest department store. Moore Street (20), which has been home to a colourful daily food market for decades, was on a downward slide for many years, but is thriving again. A slice of the Dublin of old, these days it swings to a more cosmopolitan beat – and sweet potatoes and pigs trotters have replaced the cockles and mussels.
James Joyce was a regular at The Stag's Head (21) at 1 Dame Court (00 353 1 679 3687; www.thestagshead.ie), a popular haunt complete with wood panelling, private nooks and excellently pulled pints of Guinness.
DINING WITH THE LOCALS
If you can secure yourself a table, the buzzing Town Bar & Grill (22) at 21 Kildare Street (00 353 1 662 4724; www.townbarandgrill.com) is one of the hottest places in town. You might even get to peek at the closest Ireland has to royalty – Bono is a regular. Among the modern classics with a twist on offer are gnocchi with slow-cooked rabbit, and home-made cannelloni. Main courses cost around €25 (£20.80).
SUNDAY MORNING: GO TO CHURCH
Set in the heart of the old, walled city, St Audoen's Church (23) in Cornmarket, High Street (00 353 1 677 0088; www.heritageireland.ie) is the last vestige of a medieval parish church in Dublin's centre. Eucharist is celebrated every Sunday at 10.15am. The main church of Dublin's Roman Catholic Archdiocese, St Mary's Pro-Cathedral (24) (00 353 1 874 5441; www.procathedral.ie) is over on the north bank of the Liffey at 83 Marlborough Street. This is home to the acclaimed Palestrina choir; mass is sung at 11am on Sundays (except July and August).
OUT TO BRUNCH
Munch on a superior Irish fry-up for €11.95 (£9.90) while taking in lovely views of the Liffey and the Ha'Penny Bridge from the first-floor dining room of The Winding Stair (25) at 40 Ormond Quay (00 353 1 872 7320, www.winding-stair.com).
A WALK IN THE PARK
Set 3km west of the centre, the Phoenix Park is a bucolic corner of the city that can lay claim to being Europe's largest enclosed urban park. Catch the number 37, 38 or 39 bus from Middle Abbey Street (26) to find yourself surrounded by lakes, formal gardens, wide open spaces, a zoo and the residences of both the Irish President and the American ambassador.
TAKE A RIDE
At Pearse Street Station (27), hop on the city's Dublin Area Rapid Transport ( www. irishrail.ie), the commuter line better known as Dart, which skirts Dublin Bay from Howth in the North to Greystones in neighbouring County Wicklow. The best vistas can be seen on the southbound journey to Bray or Greystones. Single tickets cost from €2.10 (£1.75).
ICING ON THE CAKE
Founded as a Viking settlement in the ninth century, Dublin owes much to its northern invaders. Catch the The Sea Stallion, a reconstruction of a 30m-long, 11th-century warship, at the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts & History (28) at the Collins Barracks in Benburb Street (00 353 1 677 7444; www.museum.ie). You have until 28 June, when it sets sail for Denmark.
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