Ireland is a breath-taking country and, if you have the chance, I strongly suggest visiting.
My recommendation is to spend a few days in Dublin city, then either rent a car and travel around the country to get the most of its landscapes or take a Citylink bus to Galway city and delve into total wilderness, maybe even taking a ferry directed to the Aran islands.
I try to visit at least twice a year to catch up with my close relations, thus whenever a Venetian friend goes to Dublin they always ask me for advice. So, during my last visit I took pictures and notes of the places I like in the city to put them together in one post for all my foodie friends going to Dublin city.
The centre of Dublin is not that big and you can easily walk from one monument to the other. Trinity College and its fenced gardens and fields marks, in my mind, the starting point of the centre. On the left Grafton Street and Saint Stephen's Green and on the right the Liffey River, O' Connell Street and the Post Office. The Castle, Saint Patrick's Cathedral, Christ Church and most museums are on the south bank and you can easily walk from one place to the other. My personal favourite museums are the National Gallery and the Chester Beatty Library, with the widest collection of manuscripts in the world. The Chester Beatty is also an excellent place to have lunch or afternoon tea, I go there every time I'm in Dublin to see the temporary exhibition (this time it was a series of drawings The Disasters of War by Goya). The cafeteria is really nice, with painted white walls and a delicious buffet of ethnic food, salads and pastries at excellent prices.
With regard to pubs, I don't think you need a guide to discover that pub food is staple food here, anyway, I like the Porter House Brewery and the Dingle Whiskey Bar.
When it comes to pastries I just can't resist the Queen of Tarts, which has two locations in the centre, one in Dame Street and the other in Cow's Lane, the same street where my Venetian friend Enrico opened his super cool wine bar called Piglet, a must stop for wine lovers and gourmets (great value for money). Another place I like for an easy going and budget lunch or tea is Powers Court, now a fancy shopping centre with lots of nice cafeterias and a gorgeous flower shop. I know that my aunt likes Avoca, where I once had an incredibly foamy cappuccino and an exquisite muffin and, I remember, I bought some soda bread for home, so good! Other good options for lunch are The Woollen Mills, in the north side at the foot of the Ha'penny Bridge and the chain Sprout if you'd rather a healthy and plant based meal. If I want to treat myself to an Irish meal my absolute favourite restaurant is The Farm, serving organic local food and top quality wine and spirits. If, instead, I feel like Italian food, the best restaurant is undoubtedly I Monelli, elegant and refined but absolutely doable and worth trying, highly recommended!
With regard to shopping, one of my favourite places is Sheridan's Cheesemongers in Anne Street, a tiny cheese shop with specialty cured meats, olives, breads and crackers. The moment you step in you are overwhelmed by the strong perfume of all their dairy products; the offers includes cheese from many countries, but since you are in Ireland you really should try Irish cheese. If you ask me, all things dairy are special in this country and the goat milk cheese is incredible. Ask the staff, they will know how to guide you. Now I think it's also possible to have a mini tasting, or anyway you can always ask for a sandwich to take away. Excellent.
Another great store I love is Fallon & Byrne, where I could literally spend the whole day and all my money. Just imagine, a two-storey building with a gourmet food hall on the ground floor and a beautiful restaurant on the top floor. Vito and I usually buy food and cook at home, but we also tried the lunch menu and really enjoyed it, especially the baked peaches with goat cheese. If you want to spend less consider eating something in the food hall, in this place every single thing is delicious and the pastries too are worth trying.
SATURDAY FARMERS MARKET IN TEMPLE BAR
If you are in Dublin on a Saturday you can't miss the farmers market in Temple Bar, a real high quality and budge street foodexperience. Every Saturday morning different stalls located in a covered open doors area offer some of the best foods in Ireland. The general atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, with both locals doing the weekly shopping and curious visitors attracted by the inviting perfumes of goods of all sorts. From sweet to savoury, this is the place to be. In addition to loaves and buns, there are many tarts, cakes, biscuits and fritters you can eat standing, then there are two spots that make sandwiches in the covered area and a stall with roast pork, potatoes, caramelised onions and more just a few seconds from there, in the parallel street.
Then there are stalls selling vegetables, assortments of specialty olives, jams, marmalades, chocolate, fruit juices and cured meats. Vito's favourite is the oyster stall, with oysters both from Dublin oysters and from the West Coast, quite different from the French oysters, more meaty and less slimy. Delicious and they cost only 2,50 each, which in my opinion is very good value for money.
I'm particularly fond of the cheese stall and of the one selling seeds, nuts, dried fruit, granola, oatmeal and dried legumes. I always mix and match different varieties of breakfast cereals, my morning treat, especially granola. I also bought a variety of tiny green beans with a black eye-looking spot that I had never seen before, but haven't made yet so I still don't know how they taste. With regard to cheese, we always buy something. I saw that now they also offer a small pre-prepared selection with 5 types of cheese, otherwise don't be afraid to ask. The lady is very kind and will quite likely offer you to taste her products and tell you more about how they are made.
We bought a seasoned sheep milk cheese, very very strong, perfect with an acid apple or a sweet cabbage salad, then a piece of fresh goat milk cheese and some full fat yogurt. I must say that, in general, Irish food has really improved and that today there are many high quality options and a great attention to the quality of life of animals and to organic growing methods. Every time I go I am ever more impressed and, although it may seem strange, the thing I preferred was the salad, so tasty and fresh, amazing. Another must is the lamb shoulder... mouthwatering! Not to mention rhubarb crumble and potatoes, prepared in whatever way.
OTHER AREAS AND DAY TRIPS FROM DUBLIN
Although the historical centre is relatively small, Dublin is big and with lots of residential areas. My family live in Dublin 4, Ballsbridge, an elegant area where all the embassies are located. Here I particularly like Sandymount beach and small town, a cosy corner of peace, with small shops, the local pubs, a bakery and lovely two-storey houses with a garden. I enjoy walking in this area and the beach always surprises me, in fact the tide changes every six hours so, depending on the moment of the day, the beach could be completely covered with water or dry. Amazing!
When I want to go on a short day trip I hop on a Dart train and go to Howth, a harbour town in the north of Dublin bay, ideal if you are looking for fish. In Howth you can just enjoy a nice walk along the pier and probably get to meet the local seals, used to being fed so not a bit shy, and the famous puffins. There is a beautiful castle and lots of spots where you can have a nice meal. The best restaurant -pricey but worth it- is Acquae, while if you are on a budget Beshoff is a good option (it's different from the ones in Dublin city), then, of course, there are all the pubs.
Other two great options are Dalkey, a seaside resort with a medieval castle and the noteworthy Killiney Hill, crowned by an obelisk and overlooking the sea; and Newgrange, a prehistoric monument 8 km from Dublin but well connected by many bus and tour services. Newgrange is a 5,200 year old tomb built by the Stone Age farmers and it is older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids too!
For more information on what to do in Dublin city try looking at the Visit Dublin website.
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