Who better to offer an insider’s guide to Dublin than a whiskey-loving, award-winning architect? Meet Grainne Dunne, a native Dubliner and one half of Studio Red Architects. She likens her city to a lovely elderly lady, one of which she is hugely fond and proud. “Dublin’s had a long and complicated life, God love her, but she is still full of spirit and mischief. Although well-aged, she has glamour, a wicked charm and an amazing sense of fun.” Here’s how Grainne recommends spending a perfect day in Dublin, including taking in some of the city’s incredible architecture.
Suit up for Dublin — and prison “’So, it’s sunny, all day’ is an outright lie. Bring a rain jacket, wear thermals and never stray too far from hot beverages. Once you are stuffed to the gills with hot tea, make your way to Kilmainham Gaol. The stunning building hires history students as tour guides who are passionate about storytelling. As they walk you through the stone building (built in 1796) you will understand the depth of the tragic history that has shaped Dublin, its inhabitants and Ireland’s emergence as a modern nation from 1780s to the 1920s. Although a heavy start to the day, this will give you great banter fodder for the pub later. Us Dubs adore it when visitors show an interest in our city’s story.”
Hop on a bike and head for a burger “After that, grab a city bike outside the door and cycle across the River Liffey to Phoenix Park, Europe’s largest walled park. Take in some fresh air, admire the roaming deer, rolling hills, ancient trees and grab some vitamin D before heading to Stoneybatter (historically known as Bohernaglogh, a neighbourhood in Dublin) for a well-earned feed with either a strong cup of proper Irish tea or a pint, choose your poison! Great restaurants abound in Stoneybatter, but head to Mulligans for the best hipster fish and chips around (a delicious herb-crumbed haddock, served with chips, minted mushy peas and tartar sauce) or Generator Hostel for the best burger in town. I know what you’re thinking … a burger from a hostel? Trust me.”
Then a taste of the water of life “Cycle on to the Jameson Distillery for an educational session of whiskey tasting. You simply can’t visit Ireland without a little tipple of the water of life — as we call it in Irish, uisce beathe.”
Great restaurants abound in Stoneybatter, but head to Mulligans for the best hipster fish and chips around
History and twisted streets “Now hop on the Luas, Dublin’s light rail system, and jump off at O’Connell Street, admire the huge, modern national monument of The Spire and the impressive General Post Office, the scene of the bloody Easter Rising war of independence. Explore it with a careful eye: You can still see the bullet marks. Cross the Liffey over the Ha’Penny Bridge — you no longer have to pay the ha’penny toll, so don’t stress — and that will bring you into old world Dublin and the tiny picturesque cobble streets of Temple Bar. Soak up the atmosphere, check out the Central Bank building by Sam Stephenson, the lovely shops and quirky galleries. Take care not to get too lost in its quirky charm as it’s almost time for dinner, yahoo!”
For dinner: Mexican! No, really “It’s fair to say you deserve a pretty special dinner and what better way to celebrate Dublin than with a seriously fancy Mexican experience at 777 on Georges Street. I know this might come as a surprise, there is a gem of a Mexican restaurant in Dublin. It is nearly impossible to find — and pretty tiny once you do find it — but once settled in, it is tequila and taco heaven. They do a crazy drunken Sunday brunch, though it fills up very early, be forewarned! After much research I can promise you that everything on the menu is a flavour extravaganza and the cocktails are just plain ridiculous. Go for the Amarillo ceviche to start, then tinga and bistec tostados. Drink the 777 margarita especial cocktail or the house margarita. I love the Violencia Rojo, too.”
And a nightcap or few “If you make it out and can still walk in a straight line — or even if you can’t, whatever — pop across to the Stags Head bar, Dublin’s best preserved Victorian pub for buckets of atmosphere and great Guinness. If a proper pub crawl is in order, head to Grogans, Whelans, PMacs, Peter’s Pub, The Long Hall and The Library Bar. If temperatures pop over 10 degrees (they do occasionally, I assure you) folks will spill out of the Stags Head and the pubs beside it. The laneways turn into a huge outdoor bar with buskers and atmospheric lighting. Grab your Guinness (and your woolies) and head outside to mingle for the night.”