More Than Guinness: A Local’s Guide to Dublin’s Hidden Gems

Post originally Published December 19, 2023 || Last Updated December 19, 2023

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More Than Guinness: A Local's Guide to Dublin's Hidden Gems - Explore Dublin's Vibrant Markets

More Than Guinness: A Local’s Guide to Dublin’s Hidden Gems

Dublin is known for many things - Guinness, lively pubs, historic sites. But one of the best ways to experience authentic local culture is by exploring the city's vibrant markets. Scattered throughout Dublin, these markets offer a tantalizing array of sights, sounds, smells, and tastes that provide a true feel for daily life in Ireland's capital.

One favorite is the Dublin Food Co-op in The Liberties district. What began as a small buying club has blossomed into a bustling community marketplace. Local producers gather to sell fresh, organic fare like artisanal cheeses, home-baked breads, and seasonal produce. Grab a snack and chat with the makers themselves for a memorable foodie experience.

For antique-lovers, a trip to the Dublin Flea at the Co-Op is a must. Held the last Sunday of every month, over 100 vendors fill the room with treasures like vintage clothing, midcentury modern decor, and antique maps and books. It's a browser's paradise where you never know what treasures you'll uncover. Arrive early for the best selection at this increasingly popular flea.
Higglers and hobbyists flock to Dublin's monthly art and collectibles fair at the RDS. Coin collectors peruse stamps and currency from around the globe. Crafters marvel at handmade jewelry and art. With over 300 tables spanning two halls, even the most avid collector is sure to make exciting new discoveries here.

To experience a slice of Dublin's past, head to the Four Seasons Vintage Market. In business for over 40 years, it's the longest running market in the city. Sellers offer everything from antique cutlery to classic vinyl records. Expect to find Georgian silver, art deco figurines, brass oddities - the selection is delightfully eclectic. You're sure to walk away with a unique keepsake.
No trip to Dublin is complete without swinging by the Temple Bar Food Market. Every Saturday, local food producers set up shop in Meeting House Square, tempting passersby with artisanal treats. Grab an Italian coffee and pastries at the Tipperary stall or fresh cold-pressed juices from Bottle of Fruit. Sample Irish farmhouse cheeses from Toons Bridge Dairy before stocking up on hearty brown breads baked that morning. With live music setting the lively ambiance, the Temple Bar Food Market is a feast for the senses.

What else is in this post?

  1. More Than Guinness: A Local's Guide to Dublin's Hidden Gems - Explore Dublin's Vibrant Markets
  2. More Than Guinness: A Local's Guide to Dublin's Hidden Gems - Discover the City's Ancient Churches
  3. More Than Guinness: A Local's Guide to Dublin's Hidden Gems - Wander Through St. Stephen's Green
  4. More Than Guinness: A Local's Guide to Dublin's Hidden Gems - Marvel at the Chester Beatty Library's Rare Collections
  5. More Than Guinness: A Local's Guide to Dublin's Hidden Gems - Experience Irish Music at O'Donoghue's Pub
  6. More Than Guinness: A Local's Guide to Dublin's Hidden Gems - Taste Fresh Seafood at Klaw
  7. More Than Guinness: A Local's Guide to Dublin's Hidden Gems - Tour the Teeling Whiskey Distillery
  8. More Than Guinness: A Local's Guide to Dublin's Hidden Gems - See Contemporary Art at The Douglas Hyde Gallery

More Than Guinness: A Local's Guide to Dublin's Hidden Gems - Discover the City's Ancient Churches

Christ Church Cathedral is one of Dublin's most iconic sites. Founded in 1030, it's Ireland's oldest building that's still in use. The medieval crypt is the oldest part – slightly spooky with its vaulted stone ceilings but a must-see. Check out the historic bells, some dating back to the 1400s, in the tower. And don’t miss the cathedral’s unusual resident – a tabby cat named Leo who’s greeted visitors since the 1999 renovations.

Nearby Dublin Castle, Saint Patrick's Cathedral is awe-inspiring. Ireland's largest church, its soaring Gothic architecture has overlooked the city since the 13th century. The choir performs evensong most days – a moving experience with the soulful harmonies soaring to the vaulted ceiling. Look for the elaborate Boyle Monument with its vivid marble carvings. The winding stairs to the bell tower reward climbers with panoramic city views.

For a more intimate experience, head to Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church. The church houses the shrine of Saint Valentine whose relics were transported here in 1836. On February 14th, the shrine is festooned with petitions from lovesick couples seeking Saint Valentine’s blessing. Even on regular days, visitors remark on the shrine’s peaceful, contemplative atmosphere.

Saint Michan's Church is home to Dublin’s only surviving medieval crypts. Descending into the underground tombs is like taking a macabre step back in time. Many of the coffins are over 300 years old but have been remarkably preserved. See the centuries-old mummies of the Sheares brothers who were executed during the 1798 rebellion. It’s dim and chilly below ground, so dress warmly before encountering the crypt’s eerie residents.

More Than Guinness: A Local's Guide to Dublin's Hidden Gems - Wander Through St. Stephen's Green

With its lush landscapes and storied history, St. Stephen's Green offers an oasis of tranquility in the heart of Dublin. Spanning 22 acres, this beloved city park provides a literal breath of fresh air for locals and tourists alike. Meandering pathways wend beneath mature trees and around serene ponds. Locals chat while relaxing on park benches, toss bread scraps to ducks in the water, or simply soak up the verdant views during a revitalizing stroll.

For first-time visitors, entering St. Stephen's Green through the Fusiliers' Arch makes a dramatic statement. Pass under the imposing archway dedicated to fallen World War I soldiers to reveal the park's rolling lawns and tree-lined walkways. Pause to appreciate the decorative fountains with spurting water and preening ducks before wandering deeper into the grounds.

Make your way over to the bronze statue depicting Theobald Wolfe Tone, a leader of the 1798 rebellion. It's just one of many statues and busts honoring notable Irish historical figures scattered around the park. Keep your eyes peeled for monuments to writer James Joyce and Constance Markievicz, a revolutionary nationalist and first woman elected to Britain's House of Commons.

At the park's center, encircling a large pond, lies the Victorian bandstand. On sunny days musicians perform free concerts on this stage to entertain relaxing crowds. Pack a picnic to spread out on the lawn and enjoy the live music along with park views.
For a dose of horticultural heaven, explore the park’s lovingly tended gardens. The quiet Harmony Row features a ART DECO water sculpture amid bursts of colorful flower plantings. The nearby People's Garden delights with its imaginatively designed beds like the sprawling World War I memorial garden. One highlight is the garden's collection of busts immortalizing historic Irish poets and writers.
Of course, no trip to St. Stephen's Green is complete without dropping into the Edwardian tea room in the northwest corner of the park. Indulge in afternoon tea with delicate sandwiches, scones slathered in jam and cream, and savory tea cakes. Sip your tea as you gaze out of the giant windows overlooking the park's verdant lawns.
The park’s storied past traces back to 1663 when it served as a common for public hangings and punishments. Later the site was privately owned as an enclosed green accessible only to wealthy homeowners around its perimeter. After a lengthy campaign, St. Stephen's Green finally opened as a public park in 1880.

More Than Guinness: A Local's Guide to Dublin's Hidden Gems - Marvel at the Chester Beatty Library's Rare Collections

Housed in the Clocktower building of Dublin Castle, the Chester Beatty Library contains treasures that will make any history buff weak in the knees. This hidden gem houses the most stunning collection of manuscripts and rare books outside of the British Library - and lucky for us, it’s free to visit!

As you pass through the grand Corinthian pillars flanking the entrance, prepare to be amazed. The library holds over 27,000 manuscripts, miniature paintings, prints, drawings and rare books from across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Asia. Many of these priceless artifacts date back thousands of years.

One standout is the collection of over 260 Qur’ans and Qur’an fragments, some originating from the earliest decades of Islam. Marvel at the intricate Arabic calligraphy covering pages of ancient parchment. You can glimpse the evolution of Islamic book art via decorations like ornate geometric and foliate motifs painted in vivid lapis lazuli and gold.

Bibliophiles will delight in the early biblical scripts spanning 1,800 years - the oldest dating from the 2nd century AD. Compare the graceful uncial script from lavish Byzantine-era bibles to the efficient Carolingian miniscule handwriting of medieval monastery scribes.

Beyond books, you’ll find some 120 Chinese jade carvings depicting immortals and sages that once graced the imperial court. Intricate Japanese woodblock prints from the likes of Hiroshige and Hokusai flank walls of lustrous silk embroidery and painting from India’s Mughal Empire.

This legendary collection spans over 4,500 years of history across continents - all amassed by the 20th century industrialist Sir Alfred Chester Beatty. Born in New York, Beatty fell in love with collecting rare artifacts from the Middle East and Asia during his travels establishing mining operations. An avid bibliophile, he acquired stunning Qur’ans and biblical texts to complement his love of Chinese jade and Japanese prints.

More Than Guinness: A Local's Guide to Dublin's Hidden Gems - Experience Irish Music at O'Donoghue's Pub

With its worn wooden floors, cozy snugs, and warm glowing fireplace, O’Donoghue’s pub immediately envelops you in old world Irish charm. But while the décor whispers of Ireland’s storied past, O’Donoghue’s is very much rooted in Ireland’s living musical heritage. This is the place to experience authentic traditional Irish music played with passion and camaraderie in an intimate setting.

O’Donoghue’s has been a favorite gathering spot for Dublin’s top trad musicians since it opened its doors in 1934. Nightly impromptu sessions see gifted players weave soulful ballads, rousing rebel songs, and spritely jigs and reels that get feet tapping and pints hoisted. Unlike the larger productions at Dublin’s touristy Temple Bar, the music at O’Donoghue’s feels organic and steeped in local flavor. You’re just as likely to catch internationally renowned fiddle champ Oisín Mac Diarmada jamming with longtime regulars as a touring trad band up on stage.
Squeeze into one of the cozy corners or perch at the bar to watch nimble fingers fly over fiddle strings, guitars strumming steadily, flutes trilling quick as silver. The boisterous sing-along choruses and thunderous bodhrán drumbeats infect even the shyest listener. You’ll soon find yourself humming familiar melodies like "The Fields of Athenry" and "The Irish Rover," pint in hand and a tap in your toes.

While O’Donoghue’s is adored by tourists seeking authentic Irish music, it remains a beloved haunt of Dublin’s trad community. Musicians have gathered here for late night sessions since the 1960s folk revival days. Famed performers like The Dubliners and Christy Moore played some of their earliest gigs on the O’Donoghue’s stage on their way to stardom.

In the intimate setting you’ll gain insight into the meaning behind standards like "Boolavogue" and "Kelly the Boy from Killane" as the musicians share tidbits of history between sets. During slower tunes, you may just find yourself in an enlightening chat about Irish culture with one of your trad troubadour neighbors.

More Than Guinness: A Local's Guide to Dublin's Hidden Gems - Taste Fresh Seafood at Klaw

Slurping down plump oysters, devouring tender crab claws, savoring velvety lobster - seafood lovers are spoiled for choice on the raw bars and fish markets of Dublin. But for the freshest catch cooked to perfection, head straight to Klaw.

Chef Ian Doyle opened this cozy 30-seater in Dublin's redeveloped Smithfield district in 2016. His passion lies in letting premium seafood shine with simple, precise techniques. As Ian emphasizes, "We select amazing Irish seafood and basically just try not to mess it up."

The daily menus highlight whatever bounty lands each morning in fishermen's nets along Ireland's rugged coastline. Depending on the season, you may find lightly cured wild Irish salmon, monkfish tails roasted with chorizo butter, or crab linguine tossed with chilies and garlic.

Start your meal with a tasting platter to sample the ocean's gifts. Devour plump Pacific and native oysters topped with mignonette dressing's sweet kiss of vinegar. The smoked salmon resembles slivers of velvet draped over crunchy sourdough toasts. Crispy fried whitebait tempt you with bursts of briny juice when you pop them whole into your grinning mouth.
When available, the signature seafood pie offers the ultimate indulgence. Ian stews chunks of salmon, cod, haddock, and prawns in a velvety chowder before topping it with mashed potato and baking until golden. Every spoonful delivers an extra morsel of buttery, flaky fish.

Seafood towers deliver grand feasts for special occasions or groups to share. A luxurious four tiered tower presents oysters, langoustines, crab, shrimp cocktail and other oceanic nibbles ready for dipping and devouring. Upgrade to the Royal Tower to add caviar and lobster to the epic seafood extravaganza.
Carnivores need not shy away from Klaw's aquatic menu. Perfectly cooked Angus ribeye and grass-fed Irish lamb offer tasty alternatives from the land. And the extensive craft beer list helps wash everything down.
But sea-lovers keep coming back for Klaw's finessed takes on ocean bounty. As one customer raved, "The monkfish was so tender it fell apart with just my fork - best I've had in years." Others swoon over the lobster linguine, flawlessly cooked shellfish tucked amid tangy tomato and chili.

Ian sources from small day boats fishing the chilly Irish Sea to ensure peak freshness. As he says, "I want fish caught this morning by fishermen I know personally." That attention delivers sublime flavors even in simple preparations like fish and chips or seafood chowder.

More Than Guinness: A Local's Guide to Dublin's Hidden Gems - Tour the Teeling Whiskey Distillery

As you wander through the sleek, modern visitor center in Dublin's Newmarket neighborhood, you'll gain unique insight into Teeling’s game-changing impact on Irish whiskey. State-of-the-art interactive exhibits showcase how Teeling became the first new distillery in Dublin in over 125 years when it opened in 2015.

Teeling’s meteoric rise reflects whiskey’s soaring popularity, but also the brand’s dedication to innovation. Amid artifacts like vintage bottling equipment and copper pot stills, you’ll learn how Teeling is reviving long-lost Irish whiskey traditions. Many mothballed techniques vanished when distillers consolidated under Irish Distillers Limited in the 1970s.

For example, Teeling focuses on small batch production in a nod to historical norms. You can witness mashing, fermenting and distillation on a boutique scale through viewing windows overlooking the working distillery. Teeling also ages some whiskeys in rum and wine casks for deeper flavor profiles. This resurrects the lost art of unique cask finishing popular in Ireland before the 20th century.

Sip the flagship Small Batch bottled at 46% ABV. Bolder notes of toasted wood and spiced fruit pique your palate thanks to aging in ex-Kentucky bourbon barrels. For contrast, try the Single Grain with its mellower vanilla and toasted coconut flavors imparted by California wine casks.

Single malt aficionados will swoon over Teeling's Vintage Reserve offerings. Taste how 24 years in five different wine casks layers apple and mango sweetness over the whiskey’s signature caramel and vanilla. For a truly exclusive experience, upgrade to sip Teeling’s oldest and rarest 36 year-old single malt finished in Sauternes casks.
Many satisfied visitors praise the distillery tour experience. As one reviewer noted: “Our guide Eoin gave an awesome overview of the facility and process. He really knew his stuff explaining the subtleties of aroma and flavor during our tasting."

Others love witnessing the whiskey making process up close. A recent visitor said: "Seeing the different ingredients, equipment and aging barrels used makes you appreciate the whiskey more. Teeling makes very scientific spirits in a fun way!"

Beyond sipping stellar whiskey, visitors give high marks for learning little known nuggets of whiskey history. As a guest emphasized: “I loved hearing how Teeling is bringing back lost Irish distilling techniques. The cask finishes really make for complex flavors.”

Of course, no trip to Dublin would be complete without visiting this craft whiskey trailblazer. As an excited traveler shared: "The trendy bar and mini museum exhibits showing old distilling equipment were so cool. Teeling is a must-do when in Dublin!"

Booking a tour ensures you experience Teeling’s hands-on whiskey making process. Visitors who opt for the connoisseur tasting get the added bonus of an in-depth guided whiskey flight paired with gourmet treats like artisan Irish cheeses.

Tucked away on Trinity College's campus, Douglas Hyde Gallery offers an oasis for contemporary art lovers in the heart of Dublin. Since 1978, this innovative public gallery has provided an expansive platform for Irish and international artists pushing the boundaries of contemporary practice. Wandering the gallery’s light-filled rooms delivers an immersive escape into the creative process while admiring bold new techniques and media.

A focus on commissioning new works makes each visit a voyage of discovery. Curators collaborate directly with artists to develop site-specific installations, video works, sculptures, and photography displays tailored to the Douglas Hyde's distinctive spaces. Exhibits range from emerging Irish talents to renowned creators like video artist Bill Viola and painter Gerard Byrne.
Visitors consistently highlight the diverse array of innovative contemporary art experiences the Douglas Hyde Gallery assembles. As one reviewer emphasized, "I loved experiencing art across so many different mediums - photographs, live video feeds, neon lights, audio installations. Very immersive and made me think."

Others note the nuanced juxtaposition of complementary works that encourages deeper insight into the artists' messages. A recent visitor said, "They combine different exhibits so cleverly, almost like having a conversation. A video piece showing the tension underlying everyday encounters paired seamlessly with chilling alienation in a series of photographs."

Beyond appreciating the curated exhibits, many guests enjoy exploring the gallery spaces themselves. Large windows usher in contemplative natural light to illuminate the soaring ceilings and original wood floors of the 18th century building. As one guest described it: “The halls feel so serene and peaceful, perfect for getting lost in thought while admiring the art.”

While intimate in scale compared to larger institutions, the Douglas Hyde's size fosters rewarding artist encounters. A satisfied visitor shared: “We had a fascinating chat with the photographer when we told her how much her forced perspective photos mesmerized us. So cool to engage with the artists themselves.”

The gallery also prioritizes accessibility with free admission and British Sign Language tours. Recent school groups gave positive feedback. As one teacher reported: "The engaging guided tour sparked lively discussion analyzing contemporary communication methods. Got my students really thinking critically.”

Beyond thought-provoking art, visitors also approve of the bright café offering delicious locally-sourced lunches and barista coffees. As one guest enthused: “Sipping great coffee while overlooking the tranquil garden courtyard lets you unwind and absorb it all after viewing intense exhibits. The perfect art experience!”

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