Six Dublin Hidden-Gems

The best spots from insiders in the know


Hugh Lane Gallery, photo courtesy Visit Dublin

In our ongoing quest to track down the best hidden gems and must-see highlights of Ireland’s capital city, we asked three devoted Dubliners to share a few of their favourite spots and experiences. 

For a memorable dining experience

“Try the Cobalt Café. I love love love this place. It’s on North Great Georges Street and is family-owned and run. When the weather is fair they have a huge and beautiful outdoor garden area, and if it’s a wee bit chilly, the inside is just as impressive. Wooden floors, white walls adorned with art, a piano, fireplaces, reasonable prices and great food. Once a month they host Nighthawks, a very exclusive cabaret evening of music, poetry, comedy and spoken word.” —Joseph Kearney, actor and dramatherapist

For unforgettable shopping

“The warren of small streets in behind Grafton Street—our poshest shopping thoroughfare—is always great with vintage shops, pop-up restaurants and design-led stuff happening all the time. Take a walk through Castle Market, Drury, Exchequer and South William streets and take in artisan chocolatiers, contemporary jewelers, design-led boutiques, cool nail bars and lots more. On South William in particular don’t forget to look down—there’s often lots happening at basement level.” —Kirstie McDermott, journalist

To meet new people

“The City of a Thousand Welcomes program connects Dublin visitors with proud locals. Dubliners are famed for their hospitality, and through the program, first-time visitors to the capital can experience that hospitality first-hand by meeting with one of over 2,500 volunteers. Participants meet at the Little Museum of Dublin, and go from there to either Bewleys Café, the Porterhouse bar, or the Merrion Hotel, to enjoy a free drink and a convivial chat. It’s an entirely free service that runs every day of the week, and bookings can be made through the website.” —Mark O’Neill, assistant curator at The Little Museum of Dublin

For art-lovers on a budget

“Head to the Hugh Lane gallery. The world’s first free modern art museum, this place is steeped in history. Hugh Lane was himself the nephew of Lady Gregory—one of the founders of the Abbey Theatre. Today the gallery is still free to visit and boasts work from Louis Le Brocquy, Francis Bacon and Jack B. Yeats to name three of many. And, of course, there’s the unique exhibit of Francis Bacon’s studio, which was shipped over from London and reconstructed here.” —Joseph Kearney

Downtown neighbourhood to discover

“Stoneybatter, where I live, is one of my favourite spots. It’s on the north side of the city, right in the centre, but also tucked up beside the Phoenix Park, which is Europe’s largest enclosed urban park. It’s got an awesome gastropub called L. Mulligan Grocer that serves rib-sticking food and locally brewed beers. Warrens of red-bricked streets originally built by the Guinness brewery to house its workers are now home to a large creative community of actors, journalists, artists and students. Oh, and Gawker recently named it the Williamsburg of Dublin.” —Kirstie McDermott

When the sun is shining

“The National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin. This is one of the great free things to do in Dublin, especially if the weather is good—which is a rare pleasure in itself!” —Mark O’Neill

This story was originally published on July 1, 2014. 

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