Ireland&UK Series-Part 2: Dublin and Radisson Blu St. Helen’s Hotel

Dublin. Home to Guinness beer, the Book of Kells, and the famous Temple Bar. I loved Dublin in 2008 when I first visited, and I love it even more six years later. It is a wonderfully walkable city filled with equal parts history and craic (Irish for craziness/fun). The Irish people are some of the most welcoming that I have ever met, always curious about your life and excited to tell you about their country. I adore their passion for life, humor, and constantly upbeat attitude!

Just trying to fit in with the Irish! (I borrowed this hat from the most adorable group of old ladies from Scotland who were having a retirement/birthday party trip to Dublin!)

Alex and I arrived on our first class Aer Lingus flight (first class was an awesome surprise from Alex when we got to Logan Airport in Boston!) refreshed from our champagne and lay flat seats and ready to explore Dublin. We picked up our Nissan Micra rental car and headed to our hotel, the St. Helen’s Hotel by Radisson Blu. The St. Helen’s Hotel  is just a bit outside the city center, but if you don’t mind parking at a meter or paying 2.60 euros to take a short bus ride, it’s really quite convenient. As a bonus, the hotel is very peaceful. The grounds are beautiful and the hotel includes a restaurant and bar in a pretty sun room. Other amenities include free wi-fi, free parking, a nice gym and spa, and helpful staff. My favorite thing about the hotel is that it was formerly a mid-1700s estate and currently an Irish National Monument, so you are staying in a little piece of Irish history!

Champagne and leg room= my kind of flight!
Lay flat seats make me a happy girl!

Not our Micra, but a good example of one that really shows the tiny size!
Not our Micra, but a good example of one that really shows the tiny size!
Radisson Blu St. Helen’s Hotel

As soon as we unpacked our things (and after a short power nap), we set out to explore Dublin and parked our little Micra near the St. Stephens Green, Dublin’s most famous public park. The park has gorgeous flowers, plenty of pathways to explore, and covered seated areas in case you want to bring a picnic. After a short stroll, we took a walk down Grafton Street to people watch and see what kind of craic we might want to get into later.

St. Stephen’s Green
More swan families in the park

Before the craic, we walked to Trinity College, where we bought tickets to see the Book of Kells, a gospel manuscript from the 9th century, and the Long Room. Being a popular activity there is a bit of a queue, but it moved quickly. Once you get inside, there is a small area with several displays that explain the history behind the Book of Kells and how other similar books were made at the time. If you proceed through that area, you’ll come to a glass display case holding the Book of Kells and other similar manuscripts. Go up the stairs and you will reach my favorite part of the visit, the Long Room. The Long Room is home to 200,000 of the Library’s oldest books in its oak bookcases. It is lined with marble busts of the great philosophers and writers of the western world as well as men connected with Trinity College. The room itself is absolutely breathtaking. It feels like something out of Harry Potter!

Trinity College

The Long Room/Old Library
Gorgeous staircase
Can I move in?

After leaving Trinity College, we walked through the Temple Bar area (which brought back many memories from my last trip to Dublin) and across and north of the River Liffey to The General Post Office. Before our trip, I had read about the history behind the GPO, which was the headquarters for those who took part in the Easter Rising of April 1916. The building was greatly damaged during the time and you can still see some bullet holes today.

The General Post Office

The Spire of Dublin

We walked back across the river to City Hall, a beautiful example of Georgian architecture and the site of many important events. We did not take a tour, but I would encourage one as I would imagine it would be interesting to hear about some of the many events that occurred there.

Inside the beautiful Dublin City Hall

Having done enough sight-seeing for our first day in Dublin, we decided to take advice from Anthony Bourdain and finish the day with pints of Guinness at the famed Long Hall and dinner at Skinflint. One of Dublin’s most famous and well-loved pubs, Long Hall is a traditional pub with Victorian decor. After seeing it on Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover, I thought it might be touristy, but everyone in the bar was a local, which is always a great sign! As a side note, the only time it rained on our entire trip was while we were sitting in Long Hall. Amazing, right? Skinflint was another Anthony Bourdain recommendation and was equally impressive (see the menu here). We ordered macaroni and cheese in a serrano ham cup and shared the grilled Valerie pizza, which had red grape, rosemary, goat cheese, and e.v.o. Delicious! We washed everything down with Eight Degrees, a craft beer from Ballyhoura.

Pints at Long Hall
Inside Long Hall
Mac n cheese in a serrano ham cup. Heavenly!
Inside Skinflint

Our second day in Dublin, our first stop was the Guinness Brewery Tour, which we walked to from the city center. (Pro tip: Book online to save 10%, or at the very least, pay with a credit card. There was a long line for cash only, but no line to pay with a card). Since I had previously done the Guinness tour, I thought I knew exactly what I was in for, but the tour has significantly changed since 2008. It is still a self guided tour, but many of the stops have changed. Highlights include a tasting lab where you can smell various beer related aromas (i.e. hops and barley) before tasting a Guinness, a tasting room where you can learn to pour (and drink!) the perfect Guinness, a room with videos of different characters explaining the Guinness brand, and several interactive displays. Of course, one of the best parts of the tour is the Gravity Bar on the top floor where you can have a free Guinness next to 360 degree windows of Dublin. The views are almost worth the ticket price alone.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Outside the Guinness Storehouse
Touring the Guinness Storehouse
Alex learning to pour the perfect pint of Guinness
Perfect pints
Enjoying our pints in the Gravity Bar!

Drinking two pints worked up our appetites so we walked back to the city center, stopping at the Christ Church Cathedral along the way, to have lunch at Queen of Tarts, an adorable pastry shop and cafe. We shared a salad and ham and cheese tart (similar to a quiche) and a slice of blackberry pie for dessert. It was delicious and fast, a great place to pop into during a day of sightseeing. Sated, we walked across the street to the Dublin Castle and Gardens. We walked around the gardens briefly before going to the Chester Beatty Library, a free library (donation encouraged) located on the Castle grounds. All of the library’s contents, including manuscripts, miniature paintings, prints, drawings, rare books, and decorative arts, were donated from Sir Chester Beatty’s private collection. There are 2 tours a day if you are so inclined. By the time we left, the Castle was unfortunately closed, but we were able to wander around the grounds and courtyard a bit more.

Christ Church Cathedral
I retook a picture that I took on my first trip to Dublin when I marveled at the tiny doors! Me in Dublin in 2008 and me in Dublin in 2014
I retook a picture that I took on my first trip to Dublin when I marveled at the tiny doors! Me in Dublin in 2008 and me in Dublin in 2014
Inside Queen of Tarts
Delicious pie at Queen of Tarts
Dublin Castle Gardens
Dublin Castle
Dublin Castle

We then walked down to the Old City Wall to take some pictures before wrapping up our second day of sightseeing with more pints of Guinness at the famous Temple Bar. The Temple Bar has a good mix of tourists, locals, and hen and stag parties from all over Europe. If you go, I recommend catching live music and wandering through the many rooms. One of my favorite rooms is the Beer Garden, which is an open air room in the center of the pub. Temple Bar is 160 years old and is a great place to stop any time of day!

Alex and I in front of the Old City Wall

Just having a pint in the window of Temple Bar!

After a few drinks, we walked down to Gallagher’s Boxty House (also in the Temple Bar area) for a new twist on one of Ireland’s traditional foods, boxty. Boxty is a potato pancake made using ground potato flour. The menu consists of various types of proteins, almost all of which are accompanied by boxty. I chose the chicken and bacon boxty, which was chicken in a creamy bacon and leek sauce, wrapped in a traditional boxty pancake while Alex chose bbq pulled pork with mini boxty pancakes. Both were great, but we could have easily shared one meal. We browsed the guestbook at the front of the restaurant while waiting for our table and should have been warned by someone’s note: “food babies for days.” Very accurate statement!

Inside Gallagher’s Boxty House

The next morning we set out for Galway, which I will tell you all about in the next post! But first, since we were flying out of Dublin at the tail end of our trip, we spent a bonus night in Dublin a week later. I had spotted Dux and Co on our first day and knew it was love at first sight. The restaurant looked cute and cozy and the menu (mostly shared tapas and cheese boards) was right up my alley. After arriving back in Dublin after leaving London, we made a beeline for Dux and Co with a bottle of wine (the restaurant is BYOB). Dux and Co was even more amazing than I imagined, and turned out to be one of my favorite meals of the trip. While reminiscing about our favorite memories from our vacation, Alex and I shared a cheese board and a large sharing plate consisting of pan-fried halloumi cheese with lime & chili pepper, ham and cheese croquettes, and smoky chicken skewers with aioli. If we hadn’t needed to catch the last bus of the night back to our hotel, I think we would have stayed at Dux and Co all night. The meal was fantastic, the service was wonderful, and the atmosphere is perfect. I strongly urge you to go to Dux and Co if you are ever in Dublin!

Inside charming Dux and Co
Out of this world cheese board!
Perfect end to our Irish vacation at Dux and Co

Can’t wait to tell you about Galway next week!                                                                                                                         

skinflint, 19 Crane Ln, Dublin 2
Queen of Tarts, Cows Ln, Dame St, Dublin 2
Gallagher’s Boxty House, 20-21 Temple Bar, Dublin 2
Dux and Co, 51 Wellington Quay, By Ha’Penny Bridge, Dublin 2

Long Hall, 51 S Great George’s St, Dublin City
Temple Bar, 47-48 Temple Bar, Dublin 2

St. Helen’s Radisson Blu, Stillorgan Rd, Blackrock, Co. Dublin

St. Stephens Green, St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2
Shop on Grafton Street
Trinity College/Book of Kells, College Green, Dublin 2
City Hall, Dame St, Dublin 2
Guinness Storehouse, St James’s Gate, Dublin 8
Dublin Castle and Gardens, Dame St, Dublin 2


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