What makes Dublin such a special city? A few answers from our awesome team of local Spotters:
“You can stand on a rooftop and see the mountains from one angle and the sea from another. Dublin is a small city with big opportunities for everyone.” –Rose
“Absolutely loving the weather here – after all, nowhere else in the world can you have all 4 seasons in one day.” –Ginger
“From the history and culture-steeped streets and the beauty of the green spaces to the graffiti that gives us character and the colourful and often zany characters I meet on a daily basis, there is very little about Dublin that I don’t love.” –Sarah
Dublin has many different faces and personalities to offer, and we think it’s a shame that many tourists in the city only get to follow one beaten path through the city. To help you discover the sides of the city that our locals love, we picked some of the most unique hidden gems in the city.
Beautiful hidden church for romantics
Concealed behind a nondescript exterior, Whitefriar Street Church escapes the notice of many tourists, and even locals may live here for years before discovering it. However, if you go inside you’ll find a beautiful space with a long history. It features an impressive organ and stained-glass windows.
One of the things that makes this church stand out from others is that it is home to the relics of Mr. Romance himself, Saint Valentine. These were given to the church in 1835 and include a vial of the martyr’s blood. On February 14th they are given pride of place on the high altar when special masses take place in Valentine’s honor. On the other 364 days of the year you are also free to drop in and ask the saint to send love your way.
A small dose of jazz
Some days you just want to sip some really good coffee, listen to music and gaze at the local river – that’s The Music Cafe in the center of Dublin for you. This place is charming and cozy. It’s a place where like-minded people who love jazz, good coffee and good company can relax and spend some quality time together (there is a ban on laptops in the cafe).
Local jazz groups perform on a loft over one side of the cafe that you need to climb a ladder to reach. This slightly eccentric placement creates a unique vibe. The cafe also curates an enormous selection of teas as well as good coffee and delicious avocado toast. And finally, the view is truly special – you can watch the river Liffey flow past the huge windows and relax, enjoying Dublin with all of the senses.
Green space for relaxation and culture
There are many parks in Dublin, but Merrion Square is one of the local favorites. Although it’s one of the larger ones, it’s simply charming and relatively hidden, creating a feeling of privacy and coziness.
Merrion Square Park is surrounded by several artistic and creative institutions like the National Art Gallery of Ireland, the Archaeological and Natural History sections of the National Museum of Ireland, and the Irish Traditional Music Archive, to name a few.
It’s an absolute gem for a lazy Sunday afternoon when you don’t know what to do exactly, so you want to be surrounded by many options. We suggest coming here on a sunny day with a picnic blanket and relaxing for a while with a book before exploring all the museums and galleries around the area.
Traditional pub with live Irish music
The tagline of The Cobblestone Pub is “A drinking pub with a music problem”, which sums it up pretty well. Our Spotter Ginger describes it as “Dublin’s finest in terms of the unique acoustic live music scene”.
In the countryside, pubs featuring traditional Irish music are still very common, but in the city, most have been transformed into more metropolitan venues. The Cobblestone is one of the places in the city keeping this spirit not only alive and kicking but thriving. And it is surrounded, of course, by the very old cobblestone streets of old-time Dublin.
Outdoor yoga to start the day
Dartmouth Square is one of the prettiest in Dublin, and worth a visit for its own sake. And if you happen to be visiting the city (or if you’re a local with some free time) on a Saturday between April and late autumn, you can participate in a morning yoga session in these nice surroundings.
Regardless of fitness level, anyone can benefit from some refreshing outdoor yoga. The yoga instructors are kind and encouraging. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced yogi, it will certainly be an experience to remember.
A treasure trove for tea lovers
Wall & Keogh pride themselves on having some of the finest loose leaf tea in Dublin and are constantly changing their selection. They have over 150 varieties, ranging from classics like breakfast, peppermint or green tea to specialties such as “South of France – Fruit Infusion”, “Shou Mei – White Tea” and many more.
Upon entering Wall and Keogh you will be greeted with tall glass jars full to the brim with tea leaves and staff who are happy to assist with any queries and requests. Tea lovers will definitely appreciate this spot, with its calming scents and the chance to try all of the different flavors.
Authentic Irish treasures
Dublin is full of shops ready to sell you leprechaun hats and any number of items emblazoned with sheep or Guinness. But if you are looking to find that unique memento or gift to take away from your trip, the Irish Design Shop is where you will find it.
The shop was founded in 2008 to promote both Irish craft and those who produce it. From linen-covered notebooks printed with railing designs from around the city to hand-knit Aran scarves to unique Irish cookbooks, you will certainly find a special gift here.
There is also a metalworks studio above the shop that makes some of the beautiful and original jewelry that can be found for sale downstairs.
A little cafe with a big heart
Stepping into Er Buchetto from a busy street will immediately bring a smile to your face. You will be greeted with the freshest ingredients and the happiest staff – regardless if they are stirring scrambled eggs or making a panini, they never fail to greet each customer who walks through their wonderfully purple door.
This place is an Italian cafe, as its name suggests, and the food and drinks they serve are tasty and authentic. There is an incredible selection of panino and artistic lattes. Our Spotter Rose recommends their homemade porridge with blueberries for breakfast or their “rustico panino” for lunch, either accompanied by a latte.
Quiet Dublin seaside
Shelley Banks Beach is quite undiscovered even by local Dublin people, making it wonderful for a peaceful getaway near the city. And despite being near Dublin Port, it has some of the best water quality in the area.
In case you are an adventurer and want to walk to Shelley Banks, this is doable. Spotter Alina has started on this journey from the Science Gallery and made it here after about 1.5 hours of relaxed walking. If you’re not in the mood for that, or if the weather is poor, traveling by car is probably the better way to go.
Once you get here, it’s a highly enjoyable spot to spend a couple of hours at the beach. You can also combine this trip with a visit to nearby Poolbeg Lighthouse, which was built in the 18th century and is a cool visual attraction with its bright red hue.
Vintage bar for cocktail lovers
Although there are flashier cocktail bars around, often in the Temple Bar area, if you come to The Liquor Rooms once you’ll want to keep coming back. Its unique vintage style makes for a great atmosphere. There are both cozy hidden corners and a dancing area, for people looking for different types of nights out.
Most importantly, the cocktails are delicious. While the prices aren’t exactly cheap (Dublin is not known for low-priced alcohol), the bill here will be at least somewhat more reasonable than at other bars.
Hand-picked Irish artwork
Jam Art Factory is an independent gallery and art retailer with a passion for showcasing new Irish design and talent. They sell everything from ceramics and textiles to jewelry and street art in many different forms. The featured artists are hand-picked and each has something unusual and unique to offer the Irish art scene.
This another great spot to pick up a gift for yourself or a friend; especially a colorful print, which is an area they specialize in.
Located in a quiet part of Temple Bar, you could easily pass this place without realizing that it is a historical landmark. First opened in 1662, Smock Alley Theatre has a long and interesting history behind it. After more than a century of performances, it was closed in 1787 and proceeded to pass through various ownership, at one time acting as a warehouse, for another long period as a Catholic Church. It finally reopened as a theater in 2012, earning the nickname “Dublin’s Oldest Newest Theater”. (Check their webpage here if you are curious about the full history!)
Today it remains a vibrant and creative cultural gathering point. The high and ancient stone church walls create a dramatic backdrop for performances. There are a variety of shows to be seen here, from comedy to drama and everything in between. You can also join a historic tour of the building and learn more about its features and what makes it unique compared to the larger and more popular venues around the city.