Australian actress Alison McGirr is experiencing a big break in film. The Irish-Australian actress has strong heritage and ties to the capital and largest city in Ireland. Discover the very essence of Dublin; a town full of artists, poets and creatives, with Alison’s curated city guide.
What can one expect as a first-time visitor?
As you fly into Dublin the beautiful lush green quilt of fields that cover the countryside are completely awe-inspiring. When you get in the city itself, it is alive with people coming and going, there’s music floating out of pubs on every corner, a million stories for every street, building and bridge, and a city full of people more than happy to tell you, or even better, sing them to you.
What are the leading hotels in Dublin?
An opulent 1930’s inspired hotel in the heart of Grafton St and all the shops. Breakfast is delicious and the cocktail bar divine with top notch service. And the beds are super comfy!
A sleek modern hotel with a unique design inspired by the hexagonal stones of the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland and other distinctly Irish landscapes. This urban oasis sits in the heart of Dublin Docklands, with a heavenly rooftop terrace bar, you must match the stunning pink evening skies with a glass of rosé whilst taking in the view from the city to the sea to the mountains.
One of my favourite places in Dublin. The Dean is a beautiful boutique hotel with quirky cool rooms complete with turntables, Netflix and a fully stocked Smeg fridge. Sophie’s, the amazing restaurant on the rooftop does incredible wood fired pizzas with 360-degree views and has a terrace with big old loungey beds that are the place to be at any time of the year.
Your top picks for food and beverage?
One Michelin Star restaurant on the northside of Dublin, located in part of the former home of whiskey maker, George Jameson. This is an absolute must if you want to experience exquisite Irish produce, service and culinary theatre. Book the chefs table for the tasting menu and get Irish coffee after dinner, made in a copper pan on a trolley rolled up tableside, it’s an experience you won’t want to miss!
A lovely contemporary Irish restaurant with a glass ceiling, exposed brick and a courtyard style terrace. The food is delish and the atmosphere hip.
The mecca for foodies, this glorious establishment has a food hall with the best of everything in a deli, grocers and take away counter, not to mention great coffee. In the basement you’ll find the wine cellar, a moody little wine bar with great nibbles and more than 600 wines. Upstairs the restaurant has lovely seasonal fare with a vegan friendly menu.
I love this place for the unassuming atmosphere and amazing home cooked vegetarian/ vegan options. They have a wicked sugar-free cake and dessert selection and also offer organic wines.
Steeped in history, ten minute’s drive from the city centre, The Anglers Rest dates back to 1865 and is said to have been one of Michael Collins favourite spots. It has the freshest, yummiest seafood and is my favourite long Sunday lunch spot. Has a playground for the kiddies too so it’s a great family option.
A gastro bar, restaurant and a cocktail bar with terrace, this is one of the coolest places in town. The atmosphere is lively, service and food are amazing. Try the duck!
A bookshop on the ground floor and restaurant upstairs, this wonderful little place was a favourite of the late great Anthony Bourdain. He loved the cockles and mussels, I love the potted crab and soda bread!
A great little spot for paleo treats, matcha lattes and a damn good cup of coffee!
Perfect for brunch, a trendy little joint that has deliciously creative food and a lovely little courtyard. Go hungry and get the ‘full hubbard’!
What are the liveliest or hip precincts, hubs or bars for a night out?
I love Vintage Cocktail Club in Temple Bar for an intimate speakeasy vibe. Check out Devitt’s on Camden St, it has live Trad (traditional Irish) music five nights a week. Stop by Grogan’s on William St after a day of shopping for the best pint of Guinness and people watching around. Hacienda on Little Mary Street is an awesome local bar with a great underground vibe.
Dublin is distinguished for its city parks and many, many historical landmarks. What cultural landmarks should be on one’s list?
Now unoccupied, a museum that focuses on the political and penal history of the gaol from 1780’s to the 1920’s and the emergence of Ireland as a modern nation. Educational, inspirational and emotional, this is not to be missed.
In the middle of town and has been since 1204. The secrets that are buried in these walls, it’s been the scene of invasions, espionage, famine and the occasional Hollywood film.
An incredible 18th century cobblestone campus that houses the famous 9th century medieval manuscript, The Book of Kells. Irelands greatest cultural treasure, it is a beautifully decorated copy of the four Gospels of the life of Jesus Christ.
45 minutes out of Dublin and absolutely amazing. It is 5,200 years old, older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids. More an Ancient Temple than a passage tomb, it is a world heritage site and is extraordinary during the Winter Solstice when the sun illuminates the passage and chamber.
Legend has it Handel played Messiah on the organ in the church. In the crypts below the church, you can see a 900-year-old crusader and 400-year-old nun whose coffins have broken open revealing their mummified remains.
Dublin Zoo is in Phoenix Park with a wonderful assembly of animals and has a great discovery and learning centre. Tayto Park is an amusement park that has some great rides, a 5D cinema and a zoo just outside Dublin in Co.Meath. Fun for all the family.
For a taste of art, theatre and cultural experiences, what are your choices?
I love the Irish Museum of Modern Art, it sits in the 17th century Royal Kilmainham Hospital and has the country’s best collection of contemporary and modern art by leading Irish and International artists.
Check out some theatre at The Abbey, Irelands national theatre. Opened by W.B Yeats in 1904, seasons include contemporary and classic Irish works.
Grab a Guinness from the source, see how it’s done by taking the tour of The Guinness Storehouse. There’s a reason the black stuff is so popular all over the world.
Go to Ulysses Rare Books, you will find first editions, signed copies, rare gems. You will lose hours looking though, its intoxicating!!
The prominent boutiques, department stores or shopping areas?
Grafton Street and the surrounding side streets make up the town’s main shopping district. Brown Thomas is the luxury dept store on Grafton Street and my biggest weakness. It stocks all the international luxury brands as well as local and international contemporary designers. The living section and restaurant within are worth the visit also.
Avoca Handweavers has a beautiful collection of rugs and woolen clothing alongside ceramics, perfumes, candles and the most incredible award-winning café and food market. The Harlequin is my favourite vintage store in Dublin, its run by a Mother and Daughter and I guarantee you will come away with a number of treasures every time.
Dundrum Town Centre is a great spot if you’re looking for a mall with it all. Harvey Nichols has its Irish outpost here, you’ll also find Brown Thomas’s BT2 which is aimed at the younger, more casual market.
For a day’s escape or getaway, are there any nearby locations one can pair with their Dublin itinerary?
The wonderful thing about Ireland being a small country is that you can get to most places within a few hours. Powerscourt Hotel in Wicklow is a 5-star resort and spa set on am incredible estate that has glorious gardens that you can grab a bike and explore. The rooms are luxurious and service amazing.
Head to Belfast and stay at The Merchant, originally a bank built in the 1850’s, this hotel is divine, it does a delicious High Tea and has a Jazz bar that will make you stay forever. Make sure and check out the Titanic museum and the murals that depict the troubled political history.
Take a drive to Galway and eat oysters and Guinness and check out the Spanish Arch built in 1584.
What is exclusive to Dublin?
The sense of storytelling that the people of Dublin have is second to none. Whether it’s your neighbour, the lady in Brown Thomas or the old man singing over his pint next to you, Dubliners can tell a tale like no other. I love this town because it inspires me, the city and the people have been through so much but every time they fall they’ve gotten back up with a vengeance, bigger, better and with a new story to tell. Dublin has given me the desire and education to do the same. It’s a town full of artists, poets and creatives.
Your insider insights?
Go in the northern Summer, Irish evenings are magical when the skies are pink for hours and the sun stays up until 10pm. Hire a bike and get around town on two wheels. And definitely take yourself to a pub on a night when there’s trad music and sing-a-along!
THE PACKING LIST: