Dublin has had an avalanche of new hotels in recent years but while this had added more choice it doesn’t seem to have made it less expensive to stay in the central city. High demand means that the best hotels can take a substantial bite out of your budget and most expensive hotels also add a 15% service charge to the published price. Central city lodgings can be summarized as luxury modern, luxury Georgian or Victorian, mid-market, basic and B&Bs.
My first recommendation is a B&B property but it overlaps several of the other categories. Number 31 gives you the option of Georgian elegance or cool modern. It incorporates the past home of Dublin’s most famous modernist architecture but also has rooms in a grand Georgian house.
The Westbury and the Four Seasons fit into the luxury modern category, the Shelbourne and Merrion into the luxury Georgian or Victorian, and the Jurys Inn Christchurch is one example of a mid-market property in the central city but there are loads of these places in the suburbs.
When it comes to eating, Dublin has something to suit just about everyone. Patrick Guilbaud, La Stampa and One Pico prove that great chefs make great restaurants but there are many other less-expensive choices. Dunne and Crescenzi is a popular little Italian joint just off Nassau Street, while Bewley’s Oriental Café still manages to retain some dignity despite its transformation and the Queen of Tarts is a fun place for a tea and pastry.
The distinction between cafes and restaurants appears to be arbitrary with many restaurants offering café-fare at lunchtime and some cafes becoming almost bistros at night. It is interesting to see in both restaurants and cafes, the emergence of Indian curries, Thai chili dishes and other pan-Asian delights. These happily sit beside French and Italian food and there is often a fusion dish as well.
Pubs are an integral part of Dublin’s social life and an essential part of any visit. The area between Grafton and Great George streets is a gold mine for classy pubs but some of the oldest are outside this area. When you visit, a Guinness is a must but don’t be afraid to try some of the food as well because many offer straight-forward but excellent value meals, particularly at lunch time.
Hotels on the northside of the city tend to be cheaper for similar facilities when compared with those on the southside. Remember, however, that most places of visitor interest are south of the river.
Many central hotels have a cheaper ‘weekend rate’ while a few work the opposite way with a midweek special rate. These are generally only available on a prebooked basis so it pays to ask when booking a room.
If you have rented a car, a location outside the city center may be better. Many hotels do not have secure parking and there is little need for a car for exploring the central city during the day because it is relatively small and public transport is good.
The lunchtime set-course menus at some restaurants and cafes are good value when compared with the evening a-la-carte menus. Prices can be half for similar dishes. It is also worth checking out the early-bird menus (before 7pm or so) in the evening.
Many pubs will serve you a tea or coffee just as easily as they dispense Guinness.
Keep your eye out for seasonal specials in restaurants. Some of the more popular are quail and pheasant.
Fresh and smoked salmon, oysters, and mussels are some of the better seafood offerings. You can sometimes find real bargains with these when harvests are good.
Don’t miss out on an Irish breakfast at least one morning. This includes bacon rashes, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes, a fried egg, black and white puddings and soda bread with creamy butter. It goes down best with a pot of tea.
For more information on Dublin see Experience Ireland an ebook available at www.amazon.com/kindle then search Len Rutledge.