Whisky, Guinness, and literary masterpieces in, well, whisky and Guinness’ joints. That’s about what most of us expect of Dublin, Ireland, right? I don’t mean for that to sound reductive. Many people around the world appear to regard it as a very alluring place, and one worth keeping on a travel bucket list. As with so many other cities in the world, however – Barcelona with its club scene, Rome with ancient ruins, Amsterdam with its, ahem, coffee shops – it’s come to be defined by just a few things we all know about it. We all know Dublin is home to Guinness and other terrific beers, that it’s one of the true capitals of whisky, and that its pubs have a reputation for having housed famous poets and writers over the years.
The Irish capital is far more than these things, however, and far more delightful than only they can convey! To express this idea, I’m outlining a few things many might find surprising and lovely about the city – with the obvious caveat that the brewpubs, whisky distilleries, and rich literary history are legitimate highlights.
There’s A Giant Spike Stabbing The Sky
I don’t think there’s a cooler urban monument that fewer people know about than the Dublin Spire. Granted, it isn’t an actual building, which may limit the company it can be considered in, but purely as an architectural landmark in a major city, it’s pretty cool. It is quite literally a massive spike or spire, 120 meters tall and symbolizing – well, nothing, actually. The truth of the matter is that Ireland has a complicated relationship with the Spire, as it cost tax dollars to erect and clean and doesn’t seem to serve any real purpose or commemorate anything meaningful. For tourists though, it’s something interesting to see, and for my money, any unique or original landmark in a major city can be appreciated so long as it isn’t an eyesore – which this is not. Local resentment aside, it’s pretty cool.
There’s A Very Real Castle
This is something more people are aware of, but just to be perfectly clear there is a castle within the city limits rather than outside them or 45 minutes away by car (as is the case with the castles around London, for the most part). Dating back to the days of the Vikings, Dublin Castle remains a striking sight and is actually still in use for certain state purposes. You can take a guided tour, or simply let yourself in for a self-guided tour at a lower price.
There Are Casinos
I grant you, casinos don’t typically fall under the heading “delightful,” but there is something charming about such establishments in old, European cities. In this case, there’s actually an interesting dichotomy of sorts, because much of Ireland’s gaming and gambling takes place online. The best places to play your favourite game are typically Irish- and British-operated casino sites. But the best place to really enjoy a night out around a poker table or something similar, while in Dublin at least, is one of its two or three small but classy gaming venues. The Fitzwilliam Casino & Card Club, in particular, is – wait for it – a delight.
Shopping Is Top Notch
As with casinos, some who simply aren’t interested in shopping might easily gloss over this section. But mind you, I’m not just talking about the idea of buying goods, so much as the total experience of browsing through a shopping district, which can be almost unusually pleasant in the right setting. Dublin offers just such a setting in the form of multiple shopping streets, but in particular, the wonderful pedestrian mall of Grafton Street is worth exploring for a little while. With or without any purchases, it’s a nice experience out and about in the city.
An Old Church Has A Bar In It
Okay, I realize I addressed the beer and whisky stuff above, but I need to wrap this up by pointing out the most unique and appealing bar in the city. It’s not some ancient watering hole where James Joyce twirled his pen, nor the Guinness storehouse, nor the Jameson Whisky distillery. Instead, it’s an old church. Technically more of a bar and restaurant in one, “The Church” occupies the former St. Mary’s Church of Ireland, which closed in 1964 after hundreds of years of operation. With the original pipe organ and stained glass windows still in place, it makes for an incredibly unique drinking and dining venues and is undoubtedly one of the coolest places you can visit in town.