For me, “Dublin” has always conjured images of James Joyce, cobblestone streets, and many pints of frothy Guinness. While all of these images are completely appropriate, they form an incomplete representation of Ireland’s colorful and cosmopolitan capital, a seemingly perfect amalgamation of the old and new. LGTBQ Pride flags stand in juxtaposition to centuries-old churches; neon signs for trendy, upscale cocktail places neighbor quaint Irish pubs that have seen the likes of Samuel Beckett and Oscar Wilde.
My husband, Justin, and I began a week-long adventure in Europe (making stops in Ireland, Paris, and Amsterdam), by exploring this city and its surrounding areas, which, it turns out, is the perfect place for travelers to kick off a European excursion: an accessible and close international airport; seamless transition for English-speaking visitors; and an extremely walkable city full of friendly and lively people. Bonus- if you happen to be a vegan traveler, you’re in luck- Dublin has a ton of really awesome restaurants to sate your appetite with hearty, delicious dishes (and, of course, a possible beer or two to wash it all down).
Justin and I flew into Dublin International Airport around 3 pm on a Sunday. After breezing through immigration, we were a little concerned about figuring out how to get to our Airbnb, having failed to plan ahead. While we typically would catch an Uber or Lyft into the city’s center, ride sharing isn’t permitted in Dublin (although taxis are certainly alive and thriving). In light of the prevalent and affordable public transit, we caught an Airlink bus (the number 747) for about €7 per person to our Airbnb in Temple Bar (a bustling, highly touristy part of the city). Fully embracing our inner tourist, we clamored to the very front of the second story on the double decker and watched the city fly by during our ride through the floor to ceiling windows. Super easy to board and navigate and relatively affordable- 10/10 would recommend.
While ride sharing isn’t allowed in Dublin, you hardly need it- if you stay in the City Center, most of the city’s main tourist draws (the Jameson Factory, National Museum of Ireland, Guinness Storeroom) aren’t further than a half hour or so walk (and, as a bonus, you'll almost surely walk past or through most of the city's landmarks on the way, such as Dublin Castle, St. Patrick's Church, andTrinity College). If going for long strolls isn’t your thing, I’d recommend downloading the MyTaxi app, which essentially is Europe’s version of Uber or Lyft (but with registered taxis). Alternatively, the bus system was super straightforward, inexpensive, and intuitive. Depending on how long you’ll be in Dublin, consider picking up a 24 or 48 hour pass to get on the Hop On-Hop Off buses that circle around the main tourist highlights. If you’ll be in town for a little longer, I’d recommend checking out the 3-day travel card, that will get you a round-trip from the airport on the Airlink bus and unlimited Hop-On- Hop-Off and all public bus rides for only €35.
WHERE TO STAY
As mentioned above, we stayed in the Temple Bar neighborhood, a compact district home to 18th century architecture and all the bars and restaurants one could ever wish for (with some serious pub crawly vibes to match). I found this location super convenient (taxis were readily outside our Airbnb at all hours of the day and we were within about a thirty second walk to at least ten awesome-looking bars and restaurants) and I generally felt safe despite the bustling crowds- so I would definitely recommend staying here. That being said, it is also hyper touristy, so if you're looking for a slightly more authentic experience, you might check out the Creative Quarter, which runs just south of Temple Bar or the up-and-coming Portobello or Stoneybatter neighborhoods, which are full of eclectic shops and hipster bars.
WHAT TO EAT
As a travel blogger (and general Type A person), I had researched Dublin’s vegan scene ahead of time and was a bit nervous. I had seen several threads on social media where posters complained that Ireland was one of the most challenging nations in Europe to find good vegan food. I’m happy to report the only challenging part of my culinary experience in Dublin was narrowing down where to eat!
Parliament St, Temple Bar; Monday-Wednesday 8 am-10 pm; Thursday 8 am-10:30 pm; Friday 8 am- 11:30 pm; Saturday 10 am-11:30 pm; Sunday 12-10 pm
This intimate, light-filled Italian eatery, a stone’s throw away from Dublin Castle, serves up plant-based friendly fare at all meals, specializing in artisanal wood-fired pizza by night, but come morning, serves up the often elusive vegan breakfast, Justin and I stumbled in when the shop first opened at 8 am, looking to caffeinate away our jet lag. After some much needed espresso, we ordered the “vegan breakfast roll”, a pillowy bun stuffed with fresh tomato, vegan bacon, sausage, and cheese, and mushrooms exploding with umami flavor, and the “vegan BLT”, a spin on the much-beloved classic, with cheese and avocado.
The figurative “meat” on these sandwiches was outstanding- the chewy, peppery bacon totally nailed the texture and the produce, from the satisfyingly bitter greens to the creamy avocado, was unbelievably fresh. The real star of the show, here, was the bread- with a firm and crunchy crust, light and airy inside, and the perfect hint of yeasty sourness. With attentive but unintrusive service and calm, mellow vibes, Apertivo is definitely the perfect place to hunker down, sip a shot or two of espresso, and people-watch Dubliners on their way to work as you wait to bury your face in a delightfully delicious breakfast sandwich.
34 Bachelors Walk; Open Mon-Wed 9:00am-10:00pm, Thu-Sat 9:00am-11:00pm, Sun 11:00am-8:00pm
Don’t have time to sit down and order your breakfast? Stroll across the river to the Rolling Donut, an adorable little shop which, amongst its many goodies, boasts about seven or so vegan donut varieties, such as coffee hazelnut and lemon poppyseed. Doughnuts and coffee (with soy, almond, or coconut milk) are available on the go or you can snag one of the few stools in the shop or better yet, plop down on one of the outside tables where you can delight in your donut in peace prior to exploring the city.
While I happily will chow down any pastry, this shop makes the harder-to-find yeast donuts, a fluffier, airier version of its dense cake donut brethren. Justin and I shared a powdered one stuffed with raspberry jam and one glazed with vanilla and pistachios. Biting into the raspberry one was perfection- the tart sourness of the raspberries a well-balanced contrast to the light sweetness of the donut. I love pistachio-flavored anything, but nut-nepotism notwithstanding, the rich, nutty flavor of the pistachios dusted across the pastry added a perfect depth to the almost floral sweetness of the vanilla flavor. Given how much I loved these treats, I only wish my stomach was bigger so I could’ve tried a few more varieties!
Protip #1- While the shop is open fairly late, go early to snag a vegan variety- they allegedly usually sell out by the mid-afternoon.
Proptip #2- In town on a Tuesday? The shop is generally super reasonably priced (a doughnut and coffee will run you a little over €5), but on Tuesday, you can buy two donuts and get one free!.
LUNCH AND DINNER
Richmond St S, Saint Kevin's; 12-10 pm Thursday through Sunday
Out of all the places we ate on our Europe trip, Eatyard was one of my favorites- a colorful courtyard full of container bars, food trucks, and an eclectic mix of young locals and tourists. Almost every single food stall has some kind of scrumptious looking vegan option, but I had come to Eatyard with a mission- I was absolutely dying to try Vish Shop, a spin-off of the much-loved food truck (and now turned brick and mortar storefront), Veginity.
Vish Shop’s main attraction is its Vish and chips, a plant-based version of the British stalwart, made from cassava and wild seaweed- battered to a crunchy, golden crisp and served atop vinegary, salty chips. This cash-only stand has two versions of the dish- the classic (which is served with samphire, a type of briney seaweed) or smokey (served with a spicy kimchi), both of which are smothered with mustard aioli. We ordered a smokey version of the stand-alone Vish and chips, as well as the Vish burger (the same battered patty and aoili served on a bun with lettuce and tomato). I have always loved the texture of fried fish, and Vish Shop nailed this to almost an uncanny degree, the hot, battered outside melting into the light and flaky inside. Beyond the texture, the seaweed gives the Vish a distinct, seafood-like flavor, which was perfectly complemented by the creamy and tangy mustard aioli. After a long day of traveling, this was the absolute perfect meal to start our time in Dublin.
Make sure to stop by Buttercream Dream on your way out of Eatyard- a supercute stand selling a ton of awesome (all vegan!) goodies like chocolate peanut butter cake or salted caramel cupcakes. Justin and I split a brownie, a gooey, chocolatey dream studded with crunchy walnuts- so good!
72-74 Queen Street, Smithfield; Monday through Wednesday 4-11 pm; Thursday Saturday 12 pm-12 am; Sunday 12-11 pm
If you’re visiting during one of Ireland’s famous rainstorms, consider getting dinner at Token, a barcade serving up delicious eats. A bit off the typical tourist path on the outer edges of the Stoneybatter neighborhood, Token, with its retro pinball machines and arcade games, is the perfect place to weather the storm while nomming down on some creative and upscale bar food.
After getting our fill of Ms. Pac Man, Justin ordered a “vegan and chill” dog, with bean and quinoa chili; super creamy queso (just gimme a vat of the queso please); street corn; and jalapenos. I really wish they offered a side of the street corn- the slightly burnt, caramelized flavor of the corn was mind-blowing. This dish was essentially like all my favorite parts of a Tex-Mex meal smothered on top of a meaty hot dog and a pillowy bun.
I ordered “vegan chick” sliders, which featured fried chicken patties, smothered with aioli and hot sauce and served on a brioche bun. Again, the texture on the chicken was almost alarmingly spot-on, a super succulent patty with just the right amount of kick.
No barcade would be complete without an enviable beer and cocktail list- while Justin and I saved room for cocktails elsewhere, I couldn’t help but think how perfect our dishes would have paired with a couple of beers and a raucous game of air hockey.
84 Camden Street Lower, Dublin Southside; 5:30 pm- 2:15 am everyday
If you hit the Irish pubs good and hard, nothing quite hits the spot like some really good and greasy grub before heading home. McGuinness’s Takeaway has all of the usual suspects of a good old-fashioned chipper (slang for a fast food restaurant), like burgers, pizza, and sausages- all available vegan!
Justin and I split a battered sausage; curry chips (for Americans, fries smothered in a cheesy, curry sauce); and a veggie kabob (with chickpea fritters, lettuce, and tomato, wrapped in a soft, chewy pita). This was our last meal in Dublin and seemingly nothing summed up our visit to this festive-party loving city than this stick-to-your-ribs meal. Douse a battered sausage in salt and vinegar, pull up a wooden stool at one of the counters, and watch bar-goers stumble in to order up some cheap and super delicious eats. You can thank me later.
WHAT TO DO
Drink Lots of Guinness
First order of business -find a fun Irish pub (there’s actually one right next to Eatyard, called the Bernard Shaw... or basically on every single corner) and order up a pint or two of Guinness (Smithwicks will do in a pinch). Depending on your pub of choice, you may get lucky and see some lads randomly singing traditional Irish folk music. If not, chat with a few of the locals- most of the ones we ran into were really friendly!
If you're a James Joyce or history nerd (or just need a little bit more structure than to simply "drink beer at am Irish pub"), the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl sounds like a lovely way to spend an evening. This tour takes you from one pub to pub, whilst a tour guide explains historical facts about famous Irish authors who had partaken in the drink at that particular establishment and acts out scenes from their works. Who doesn't like a little Irish lit with a side of beer?
Catch a Comedy Show
You can combine your imbibing of Guinness with one of the best things we did in Ireland- checking out a comedy show. We first tried the show at the International Bar (shows are offered upstairs nightly; cover charge of €5 when we went); however, the show was unfortunately cancelled because too few people had shown up due to the ongoing World Cup (is anything more Irish than that?).
We then headed over to the Stag’s Head (free comedy every Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday night, with free ice cream or popsicles). The crowd was mostly tourists, but the comedians were all born and bred Irishmen; listening to their jokes was not only a peek into typical upbringings and day-to-day life in Ireland, but also gave a super interesting perspective of someone else’s world view. With the hot mess that is American politics right now, it was eye-opening to hear someone else’s opinion of Trump, Brexit, and Vladimir Putin from someone who lives and breathes almost four thousand miles away from me. A cheap and funny activity (that is also a super great option if the weather is not cooperating) with a side of unique worldview, a popsicle, AND a pint of Harp? Count me in.
Get Out of Dublin
With such a short period in Dublin (we really only had one 9 am-5 pm timeframe here, which is when the majority of the popular sites are open), it may seem strange to head to the hills instead of exploring Dublin’s main tourist draws. Seeing the rolling emerald hills of Ireland was way, way, WAY high on my list, though, and while, had I had more time, would have loved to see Kilmainham Gaol (a former Irish prison in the 18th through 20th century that housed many Irish revolutionaries) or the Hogwarts-esque library of Trinity College, exploring the Irish mountains won out.
I wanted to go on some sort of hike while in the countryside, so settled on a well-reviewed and reasonably priced tour company called Hilltop Treks . The 8 hour tour, which included about an hour and fifteen minute hike in the Barnaslingan area of the Dublin mountains, cost €35. While driving to our hike, the tour guide was a positive encyclopedia of facts, trivia, and even Irish folk songs about Dublin and the various geological features we passed- just unbelievably informative. When we reached the destination for our hike (which was very moderate and completely doable for most reasonably in shape individuals), he explained that the forests of the Dublin Mountains were actually undergoing a series of wildfires due to the uncharacteristically dry, hot conditions the area had experienced recently; it was pretty bizarre to climb through evergreen forests, casually seeing brush all around us smolder and smoke.
Despite the unusual (and slightly alarming) conditions, the view from the ascent of the hike was simply stunning, with the sleeping giant mountains of Ireland as the backdrop, a patchwork of emerald farmland spreading before us, and, in the distance, the craggy Irish coast.
The tour stopped in the quaint town of Eniskerry, where we hit up Poppie’s, a fast casual eatery, for lunch. Being such a small town in the countryside, I was pretty skeptical there would be any substantive food options for us (although I had been assured by the tour company before our trip that Poppie’s catered to “everyone”). My preemptive side eye was promptly shut down by our server behind the counter, who (a) instantly knew what vegan was and (b) told us exactly what options they had. We both opted for a potato cake, essentially a giant ball of seasoned mashed potatoes mixed with peas and carrots and pan fried to create a golden brown exterior. This was pretty much exactly what I had imagined being served in a cute cafe in a small Irish village, so I was beyond content.
If you stop in Eniskerry, make sure to sip a pint of beer on the Eniskerry Inn’s sidewalk. You may get lucky and have a run in with the very lovable town fluffball, Daisy.
Our tour continued on to the Wicklow Mountains National Park, one of the most mesmerizingly beautiful places I’ve ever been.
We ended the day in Glendalough, exploring the monastic ruins before hiking to the stunning vistas of the Upper and Lower Lakes. I only wish I had more time to explore Glendalough- go for a swim in the glacial valley, pick up a beer at the onsite brewery, and check out more hikes the site has to offer. For learning a ton of interesting facts and seeing a lot of beautiful things within a short timeframe, though, I can’t think of anything better than taking this tour.
Explore the Cocktail Culture
While Dublin is known for plucky Irish pubs, it also has some really unique and inventive cocktail bars that are worth a stop. Our first stop, The Liquor Rooms, was no exception (6-8 Wellington Quay Dublin 2, Co.; 5 pm- 2 am Sunday through Tuesday; Wednesday 5 pm-2:30 am; Thursday through Saturday 5 pm- 3 am). The menu is beyond cool- each drink is named after a strong, influential Irish woman, with the gorgeously illustrated menu daftly depicting the woman’s importance in Irish history. The drinks themselves are creative- when I saw tofu listed as an ingredient in a cocktail (essentially serving as a creamy base in “grown up” take on a pina colada), I was totally sold. While tasty cocktails are one thing, the interior of this bar is next level- imagine a mash-up of an eccentric grandma meets a bordello meets a circus (with a steampunk twist). This would definitely be one of my go-to first dates spots were I to live in Dublin.
Another fun bar is the Vintage Cocktail Club (8 Suffolk St, Dublin; Sunday, Tuesday through Thursday 6 pm-12 am; Friday through Saturday, 5 pm-2 am). Behind a nondescript door on an otherwise bustling and thriving street, this speakeasy, all red velvet, chaise lounges and mood lighting, serves up a lengthy list of cocktails, expertly categorized by their original time period (think early 1400s-1600s, prohibition, or tiki).
Try an Absinthe Minded, a citrusy absinthe-based concoction with Johnny Walker Black, Hayman’s Sloe gin, and Cherry Heering. On a nice night, grab a seat on the top floor, with its roof opening up to the cool, crisp night air above. Reservations are typically recommended (which can be made via the website), but when we went on a Monday night, ringing the doorbell was all that was needed.
While I wish we would have had more time to explore Dublin (and really, Ireland as a whole), our trip gave us a pretty good taste of the wonders that this beautiful island has to offer. Have you been to Dublin- any recommendations of things to do, see, and of course, eat? Where should we check out next on the Emerald Isle? Let me know in the comments below!