Once a backwater among European capitals, Dublin has become a cosmopolitan place. Shopping areas such as Grafton Street are lined with fashionable stores, and the city’s restaurants now serve reliably delicious cuisine. The quality of the seafood is exceptional. At the same time, the city has retained much of its traditional charm. The Georgian architecture of Merrion Square, Mountjoy Square and Leinster House (the Irish Parliament building) is exquisite. Once, such neoclassical structures were regarded by zealous republicans as remnants of an alien English presence, and there were even calls for their demolition. Fortunately, history has moved on, and today they are seen as intrinsic to Dublin’s identity and part of a wider European cultural heritage.
The Finest Irish Tweed and Woven Goods
I know of no better source for Irish tweeds than Kevin & Howlin (31 Nassau Street, D2), where you will find an incomparable array of jackets, hats, waistcoats, ties, scarves and more. Just off Grafton Street, Avoca (11-13 Suffolk Street, D2) is a wonderful store that specializes in woven goods — throws, scarves, blankets in colors from rainbow bright to autumnally subtle — as well as a fantastic array of housewares. The top-floor café is delightful.
Decorative Arts & History at the National Museum of Ireland
The Decorative Arts & History collection of the National Museum of Ireland (Benburb Street, D7) is a rich trove of silverware, ceramics and furniture that shows off the superb skill of Irish artisans. It is housed in the splendidly modernized Collins Barracks.
Waterford Crystal and Belleek China
If you get the opportunity, visit Waterford, 100 miles south of Dublin, the home of Waterford Crystal. Another iconic Irish product is Belleek China, which has been made in County Fermanagh for more the 150 years. Two shops in Dublin offer particularly good selections and are conveniently set just a short walk away from each other: House of Ireland (114 Lower Grafton Street, D2) and Kilkenny Shop (6 Nassau Street, D2).
The Teeling Whiskey Distillery
Although Irish whiskey enjoyed robust sales in the early part of the 20th century, its popularity declined in the ’60s and ’70s, and Dublin’s last distillery shut down in 1976. However, in 2015, descendants of Walter Teeling, who opened a distillery in 1782, built Dublin’s first new distillery in more than 125 years. Located in the Liberties area, Teeling Whiskey Distillery (13-17 Newmarket, D8) offers daily tours. A very good historical exhibition sets the scene, and the tour then goes through all the steps of whiskey production, including a visit to the three copper pot stills that are at Teeling’s heart. A tasting follows. Whiskey from selected casks is given further aging in former rum barrels, which impart a spicy vanilla nose to the spirit. A bottle came home in my luggage.