I lived in Dublin for the better part of a decade - moving there when I married an Irishman and staying much longer than planned! I arrived with the same stereotypical expectations that most visitors come with, images of sheep, rolling green hills and pints of Guinness. But of course, it didn't take long to realize that Dublin offers so much more than just the stereotypes. It's a perfectly sized city, very walkable with lots of neighborhoods to explore - and even more museums, restaurants and shops to stop in during the periodical rain showers. Here are some of my favorite spots in Dublin!
Find an authentic (read: non-touristy) pub.
Top of most visitors' lists is a pint of Guinness in an Irish pub, but not all pubs are created equal. Avoid pubs like The Temple Bar if you're looking for more than a photo op. Instead, try pubs that locals love, like Mulligans or the Stag's Head. You'll find a much more delicious and affordable pint of Guinness in a more authentic environment. (For more tips, I wrote a how-to guide to blending in at an Irish pub as well!)
Focus on locally sourced ingredients, not corned beef and cabbage.
I gave walking tours in Dublin for several years, and I was commonly asked what is authentic Irish food. Well, it's not corned beef. In 7 years of living in Dublin, not once did I see corned beef on the menu. Instead, focus on restaurants that cook with local Irish ingredients. My favorite place for this is the Winding Stair, which serves a delicious menu inspired by Irish sausages and locally raised meat, Irish cheese and even seaweed from the Irish sea.
Drink the coffee.
After more than a year away from Dublin, I still miss the coffee. Not because Houston doesn't have great coffee, it certainly does, but because Irish milk is like non other and turns a regular latte into a heavenly treat. Drink the coffee at Brother Hubbard or 3FE.
People watch in the parks.
At the top of Grafton Street, the city's main shopping street, is a peaceful respite from the crowds and tourists. St. Stephen's Green is a gated park with a swan-filled pond, fountains, a playground and beautiful flower beds. In the summer months, any sunny day will find every Irish person taking up a patch of grass searching for vitamin D. But even in the winter months, posting up on a park bench to people watch is a wonderful way to spend an hour.
Museums are free!
All the government-run museums are free to the public (although closed on Mondays) and worth dipping into. Try the Museum of Natural History (a much smaller version than its British counterpart), which school children have coined the Dead Zoo. Full of taxidermied animals from all over Ireland and the world, it's a beautiful building architecturally as well. Try the National Museum of Ireland for Archeology as well - make sure to visit the bog men, bodies mummified in the peat bogs and discovered hundreds of years later. And when you enter the Victorian foyer, look up at the incredible ceiling and down at the mosaic floor.
Leave the city - for mountains or the seaside.
Dublin is set so close to the sea and mountains, and it's well worth a half-day trip to either. Hop on the train north or south to Howth or Dalkey for a cliff walk and fishing village visit. Or take a bus out to Glendalough for a hike in the Dublin mountains.
Irish craft goes far beyond Aran jumpers. Try the Irish Design Shop for beautiful modern Irish jewelry, pottery and textiles. Or Kilkenny shop for slightly more traditional souvenirs for friends and family. Avoca is another worthwhile stop - for lunch in their basement food hall or top floor restaurant, with several floors of shopping in between.
If you're planning a trip to Dublin, I wrote an e-guide to the city with even more tips to help you plan! You can find it here.