Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Hidden Gems of Dublin

{ Sponsored Guest Post by HostelBookers }

Dublin, Ireland, has some hidden treasures that welcome the occasional intrepid traveler. Go for the authentic Irish experience instead of the diluted versions frequented by the thundering crowds when you step off the road less traveled and dive into the wilds of Dirty Dublin.

Iveagh Gardens
Although only a stone’s throw from bustling St. Stephen’s Square, most tourists remain oblivious to Dublin’s “Secret Garden” because it can’t be seen from the busy sidewalks. Only accessible via a gate in a red brick wall beside the Dublin National Concert Hall, it’s not promoted as an attraction because it would surely lose its exclusive charm. Once inside, you’ll notice the city sounds are drowned out by the bubbling dome-shaped waterfall bordered with lush plants. Curl up on a shady bench to read a book or sprawl out with a picnic on the green lawn to admire the silent statues. Designed for the private use of the Earl of Clonmell, the park is technically open to the public – but only those in the know.

{ photo by infomatique }

Chester Beatty Library Shop
Often overlooked because visitors are so awed by Dublin’s finest art gallery/museum/library they don’t even realize it’s there, the Chester Beatty Library gift shop deserves a trip all its own just to explore their delightful selection. Lurking amid the typical Dublin souvenirs are reprints of rare Egyptian papyruses, beautiful coffee table art books and exquisite postcards. A treasure you certainly won’t find anywhere else are catalogues from previous exhibits featuring entire collections lavishly printed on topics from Japanese porcelains to illustrated holy books. Don’t overlook the CD rack; it’s loaded with dynamic selections by known and obscure musicians from all over the world. Pick up local and imported jewelry with an exotic flair at reasonable prices and check out the special displays that reflect whatever exhibit is featured at the time. Who knows what you could come out with… anything from a string of authentic Indian mantra prayer beads to an origami paper kit for making your own handmade treasures at home!

The Rotunda Hospital
Not too many folks think to go into Dublin’s oldest maternity hospital, it’s usually just admired from outside by tourists. But inside you’ll find lavish crystal chandeliers, marble pillars and an exquisite chapel with a second story church organ that’s as impressive as any you’ll see in the well-known cathedrals. Many public functions are held in the Pillar Room, so don’t be surprised if you find fascinating lectures, seminars and celebrations in progress that may tempt you to join in just to bask in the positive spirit that permeates the building where many of Dublin’s citizens are born!

Ha’penny Flea Market at the Grand Social
Every Saturday from 11am until 5pm you can rummage through the stalls at Dublin’s eclectic indoor flea market where you’ll encounter everything from handmade Irish folk remedies to bootleg iPods. Indulge in local delicacies while you watch free performances by talented musicians, poets and actors. The energy in the market really picks up around the Christmas holidays with extra Sunday openings and expanded space for seasonal specialties you won’t find anywhere else.

The Port House
Escape from the chill on those inevitable cloudy days in Dublin at the Port House, a restaurant tucked away on South William Street that radiates the warmth of the Iberian Peninsula. Wash down delicious Basque pintxos dishes from the tapa bar with their wide selection of ports, sherries and hearty Spanish wines that spread a warm glow from your nose down to your toes. The candles on every table give the downstairs room an extra cozy element that makes it perfect for a romantic evening. Upstairs, the laid back atmosphere is ideal for arranging dinner with friends without spending a bundle.

Walkabout Wicklow
Treat yourself to a full day hike into the wild mountains just outside Dublin with Joe, an enthusiastic and friendly native who delights in guiding visitors across the rugged landscape to see beautiful lakes, old oak forests and meadowlands that native goats and highland deer call home. Walking with Joe through the ruins of the monastery at Glendalough you’ll learn interesting details and historical tidbits that add clarity to your understanding of Ireland’s turbulent past. Although you can see the city of Dublin from certain vantage points along your route, you’ll feel far removed from the hectic urban scene and in touch with the wild beauty that continually shapes the rich heritage of Emerald Isles.

{ Photo by Eire Sarah }

Bowes Bar
For the ultimate Irish pub experience, this Fleet Street establishment has somehow maintained a low profile that’s kept the old world charm alive with a friendly atmosphere that makes you feel so at home you’re chatting with the locals in no time. On Sunday nights, enjoy a creamy pint watching some of the best traditional musicians from all over Ireland, including renowned artists like Uileann Piper, who play for free into the wee hours.

Sure, landing a room in a cheap Dublin hotel where you can sign up for walking tours and guided bus trips is cool, but for those of us brave enough to break away from the pack.

::: Footnotes :::

This is a sponsored guest post. While this post was not written by me, I only choose sponsored posts that are relevant and interesting. 

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