Uncover in a day, some of the best-hidden gems Dublin has to offer. Find here a special guide on one of our favourite cities in the world.
Ireland’s capital, Dublin is a hub of museums, restaurants and architecture. You could stay for a week and only scratch the surface of what’s on offer. But, here’s where we suggest you begin:
Hidden gems Dublin: best afternoon tea
Afternoon tea may be a traditional English affair, but the Irish know how to do it well. Whether you’re looking for cheap and cheerful or a truly decadent experience, Dublin is crawling with places that offer a delightful spot of tea.
The Shelbourne Hotel
Overlooking St. Stephen’s Green, The Shelbourne is the grandest 5-star hotel in Dublin. It’s located right in the heart of the city. Less a hidden gem of Dublin and more a ‘must-see’, everything about the hotel screams elegance. Their afternoon tea is no different.
Take a seat in one of the plush velvet chairs of the Lord Mayor’s room. Be treated to delicate cakes, exquisite finger sandwiches and local delicacies like house-smoked Castletownbere salmon and Guinness bread. You heard right, Guinness Bread!
The Shelbourne Hotel definitely leans towards the more expensive side of the scale at €52 per person. However, if you’re in the mood for an affluent treat, there’s nowhere like it. You’re on holiday, after all, treat yourself!
Vintage Tea Tour
For Afternoon Tea with a difference, this hidden treasure offers you an experience like no other. Take a step back in time on a vintage 1961 Routemaster bus, affectionately named Pauline. Enjoy your Afternoon Tea on the streets of Dublin.
Perfect for visiting the capital, the Vintage Tea Tour takes you past some of Dublin’s much loved historical sights. While you’re sipping your tea and nibbling on a traditional scone with clotted cream, you’ll be treated to a 1950’s jazz soundtrack and some great local stories from your hosts.
Hidden gems Dublin: grab a bite to eat
When you’re only popping over for a short stay, you don’t want to spend your time wandering the streets looking for lunch. Thankfully, you’re spoilt for choice when looking for somewhere to eat in Dublin.
What better way to enjoy a day away than with a gourmet lunch? In the centre of Dublin, The Greenhouse is a Michelin star restaurant that has been setting the standard for over six years.
Finnish chef Mickael Vijanen has been named the ‘best chef in Ireland’ on multiple occasions. You just need to taste The Greenhouse’s menu to see why. Naturally, the restaurant is a little on the pricey side. However, sneak in for their lunch menu and you can spoil yourself with a very reasonable €45 two-course meal. You’ll need to be swift though, as lunch is only served 12 to 2pm and it fills up quickly!
If you like to stay organised and have a full day of exploring planned, you’ll want to grab lunch on the go. Don’t think that you’ll have to sacrifice quality though, quite the opposite in fact.
This Take a trip down South Richmond Street in Portobello and you’ll stumble upon The Eatyard. It’s a permanent street food market and one of Dublin’s best-kept secrets.
Here you’ll find fantastic flatbreads from Olea, award-winning burgers from Handsome Burger or a gloriously gothic black ice-cream cone from Milk Bar Ice-Cream.
This rag-tag group of vendors may be light on your wallet but they’re big on taste!
Hidden gems Dublin: what to see
Dublin is a city that is rich in history and has plenty to see, both modern and ancient. Whether you fancy visiting the iconic Temple Bar for a Guinness or feel like walking through the enormous Phoenix Park, you’ll not be stood twiddling your thumbs.
Trinity College Library
An absolute must-see for any bibliophile, the Trinity College Library dates back to 1592. It houses an impressive collection of over 6 million volumes of journals, manuscripts, maps and music, showcasing 400 years of academic development.
It’s not just the books that make this such a tourist hot spot. The architecture of the building itself is, in a word, stunning. The appropriately named Long Room features a 200-foot-long central walkway with endless bookshelves spanning over two floors. Plus, with marble busts of philosophers and a beautiful barrel ceiling, make sure you have your camera at the ready for this one.
St Patrick’s Cathedral
If the Trinity College Library wasn’t enough to widen your eyes, then make sure you head over to St Patrick’s Cathedral. One of two cathedrals in Dublin, St Patrick’s was built in honour of Ireland’s patron Saint and offers visitors breathtaking sights.
One of Dublin’s most popular visitor attractions, the cathedral offers guided tours to show you around the building’s 800-year history. Or, you’re just as welcome to take in the amazing sights yourself.
Hidden gems Dublin: sweet treats
If you’re looking for a tasty treat while exploring the streets of Dublin, or simply want to add the perfect finishing touch to your lunch, there are some lovely spots to enjoy some sugary goodness.
The Rolling Donut
If you’re not a local, this tasty hidden gem may have fallen under your radar. The city of Dublin is home to not one, but three Rolling Donut shops. There are even more further afield.
Head over to South King Street or towards the O’Connell Monument and treat your tastebuds to ingeniously inventive doughnuts. They’re lovingly prepared at this family business that has been operating for over 40 years.
The diverse menu includes simple classics like the vanilla glaze and more decadent options such as the Bailey’s bliss. There’s familiar faces like the Terry’s Chocolate Orange and Kinder Bueno doughnuts. Plus, a protein-packed peanut butter doughnut for gym bunnies and even vegan-friendly options, so there’s no excuse not to try one!
If you feel like indulging your fancy side, Ladurée on William Street South is the place to be. The famous French Patisserie has extended its reach to Ireland and brings with it a true taste of Paris.
The perfect spot for a quick coffee break, Ladurée offers an array of cakes, pastries and biscuits to treat your taste buds. The real star of the show, are the macaroons! Trust us when we say these macaroons are the best you’ll taste outside of Paris. You can even take them away with you in a beautiful gift box.
Lastly, don’t miss in Dublin…
With so much to try and squeeze into a single day trip, there are some things you’ll need to wait and see another time. There are some things though, that are simply too good to pass up. Here are a couple of our favourite things to see in Dublin that you should try to make time for:
If you’re interested in learning about Ireland’s turbulent history, this lesser known tourist destination is a living legacy. It’s a remarkable window into the past.
Having held some of the most famous political and military leaders in Irish history, visitors receive a dramatic and realistic insight as to what it was like to be confined between 1796 and 1924.
The prison offers a guided tour and exhibitions, giving you a fantastic look as to how Kilmainham Gaol operated and what role it had in Irish history. If it looks familiar, it could be due to the fact that many films including The Italian Job, The Whistle Blower and The Escapist were all filmed in this location.
It may not have the prestige of world-famous Madame Tussauds, but Dublin’s National Wax Museum is a good laugh. Walking through the museum, you’ll be greeted by some of Ireland’s top celebrities, including Father Ted, Connor McGregor and of course, Jedward.
The Time Vaults exhibit lets you experience Irish History from Viking invasions to the Good Friday agreement. Or you can scare yourself silly in the Chambers of Horror with some familiar, albeit frightening faces from pop culture.
There’s plenty of amazing experiences outside of the city too, if you’re up for an extra adventure. We visited County Wicklow – read about why you should too.
Whether you’re looking for a cheap and cheerful trip or an opulent break away from home, Dublin has something for everyone. This guide of Dublin’s hidden gems is a great place to start when planning your day trip. But, the best way to experience what the city has to offer is to get yourself there and to start exploring.
If you’re now inspired to take a trip to the Emerald Isle, take a look at Stena Lineferries for a fun and relaxing way to travel. We’d suggest exploring more than just Dublin too – Kenmare and Killarney are a real treat!
Seeking an alternative for exploring the emerald Isle? Think about house sitting Ireland: find out more
When Alice Ross pitched this piece on beaches and scuba diving in Santorini, of course we said yes! Read her guide before your trip…
Recreational scuba diving was restricted in Greece for a long time. The government did it to prevent antiquities smugglers – diving was allowed to only some people who were given special authorisation by the authorities determined to protect the country’s marine life and remains of archaeological importance.
Fortunately, in 2004, authorities lifted the restrictions and anyone who wants to scuba dive just about anywhere in the country is allowed to do it for recreation.
Since then, Greece has quickly become one of the most visited scuba diving sites in the world. With more than 4,000 islands and 12,000 miles of coastline, the Greek seas offer an ideal place for scuba diving.
Guide to beaches and scuba diving Santorini
One of the best places to do scuba diving is in Santorini. The marine life that you can find the coast of Santorini is arguably well-known. The island’s waters, formed by a volcanic eruption that took place in the 16th century, are rich with mineral, supporting a solid range of coral and creatures.
These great volcanic eruptions have formed wonderful underwater backdrop giving scuba divers ceaseless options for wall dives and unending stops all over the volcanic islets and the caldera.
Aside from the beautiful underwater world Santorini offers, the water visibility all over the island is good! The water temperature is approximately 22°C, so make sure to wear some nice wetsuit.
Diving in the vicinity of the caldera is also possible; however, the southern side of the island is the one that offers a variety of delightful caves which you are able to explore with the help of a master diver who is familiar with the site.
If you are interested in visiting Santorini for diving, this list of four beaches where you can scuba dive is worth checking out.
…Is a very famous beach resort that should be top of your list.
It’s an organised, developed beach with a plenty of comfortable beach chairs, umbrellas, as well as other amenities, such as lifeguards, playground, and of course a shower. It’s worth mentioning that it was awarded Blue Flag award for being organised and clean.
When you reach the end of the beach is where you will find the diving spot. There are also two diving centres you can check out on this beach. Aside from that, however, you are able to pick from different water sports like windsurfing jet skiing, kayaking, and parasailing. Lastly, a wonderful water park with pools offers and water slides that cater to anyone of any age.
…is a long, black sand beach with beautiful deep blue waters which is connected to and Agios Georgios Beach and Perissa Beach.
It’s another well-organised beach with sunbeds, lifeguards, umbrellas, taverns, restaurants, cafes, supermarkets, bars, showers, a playground, and public toilets.
There are many beach bars playing club the latest music, DJ guest during the weekend, volleyball tournaments, and exciting events on special occasion. But of course, this is also a nice place to go if you are looking for some underwater (or even over the surface) adventures!
Located less than one kilometre from Perivolos Beach, Agios is a big, sandy organised beach.
It’s more peaceful than its neighbouring beaches, and the water is shallower.
Some small taverns offer delicious lunch. Umbrellas and sun beds can be rented if you want to relax at the beach, and there are a lot of opportunities for water sports like scuba diving.
Divers can explore the beauty of Santorini’s marine life under the supervision of master divers who prioritise safety. The locations for dives might be very local in the bay and all over the neighbouring headland cliffs or a little further afield, depending on water visibility and conditions.
Ammoudi Bay Beach
This beach is accessible by walking or riding ride down the 214 steps from the castle of Oia.
Amoudi Bay is well-known for its traditional Greek inns with fresh seafood and the astounding romantic sunsets. Once Santorini’s commercial port, Amoudi Bay has now become a tourist spot. There might not be sunbathing comforts at this beach unlike the other ones mentioned above, but the diving scene here is impeccable. Diving here is something you wouldn’t definitely find anywhere else in the world.
Santorini isn’t only about sunsets, beautiful landscapes, and majestic geometric houses in the villages.
If you take your time to explore deeper, you will have the chance to experience an amazing adventure in Santorini. If you have not experienced diving before but you’re interested, you don’t have anything to be worried about as most dive shops in Santorini offer a non-certified scuba diving course where you’ll have to engage in a brief scuba diving introductory lesson before diving down to a depth of maximum 6 to 7 feet.
Admittedly, going on a cruise wasn’t something I’d seriously considered, but my partner and I had a few spare days during an overseas business/pleasure holiday in Miami and I thought, why not check out what’s available? And that’s exactly how we found ourselves on Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas for a 4 night cruise through the Bahamas.
We boarded at the Port of Miami with similar ease to checking into a flight only instead of waiting at the gate or in the airport lounge we found ourselves immediately enjoying lunch on the ship. Rooms were cosy and perfectly fine for two, because really, who books a Bahamas cruise to stay in a cabin?
The ship offers all you’d expect – swimming pools, sun decks, restaurants, shopping outlets, a cabaret theatre for nightly entertainment, children’s activities and more (including a rock climbing wall.) Additionally, the wealth of excursions available can make it tricky to choose just a few and pack them into your time in port.
The first stop in Nassau allowed us to wander around the port enjoying the area before experiencing a swim with a dolphin on Blue Lagoon Island, a private island with plenty of opportunity to engage with dolphins, sea lions and more. Guests also have the option of visiting the popular Atlantis Resort and experiencing the water park as just one of the resorts several facilities.
Stop two, the private island of CocoCay, owned by Royal Caribbean and set up as your own private paradise. Guests are encouraged to make the most of the sunshine with lounge chairs and hammocks everywhere. A large range of activities including water slides, snorkelling and more are also available for guests.
The final port before our return was Key West, Florida where we ventured off to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the island via parasail before wandering the port village and enjoying a slice of the famous key lime pie (delish).
Prior to our journey, we were told by a colleague, “Once you’ve been on a cruise, you’ll never want to travel any other way,” and now it’s easy to see exactly what they meant. Destination, activities and general ‘we’re on holiday’ atmosphere aside, it simply makes sense.
So much time of our holidays is spent in transit, waiting at gates, riding in taxis, queuing up for checking in at hotels, airports, etc. Why wouldn’t you unpack just once and actually enjoy your transit time, stress free and hassle free. Cruising is (for the most part) all-inclusive, making it easier to budget and allowing you to make the most of your holiday experience without any extra surprises. No worrying about who to tip as gratuities are all pre-paid (which can be a huge relief for many travelling to cities in the USA.)
One tip to note, the demographics or the cruise (as we quickly discovered when we also boarded an Alaskan cruise a few weeks later) can change dramatically based on destinations. For the Bahamas, we found ourselves surrounded by younger singles (23-45) as well as couples, newly-weds, larger groups of friends travelling together and families.
Sold on cruising as our new favourite way to travel, all our ‘wish list’ holiday talks now start with where to sail next.
About the author Gwen O’Toole is an accomplished writer focussing on travel, events management and food and wine. She also published a fiction novel while spending the past eight years as a magazine editor and travelling the globe before launching The Ideas Library, a creative services and event management company. She is regularly featured in a variety of travel and leisure publications and blogs.
Have you got a cruise anecdote to share? Drop us a line in the comments below :-)
Time certainly does fly when you’re having fun. Today is our last day, how did that happen? We enjoyed probably one too many Long Island Iced Teas with Barry and Paulo at our new favourite on-board restaurant/bar, Aft, last night. But, being the warriors that we are, we “battled” on to be up bright and early to embark on yet another astoundingly well organised shore excursion, this time, into France.
[More travel videos feature on YouTube’s TheSarahBlinco channel]
Marseille is a gorgeous port city; the ‘second city’ of France, and capital of the Provence-Costa Azzurra region. The city stretches along 37km of Mediterranean coastline, and the area is renowned for offering over 300 days of sunshine per year. Today was not one of those days. While I’m not one who dislikes the rain – quite the contrary, the only time it puts a ‘dampener’ on my spirits is when I want to photograph beautiful landscapes. Our images are a little light on from today’s adventure as the weather was terrible, but the city is far from awful. We toured around its rather large perimeter; past grand, typically French architecture, through narrow alleys and up steep hills to visit outstanding cathedrals, one namely being the spectacular Cathedral of Notre-Dame de la Garde.
The city comprises of buildings dating from a wide range of time periods, which means a feast for the eyes (and lens), whether you’re viewing from the top of one of Marseilles’ highest vantage point, or within the new marina at the city’s heart.
We hit Marseille’s shores on day 1 of a year-long annual festival celebrating its status as the ‘European Capital of Culture’ for 2013; a title which says something for all that is delightful and on offer here in this elegant French port stop.
Do you have a cruising story, or a Mediterranean travel tale to share? Let us know, tweet @sarahblinco or find us on Facebook. You can also read the rest of the stories in this series (more to come in coming days) HERE.
In day 5’s diary of a Europe cruise virgin, we teamed up with our new pals from London, Paulo and Barry, for today’s adventure, where we headed into the gorgeous Italian port city of Genoa. This place is chic, and boasts many medieval buildings and cathedrals in its ‘old town’; but just down the road is its ‘new town’ (circa 1800s). Interesting, in Australia ‘new’ is 2012. In these parts, ‘new’ is 200 years ago. Travel really does provide intriguing perspective and education.
Genoa attracts many tourists each year due to its busy port. It’s often overshadowed by other Italian locations such as Rome or Venice, even though it’s played a long and critical trade role in the development of the country, due to the city’s proximity on the Mediterranean and to other key ports in the region.
Fun fact: Genoa is the birthplace of famous explorer, Christopher Columbus.
The city definitely exudes that luscious ‘Italian’ feel. There really is something very romantic about Italy that seeps through every crevice, from the pastel-coloured terracotta-roofed houses to the mosaics and art of the in churches; how the locals navigate expertly across ancient cobblestoned paths through to the unique and delicious local coffee and ice-cream.
It’s easy to get lost wandering Genoa’s many sweet alleyways (narrow streets, or “carruggi”), most not even wide enough to cater for a horse and cart to carry goods through from one side of the city to the other. Genoa boasts grand buildings showcasing various architectural styles including Roman-esque, Gothic and Renaissance, many open to the public who are welcome to explore.
We also liked that it was very obviously a ‘dog city’, with proud owners enthusiastically nodding, “sì sì” (yes yes) when we asked (as we are known to do, on regular occasion) to pat their precious pooches.
Genoa’s front harbour precinct is undergoing constant renovations, so is eye-catching and easy to enjoy at leisure. Summer must be sensational here, with entertainment and concerts playing out in various sections of the huge public square. The city is also home to one of Europe’s largest aquariums, positioned conveniently on the waterfront.
This certainly is a lovely, quintessentially Italian location that I’m happy to have had the pleasure to explore, even if only for a short time.
Do you have a cruising story, or a Mediterranean travel tale to share? Let us know, tweet @sarahblinco or find us on Facebook. You can also read the rest of the stories in this series (more to come in coming days) HERE.
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