CAPA's 10 Hidden Gems in Dublin

Mar 12, 2013 4:16:18 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

One of the most rewarding aspects of a studying abroad can be to step off the tourist trail and experience life as locals enjoy it. Here are 10 of CAPA's favorite hidden gems to discover when you study abroad in Dublin.

1. SECRET GARDENS. Heritage Ireland calls the Iveagh Gardens (Clonmel Street) “the finest and least known of Dublin’s parks”. Rosarium, rooetries, cascade fountain, woodlands, sunken lawn; this perfectly restored Victorian walled garden does all it can to attract but, miraculously, it is always nearly vacant. Only a four minute walk from busy Grafton Street, it is the prefect, city-central place for a little silence, serenity and soft grass. A stone's throw from here you'll also stumble upon St. Kevin's Park, a sleepy little green space, a wonderful place to while away a lunch hour.

The National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin are an under-appreciated place for a dose of Mother Nature. In the springtime, there can be as many as 20,000 plant varieties on view and the 400 ft-long greenhouse filled with floral exotic plants is a delight to see.

Just outside the city center, visit St. Anne's Park and stop to smell the flowers in the rose garden and wander through the relaxing walled Japanese garden.

Iveagh Gardens, Dublin
Photo: Iveagh Gardens, Dublin by David Soanes

2. GET INSPIRED AT THE SCIENCE GALLERY. You always expect great things from Trinity College and the innovative Science Gallery certainly does not disappoint. It takes a fresh look at applications of science in real life, making white-hot technology accessible to everyone. Don't be surprised if you see exhibitions of techno-thread clothing, displays of robotic art and debates about the future of bio-fuels and the efficacy of anti-depressants. They have even harnessed nanotechnology to inscribe their logo on the face of a diamond.

Light Drops
Photo: Lightwave exhibition, Science Gallery, Trinity College by Woesinger

3. DUBLIN'S HIDDEN VIEWS: THE GRAVITY BAR & KILLINEY HILL. The spectacular glass-walled, circular, Gravity Bar at the Guinness Storehouse is mostly a cramped tourist trap but there is no better bird’s-eye view of Dublin. Go early in the morning and the place will be empty giving you a chance to view the sprawled vastness of the city.

Killiney Hill and Dalkey Hill are both part of Killiney Hill Park, a small public park that rises above Killiney and nearby Dalkey. It is located on the south Dublin coast between Killiney and Dalkey and is accessible by heading up Dalkey Avenue to Killiney Hill Road. Keep an eye out for a large green-field park with a children's play area close to Fitzpatrick's Castle Hotel - head towards the far end of it where you will find a map to the walkway and directions to the summit. The peak commands a stunning panoramic view which stretches from the edge of the Wicklow Mountains on one side to the far end of Dublin city on the other. The clearly visible Killiney Bay has long been likened to the Bay of Naples in Italy. The beautiful forest which surrounds the hill and the waves crashing onto the beach which arcs below make it a major contender for the best view on the east coast.

The Hill
Photo: The Hill by Carmel

4. PUBLIC ART. Public art is a constantly changing phenomenon and Artfinder is a clever art map which plots ephemeral art projects and happenings around the city. Use the virtual pin and you can follow the latest art event and you might even be inspired to create something yourself.

Art - Trinity College Dublin
Photo: Art at Trinity College, Dublin by Craig Pitchers

5. HARRY CLARKE WINDOWS. Follow in the footsteps of the illustrator and stained glass artist Harry Clarke whose amazing work you can see in churches in Dublin’s Terenure, Donabate, Castleknock, Ballbriggan, a UCD chapel and of course Bewley’s café on Grafton Street. Clarke’s stained glass windows are distinguished by the finesse of his drawings and beautiful to see when the afternoon sun comes streaming through.

Photo: Harry Clark windows by Else-Marie Tennessen

6. TRADITIONAL IRISH MUSIC. The front snug of Hughes Pub (Chancery Street) is the coziest spot to hear traditional music in the city. You are literally part of the tight musicians’ circle and everyone is encouraged, but not forced, to sing a song.

The Cobblestone is another gem. The musicians' corner downstairs attracts traditional players whom you would pay to see elsewhere, and the paying venue upstairs rarely books a duff band. It often showcases traditional and folk music. Overall, it's cozy, while eschewing unnecessary frills; if you want to avoid excessive paddy-whackery in favor of a genuine traditional Dublin pub atmosphere, come here.

Ham Sandwich
Photo: Ham Sandwich live in Dublin by Aaron Corr

7. BUSKING. Dublin’s street musicians or ‘buskers’ are to be found in many locations such as Grafton Street, adjacent Johnson Court, Merchant’s Arch and the tunnel to Meeting House Square. A carol-signing treat on Grafton Street has taken place in the last couple of years on Dec 24th when Bono of U2 joins one-time buskers Glen Hansard, Liam O’Maonlai and many more.

Catch Me If You Can
Photo: Catch Me If You Can by Chrisps

8. AFTERNOON TEA: THE CAKE CAFE AND THE QUEEN OF TARTS. The Cake Café is an adorable venture that has already won itself a loyal following. The air inside is warm with the smell of heavenly home-made cakes, biscuits, pies and cupcakes, sandwiches, great salads. Everything is served on artfully mismatched crockery and the staff is delightfully welcoming. A hidden treasure.

The Queen of Tarts feels like a country tea shop with serious finesse. Sisters Regina and Yvonne Fallon trained as pastry chefs in New York City in the 1990s, returning home to Ireland to establish and run their own cafe. They created a homely and welcoming space which offers breakfasts and weekend brunch, the tastiest lunches and the finest cakes, scones and brownies.

The Silk Road Cafe at the Chester Beatty Library is worth a visit as well with its international menus featuring food from Afghanistan, Greece, Italy, Jordan, Morocco and Palestine as well as Ireland.

Photo: Queen of Tarts by Robert English

9. MARKETS. Discover Dublin’s vibrant market scene all over town. From foods to textiles, there is something for everybody! One of our favorites is the Farmer's Market at the Red Stables on Saturdays.

Delivery Time
Photo: Delivery Time in Dublin by Dave G Kelly

10. TRADITIONAL FISH & CHIPS. The tempting aroma of Leo Burdocks Famous Traditional Fish and Chips has been drifting from the spiritual home in No.2 Werburgh Street, Christchurch for the past 100 years. Leo Burdock himself, couldn't have imagined how popular his name would become for his famous fish and chips. Proof of this can be seen in Christchurch with the almost never-ending queues and the frequent visits from Celebrities from the world of politics, literature, Hollywood movies and stadium rock and pop, and that speaks for itself.

Leo Burdock Fish & Chips
Photo: Leo Burdock Fish & Chips by Amanda Wright

Live in Dublin? Leave some of your own favorites in the comments!

Topics: Dublin, Ireland