Dublin

Where stained-glass saints greet steel-and-glass facades in the wake of a New World economy.

Dublin is in the midst of a renaissance due to a booming economy (dubbed the Celtic Tiger) and a renewed sense of confidence. The buzz is evident everywhere, from the bustling waterfront along the River Liffey to the winding cobblestone lanes of the Temple Bar neighborhood. While the elements that Dublin is known for–Georgian townhouses, antique shops, and smoky, atmospheric pubs–remain, they now sit alongside steel-and-glass facades of trendy new hotels, modern furniture shops, and sleek cocktail lounges where martinis outnumber pints of stout. Today, Ireland’s capital is very much an alluring mix of Old World charm and cosmopolitan flair.

THREE MUST-SEES

Trinity College

Famous for its thick stone, ivy-covered buildings, Trinity is the oldest university in Dublin, dating from 1592. Head to the Old Library (1712-32), designed by Thomas Burgh, for a peek at the priceless Book of Kells. The ninth-century illuminated manuscript of the four gospels is on display in the Treasury, at the end of what was originally an open colonnade. Then make your way to the Long Room, where a stunning barrel-vaulted ceiling spans a collection of 200,000 rare books. Note the copy of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic and the dozens of marble busts of prominent Irishmen that line the room (Jonathan Swift, Wolfe Tone, and others). College Green; 6772941; Mon.-Fri. 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat-Sun. 10 a.m-4 p.m.

Dublin Castle

Built in l204 during the reign of King John of England, Dublin Castle has been extensively rebuilt over the centuries. The most interesting aspects of the massive complex are the State Apartments, dating from the 18th century. Visit St. Patrick’s Hall (where Ireland’s presidents are inaugurated), which features several ceiling paintings, including one of Ireland’s patron saint on the Hill of Slane in 433 AD The Battleaxe Landing, named after the former bodyguard of the Lord Lieutenants, is rich with Waterford crystal chandeliers and carpets handmade in Donegal. The Throne Room bears a decorative cornice and a l7th-century gilded throne, last used by King George V of England. Dame St.; 6777129; Mon-Fri. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat-Sun. 2 p.m.-5 p.m.

Christ Church Cathedral

Though a cathedral has stood on this site since 1038, the current stone structure dates from 1172 and was built under the Earl of Pembroke, better known as Strongbow, the Anglo-Norman who invaded Ireland in 1170. It was extensively remodeled in the 1870s by architect George Edmund Street in Gothic and Romanesque styles. Of particular interest are the 15th-century brass lectern and carved oak pews in the nave, and in the baptistry, a font made of Irish marble surrounded by a series of stained-glass windows depicting various saints. The 12th-century crypt is said to be Dublin’s oldest structure. Christ Church Place; 6778099; Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

ALSO WORTH A LOOK

Dublin Writers Museum

Set in a splendid 18th-century Georgian townhouse, this museum celebrates Ireland’s rich history of literature. Letters, manuscripts, and photographs from the likes of Yeats Joyce, Beckett, Shaw, and Wilde are on display, as well as memorabilia, such as a pair of Beckett’s eyeglasses and playwright Brendan Behan’s typewriter, reported to have been thrown through a pub window. Upstairs, check out the ornamented colonnade and gilded frieze in the Galley of Writers room and the plasterwork ceiling in the Gorham Library. 18 Parnell Square North; 8722077; Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Bank of Ireland

Edward Pearce originally constructed this imposing building in 1728 to house the Irish Parliament. It functions today, with stately Corinthian and Ionic columns, as the city’s leading banking center. The House of Lords chamber, little changed since the Parliament sat in it, is where you’ll find treasures such as carved oak paneling, an 18th-century crystal chandelier, and tapestries depicting the 1689 Siege of Derry and the 1690 Battle of the Boyne. There is also a fine mahogany clock and a silver mace. Guided tours are conducted on Tuesdays; otherwise ask a porter to direct you to the chamber. 2 College Green; 6776801; Mon.-Wed., Fri. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Thurs. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Guinness Storehouse

Dublin’s renowned brewery, which dates from 1760, now boasts a spectacular new museum complex showcasing all things Guinness. The interiors of a historic turn-of-the-20th-century building located on the compound have been modernized with a stunning steel-and-glass atrium shaped like a giant pint glass. The tour begins with an explanation of the brewing process and moves into exhibitions on cooperage (the art of making barrels out of wood) and advertising. The displays are interactive–step inside the giant vats, touch the barley–so kids will love it. Parents will appreciate free samples of the potent black stuff in the Gravity Bar, whose top-floor attractions are the Panoramic city views. St. James Gate, 4536700, daily 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m.

WHERE TO STAY

The hotel of the moment is the Morrison (Ormond Quay, 8872400, doubles from $292), minimalist hideaway on the banks of the River Liffey. Ninety-two chic rooms feature iridescent velvet bedcovers and dark wood furniture with cream accents. \ A perennial favorite is the posh 146-room Merrion (Upper Merrion St., 6030600, doubles from $320), fashioned from four Georgian townhouses. Be sure to visit the oak-paneled bar and the garden decorated with box hedges and fountains. \ The Clarence (6-8 Wellington Quay, 6709000, doubles from $250), owned by members of the rock band U2, attracts a fashionable crowd to a modern decor in the Temple Bar district. The 50 rooms (ask for one that overlooks the river) are done up with muted colors and blond-oak furniture.

WHERE TO EAT

Many of Dublin’s top restaurants can be found within its finest hotels. One such establishment is Halo (Ormond Quay, 8872400), housed in a soaring bilevel space at the Morrison Hotel and serving innovative fusion cuisine. \ It’s wise to book early at Patrick Guilbaud (Upper Merrion St., 6764192), the much-lauded restaurant attached to the Merrion Hotel. Chef Guilbaud’s gourmet dishes, such as Connemara lobster with apple and lemon jus and veal sweetbreads with wild mushroom sauce, have garnered rave reviews–and two Michelin stars. \ Peacock Alley (St. Stephen’s Green, 4787015), in the Fitzwilliam Hotel, is getting attention for its slick, minimalist Terence Conran-designed interiors, not to mention chef Conrad Gallagher’s flavorful Mediterranean/New World food.

WHERE TO SHOP

Hip Dubliners are flocking to Louise Kennedy (56 Merrion Square South, 6620056), a boutique in a Georgian townhouse, to stock up on Philip Treacy hats, Lulu Guinness bags, and Kennedy’s own line of clothing. Plasterwork detailing on the ceilings and fireplaces with marble mantelpieces complement the original central staircase.  Francis Street is ground zero for Dublin’s antiques trade. One of the best shops is O’Sullivan Antiques (43-44 Francis St., 4541143), featuring 18th- and 19th-century period furniture, such as Victorian armchairs, Georgian tables, chandeliers and brass candle-sticks (owner Chantal O’Sullivan also has a shop in New York).  For 20th-century furniture, head to O (3 Cows Lane, 6770679). The eclectic collection ranges from Danish teak credenzas and Eames swivel chairs to copper light fixtures.

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