Weird and wonderful guide to Dublin

Jon Price

Dublin, Ireland’s capital is a treasure trove for travellers in search of the weird and the wonderful. This is a mythical city famous worldwide for its fascinating folklore, strange stories and bizarre archaeological discoveries. If the Guinness Storehouse, Temple Bar and traditional local pubs are a little too touristy for your liking, here’s our guide on where to stay, eat and drink and what to see and do if you’re looking for a slightly more alternative experience.

Where to stay: Go boutique or go Victorian?

If ultra-bright décor and quirky furnishings are your thing, it doesn’t get much more colourful than Dublin’s Trinity City Hotel. Think multicoloured tile and brick wall inlays, flag-striped duvet covers and teak headboards. Located right opposite the city’s historic Trinity College, this uber-cool nightspot blends vintage and modern styles, and also boasts an attractive courtyard garden that’s the perfect green oasis for al fresco meals in the summertime.

Explosions of colour aren’t always for everyone, so if classic Victorian splendour better suits your tastes, we’d recommend checking out The Schoolhouse Hotel over on Northumberland Road. Formerly an actual Victorian School dating back to 1859, the wooden-ribbed dining halls and red brick exteriors here have decades of austere tales to tell. Today, however, its chic design hues and sensible prices attract travellers far and wide who are keen to spend the night in an iconic building that once witnessed the 1916 Easter Rising, as well as countless other slices of local history.   

Where to eat: Underground caverns or Japanese museums?

The best alternative restaurants often boast a delightfully obscure location, and that’s certainly the case with Farrier & Draper, a hip bar in Dublin’s Creative Quarter with a secret 60-seater Italian Restaurant hidden away in its cavern-like basement. La Cucina, as it is known among locals, serves up traditional al forno Italian fare and wood-fired pizzas in a chic minimalist setting (think iron chairs and solid marble tables). All diners can expect an unobstructed view of the talented chefs at work.   

Still hungry? Head across the Ha’penny Bridge to Yamamori’s North City restaurant for some of the best Japanese food available in Dubin, in a setting you’re never going to forget. Housed inside two stunning Georgian houses plastered wall-to-ceiling with original 19th Century Japanese artworks, Samurai swords and other peculiar artefacts, this awesome dining spot is packed full of so much cool stuff, it gives many of Dublin’s museums a run for their money. For a taste of Irish-Asian fusion, try the Sizzling Beef Teriyaki, which slices an 8oz Irish ribeye onto a sizzling hot bed of stir-fried vegetables and zakkoku rice. Book a table on a weekend and you might be able to watch a classic samurai movie projected onto the wall while you eat.

Where to drink: Brooklyn dive bars or unassuming hardware shops?

Ireland has long held historical links with New York City, where thousands of Irishmen and women from all across the country immigrated to way back in the 1840s, cementing Irish culture and traditions deep into the heart of the Big Apple forever. These days, there’s a little slice of Brookyln right here in Dublin, which can be found in a gorgeous little neon-lit bar on Aston Quay called Riot. Inspired by typical NYC dive bars, this street-art heavy watering hole serves up beer, cocktails and classic arcade games in dimly-lit surroundings graced with glowing neon signs and cult movie artwork. Glancing at the generous drinks menu, we’d go for a classic “Pina Colada”, or a gin-spiked “Charlie Chaplin”.   

Ever been to a pub that doubles up as a grocery and hardware store? Mary's Bar & Hardware Shop is by far one of the weirdest watering holes in Dublin, housed inside an antique-inspired shop on Wicklow Street that sells packaged foods, tools, odds and sods and other non-essentials you wouldn’t usually expect to see stacked behind a row of beer taps. We’d recommend sampling one of the many gorgeous craft ales on draught and maybe picking up a spanner or peculiar souvenir of some kind for your uncle back home. Keep an eye on their website to coincide your visit with some live music.

What to see: Creepy leprechauns and eerie bog bodies

Ireland is a country steeped in folkloric myths and fantastical legends, some stranger than others. If you want to discover the more unusual side of Dublin, you need to step into “the Otherworld”, home of Ireland’s iconic leprechauns and countless other mythical creatures. The National Leprechaun Museum on Jervis Street advertises itself as “an oral storytelling experience” venturing into this mythical realm, but depending on the time you decide to visit, it’s not all rainbows and pots of gold here. On Friday and Saturday evenings, the museum takes a macabre turn, swapping stories of smiles and wonder for twisted tales from Ireland’s darker side. Be sure to book in advance.     

If you can stomach any more creepiness after all those spine-tingling stories of killer leprechauns and evil elves, head on over to the N to check out its outrageously eerie Kingship and Sacrifice exhibition. This permanent display features several mummified “bog bodies” thought to date back to the Iron Age, which were discovered deep in the wetlands of Oldcroghan, County Offaly and Clonycavan, County Meath in 2003. The freakishly well-preserved remains are housed in separate glass containers and vary in terms of stages of decomposition. Some have still-discernible fingernails and facial expressions, while others look more like flattened stretches of dried-out mud. The museum is free to enter.   

Don’t miss: A walking tour of the Dublin few ever see

Alternative city breaks are all about digging a little deeper to discover the often-ignored secrets and strange, sometimes forgotten stories that lurk beneath a town’s picture postcard streets and endlessly photographed tourist attractions.

From defunct cinemas with freaky tales to tell, to Portuguese trams lovingly converted into hipster cafes, Dublin is home to no end of weird and wonderful sights and stories, so why not come and join us on a comprehensive city tour covering both sides of the River Liffey? We’ll introduce you to a local expert who’ll show you the Dublin that very few non-natives will ever see.

Image by papagnoc from Pixabay