Favourite things to do in Dublin

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Artist, jeweller and Dubliner Siobhan Downey shows us round her home city

How long have you lived in Dublin?

Almost 40 years now. It is a beautiful city, especially around Stephen’s Green, Merrion Square and Harcourt Street, where there are many examples of Georgian architecture with beautifully proportioned windows and doors – each fanlight a different design.

If you had a free day in the city, where would you go?

To Trinity College to see the Book of Kells in the Long Room of the Old Library, so beautiful with its timber-panelled walls and ceiling (below). The college itself (founded by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592), with its cobbled surfaces, arches, bell tower and extensive cricket pitch, is a haven in a busy city.

As a lover of art, I might also visit the National Gallery or the Hugh Lane Gallery, where the exquisite stain-glass work of Harry Clarke is displayed among other modern works of art.

The Hugh Lane also puts on free concerts from September to June – called Sundays@noon – to showcase the best Irish and international music.

I might also pay a visit to some of the private galleries like the Kerlin Gallery, the Taylor Gallery or the RHA where they often show works by contemporary artists.

The great thing about Dublin for art lovers is that all the galleries, both private and public, have free entry, unlike most other European cities.

The Irish Museum of Modern Art  is another gallery that I frequently visit, a short distance from the city centre. Nearby at Collins Barracks you'll find the National Museum of Ireland, where you can view the beautiful silver collection and also the work of the architect and furniture designer Eileen Gray.

If you were mayor for a day, what changes would you make?

I think I would make improvements to the public transport system and make better and safer bike lanes.

Do you have a piece of advice for tourists?

Dublin is a relatively safe city, however, as with any metropolis you need to be watchful. Try not to use your mobile phone in a public way and avoid taking it out at rush hour if possible. Cyclist thieves have been known to pass by and whip your phone from your hand!

What’s your favourite day trip out of the city?

Dublin has the advantage of being close enough to both the sea and the mountains. Seapoint, Dun Laoghaire  and Sandymount are great places to walk by the coast and only a short trip on the Dart (Dublin Area Rapid Transit).

You can also walk between these areas easily enough.  Dun Laoghaire has two piers that you can walk along and see the many boats and Yacht Clubs on the way, and there are also shops and a theatre there.

Dalkey, which is a bit further afield but still on the Dart line, is a lovely quaint village near the coast. (Dalkey Island, above)

The Dart also services Howth, another coastal town on the north side of the city and there are many walks there, including the Howth Head (above) a favourite haunt of James Joyce and written about in Ulysses. The Dublin mountains are not far away either.

What’s your favourite sight in the city?

A lovely thing to do is walk along the Grand Canal which is not far from the city centre. There is a great cycle lane running alongside it too, so you could take a bike from a Dublin Bikes station, some of which are en route.

Where is the best view in the city?

The best view of Dublin is undoubtedly from the Gravity Bar on the top floor of the Guinness Storehouse. The room is circular with glass panels all around so you get a 360-degree view of the city.

What local drink should every visitor try before they leave?

Guinness is probably the most favoured local drink – although it’s not to everyone’s taste. A trip to the Guinness Storehouse (above) would be a good way to find out more about it and also to taste it. 

Best place for lunch?

A lot of the galleries do nice lunches. Dunne & Crescenzi on Frederick Street is one of the best places, or, further out of town, The Fumbally

Best place for dinner?

For a reasonably priced dinner, you could try the Eden Bar & Grill or Fallon & Byrne.

Where would you take a friend from out of town that tourists wouldn't usually see?

The Chester Beatty Library, where there is a good permanent collection of oriental and European manuscripts and decorative arts, as well as interesting temporary exhibitions.

The restaurant in the Chester Beatty serves lovely lunches, both hot and cold. I might also take them to the Iveagh Gardens, a beautiful mid-18th century public park around the back of the National Concert Hall.

What is everyone talking about in the bars right now?

The fact that we have had no government for the past three months since our general election. However, this has now thankfully been resolved.

What is your favourite time of year in the city?

I think summer is the best time here as everything always looks better in the sunlight and also you can cycle or walk around till late in the evening.

'Silver torc' by Siobhan Downey

How has Dublin changed in the past 20 years?

The city has become more European over the past couple of decades, with lots of new coffee shops and restaurants.

There is also a lot of building going on, with apartment blocks and offices springing up all over the place.

I suppose you could say that we have become a more tolerant society, too – passing the marriage equality referendum is a case in point.

Siobhan handcrafts silver jewellery (above left, 'silver torc') using traditional methods from her Dublin studio. See and buy her work at silvertorc.com



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