European Traveler discovers some four- and five-star hidden hotel gems along the way.









Dublin Flower Market
Flowers for sale on the street in Dublin







































Temple Bar pub sign





















Ha'penny Bridge, Dublin
Ha'Penny Bridge



















St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin
St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin

St. Patrick's Cathedral







Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin
The Shelbourne, Dublin

Temple Bar Pub, Dublin
Pub in Temple Bar, Dublin

And grand castles, happy sheep and catchy music aplenty

By Don Heimburger
Photos by the author

The Emerald Isle is inviting to first-time European visitors for several good reasons.

  1. Because you're not traveling to continental Europe, the flight time is from 1-1 ½ hours less from the United States. It's 3,614 miles between Chicago and Dublin, or 3,187 miles between New York and Dublin. From Chicago to Dusseldorf on the mainland it's 4,217 miles.
  2. The time zone in Ireland is an hour closer to U.S. time zones.
  3. You needn't speak a foreign language.

These are a few reasons you may want to place Ireland at the top of your “must visit” list, but there are many other incentives, as well. As many as 40 million Americans claim to have Irish blood―that's 10 times more than the population of Ireland itself.

How do most visitors get there? You could take a cruise ship across the Atlantic, but most people are in a hurry and fly, and that means American, U.S. Airways, Delta, Continental or Aer Lingus (which sometimes has some really low fares, especially in early spring).

Dublin's Attractions
Since you're probably flying into Dublin, where most visitors begin their adventure, you'll want to spend at least a day there. In fact, I'd recommend two or three days, because there is a lot to discover. Think of St. Stephen's Green as a center point for your activities. This lush, quiet Victorian garden is located in the main part of the city, yet it is a refuge from the hustle and bustle, and you can always come back to it for solace and relaxation. With ponds, picnicking, wildlife and a playground for kids, it makes an ideal meeting point as well. In the summer, lunch time concerts are given here.

Fanning out from the Green are the National Museum of Archaeology and the National Museum of Natural History. At the first museum, you'll be transported back to 7,000 B.C. You'll see examples of Celtic and Medieval art such as the famous Ardagh Chalice, the Tar Brooch and the Derrynaflan Hoard, another old historic chalice. Ireland's foremost treasure, the Ardagh Chalice, is considered the jewel in the crown of all exhibits there. The beautifully proportioned chalice is the finest example of eighth century metalwork ever to have been found. Standing six inches high, it is made of silver, bronze and gold; the design and decoration indicates technical proficiency of the highest order.

Heading down Nassau Street, you come to Trinity College, the oldest university in Ireland and situated on 40 acres in the heart of the city. Besides strolling the sidewalks around here where you'll feel like a college student again, you'll want to see the Book of Kells, a 9th century Gospel manuscript created by Celtic monks. Its lavishly decorated pages in Latin of the four Gospels is a masterpiece of calligraphy and represents the ultimate in Insular illumination. It is definitely worth the trip to see, as is the Long Room of books (215 feet long), which contains more than 200,000 of Trinity's most ancient volumes. Interestingly, in 1860 the roof of the building was raised higher to accommodate more books. The Long Room is an impressive site, with 14 marble busts commissioned by sculptor Peter Scheemakers lining both sides of the gallery.

Pub menu

Temple Bar Awaits You
On the other side of Trinity and bordered by the River Liffey, is the Temple Bar section of the city, where nightlife is abundant. Bar after bar is crowded into the narrow cobblestone streets here, and more than 50 contemporary art and cultural galleries and studios in this section of the city make up a part of what is called “Dublin's Cultural Quarter.” On weekends, open markets are held in Meeting House Square nearby as well.

On Grafton Street, the main shopping area, you'll find Molly Malone's statue where you can have your picture taken to send back to friends and relatives. Molly was a legendary figure, celebrated in the song Cockles and Mussels, a Dublin anthem. Molly Malone is one of the more famous people from Dublin's past, but whether she really existed is not known.

Tourist with statue of Molly Malone
A visitor poses by the statue of Molly Maloe

She’s certainly one of the strangest icons ever officially commemorated by a city government. The statue, erected in 1987, depicts a woman in 17th century dress that shows abundant cleavage. Molly allegedly sold fish by day and sold her body by night. Though she lived in the 1600’s, the song Cockles and Mussels about her does not appear in any historic record before the 1880’s. The familiar lyric goes:

In Dublin's fair city
where the girls are so pretty
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone
As she wheeled her wheelbarrow
Through streets broad and narrow
Crying, "Cockles and mussels, alive alive oh!"

City Brews
Ha'Penny Bridge is Dublin's oldest pedestrian bridge. Erected in 1816, a toll of half a penny was levied on all users of the bridge until 1919. You'll also want to see the Guinness Storehouse when visiting and take a tour, and then enjoy a fresh glass of Guinness in the Gravity Bar afterward. Cost is €13.50. The Storehouse is located in a section of town called the Liberties, which lay outside the city walls in earlier times.

Jameson Distillery

In the Smithfield Village area, across the Liffey, is the Old 1780 Jameson Distillery, once considered one of the largest and finest distilleries in the world. You will discover the time-honored secret of how three simple ingredients―water, barley and yeast―combine to make whiskey. And you can end your tour with whiskey tasting in the Jameson Bar. The distillery tour is open seven days a week, and if you're really into it, you can request a tutored whiskey tasting.

Dublin Writer's Museum

Famous Dublin Writers
The Dublin Writer's Museum, which opened in 1991 and is located in an 18th century mansion, offers visitors a fascinating view of famous Irish writers such as Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Jonathan Swift and George Bernard Shaw. It's a small but interesting museum that tells the background of these famous people.

James Joyce, the author of Ulysses, has his own museum in Joyce Tower at No. 35 North Great George’s Street. The house was built in 1784 for Valentine Brown, the Earl of Kenmare, and is decorated with plasterwork by Michael Stapleton. Restored in the 1980s, the house opened as the James Joyce Center in 1996, and is run by members of Joyce’s sister’s family.

St. Patrick's Cathedral on Patrick Street is an important Dublin landmark, with writer and satirist Jonathan Swift its Dean between 1713-1747. In 1742, the first performance of Handel's Messiah was performed here by the combined choirs of St. Patrick's and Christ Church, just a block away. (Christ Church is the oldest building in Dublin, dating from c. 1030. Inside are rare artifacts, examples of early gold and silverware, and historic manuscripts.)

Cad e' an sce'al? (What's going on?)
Many other sights are waiting for the European traveler as well in this city of about 1.5 million. You'll find the natives very friendly and accommodating. Getting around Old Town Dublin is easy: walking is your best bet.

Maps are available that detail the highlights of the city; the Dublin tourism office is located just past Grafton Street on Suffolk Street where you can pick up free information leaflets and get personal advice on things to do, places to visit and to eat. The tourist office staff speaks seven languages, including English, French, German, Irish, Italian, Polish and Spanish. There are also sightseeing tour buses that will take you around the city. For more information, go to
Also, the Dublin tram system, called LUAS, is a state-of-the-art light rail system operating on a Green and a Red line. If you stay close to the Old Town, however, the tram won't be needed. The Green Line starts at St. Stephen's Green, and a downtown Red Line stop is at Abbey Street.

The Dublin Pass is a cost-saving card will allows you access to more than 30 of Dublin's top attractions and more. Go to for information.

For those who want a five-star hotel experience, the Shelbourne, a Renaissance hotel, is conveniently located on St. Stephen's Green, and lives up to its reputation. It's located just a few steps from Dublin's sights and shops. Founded in 1824, the Irish constitution was drafted here; the hotel retains its original charm and is an oasis in the midst of the city's clamor. The hotel features a total of 265 rooms, including seven for the physically challenged.

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