5 Things You Must Do On Your First Visit to Dublin

I have a pretty stupid confession to make. I don’t drink, and that’s why it took me so long to make my way to Dublin. From the seven-floor Guinness Storehouse to the number of pubs per capita, this is a place that knows how to put the “happy” in happy hour. So I couldn’t help but wonder if Dublin would be fun for someone who wasn’t going to imbibe. Well, it turns out Dublin has plenty to offer. If you’re planning your first trip to Dublin, here’s what you should add to your to-do list.




1.Find interesting ways to learn about Dublin

No amount of research can replace experiencing a new city firsthand, but it always helps to lay down a foundation once you’re there. There are many ways to learn about Dublin, but here are a couple of fun ways to go beyond the guidebook:

The Little Museum of Dublin

Interior of The Little Museum of Dublin via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

The Little Museum of Dublin is located in a charming Georgian townhouse on St. Stephen’s Green, almost making it the Dublin-est thing you could do. In a Hoarders-meets-History Channel sort of way, artifacts donated by the Irish people weave together a portrait of the city. From photographs to letters to a signed portrait of Maureen O’Hara, the guides highlight particular items and tell you the story behind them. My guide was particularly passionate about the role of women in Dublin’s history, and her tour reflected that. Her enthusiasm and humor made for a perfectly entertaining session.

Pro Tip: The guided tour is required and starts every hour on the hour, so time your visit accordingly. You’re free to roam through the exhibits on your own afterwards.

Vintage Tea Tours

Vintage Tea Tours Afternoon Tea setting with a view of the street via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Vintage Tea Tours makes multitasking fun by combining sightseeing with afternoon tea. The restored Routemaster double decker bus–which dates back to the 1960s–offers premium views of Dublin’s major sights like Merrion Square, Phoenix Park and O’Connell Bridge. Everything about this tour experience feels personal, from the cheeky-yet-informative tour to the cute guide book and tumbler illustrated by a local artist. Do you know the story behind Dublin’s colorful Georgian doors? Or all the nicknames for The Spire? In a short 80 minutes, you’ll learn those secrets and see most of Dublin’s treasures, all while noshing on finger sandwiches and sipping on tea.

Disclosure: Vintage Tea Tours provided me with a complimentary tour, but the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.




2. Live out your bibliophile fantasies

Dublin produced such literary giants as James Joyce, William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde, so avid readers will have plenty to geek out on. Whether you want to join a literary walking tour or simply visit the same pub your favorite writer frequented, the options are endless. Here are a couple you shouldn’t miss:

The Book of Kells and the Long Room

The Long Room of the Trinity College Old Library in Dublin via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

The Book of Kells dates back to the 9th century and is considered Ireland’s greatest cultural treasure. It’s housed in the Trinity College Old Library, where an accompanying exhibition explores the manuscript’s history and art of calligraphy. Explore the Long Room afterwards, where the smell of old books hits you the second you walk through the door. The high ceilings and rows of weathered tomes make it an Instagram favorite. Marble busts of great writers and philosophers line the room, so this is also a popular spot for that #ShakespeareSelfie.

Pro Tip: Off-Peak discounted tickets are available online only before 11:00 am and after 3:00 pm every day.

Chester Beatty Library

Interior of Chester Beatty Library in Dublin via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

The Chester Beatty Library was easily one of my favorite stops in Dublin. Located on the grounds of Dublin Castle, it houses the private collection of Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, a New Yorker who relocated to Dublin later in life. The mining magnate’s love for collecting started humbly with stamps, and continued to grow in tandem with his net worth. When he passed away in 1968, he left his entire collection to the Republic of Ireland. The library-museum hybrid contains several floors of precious manuscripts and rare artifacts, with many treasures from faiths and religions around the world.




3. Check out the local street art

Red Squirrel mural on Tara Street in Dublin via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Colorful bird mural on Dame Street in Dublin via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Colorful street art building on Tara Street in Dublin via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Street art is something we’re always keen to check out, and Dublin has ample variety around Temple Bar, Dame Street and along River Liffey. One of my favorite finds was the giant 3D squirrel on Tara Street by Portuguese artist Artur Bordalo, who also goes by the moniker Bordalo II. The piece is part of the artist’s “Trash Animals” series, which aims to draw attention to environmental issues. The mural incorporates waste and recycled material collected locally in Dublin and highlights the plight of the red squirrel in Ireland.

Colorful traffic light box on Dublin street via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Also keep an eye out for decorated traffic light boxes courtesy of Dublin Canvas, a public art project with the goal of brightening up the city. Many of the boxes were designed and painted by Dublinites.




4. Stop for plenty of coffee breaks

Dublin is known for a different dark liquid, but no one should underestimate the amazing coffee scene here. From classic restaurants to trendy cafes, coffee lovers will have an easy time locating a good cup of joe. Here are some fabulous spots for a coffee break:

Love is Art atelier

Interior of Love is Art atelier and cafe in Dublin via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Love is Art atelier has a cozy living room vibe, with mismatched furniture and vibrant pieces of art hanging on the walls. There’s an abundance of reading material on the shelves and the tables, inviting you to linger for as long as you please.

Two Pups

Interior of Two Pups cafe in Dublin via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Two Pups has a distinct Brooklyn coffee house vibe, thanks to the light-colored wood bar and tables, chalkboard menu and hanging plants. It offers a light menu of baked goods and basics like–you guessed it–avocado toast. There’s a distinct sense that many of the patrons are locals, and the low-key vibe is in stark contrast to some of the touristy spots in other parts of town. Stroll along Francis St when you’re done, which is heavily populated by retail stores selling quirky antiques and vintage goods.

Cafe en Seine

Open, airy interior of Cafe en Seine in Dublin via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Cafe en Seine has been referred to as Dublin’s first superpub, but a recent redesign combines its delightful deco legacy with a number of fresh updates. The giant space feels open and light, and its most talked about feature is the indoor-outdoor garden with a retractable roof meant to mimic the streets of Paris. If you’re looking to turn up the volume on your coffee break, this is the perfect place to do it.

Bewley’s

Harry Clarke stained glass windows interior of Bewley's Grafton Street via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Bewley’s has been a Dublin institution since 1840, and it’s located on the famous shopping mecca of Grafton Street. The beautiful restaurant has been around since 1927 but recently went through a multi-million dollar renovation. There are ample seats on its three floors, so you can choose to sit by the stunning Harry Clarke stained glass windows, near one of the many open fireplaces, or with a view overlooking Grafton Street. The space is classic in every way, but the menu is not. It features high-end French pastries, handmade ice cream and a number of dishes that accommodate dietary restrictions. And let’s not forget the coffee: it’s sustainably sourced and absolutely delicious.



Booking.com

5. Explore the diverse food scene

Sampling local delicacies is part of the joy of travel, but Dublin’s food scene is so diverse that “local delicacies” takes on a new meaning. Dublin has blossomed into a foodie haven, where you can find Michelin-starred restaurants as easily as great Thai food. Here are some fun ways to sample the great variety Dublin has to offer:

Traditional Irish food

Double Baked Eggs with Roast Tomato and Soda Bread at Hatch and Sons in Dublin via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Traditional Irish food is filled with hearty staples like Irish Stew, Boxty and Colcannon. You can find samples all over town (though it might be wise to schedule a nap afterwards). At Hatch & Sons, I opted for the Double Baked Eggs served with Roast Tomato and a side of Soda Bread, but Porridge and Beef & Guinness Stew are also on the menu.

Seafood

Fish and chips at Fish Shop Benburb St in Dublin via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Burren Smoke House Salmon and chive cream cheese at Pepper Pot Cafe in Dublin via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

There is an abundance of locally sourced seafood in Dublin, making it easy to find oysters, lobster or some other catch of the day. Fish Shop on Queen St has received Michelin notice for its tasting menu, but they have a fish & chips shop on Benburb St that’s more accessible and still worth a visit. The focus on the fish is noticeable: they offered me three options. The adorable Pepper Pot Cafe in PowersCourt Town Centre is known for its in-house baked goods (including an amazing scone!), but the smoked salmon I had on my freshly baked bagel was the star of the show.

Trendy cafés

Blue Algae Latte and porridge in Pog Cafe in Dublin via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

When a girl is left to her own devices, she might succumb to the charms of Póg Cafe. Neon sign with a motivational saying? Check. Trendy Instagrammable lattes? Check. But honestly, Póg is the perfect place to grab a light bite, particularly when all you’re looking for is a salad or a bowl of porridge. There are plenty of healthy options, which might be just the thing you need if you’re trying to feel better about all those stops at the donut shops.

There’s nothing wrong with visiting Dublin for its rich drinking culture and history. But if you’re interested in delving deeper into this fun destination, perhaps sprinkling a few of these options into your itinerary will make that first (or return) visit more memorable.

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Pinterest pin of a street shot of the Temple Bar area of Dublin, Ireland with the text "5 Things You Must Do on Your First Visit to Dublin" via Mad Hatters NYC blog.

– L.

A Local’s Guide for Friends and Family Visiting New York City

We’re constantly asked for recommendations when friends and family are planning a visit to New York City. And let’s face it, bloggers have this particularly awful habit of simply shooting off a bunch of links. The truth is, we know that even if you’ve popped in from time to time (thank you!), you may not want to go on a deep dive through our blog before a trip. There are also some obvious and amazing things to do in New York City that we’ve never featured on the blog. So we thought we’d put together a guide of some of our favorite things. These are the very same suggestions we provide our friends and family. (Usually in a long-form email, with about 4-6 addenda over the following days. Sorry, guys!)

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The Mad Hatters NYC Blog: Year Three in Review

Throughout the year, the pervasive mood in the country has been dour, an ominous shadow hanging over virtually everything else. And yet, we still put ourselves out there, traveling more this year than we had in the last two combined, which was simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting. But 2018 was a challenging year for us personally, too. We both work full-time and there were some notable changes to our jobs, which upended the comfortable life we’d built. We were plagued with some health challenges, though fortunately nothing too serious. We had some unfortunate luck, like discovering our toilet was leaking the day before we were due to leave for a trip. And finally, in a real gut-punch, we lost a few friends unexpectedly–a fellow blogger to a freak accident and a longtime co-worker to cancer.

As for the blog, it’s hard to believe it’s been three years since its inception. Some days it feels like the time has flown by, while others it feels like a slow, steady, relentless grind. At this point, we could forgive you for assuming the blog is humming along like a well-oiled machine. But that hasn’t been the case. The curve balls have kept coming, so let’s talk about what the year brought us.

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How to Experience the Best of San Sebastián, Spain in Two Days

Newsflash: We love to eat. And we have a lot of friends who love to eat. Each and every one of them has sung the praises of San Sebastián as a foodie destination. And why not? It has a significant number of Michelin-starred restaurants, as well as countless pintxos bars serving some truly incredible food. When we set our sights on San Sebastián, we figured all we would do there is eat. But this little resort town ended up surprising us. Even though we spent a considerable amount of time stuffing our faces, we found so many other things to love during our visit there too.

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An Evening on the Cocoa and Carols Holiday Cruise in New York City

Once the holiday season officially kicks off, calendars fill up pretty quickly. It’s not just the holiday shopping and decorating, or all the cooking and baking. It’s the holiday parties, too. From office functions to dinner gatherings, it can sometimes feel like we’re caught in an endless loop of Nat King Cole, hors d’oeuvres and eggnog. But what if you moved the location of that soirée to a yacht, added a live band and some caroling, threw in some cocktails and brews, spiked that cocoa and served it with cookies, and for good measure, offered stunning nighttime views of the greatest city in the world?

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2018 New York City Holiday Window Displays

I’m from, well, all over the place, having moved countless times around the country as a child. For simplicity’s sake, let’s just say I’m mostly from the midwest. Lynn is from Malaysia. So, as you might imagine, we have quite an eclectic mishmash of traditions between the two of us. This gives us reason to celebrate throughout the entire year, which is a lot of fun. However, I’ve found that what I particularly enjoy are the new traditions we’ve created throughout our journey together. One such tradition that began a few years back was our annual late-night pilgrimage to the department store holiday windows in New York City.

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The Best FREE Things to Do in New York City During the Holidays

New York City doesn’t do low-key or subdued or understated. Those words aren’t even in its vocabulary. It’s a “Go Big or Go Home” kinda town. So it’s not difficult to imagine just how festive the Big Apple is during the holidays. From incredible light and holiday-themed displays to one-of-a-kind events and activities, New York City makes it nearly impossible to get your Grinch on. Now, there are plenty of things worth parting with your hard-earned cash for. Big-ticket events like the Radio City Christmas Spectacular or the New York City Ballet’s Nutcracker are huge draws every year. But we’re here to let you in on a little secret: you don’t need to break the bank to enjoy the holiday season in The City That Never Sleeps.

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In Living Color: The 2018 Kobra Street Art Occupation of New York City

If you’re wandering around New York City you might come across these stickers that read “Are you addicted to street art? You’re not alone. There is help! 24/7 Street Art Addiction Hotline,” followed by a phone number. I’m sure it’s just a clever street art campaign, but if your Instagram feed is anything like mine, you might wonder if this is a real thing. Because right now, there’s a LOT of street art, thanks to world-famous street artist Eduardo Kobra.

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Puppy Love: Photos from the 2018 Tompkins Square Park Halloween Dog Parade

There’s always something new going on in New York City, so it takes a special event to keep the locals coming back again and again. The Tompkins Square Park Halloween Dog Parade is just such an event. Attending the parade has become one of our favorite Halloween rituals, so we were pretty brokenhearted to hear it had been canceled. Long story short, the event had become so popular that the park was requiring insurance to cover its many attendees, and the financial burden was just too great to bear.

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Double the Fun: 10 Reasons to Visit the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-Saint Paul

We’ve lived in the Midwest, and we know that major cities like Chicago, Cleveland and Indianapolis get all the attention. But the thing we discovered on our recent visit to the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area is that it’s the underrated, sleeper Midwest hit that’s waiting to be discovered. Minneapolis and Saint Paul are referred to as the Twin Cities, but locals know they’re less like Mary Kate and Ashley and more like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito. The cities offer distinctly different vibes — Minneapolis is the ultra-hip, cosmopolitan twin, while Saint Paul is the charmingly historic, elegant twin. But don’t let the sibling rivalry fool you. As the saying goes: “The best thing about Minneapolis is Saint Paul, and the best thing about Saint Paul is Minneapolis.” In short, you get to enjoy the best of both worlds.

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