For culture and creativity bursting at every seam, Dublin is an absolute must if you're considering an inspiring city break this autumn.
It has a significant literary history (Nobel laureates William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett), a vibrant nightlife (it's reputedly one of Europe's most youthful cities), great music (full to the brim with gigs, concerts and shows), some of the best food you'll ever taste (it has five restaurants sharing six Michelin stars) and it's home to some of the friendliest people on Earth.
Having recently walked the streets of Ireland's capital, courtesy of Tourism Ireland, I can tell you that if you've never been to the Emerald Isle, now is the time to go. Seriously. Don't leave it a minute longer.
Dublin is an art and design lover's paradise. There is so much going on, it's difficult to know where to start. It also happens to be a city of collaboration and community spirit – this is a fantastic place to run a business. We met Dave Darcy of One Strong Arm, a letterpress printer and design studio on Strand Street Great. Dave shares his space with other freelancers and regularly hosts local events. He said: "Collaboration is at the heart of Dublin. Even though this city is divided by a river, people come together."
Here we roundup where to stay, where to go, where to shop, where to eat and drink and – if you have to – where to pull up a chair and work.
Five great places to stay in Dublin
We stayed at the very swish Marker Hotel on Dublin Docklands, known locally as "Google Town" – Ireland's Tech Triangle where Google and Facebook are based. Our huge bedroom faced out onto the Grand Canal Square, which was beautifully lit up at night. We especially loved the pool and spa facilities, and the rooftop bar with stunning views over the city. The underfloor heating in the bathroom was a nice touch too.
For more five star accommodation, there's The Fitzwilliam Hotel, a boutique city-centre luxury escape with loads of charm and character. Or if you fancy staying in a castle, then check out the Clontarf Castle Hotel, slightly on the outskirts of Dublin but within easy reach.
We'd also highly recommend Sandymount Hotel, a family-run establishment over in Ballsbridge, and close to some major attractions like Grafton Street, the Guinness Storehouse and Dublin Castle.
To really throw yourself into the heart of creative Dublin, however, stay at the Blooms Hotel in Temple Bar. Local street artist James Earley spent eight months giving the building a Joycean makeover.
Creative shopping spots that support local independents
For shopping, Grafton Street is Dublin's main retail strip. But as you're a creative and you'll want something a bit different, start off your adventure by exploring Temple Bar – which isn't a bar or pub, it's an area on the south bank of the River Liffey in central Dublin, known as the city's cultural quarter. It also has a ton of independent stores.
We recommend that you head over to Essex Street West and pop into the wonderful Scout to support some local and international designers and makers who sell their products there. If you ask to speak to founder Wendy, she'll be able to tell you more about each seller, and perhaps point you to some AirBnB Experiences where you can learn to make your own scarfs, perhaps.
If you're a book lover, then thegutterbookshop on Cow's Lane is a must. The independent shop is named after Oscar Wilde's famous quote: "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." Here you'll find a real community spirit and plenty of beautiful books to peruse.
Just along the street lies Cow's Lane Designer Studio, a pretty co-operative shop run by local designers and makers, such as Deidre Griffin, KaroArt and Scribbe & Stone. They decided that selling their jewellery, glassware, ceramics and prints in the same space made sense – another example of Dublin's creative community supporting each other.
Over on Essex Street East, there's Indigo & Cloth, a pretty cool space consisting of a coffee shop downstairs, a clothing store on the first floor (with some seriously gorgeous things) and then upstairs lies a design agency and photography studio.
Every Saturday there's the fantastic Temple Bar Food Market at Meeting House Square. Full of local producers selling cheese, apple cider, meats and pies – all made in Ireland. And if it's raining, don't worry! Local architect Seán Harrington has created these amazing giant umbrellas that open up when the weather's bad.
The Powerscourt Centre – formerly owned by the wealthy Richard Wingfield 3rd Viscount Powerscourt and his wife Lady Amelia – is a great shopping hub for art and design lovers. It's a gorgeous space with an eclectic mix of shops, restaurants and cafés, including Made Store & Gallery on the top floor which includes garments from leading Irish fashion designers such as Orla Langan, Edel Traynor and Natalie B Coleman.
Finally, go take a look at Make & Mend on hip and trendy Drury Street, established by local jewellers Clare Grennan and Laura Caffrey in 2008. If you love Irish craft and good design, then you'll definitely find something wonderful to take home and treasure.
And, if you've still got the energy, check out George's Street Arcade on the same Drury Street – it's 150 years old and Ireland's oldest shopping centre. A quirky mix of cafés, vintage stores and antique shops, it also has Lolly & Cooks – a great little eaterie that does the best "Savage Rolls" ever... savage, because they're bloody good.
Essential culture, museums and galleries
Back in Meeting House Square, take a look around! It's home to the Gallery of Photography, the Irish Film Institute and it even has its own theatre. In fact, if you happen to visit Dublin during any of its major festivals (Fringe Festival, Theatre Festival, Bram Stoker Festival, Hard Working Class Heroes), then you're guaranteed to come across some free entertainment.
The National Gallery of Ireland is where you'll find permanent and touring exhibitions of the best Irish and European art. Even better, it's free! If you fancy escaping the city hustle and bustle for a while, this is a great spot on Merrion Square.
Opening this November is the highly recommended Tenement Museum Dublin based at 14 Henrietta Street. The brand new space – which I was lucky enough to see before its official opening – allows you to explore the social histories of Dublin's tenement population during the twentieth century, and the street's 18th-century origins and occupants. It is beautifully done and brought a tear to my eye. A must for your cultural tour of Dublin.
Of course, you can't visit Ireland's capital without seeing Trinity College Dublin. It's gorgeous architecture and cobbles stones are worth a look, but really, you'll want to see The Book of Kells, Ireland's greatest cultural treasure and the world's most famous medieval manuscript.
Head out of the city a little to visit the National Museum of Ireland. Here you'll find Decorative Arts & History, including a fascinating exhibition on Eileen Gray, Ireland's pioneer of 20th-century design and architecture.
Recommended places to eat
For a spot of brunch, try the Winding Stair (it's a bookshop and restaurant, named after the Yeats poem) or Queen of Tarts (try the savoury tarts). You also can't go wrong at Dollard & Co, a gourmet food hall and grill on Wellington Quay with its own indoor market.
If you want some seriously nice contemporary Irish food, head out to Dublin 6 to visit Fia – it's the talk of the town, and a café that works with the very best producers and suppliers to deliver a menu bursting with flavour.
For dinner, Hang Dai is a fantastic Chinese restaurant on Lower Camden Street. The Bladerunner-style interior will not disappoint, neither will the food which comes highly recommended by locals. Sticking with an Asian theme, there's Yama-Mori on Lower Ormond Quay, an award-winning Japanese restaurant.
Brasserie 66 on the buzzing George's Street offers some decent quality fodder. A decent burger can be had at Bunson on Essex Street East. And for the vegans amongst you, check out Sova Food Vegan Butcher a superb vegetarian and vegan restaurant that is hugely popular.
Finally, Drury Buildings on the famous Drury Street is all exposed brick walls, cosy corners and New York-inspired with classic cocktails, fine wines, craft beers and some really cracking food, thanks to head chef Warren Massey.
The best watering holes
Fleet Street in Dublin's Temple Bar is a good place to start. It's full of traditional Irish pubs. But if the more touristy spots aren't really your thing, go to The Cobblestone – a "drinking pub with a music problem". It's lovely and just what you'd hope for in Dublin.
Keeping Ireland's creative spirit in mind, head to PantiBar, a drinking spot on Capel Street owned by the queen of Dublin drag, Panti. Before you go in, look up and marvel at the building's sign – it was designed by legendary graphic designer Niall Sweeney of London agency Pony.
Love Peaky Blinders? Visit the The Stag's Head on Dame Lane Court (as pictured above), which formed part of the backdrop for some of the ITV's drama series. You can still see some of the work of set designer Annie Atkins – the same creative who was behind the sets on Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel. How awesome is that!
Odessa on the same road has a superb rooftop bar and a great menu of delicious wines. Or try the Wine Bar in the basement of the famous Fallon & Byrne... once you've enjoyed a happy hour browsing the food hall upstairs.
If you must work, as you're funding your city break as you go, then Dublin has plenty of co-working spaces to suit any type of freelancer. tcube offers desks by the hour. CoCreate has two branches on either side of the River Liffey and offers a five-day pass for €100. Sobo Works by Iconic Offices is a good shout on Windmill Lane, Sir John Rogerson's Quay.
If you need a more permanent desk and you're staying in Dublin for a while, Huckletree has just launched a new hub at The Academy on Pearse Street.
Or there's Fumbally Exchange, a not-for-profit for freelancers, startups and creatives with three hubs including one on Dame Street. It even has a shop space on the ground floor where the creative community can host pop-up shops and events. Rest assured, there's always something going on.
For more ideas on where to hotdesk, visit Coworking.ie.
If you love the idea of visiting Dublin but fancy letting someone else do all the hard work, allow local guide and creative Orlaith Ross to show you around. She's available for bespoke "creative" walking tours and is a true professional, full to the brim with local knowledge and is very well connected. Speaking of her home city, she said: "Dublin is great because of its people, its willingness to welcome you with open arms and help you along the way. It’s a city that feels like a town. It’s vibrant, inventive, charming and a bit of craic."
May I take this opportunity to offer huge and special thanks to Antoinette Reilly of Fáilte Ireland and guide Mary Phelan for their tireless support and patience (sorry about the singing and dancing) during our trip to Dublin and Ireland. Sincere thanks to the lovely staff at Marker Hotel and all the wonderful people we met along the way. And to Tourism Ireland for making this happen.
Main image: Temple Bar, Dublin. Courtesy of Visit Dublin, Photography by Rob Durston