This is the year to discover the Irish capital’s burgeoning creative scene. The country’s designers are stepping into the limelight to celebrate the Year of Irish Design, and Dublin is taking centre stage as 2015’s World Design Hub. Visitors already arrive in their droves for the city’s the literary connections, the Guinness and that intangible but utterly beguiling thing known as the craic – and now design is set to become another major draw.
So, why does Dublin deserve this accolade? Here, Helen Ochyra gives us the low-down.
See the city on canvas
For Irish art with pedigree visit the relocated London studio of Irish-born Francis Bacon at the Hugh Lane Gallery. Painstakingly moved here in 1998, right down to the dust on the floor (yes, really), the gallery is home to more than 7000 items, including photographs, drawings and some 100 slashed canvases.
If you want to discover the next big thing, head to Green on Red Gallery to see work by contemporary Irish artists such as Damien Flood and Gerard Byrne. Or call in to Project Arts Centre, Dublin’s busiest arts centre and home to an ever-changing array of visual arts exhibits and cutting-edge theatre and dance performances.
If you’re in the city on a Sunday, get some fresh air and inspiration with a walk around St Stephens Green, turned into an ad hoc open-air art gallery as local artists hang their paintings from the railings. Can you spot the next Bacon?
Size-up Dublin’s fashion scene
For fashion, visit the Creative Quarter, which stretches from South William Street to George’s Street and from Lower Stephen’s Green to Exchequer Street. Here up-and-coming fashion designers collate at The Loft Market, where you’re sure to pick up some inspiration from the ultra-hip shoppers along with the vintage jewellery. The ShoeLAB at Buffalo hosts niche footwear brands you won’t see anywhere else.
If you’re on an A-list budget head to the Design Centre at Powerscourt Town Centre to shop Jill De Burca’s embroidery-driven debut collection or select an utterly individual headpiece (“hat” just doesn’t do these justice) by Philip Treacy, whose creations have been seen everywhere from the Harry Potter films to the Royal Wedding.
Get a taste of Dublin’s creativity
Nothing is done by half measures in Dublin and haute cuisine here is as ample as it is attractive. You won’t find fussy dishes surrounded by smears: think high quality beef and fresh local seafood served with personality and style.
At Cleaver East the wagyu striploin is topped with bright red tomatoes on the vine and nothing more, while the highlight of the menu at Fade Street Social is hiding in the flatbreads section, a delicious blend of roasted and raw fillet of Irish beef with a truffle béchamel, sprouting with brilliant green broccoli.
Pick of the restaurants has to be The Greenhouse, where hand-dived scallops are served with Jerusalem artichokes. The passion fruit soufflé is a thing of beauty, topped with lemon-yellow ice cream and ginger sauce.
If you’ve got more time, head out to Aqua in the fishing village of Howth – because there’s nothing more beautiful than a freshly cooked lobster.
Sleep in style
Designer Dublin doesn’t end at the hotel room door. Brand spanking new design hotel The Dean opened last November and it’s already making waves. Sound waves that is, with retro record players in the rooms, original local artwork with a musical theme on the walls and a lobby bar that’s a place to linger over cocktails. Flick through the in-room LPs, lay into the old-school mega-munch hamper (scampi fries, anyone?) and lie back on the super-sized bed to watch Dublin’s skyline darken through the vast windows.
Alternatively, stay at stylish The Clarence, with its classic Shaker oak beds, Irish-designed leather seating and all-white linens, or The Dylan, for five-star style in rooms overflowing with all the latest mod cons, from Bose docking stations to Bang & Olufsen telephones, even hand-carved wooden beds.
And don’t forget the Guinness…
Few TV adverts have had such an impact as Guinness’s inventive ads – from white stallions galloping in the surf to a toucan with a bright orange beak – and you could say this is Irish design at its very best.
You could also say that a pint of the black stuff is an unmissable Dublin attraction. Either way you need to visit the Guinness Storehouse, the home of Ireland’s most famous brand. Ascend the staircase through the pint glass shaped atrium to find out how the brewing process works, how to make a barrel and how to pull the perfect pint. Finish in the Gravity Bar, with 360-degree views over the city – and a pint of Guinness, of course.
Visit www.discoverireland.ie for more information on visiting Ireland and irishdesign2015.ie for more details on the Year of Irish Design. Explore more of Ireland with the Rough Guide to Ireland. Compare flights, book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.