Dublin Travel Guide
Ireland straddles two worlds: It’s Europe’s westernmost nation, with only the expanse of the Atlantic separating it from North America. This position has spawned the local catchphrase that geographically speaking, the country is closer to Berlin but spiritually nearer to Boston. “Irish people don’t view America as a foreign country; they view it as an extension of their own backyard,” says Emmanuel Dowdall, a senior vice president at the IDA, the government agency that assists foreign firms setting up operations in Ireland.
"Ireland of the welcomes” may be the stuff of tourist brochure clichés but it carries a ring of truth. The 2010 Index of Economic Freedom ranked Ireland fifth worldwide and the highest in Europe. The Irish capital is open for business in every sense: It’s an English-speaking gateway to Europe where bureaucratic red tape is kept to a minimum, and a range of supports, including a generous corporation tax regime, all contribute to the city’s status as a very easy place to work.
The greater Dublin area boasts more than 1.6 million inhabitants, but its center retains the feel of a much smaller town where it can sometimes seem like everybody knows everyone. This is true in part because the heart of Dublin is just a couple of square miles. A low-rise skyline also helps, whether you look at the Georgian-influenced architecture or the glass and steel of the rejuvenated docklands. Ireland’s economic boom may have been a chimera built on credit rather than credible fundamentals (thus the recent bailout), but it bequeathed a raft of new developments and gave much of the city a modern, multicultural makeover.
Connections: a vital link
The small-community mentality extends to how Dubliners do business. They value networking highly and put great stock in establishing relationships. A recommendation from a mutual acquaintance can open doors, according to American-born Hilary Dempsey, the human resources manager at Irish software company TerminalFour.
Dubliners like to do business with people they like. Expect to spend some time simply making conversation, and remember that a deal may not be done after the first encounter. “It’s not just straight face, down to business and then walk out,” Dempsey says.
The key for visitors is not to overdo the hard sell at the outset, she advises. “Tone down the voice. Here, it’s more chatty and social at the beginning, and it’s about finding common ground. There is more relationship building required.”
The Irish have an informal attitude toward business and a refreshing disdain for too much procedure, in addition to a creative streak for overcoming obstacles, says Mark Walk, chair of the American Chamber of Commerce’s U.S. Executive Circle, which helps American businesspeople engage in Irish business circles. “I’ve found people in Ireland are very easy to talk with, quick to work on issues and solve problems,” he says. “Where I’m from, there would be a tendency to call more meetings, to get a more consolidated plan in place. The culture is ‘get it done’ versus ‘let’s talk about it.’”
Visitors should expect that time spent in Dublin won’t simply be a procession of stuffy meetings but will include social interaction with their hosts, Walk says. Business dinners are important, and meetings begun in the boardroom often extend to the fairway. “Definitely bring some golf shoes and rent some clubs. If you have any desire to play golf, it’s a good way to do some business and enjoy the Irish society,” he says.
Dubliners don’t separate business and social interaction for a good reason, says the IDA’s Dowdall. “People are the most important part of business in Ireland at all levels. It’s about the individual behind the idea, the ability to identify with that person and get to know them. One of the great things about doing business in Ireland is that we find time for that. It builds the bond.”
Exploring the city after hours
Dublin’s small scale means even a minimum of downtime can quickly allow you to get a sense of the place. “Business travellers can easily fit a night at the theater, a literary pub crawl or a night of traditional music and dance into their schedules,” says Frank Magee, chief executive of Dublin Tourism. Theater prices are reasonable by international standards: Tickets to Ireland’s national theater, the Abbey, are €40 ($55) for highly regarded productions. Live music is a staple in many pubs, and traditional Irish music or “trad” sessions are entirely in keeping with the city’s informal vibe. Musicians just set up in the corner and start to play.
Dublin’s pubs may not be as full as they used to be, but there’s no escaping them for a real sense of the city and its inhabitants. Venues run the gamut from upmarket to more traditional watering holes, located often cheek by jowl. Start the evening with a cocktail in the Mint Bar, beneath the Westin Hotel on College Green, then escape around the corner to Mulligan’s of Poolbeg Street for a pint and a chat with the locals. Temple Bar, the city’s self-styled cultural quarter just south of the River Liffey, includes a mess of pubs and cut-price eateries. Adventurous beer drinkers should seek out the city’s excellent microbrewery, the Porterhouse (porterhousebrewco.com).
Dublin is best experienced at ground level, and its layout lends itself to being walked. Instead of catching the Book of Kells manuscript in Trinity College—and the inevitable lines—try the Chester Beatty Library at the opposite end of Dame Street, with the bonus of a stroll through historic Dublin Castle en route. Alternatively, combine a browse through Ireland’s past at the National Museum (museum.ie) with a glance into its future at the Science Gallery (sciencegallery.ie).
GORDON SMITH calls Dublin home and is a business and technology journalist.
Airport and ground transportation
Visitors from North America are now shepherded through Dublin Airport’s newly minted Terminal 2 (opening on a phased basis starting November 19 , 2010). Routes from the U.S. to Dublin are served by five carriers: Aer Lingus, Continental, Delta, US Airways and, starting in 2011, American Airlines. Taxis to the city center are plentiful, and the six-mile trip costs about €25 ($35). There are 10 car rental (or “car hire”) companies onsite at the airport, though some offer prebooking only, and executive sedans start at €90 ($135) per day. However, the city center is so navigable by foot that renting a car isn’t necessary unless you plan to extend your stay beyond a few days.
Where to stay
Four Seasons Hotel Dublin
Simmonscourt Road, Dublin 4
+353 1 665 4000 fourseasons.com/dublin
Decadent surroundings on the edge of the leafy embassy belt, with excellent views of the city from the top floors.
The Merrion Hotel
Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2
+353 1 603 0600 merrionhotel.com
Four Georgian Houses combine to form this quintessentially Dublin venue, complete with a spa and two excellent restaurants to sate weary, hungry travelers.
The Gibson Hotel
The Point Village, Dublin 1
+353 1 681 5000 thegibsonhotel.ie
The latest addition to Dublin’s hotel scene is strategically near the new Conference Center Dublin (theccd.ie), with the city center a short walk or tram ride away.
Where to eat
Dublin may have owed its reputation to drinking in the past, but the economic boom left behind a wide variety of venues offering quality dining. The city’s best restaurants successfully marry locally sourced produce, Irish imagination and the techniques of French master chefs. You’ll also find many places serving a range of ethnic cuisines, reflecting Dublin’s new cultural diversity. For those whose tastes veer to the traditional, many pubs offer hearty Irish fare such as stews.
18–19 Parnell Square, Dublin 1
+353 1 873 2266 chapteronerestaurant.com
Located below the Irish Writers’ Museum, this family-owned basement restaurant on the city’s north side offers mouthwatering dishes and attentive service.
109a Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2
+353 1 661 1919 lecrivain.com
Dining in Dublin doesn’t come much better than this Michelin-starred take on modern Irish cuisine in elegant, understated surroundings.
119 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2
+353 1 407 0939 stregis.com/vivendo
A perennial favorite of both expats and locals, this American-style steakhouse and seafood restaurant has a setting that’s pure Dublin; the fillet-steak-and-scrambled-egg breakfast is highly recommended.