If you’re planning a trip to Dublin or live here and want to explore the city more, I have lots of tips for you. Dublin is a wonderful city full of great museums, galleries, shops and restaurants. Here’s where to start!

I write a regular series called One Day in Dublin – detailing whole days full of Dublin adventures. Check back every few weeks for a new installment! You can view the first Day in Dublin here.

I also write a regular column for Poppytalk called Dispatches from Dublin, about the craft and design world in our great city. I share the stories behind great shops, initiatives, tours and workshops.

Getting around Dublin is pretty easy. Here’s what you need to know about public transportation and Dublin Bikes. And here a few more links to get you started here on FCV!

I wrote a City Guide for Design*Sponge about Dublin.

Like ice cream? Check out Murphy’s.

Everything you need to know to blend in at the pub.

Romantic Grafton Street.

*** Need a little more help? I also give custom tours of Dublin through Vayable. Whatever your interests, I can put together a three-hour tour that will help you learn about the makers, bakers, artists and creators that make this city tick. Click here to learn more about my Made in Dublin tours.

Five Great Hot Chocolates in Dublin

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Good morning from snowy Dublin! Well, snowy might be overstating it, but there were some soggy flurries and it is cold! What better time to talk about the best hot chocolates in Dublin? I’ve been on a hot chocolate kick this winter and these are my faves – for different reasons!

(I should also tell you that this is one of the most painful posts I’ve written in a long time. My love for hot chocolates – and every other kind of chocolate – this winter prompted Michael and I to take on a 14-day total sugar detox. We’re on Day 6 and I don’t think it’s a good sign that I’m still dreaming of hot chocolate!)

Here’s a little warning about Dublin hot chocolate. Not every restaurant or cafe is going to give you great hot chocolate, even if it’s on the menu. I’ve ordered it in places and ended up with the powdery mixed in chocolate you’d make at home. I think that’s disappointing and not worth the calories if you’re out and about in Dublin because we have so many delicious options for the real deal. Consider yourself warned!

Right, back to the task at hand.

Butlers Chocolate Cafes / Best hot chocolate for walking around

Butlers is kind of the holy grail of hot chocolate in Dublin. It’s an Irish chain with multiple branches throughout the city, so it’s almost always convenient. Which is much better if you’re a visitor than if you’re a local. If you’re a local, you’ll eventually land yourself in sugar detox time out.

I’m not a big fan of different flavored hot chocolate, like mint or chili, but Butlers does have those as well. The regular hot chocolate is made with their gooey chocolate sauce and hot milk, topped with whipped cream if you so choose. If you sit in (some of the Butlers cafes have space, some don’t), it’s served in a tall glass, which also isn’t my favorite. I think the better way to enjoy Butlers hot chocolate is in a take-away cup, walking around the city with pleasantly warm hands. If you’re a coffee fan, their mochas are made with the same gooey chocolate and they are divine.

They also have Butlers at the Dublin airport in both terminals, so I always grab one when I get through security as a reward for making it that far!

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Brother Hubbard and its new Sister Sadie / Most chocolate-y

Brother Hubbard and its new south side location, Sister Sadie, wins the award for most chocolate-y hot chocolate in Dublin. I’ve written about Brother Hubbard before, and I still can’t get over how they manage to make hot chocolate so chocolat-y. It’s really rich, but it’s not overly sweet, which makes it drinkable!

It’s served with a little jug of already chocolate-y hot milk, and a mug of rich liquid chocolate that’s thinner than sauce but thicker than hot chocolate. You mix the two together yourself, sip and swoon. I know that word is over-used, but I think swoon is an appropriate response to Brother Hubbard’s hot chocolate.

Considered Cafe / Frothiest

I wrote about Considered Cafe only last week, and I’m still thinking about their frothy hot chocolate. I was offered marshmallow on top, but I declined, because sometimes Dublin marshmallows are tiny, crunchy pink things that make this girl who used to eat Marshmallow Fluff with a spoon very disappointed. So, no marshmallows. Verdict? Totally not necessary. They froth the milk so well and pour it so it looks like a gorgeous cappucino with a little tree design (photo above). Despite the good frothing, it’s still chocolate-y enough for me. I’ll be back!

Bean and Goose / Best bonuses

I mentioned I’m not such a big fan of flavored hot chocolate, but Bean and Goose in the Temple Bar Market in Meetinghouse Square is an exception. Sometimes Aztec hot chocolate, with lovely cinnamon flavor, or even whiskey hot chocolate, which some days definitely call for!

But what I love about Bean and Goose hot chocolate are the bonuses. First, they share a table with Wildflour Bakery (Kate made my birthday cake for my 30th and I wish there was still some left in the freezer!), their table is covered in 31 Chapel Lane Irish linen (which makes the best gift!) and you can take blocks of Bean and Goose hot chocolate home to make yourself.

Clement & Pekoe / Crowd Favorite

I have to admit this last hot chocolate I haven’t tried myself. When I go to Clement & Pekoe, I zero in on their cappuccinos or flat whites because they are one of the best in the city. But when I asked for recommendations on Instagram the other day, Clement & Pekoe was the crowd favorite, so I wanted to include them in this list.

French Foodie in Dublin recommended them in her list of the best hot chocolates in Dublin and it looks yummy and maybe a little cheaper than some of these options, but I’m worried about the chocolate factor. I like a really chocolate-y hot chocolate and this one comes with hot milk and a chocolate stirring stick. But seriously, so many people recommended it, and I trust Instagram friends, I do!

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Now here’s the fun part. How about you all make your recommendations for your favorite Dublin hot chocolates and I can commence dreaming about them until this stupid sugar detox is over and I’m back to my life of indulgence! If you don’t have a Dublin favorite, you could share your all-time favorite from anywhere in the world, and wouldn’t that be an awesome chocolate-y list!

Cosy Dublin Cafe / Considered by Helen James

considerd_cafe_dublin_helen_james There’s a new cafe on the block and I’m smitten with its utter cosiness! It’s called Considered and it’s taken up residence in a little spot in the Creative Quarter on Drury Street. I’ve been twice in the last few weeks and so far it’s been the perfect spot for sharing chats over hot chocolates with friends on winter afternoons.

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Considered is both a cafe and a product line by designer Helen James. So you can buy her products in select Dunnes stores around the country, as well as in the Considered cafe on Drury Street. Helen has designed a really lovely (and reasonably priced) line of kitchen goods, like marble rolling pins and pottery canisters, aprons, tea towels, jams and sauces.

The cafe has a selection of soups and hot and cold sandwiches, lots of treats baked in house daily, and some pretty yummy hot chocolate. It’s not very large, just one big table and some bar stools looking out the window, but if you can nab a seat it’s really pleasant. Kind of exactly how you’d want your own kitchen to feel at home. Some day.  soup and sandwiches dublin cafe sandwich_considered_cafe_dublin cosy dublin cafe

The cafe uses the little sugar and creamer sets from the Considered range, which is a sweet touch. There are bits of grey and pink everywhere, which is quite peaceful. The bar stools are a super place to people watch, as well. You can practically wave to the girls in the Irish Design Shop from your perch!  hot chocolate dublin cafe good things take time dublin cafe croissants_helen_james_considered_cafe_dublin helen_james_design_dunnes_range

It’s well worth a visit if you need a place to warm up in Dublin!

Considered Cafe by Helen James / 42 Drury Street / Dublin 2

 

Ireland for Foodie Visitors

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Want to know what we packed alongside Christmas presents when we came to Maine last month? Irish butter. We meant to pack some Irish cream as well, but we thought that might make a much bigger mess if it spilled in the suitcase. We just couldn’t imagine spending the holiday without a little Irish dairy, we are that addicted.

I wrote a piece for Conde Nast Traveler before Christmas about ten foods you have to try when you’re visiting Ireland. It was so hard to narrow the list down to only ten, and there is a very strong dairy theme that will probably become clear pretty quickly! I’d love to hear what you’d add to the list. If I had another ten to add, I’d include Keogh’s crisps and Butler’s hot chocolate. Nothing like starting Monday morning hungry!

Delightful Dublin Guidebook Holiday Discount!

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Just like that, Christmas is right around the corner. It’s not even possible that it’s surprising – we’ve been talking about it for months – but yet how is it so close?! I went to order a gift online today and was out of luck because it won’t get there in time for Christmas. Ack!

So I figured a few of you might be in the same predicament and are spending your last few days looking for great online gifts. Terrifying side note/trivia fact, did you know Amazon’s busiest time for ordering gift cards is Christmas morning?! I’m not sure where I heard that, but it’s a little depressing, so we’ll get back on track.

In case you’re in the market for a last minute gift that doesn’t rely on postage, you can order a copy of my guidebook, Delightful Dublin, and receive it instantly! If you’re like me and like to have something physical to accompany an online gift, order a copy, then send me a note and I’ll email you a file you can print and include in a card! It’s a pretty affordable little gift for anyone who loves Dublin or is planning a visit!

Use the code HOLIDAY25 to get 25% off the price of Delightful Dublin, so that’s only $9 for 250 beautiful pages of inspiration and information on this delightful city. Ho ho ho!

Order right here!

*Discount applies to postcard packs (see those right here) as well, but you’ll have to wait until after Christmas to get those! 

Simple Inspiration: This Is Why I Love Dublin

Irish Design Shop Dublin

Last week, I got a peek at a new video that Visit Dublin has put together to showcase Dublin. I had just returned from Maine, where, per usual, I spent a lot of time comparing where I grew up with where I live now. Fresh off all that ruminating over country versus city, American versus Irish, rural versus urban, should we move back tomorrow versus should we live in Ireland forever, I was energised by this little video of my adopted city and the inner argument that is always brought on by a trip home was put to rest for the moment.

The video highlights lots of the wonderful little spots I love to show visitors when I’m giving tours, spots that might go undiscovered by most tourists who read typical guidebooks. When Visit Dublin asked if I might want to write a little something to go along with the video, it was an easy and fast yes. That’s my Dublin they’re showing in that video! That’s the city I’ve fallen in love with and that I can’t shut up about! And that’s the city you should seek out if you’re planning a visit.

When I moved here a little over six years ago, the options for guidebooks about Dublin were pretty thin. They were, by and large, stodgy and dull, recommending only the most stereotypical and tourist-trapped sights. But as the city has ballooned with new shops and restaurants, galleries and festivals, the people who love the city have begun to change how the rest of the world views this little corner of the earth. And thank goodness, because Dublin is really an especially delightful place.

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Last week, I crisscrossed the city streets on a Dublin Bike, smiling to myself (well, except the one day I got caught in the rain, no smiles for me that day!) at the swans I get to watch along the canal, the ladies selling fruit and flowers on the sidewalks, the sunsets over the River Liffey. More than once, I found myself craning my neck to get a better look at a shop that had just opened or that I had never noticed before. I’d stop at red lights, flanked on either side by more cyclists, and we’d share a raised eyebrow at the cheeky manoeuvres drivers were trying to finagle in traffic.

By the end of the week, I’d put quite a few miles on those Dublin Bikes and on my boots walking along the cobblestones. I found myself a little weary of the city traffic and chattering crowds. Quick solution on a Saturday afternoon? My usual running route along the seaside bike path up to Howth fishing village, watching the seagulls drop mussels on the rocks to crack them open for lunch, and sucking in the fresh air. As the sun dropped lower, the street lights warmed up and I could see all the city lights across the water.

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For the last six years, whenever I return to Maine for a visit, at least one person asks me something along the lines of so, you must love it there, right? Well, yeah, I do really love it. Sometimes I think not loving it might be a little easier, because I wouldn’t be so torn between two homes I love so much, but the truth is Dublin is just a super city. It’s a manageable size so I never feel overwhelmed but I’m always discovering new spots, and within minutes of downtown you can be looking out at the Irish Sea or heading out to hike in the hills. Dublin is buzzy city streets flanked by mountains and salty ocean, it’s big and yet small, it’s a city that feels like one big town.

All that to say I’ve resumed my usual Dublin cheerleader status after that brief New England vacation. If you’re planning a visit or just want to do a little armchair traveling, here are a few resources to check out.

Delightful Dublin / Visit Dublin / Totally Dublin / Dublin Town

A selection of photos taken by Julie Matkin for Delightful Dublin – a beautiful and useful guide to my adopted city. 

Love in Dublin City

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These photos are 1000% out of season. We haven’t had cherry blossoms in Dublin in several months, but that hasn’t affected the giant smile plastered across my face as I flip through these photos. My incredibly talented friend Ashley Ludaescher, a fellow American ex-pat I met at the Hive Conference in Berlin more than two years ago, came to Dublin to shoot the Sister Mag feature I was in during the spring.

Somehow we found time to do a little shoot with Michael and they are probably the most romantic photos we’ve ever had taken. And the smile is absolutely stuck to my face as I get to see the looks Michael and I give each other.  Every time I flip through these photos, I feel those laughs and smiles and admiring looks we give each other. Those are our looks, and Ashley captured them perfectly.

Michael and I didn’t really have fancy wedding photos taken – that was only becoming trendy when we got married more than six years ago. And since then, we’ve had our photo taken by Julie a few times but even that was mostly business. These were just meant to about us – no other motives whatsoever. I think you can tell (and I’ve included so many photos here you should probably be convinced!).

I should also mention that what you can’t tell is just how weird and goofy I was feeling during this shoot. When shoots are business, I can get my game face on and work. When shoots are just for fun and romance and smooching, I fizzle into a puddle of giggles and can barely keep a straight face. Thankfully, Michael managed to keep us on track, and Ashley managed to work her magic and make us (me, really) look sane.  emily_michael_ashley_ludaescher-2 emily_michael_ashley_ludaescher-3 emily_michael_ashley_ludaescher-4

emily_michael_ashley_ludaescher-23 mike and em 2 em and mike emily_michael_ashley_ludaescher-9 emily_michael_ashley_ludaescher-10 emily_michael_ashley_ludaescher-11 emily_michael_ashley_ludaescher-12 emily_michael_ashley_ludaescher-14 emily_michael_ashley_ludaescher-13 mike and em 3 emily_michael_ashley_ludaescher-17 emily_michael_ashley_ludaescher-18 emily_michael_ashley_ludaescher-20 emily_michael_ashley_ludaescher-22 You’ll be seeing just a few of these photos in a Christmas card DIY next week!

If you’re in the market for a wedding photographer or a love shoot, Ashley is wonderful!

 

Surprises

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Last week was a funny week for me – it was very quiet on the outside, but there was lots going on behind the scenes. This time, it had nothing to do with work or projects. This time, I was traveling from Dublin to Maine to surprise my family with a bonus visit! Only my brother knew, and he helped me with the rest of the logistics. I don’t think I’ve looked forward to something this much or wanted to repeat it as many times as last week. It was a blast and a blessing.

Living in Ireland is obviously exciting and fulfilling and wonderful in a lot of ways – Michael and I travel around Europe so much, we get to experience a different culture every day (for better or worse!), we get to live near the city and the sea, the butter tastes better… But living so far from my immediate family is hard most of the time. We have done really well in the last six years to cope with the distance, but it still remains that it’s hard to be the one who moved away. Very, expensively far away.

A few weeks ago marked six years since I have lived in Dublin. Michael and I reminisced about the morning I arrived, at 5am in the howling, windy rain. We have come so far since then, and I have come so far since then. Michael and I have made a home for ourselves, and I have made a career for myself. We are surrounded by family and friends, and we have our hilarious chickens and a cat that is currently being contracted out for some mouse retrieval.

Our life in Dublin is wonderful nearly all the time, but this year I have realized that part of my coping mechanism in the last six years might have been to convince myself I don’t want to move back home. I may very well have brainwashed myself out of homesickness. While we are simultaneously thinking about buying a house in Dublin, I find myself wondering and stewing over whether someday we should move back to America.

All that to say, while I hem and haw about where I’ll be the least homesick, it was so great to add another surprise trip to Maine this year. We found a really cheap flight and I managed to keep the secret for two months! I surprised my sister, my grandparents, and then my parents – and no one had heart attacks! I get to be in Maine for Thanksgiving this week, (and my birthday today!) and in fact we’ve already celebrated with two more Thanksgivings just for good measure.

If anyone wants to talk years on years of ex-pat homesickness and how to cope without brainwashing yourself, I’m all ears!

A Walk in the Park and So Much More

Phoenix Park Farmleigh

Last week I put together a post for Conde Nast Traveler about Phoenix Park here in Dublin and I was reminded of just how amazing it is. Phoenix Park is one of the largest in-city parks in Europe, has a herd of wild deer (!), the Dublin Zoo, the President’s house, Victorian gardens, monuments, a castle…the list is so long. It’s a popular spot for locals to run and cycle and bring their children, and it’s a great option for visitors to escape the busy city as well.

You can have a lovely virtual visit to Phoenix Park in my post on Conde Nast Traveler.

All photos by Julie Matkin.

Delightful Dublin Postcards Available Now!

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Exciting news today! We’ve put together the perfect stocking stuffer for the Irish-at-heart on your holiday list: Delightful Dublin postcards! Six beautiful photographs from the Delightful Dublin guide, with little postcard markings on the back.

Since Delightful Dublin is a digital guide, we knew we wanted to have something physically printed to go along with it and show off Julie’s gorgeous images of the city. This way, if you’d like to order Delightful Dublin as a gift to give to someone, you can have something physical to give them along with the digital download. They come all wrapped up, and shipping anywhere in the world is included, just in time for the holidays.

You can purchase a copy of the guide (for yourself or as a gift) and a pack of postcards for a discounted price. If you’re ordering Delightful Dublin as a gift, send me an email and we’ll help you with the surprise details for the recipient!  delightful_dublin_postcards_2

You can see all the designs there – the War Memorial Gardens, Georgian doors, the General Post Office and even a little shot of gorgeous Howth. I might be biased, but I think they’re so modern and fresh – unlike any postcards I see around the city!

Of course, these little postcards don’t have to be put in the mail, they’re perfect to frame and hang on your wall, too!

You can purchase your postcard pack here, and all orders will ship December 1st, just in time for the holidays!

Irish Makers at Work / Claire Ryan of the Informal Florist

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It’s time for another instalment of my collaboration with talented photographer Christine Burns today. This time, we get to have a reunion with the Informal Florist! Doing this interview was so fun, because the last time I featured Claire on my website was when I interviewed her for Poppytalk over two years ago!

I’ve been the recipient of some of Claire’s work in the meantime, when she did the beautiful floral arrangements for my 30th birthday dinner party last year. But I haven’t had the chance to chat with her about the Informal Florist business in quite a while, so this is an exciting update because Claire’s business has grown so much in the last few years.

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The first big change in the world of the Informal Florist was the studio, where Claire is able to work without her two little blonde munchkins getting into the arrangements. With whitewashed walls and lots of space for her vessels up on the walls, the new studio is a welcome addition to the operation. Claire admits the studio is regularly freezing, which is “fantastic for flowers” but means she can’t sit still for long before the chill sets in!

Of course, with the unusually warm summer we had, Claire had the opposite problem and was bringing in bags of ice to keep the flowers cool. We both agreed we probably won’t have an Irish summer like that again for a very long time!

Claire now creates arrangements on specially made wooden tables, hand crafted from hundred year old wood and old hospital steel legs by a carpenter in her neighborhood. They’re just the right height and, Claire admits, “They’re my babies.”

 

 

 

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The second big change is that Claire has welcomed a partner in the Informal Florist, Patsy Rafter. The two met at a wedding event in Dublin and became fast friends. With the addition of a partner for the Informal Florist, Claire is managing to balance the hours she spends creating beautiful arrangements with the hours she spends with her family.

informal_florist_at_work_0039 The addition of a partner has also meant the re-opening of the Informal Florist shop! If Michael and I weren’t going to be gone over Christmas, there would be an Informal Florist Christmas wreath on our door. Honestly, there might be anyway – at least our neighbors would enjoy it!  informal_florist_at_work_0071 informal_florist_at_work_0144 2

I asked Claire if she thought her style had changed over the last few years of owning her flower business, and she said the biggest change isn’t in her style but in her knowledge of flowers themselves. And she has learned she can’t discount any flowers – even calla lilies, flowers she admittedly couldn’t stand a few years ago. A wedding color palette required a deep, dark flower and she landed on almost-black calla lilies and fell in love with them. Now, she says, “I’ll never completely discount anything!”

This reflects Claire’s overall goal with the Informal Florist – to keep her arrangements beautiful but approachable. “If you do something and you like it, it’s beautiful to you.”

 

informal_florist_at_work_0283 I can’t wait to see where the Informal Florist is in another few years! And I’m seriously eyeing those tables and those giant dahlias!

Thanks, Claire, for chatting with me, and thanks to Christine for sharing these gorgeous photos!

Missed the earlier Makers at Work? Visit KaroArt, Mianra Soaps, and Fawn Prints

 

 

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