Ireland’s progressive capital city—the home of Guinness and Jameson—abounds with celebrated pubs and cafés, trendy hotels, top-notch cuisine, literary history and happening queer nightlife.It may have come as a surprise to observers when an 84 percent Catholic country became the first nation in the world to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote. Turns out, gay rights in Ireland are among the most liberal in the world. So if you’re eyeing a Celtic Claddagh engagement ring and dreaming of an Emerald Isle honeymoon, (or just need a vacay with your bae) don’t hesitate. Most of Ireland is a welcoming and queer-friendly destination—especially Dublin, its vibrant capital.
Where to Hang Your Tweed Cap (Hotels)
The Dubs offer a wealth of lodgings, from world-class luxury hotels and quaint B&Bs to budget inns for skinflints and hostels for students. If you’re kicking off your Ireland trip in this delightful city, don’t worry; you’ll have plenty of comfortable places to lay your head.
At the opulent end of the spectrum, consider The Merrion Hotel (Merrion Street Upper, Dublin 2, 353 1 603 0600, $$$$). With its 123 well-appointed rooms and 19 suites, it’s also home to a sophisticated spa and noteworthy restaurants. Take afternoon tea in the posh drawing rooms, sample gastropub fare in the Cellar Bar, treat yourself to modern Irish cuisine at the Cellar Restaurant, or indulge in a fine dining experience at Patrick Guilbaud, Ireland’s only two-star Michelin restaurant. This elegant hotel occupies four restored Georgian townhouses, and is a five-minute walk from St. Stephen’s Green (free), Dublin’s most popular and beautifully landscaped public park. For the trendy traveler seeking mod surroundings, the Morrison Hotel (Ormond Quay Lower, Dublin 1, 353 1 887 2400, $$$) is a little hipper and easier on the wallet. It’s also a superb lesbian wedding destination. The four-star, 145-room, music-themed property is situated in the heart of the city on the banks of the River Liffey, just across the Millennium Bridge from the Temple Bar district, a hub of Dublin nightlife. Another excellent, gay-friendly choice is the Paramount Hotel (Temple Bar, Dublin 2, 353 1 417 9900, $$), a three-star accommodation in the west end of Temple Bar boasting 64 stylish rooms with an Art Deco design scheme.
Bring on the Craic (Restaurants, Bars and Nightlife)
Dublin cuisine offers so much variety beyond traditional Irish stew, shepherd’s pie and whiskey—not that there’s anything wrong with such standbys. In short, prepare to be amazed. While the food styles run the gamut and come from all over the globe, the common denominator is warm Irish hospitality. And no matter how diverse, the courses always integrate locavore ingredients for which Ireland has a stellar reputation. Dublin’s eateries are abundantly supplied with grass-fed beef and lamb, hand-smoked meats, fresh fish and seafood, local produce, baked goods and preserves, plus a wide range of organic fruits and vegetables.
Head to Fallon and Byrne (11-17 Exchequer St, Dublin 2, 353 1 472 1010, $$$), housed above a gourmet grocery store and basement wine bar, for French-inspired, farm-to-table fare like dry-aged beef, slow-roasted lamb, grilled fish, salads and seasonal veggies cooked to perfection, all washed down with delicious wine or craft cocktails. For contemporary fine dining, Restaurant Forty One (41 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, 353 1 662 0000, $$$$), is an intimate, serene Georgian townhouse overlooking the splendor of St. Stephen’s Green. Under the tutelage of award-winning chef Graham Neville, the culinary team creates elegant dishes using carefully handpicked ingredients from their own garden. If traditional Irish fare is what you seek, take a stroll past the buskers on Grafton Street, the city’s illustrious shopping thoroughfare, to Gallagher’s Boxty House (20-21 Temple Bar, Dublin 2, 353 1 677 2762, $$) for Black Angus sirloin steak, corned beef, raisin-glazed bacon ribs, smoked salmon and boxty—an Irish potato pancake.
Even with a relatively big LGBT population, there are no exclusive lesbian bars or longstanding regular girl parties in Dublin. (Sadly, Crush Girlclub hosted its last monthly party in November. The Dragon Bar, once Dublin’s second-biggest gay nightclub, with rotating weekly parties, has closed as well.) But don’t despair. The remaining queer bars and nightclubs are lively, happily mixed, and continue to host party nights catering to women and men.
Kick off your evening at the Front Lounge (34 Parliament St, Dublin 2, 353 1 670 4112, $$), a convivial, upscale neighborhood bar with whitewashed stone walls covered with works by local artists. This is the place to sip a Smithwick’s ale, mingle with a sophisticated after-work crowd and perhaps meet a hot lesbian startup CEO or bank exec. Dublin’s mainstay for gay nightlife, however, is The George (George’s St, Dublin 2, 353 1 478 2983, $$), known colloquially as The G: a friendly, centrally located pub/nightclub that’s been going strong for more than 30 years. The dimly lit G is the focal point for LGBT Dubliners (and out-of-towners) who want a little bit of everything—from drinking, dancing, live music, performances, comedy and drag shows to serious flirting and hooking up.
Once upon a time, long before “RuPaul’s Drag Race” hit the airwaves, RuPaul was crowned the Queen of Manhattan. In similar fashion, drag diva Panti Bliss is known as the Queen of Ireland. Panti Bar (7-8 Capel St, Dublin 1, 353 1 874 0710, $) is the fun and stylish namesake of Her Royal Highness. She also happens to own the place. Hunky bartenders keep the liquor flowing and spirits bubbly, as queers of all stripes pack Panti Bar for dancing, drag shows, lesbian burlesque, cabaret nights, movie screenings and happy hours. Don’t drink? Check out the Outhouse LGBT Resource Centre & Café (105 Capel St, Dublin 1, 353 1 873 4999, $$) for more low-key lesbian events, meetups, impromptu celebrations and to get involved in the local gay community. In addition to a café and performance venue, the space contains a library, information center, multi-purpose meeting rooms for support groups and special events, plus a whole lot more.
High Art (Museums, Sightseeing and Cultural Things to Do)
Dublin is Ireland’s UNESCO City of Literature, a hub of bookish history that any writer or reader will love. Serious bookworms will want to hit the Dublin Writers Museum (18 Parnell Sq, Dublin 1, 353 1 872 2077, €8 admission), which is everything it implies. The hometown of James Joyce, Dublin is the setting for his masterworks “Ulysses,” “Dubliners” and “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.” Take a peek at the windows of Sweny’s (1 Lincoln Place, Dublin 2, $$), the pharmacy Joyce made famous, for an eclectic display of Joycean literary artifacts. Can’t get enough? The James Joyce Centre (5 N Great George’s St, Dublin 1, 353 1 878 8547, €5 admission) is a museum devoted to the author that also offers interesting walking tours.
Not to be outdone, the ghost of legendary gay writer and dramatist Oscar Wilde reminds visitors that Dublin is his birthplace. His memorial sculpture in Merrion Square Park is a must-see photo op. Nearby, you’ll find The Oscar Wilde House (American College Dublin, 1 Merrion Sq, Dublin 2, 353 1 662 0281, free), his former childhood home. Across the street is the National Gallery of Ireland (Merrion Sq W, Dublin 2, 353 1 661 5133, free), the country’s leading art museum, with a permanent collection of European art spanning the 14th to the 20th centuries. Be in awe as you meander through the 16th century campus of Trinity College (College St, Dublin 2, 353 1 896 1661, free), and don’t miss “The Book of Kells,” illuminated manuscripts of the Christian Gospels dating from the year 800. Rest your overstimulated brain at Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction, the Guinness Brewery and Storehouse (St James’s Gate, Dublin 8, 353 1 408 4800, $$), which offers an interactive history lesson on the renowned Irish stout, complete with tastings and a rooftop bar.
Tours and Tourist Info
If you prefer expert guidance as you travel in Dublin and elsewhere, Brendan Vacations (800-687-1002) will make your experience unforgettable. They can help you book a private chauffeur, put together a special interest itinerary, provide you with last-minute deals and/or match you with the perfect guided vacation anywhere in Ireland or Scotland. Tours are run by charming, gay-friendly locals who’ll give you the inside scoop on every place you visit.
Peruse Gay Guide Dublin for an overview of the city’s LGBT scene, restaurant reviews and local tips. It’s a good source of updated information, photos, reviews and caveats for tourists. Keep it bookmarked during your trip.
We’ve saved the best for last. Set sail with Olivia (800-631-6277) this summer on an all-lesbian cruise from Dublin to Edinburgh. From July 4 through 12, the Windstar’s Wind Surf will carry you from Dublin to ports of call in the Isle of Man, Northern Ireland, the UK and Scotland, disembarking in the scenic city of Edinburgh. For eight days, you’ll explore all the wonders of the Celtic region with 300 other women. What better way is there to do it?
However you choose to arrive there, get thee to Dublin. Ireland’s capital is a wonderfully hospitable LGBT destination with so much to offer: great people, fascinating history, magnificent museums, sightseeing and loads of exciting entertainment.
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