Dublin is a favorite destination for many, whether they have Irish ancestry or not, thanks to its many atmospheric pubs, beautiful Georgian architecture (don't miss Trinity College and the Book of Kells), lively Docklands area with its markets, art galleries and cafes, and cultural performances, and the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin with its gorgeous flowers in season as well as other pretty parks. Dublin is also the perfect base for outdoor adventure, including bicycling, horseback riding and hiking. And while many visitors think of cozy, homespun B&Bs when they think of Dublin, the Irish capital also has several beautiful luxury hotels, with understated elegance and superb service. These are our top picks:
The Merrion is often praised as the best hotel not only in Dublin, but all of Ireland. It's very central, just a couple minutes by foot from St. Stephens Green Park, and also near lively Grafton Street, one of Dublin's main shopping streets. Created from meticulously restored 18th century townhouses, we'd recommend requesting a Deluxe Room or Suite in the Georgian Main House if possible, to enjoy spacious rooms with high ceilings and views of the Merrion's gardens or of nearby landmark buildings. No matter which room or suite you choose, the Italian carrera marble bathroom offers a separate soaking tub and shower, and there's complimentary WiFi, a rarity for luxury hotels. And unusual for such a central city hotel, there's a indoor swimming pool, part of the hotel's Tethra Spa, with a trompe l'oeil mural that reminds one a bit of the indoor pool at the Four Seasons Paris George V. While the excellent concierge staff is happy to recommend other Dublin restaurants, one of the best is right at The Merrion: Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, the only Dublin restaurant with two Michelin stars. Savor specialties such as Roast Chestnut and Artichoke Soup with Madeira and Truffle Butter, Poached Annagassan Blue Lobster, Roast Redleg Partridge with Chanterelles and accompanying wines hand picked by the knowledgeable Sommelier. Worth the splurge!
The Four Seasons Dublin isn't in the city center, but many pick it for that reason--true relaxation and a peaceful night's sleep is assured in its idyllic setting, in one of Dublin's most exclusive neighborhoods and a short walk from lush Herbert Park. All the same, it's just a 10 minute drive into the city center for sightseeing, shopping and dining, and the Four Seasons offers complimentary car service Tuesday through Saturday, otherwise taxi and bus service is readily available. We love that even entry level Moderate Rooms are a spacious 447 square feet, though of course if you really want to splash out, there are Suites ranging from 895 square feet to 2691 square feet. All rooms include the Four Seasons' signature plus pillowtop bed, a separate deep soaking tub and glass-walled shower, L'Occitane bath amenities, thick terry bathrobes and evening turndown service. Although there's no tea or coffee maker in the room, you can request one. The Spa at the Four Seasons offers the most extensive choice of treatments of any Dublin hotel, with everything from a golf ball sports massage to Balinese massage, synchronized massage by two therapists, couple's massage, reflexology, and a variety of other massage, facial and body treatments. There's also an indoor lap pool, jacuzzi, fitness center, and helpful recommendations from the concierge for everything from bicycling and horseback riding to golfing and kid-friendly outings.
If the Merrion and the Four Seasons Dublin are too traditionally elegant for you and you seek something a little more modern, the Westbury Hotel is a good choice. As with the Merrion, it's right in the city center, right on Grafton Street, with its many shopping and dining options, and midway between Trinity College and Stephen's Green. There's no getting around the fact that Superior Rooms are on the small side, at about 270 square feet, but they're beautifully appointed with light neutral colors brightened with floral throw pillows, soft Lissadell linens, and quality Aromatherapy Associates bath amenities. Complimentary WiFi is another plus. Just as importantly, after a late night on the town, is being able to brew your own espresso in the morning, courtesy of an in-room Nespresso machine. Wilde Restaurant offers grilled steaks and favorites such as rabbit with wild mushrooms and pan fried Irish salmon, prepared with locally sourced meats and seafood. Service is generally top-notch, so our only real quibbles are the rather small standard rooms, occasional issues with noise (this is the city center, after all) and compact gym.
Getting to Dublin with Frequent Flyer Miles and Points
1. Business Class on Aer Lingus Boston to Dublin: 50,000 British Airways Avios points + cheap flight to Paris
- If you can manage to leave from Boston, this is a great deal: 50,000 Avios points roundtrip
- Main con is that Aer Lingus Business Class seats are angled flat, so you may not get great rest on them. Boston-Dublin is only a 6 hour flight though, so not as crucial as, say, U.S. West Coast to Paris
- See Best Travel Credit Cards for the current British Airways Visa link. Note that the current bonus is 50,000 Avios, but in past years there's been a 100,000 Avios promotion in April. There are sometimes also better offers when you go through the process of booking a British Airways flight, and you may not even have to book the flight to get the bonus offer.
2. Coach on Aer Lingus to Dublin: 25,000 British Airways Avios points + cheap flight to Paris
- If you're simply looking for the cheapest award flight, it's hard to beat Aer Lingus from Boston to Dublin in coach for 25,000 Avios + $146 in fees.
3. Lufthansa First Class to Frankfurt, then Business Class to Dublin
If you want comfortable flights and don't mind a connection, I'd recommend Lufthansa first class, although you can't book this in advance. It's 67,500 United miles one way, or 135,000 miles roundtrip, and well worth the slight premium in miles. Don't forget that if you book a roundtrip, you're also entitled to two open jaws, so you could hop around the UK or Europe and leave out of, say, Paris, and even have a free one way somewhere from your home airport after you return.
You can earn the miles from either 2 credit card applications plus credit card spend, or from 3 credit card applications. Apply for the Ink Bold or Ink Plus business card, together with either the United MileagePlus Explorer or the Sapphire Preferred, then either earn the additional United miles through spend or by, in about 3 months, applying for the third card (the United MileagePlus Explorer if you already applied for the Sapphire Preferred, or the Sapphire Preferred if you already applied for the MileagePlus Explorer).
There are certainly other flights you can take to Dublin on British Airways (although prepare for high fuel surcharges), American Airlines, Swiss via Zurich (almost impossible now to get award space in advance in business, let alone first class) and Air France via Paris (but business class has angled flat seats, so you may as well try to fly to Dublin directly on Aer Lingus, unless you need to use Skymiles).