Travel Ireland - Ways to Explore Dublin on Globetrotting Mama

Photo by Greenwood Davis Designer Claire Garvey’s eclectic shop is one stop on the popular Le Cool Dublin Tour. The tour aims to showcase some of the people and places that most tourists never meet.

With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner (Tuesday, March 17) we’re getting in the spirit by sharing some of our favourites Irish stories. Last week we shared an article called Travel Ireland: Tips for Family Friendly Fun. This week we continue our tribute in Dublin, perhaps the best known Irish city. This was a favourite stop for us, thanks in large part to the vibrant nature of this city steeped in tradition. This article appeared last year online at the Toronto Star.



DUBLIN, IRELAND—There are no shortage of tours to choose from in Dublin.

Literary aficionado? They’ve got a tour for you. Pint-at-a-pub expert? There’s a tour for that, too. Just want to follow the music? They’ve got you covered.

If what you really want is to find “Le Cool,” well, you’ve come to the right place.

Michael McDermott, 36, is the publisher of Le Cool Dublin (, a free, urban indie weekly magazine dedicated to highlighting some of the unique offerings in the popular capital city.

“Le Cool is curated,” he says.

McDermott says the guide’s motto “as recommended by a friend” is a responsibility it takes seriously.

“We’re not a one-stop shop for tourists, but there’s a trust inherent that we’ll filter out the very best and most exciting under-the-radar happenings. We’re not interested in the big arena gigs or mainstream; we’ve always wanted to amplify the efforts of the pop-up, the emerging, the talented chancers.”

Several times a month McDermott leaves his publisher’s chair and offers walks of the city ( where he can point out the city’s gems in person.

“It’s a psycho-geographical undertaking, whereby those on the walk never know where they are going or where they’ll end up,” McDermott says.

“It’s a vibrant city which, occasional weather issues aside, affords people the chance to easily access its historical origins, contemporary edge and abundant charisma.”

Here are five of Le Cool’s popular stops:

  1. Waldorf Barbershop. Sure, you could come in, get a haircut and leave, but you won’t. Once you’ve walked down into the den of the shop, you’ll immediately want more. The shop was originally one of two opened in 1929 and 1945, respectively. Both reflected their eras; they had straight blade razors for shaving and chrome towel steamers. When one shop closed and the other was “modernized” in the ’60s, it looked like a good old fashioned shave would be a thing of the past. Liam Finnegan and his daughter, Linda, could have installed modern décor, but chose, instead, to strip the shop back to its original look. And, for the last 20 years, they’ve been offering old-fashioned shaves, and the haircuts of that era along with some updated modern twists. Grandfathers and grandsons have sat in the same chair. Go for the shave, but stay for the head massage! Judging by the looks on patrons’ faces when the rubbing and slapping is done, it’s well worth the visit.
  2. Claire Garvey, Cow’s Lane. There are designers and then there are fabric-wielding artisans. Claire Garvey is the latter. Inside the colourful storefront on Cow’s Lane in Temple Bar, the fashion maven has a knack for taking things you wouldn’t think to wear and turning them into incredible pieces. From a dress made out of chili peppers to another with a large key on the back — the wearer asked for something that would make her look like a music-box doll — hers aren’t the kind of thing you’ll see everyone wearing. Whether you’re brave enough to purchase one of her bespoke pieces or just want to have a chat with the creative person behind the work, Garvey’s shop is worth a peek.
  3. Street art. If your idea of art goes beyond classic oil paintings, you’ll get a kick out of the number of murals in and around Dublin. Graphic, commercial or poignant, they stop you in your tracks. Some, such as the Conor Harrington piece, “Black Herds of the Rain,” found in the heart of Temple Bar, are so perfectly a part of the scene in which they are set, that you run the risk of missing it if you aren’t careful. Don’t miss the multi-coloured portrait of musician B.P. Fallon by Maser on The Button Factory wall high above Curved Street.
  4. Science Gallery. Who knew science and art had this much in common? Every exhibition in the gallery is meant to provoke conversation and debate over current scientific issues. The Fail Better exhibit aims to get people thinking about whether failure is a natural part of creativity. Events include talks, debates and workshops, to allow for even more discussion. Displays are innovative and addictive, but they change regularly so you should check ahead to make sure something you were hoping to catch hasn’t moved on.
  5. The Powerscourt Centre. Don’t let the quaint flower shop out front and flat-faced stone façade deceive you; inside is an architecturally stunning building with shops that range from cute to useful to confusing. Among them “The Dolls Store Hospital and Museum,” which promises to fix your favourite doll and sells incredibly detailed furniture for dollhouses. In the centre court, there are places for a quick snack. Climb up a floor or two just for the gorgeous view. And, if that leads to a coffee and brief stop at one of the on-site cafés? Well, that’s a bonus.