The Merrion Hotel, Dublin
BACKSTORY: Anyone in search of Irish gentility (which is getting harder to find in the fast-paced world of the Celtic Tiger) would do well to spend a night or two at The Merrion Hotel. Four sublime 18th century Georgian townhouses (one of them the birthplace of the first duke of Wellington) were linked together to form a hotel in 1997. The Merrion is a country house hotel in the city, elegant and well-restored but not overly polished. The reception rooms are decorated with elaborate plaster work ceilings, antique furniture and a fine collection of Irish art. With the smell of peat in the fireplaces and the solicitous staff, this hotel couldn’t be anywhere but Dublin.
THE ROOMS: Many of the guest rooms are done in classic Georgian style, with elaborate plaster work ceilings and marble fireplaces. Bathrooms are five-star Carrara-marble sanctuaries. The 143 bedrooms and suites are divided between the Main House and the new Garden Wing. The former have more charm, though Garden Wing rooms overlook the central garden, designed by famed designer Jim Reynolds.
MORE REASONS TO STAY: The lobby is merely the first of a series of rooms outfitted with plush chairs and couches set near a welcome fireplace, a bit like a country house in the middle of the city. It’s a splendid place for afternoon tea or a whiskey and a thorough read of the Sunday papers. If you can move from one of those overly soft and cushioned seats, all roads, or rather rooms, lead to the bar, as they should in any good Irish hostelry, with its fireplace, comfortable seating and discrete barmen. The pace of the guests is lazy and leisurely. The staff, on the other hand, is alert and attentive. That’s a happy marriage.
INSIDER TIP: Patrick Guilbaud’s restaurant (allegedly Dublin’s best, and proud of it two Michelin stars), is located within the Merrion. Book well in advance.
THE DEAL: While published rates for The Merrion Hotel are stratospheric at the current woeful exchange rate (E470 or about $736), the hotel is often available for far less through its own packages ( a best available rate package is E199 or $311) and sites like Expedia.com routinely unearth rooms for even less ($273 per night for a stay in mid-August based on a recent search).
CAVEAT: Not for those requiring a scene. It feels more late 19th century than early 21st.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: You’re steps away from Merrion Square and a couple of block from St Stephen’s Green. Dublin is eminently walkable, and this quiet location takes you well away from the nighttime revelries going on elsewhere.