There can be a Sunday-morning feel to it. Easy, yes. But also eerie.
Pubs are on pause; souvenir shops shuttered; gigs off. I've never seen so many Deliveroo couriers, and a hawker on Henry Street cries, "€2, the face masks!" Dubs are on staycation, leaving Dublin feeling a little drained.
"It still feels like a ghost town," reflects Donal Fallon, historian and walking guide behind the brilliant social history podcast Three Castles Burning. But he sees positives, too. "Every moment of despair brings occasional glimmers of hope... the fact that people are even thinking about how the city is configured now is a good thing."
Covid has lain bare underlying problems - how few people live in the centre, a dependence on tourism. But this is also a unique moment in its history. Now's a time to visit without stifling crowds, to bag hotel deals and sales (up to 80pc off at Brown Thomas, hello!), or book that restaurant you've been eyeing up.
Dublin is missing its nightlife, shows and matches (what city wouldn't?) but a visit still gives that shot of city fizz, and there are signs of new life - in the refurbished Clarence and Trinity Townhouse hotels, fresh spots like Canteen at the Marlin and V-Face, more space for walkers and cyclists, and the mini wildflower meadows sprouting outside Trinity College. Galleries and museums are open, and there's cracking coastline and mountains too.
I ask Fallon what he loves about the place. "It's the layers of Dublin," he says. "It's all of these different things."
Dublin has become more pedestrian- and cycle-friendly almost overnight. Areas around Grafton Street are being pedestrianised on weekend trials, Blackrock village looks like a cut of Copenhagen, and new outdoor seating has spilled into enclaves like South Anne Street. Cities are about energy, interaction and diversity, and it feels strange to have those lights dimmed at night. But by day, on weekends, a mosey can still throw up some of that urban mojo, and Howth and its suburban villages are hopping. Make a day of it.
As a rule, Dublin doesn't do rooftop bars (erm, weather) but that hasn't stopped The Marker Hotel at Grand Canal Dock. Its opulent, clubby rooftop space boasts 360-degree views of the city and an escape for splurges like socially distanced cocktails and signature "Bubbleclaws" - a swanky marriage of Irish lobster and Champagne. It opens to non-residents from 5-10pm, Thurs-Sun, by reservation only. firstname.lastname@example.org
Been mountain biking during lockdown? Take it to the next level at The GAP, a tangle of freshly cut trails at Glencullen in the Dublin Mountains (top). It's aimed at intermediate and advanced riders, with prices from €5 (Pedal Up), half-day bike hire from €35, and an Uplift van service that can take you back up top (prices by the half-day). What's new? "We've opened our new A-line," says Sinead Murphy. "It's the most extreme trail in the park... maybe even in Ireland." Afterwards, fuel up with burgers and coffee at The GAP Kitchen on site. thegap.ie
"Life ain't always empty," reads a big mural in Temple Bar. It's a hook line from the Fontaines DC song 'A Hero's Death', and it feels defiant. Nearby, I follow new one-way markers through the George's Street Arcade, which suspended rents for its 42 shops during lockdown, turning onto a lively South Great George's Street, where San Lorenzo's is back open and Toons Bridge Dairy has a new deli. Life ain't always empty.
November 21 marks the 100th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when 14 civilians were killed during a football match at Croke Park. The stadium's GAA Museum has tours, talks and an exhibition, including artefacts like the ref's whistle and a damaged pair of glasses from the day, running until November. Entry, with a stadium tour, costs from €10/€7pp; crokepark.ie/bloodysunday
"A bird is known by its song, a man by his conversation." So reads a plaque in Fleet Street's Palace Bar, one of the few Dublin pubs open for business. The storied time capsule is doing food - including "All Ireland buffalo wings" and "Trip to Tipp chicken strips" (a nod to its Tipperary heritage) - along with socially distanced pints and a top-notch whiskey collection. Slip back in time by bagging a table in the back room among the Harry Kernoff prints (signed with his signature green pen). facebook.com/ThePalaceBar
What a thrill to find a new opening in our post-apocalyptic times. "Animal burgers, made with plants" is the tagline at V-Face in Stoneybatter, Sarah Boland's sit-in version of her popular vegan pop-up. A pared-back, funky space serves take-away-style trays, with vegan burgers the main event - a fiery Beyond Chi mixes a plant-based Beyond Burger with kimchi slaw, for example, while a Classic John is made with a beetroot and chickpea patty. Irish craft beers, compostable packaging, vegware cutlery and Dublin-baked buns are tasty touches, too. vface.ie
8. €€€ With many city hotel rooms empty, this is a super time to snap up five-star deals. The Fitzwilliam, for example, has B&B plus a three-course dinner at Andy McFadden's Glover's Alley for two from €299. fitzwilliamhoteldublin.com
9. €€ Stay two nights at Press Up's Dean or Mayson hotel this month, and get a €100 voucher for any of the group's hotels, bars and restaurants. The Dublin Can Be Heaven offer starts from €179pp. pressup.ie
10. € Smithfield's street-art-themed Hendrick hotel has rooms from €85. Add a two-course dinner in Oscar's with "bottomless G&Ts" in a €170 date-night deal. hendrickdublin.ie
"We had such an enjoyable visit to Dublin Zoo - it felt so safe - and the National Botanic Gardens too. Both had excellent measures in place." - @Edillonleetch
This concludes our Ireland Unlocks series. Let us know what you thought about it at #IrelandUnlocks, by tweeting @Indo_Travel_ or @indoweekend, or email email@example.com!
NB: See visitdublin.com, dublintown.ie and dublin.ie for more. Opening dates, prices and offerings are all subject to public health guidelines and change.
High kings and high crosses, rollercoasters and razor clams, beaches and battlefields, garden trails and greenways - I love a holiday that caters for everyone in the family. Make it a short drive from home and it's even better: 30 minutes from Dublin? Yes, please.
'If you would like to know how it feels to be in the hospitality business during the current crisis, remember when the Titanic was sinking, but the band continued to play. Well, we're the band."