It’s no secret that Dublin is a city made for late nights and fun. So it should come as no surprise to learn that Sunday mornings are taken at a slower pace. You won’t find many souls pacing the streets until noon (and, in fact, many of the shops and museums don’t open until lunchtime, either). The streets that are usually thick with people are suddenly quiet; the sound of birdsong replacing the ever-present thrum of voices. All of which makes it the perfect time to head out and explore. Once the street cleaners have come and swept the city clean of the previous night’s transgressions, Dublin is yours for the taking, buoyed with a fresh-faced glow and a feeling of peaceful tranquillity in the air.
Got the brunchies?
While Dublin has most definitely caught the brunch bug, things don’t get busy here until earlier in the afternoon, which means getting a table before noon is usually fairly easy. Down in Portobello, Brother Hubbard (46 Harrington Street; brotherhubbard.ie; open from 10am) offers dishes with a Middle Eastern edge: think shakshuka eggs and halloumi slathered in zhoug (hot chilli relish).
Just around the corner, Meet Me in the Morning (50 Pleasants Street; mmim.ie; open from 8.30am; dishes around €10) is a neighbourhood favourite, where locals gather on sun-drenched tables for eggs and kale. If your visit happens to coincide with a fresh batch of sticky, pillow-soft cinnamon buns coming out of the oven, there’s no point trying to resist – as soon as that sugary-spiced scent hits the air, you’ll want one in your hand.
If you’re feeling peckish earlier in the morning, head to Bread 41 (41 Pearse Street; bread41.ie; open from 8am; dishes around €11), a hip bakery where they grind the flour on-site with their very own stone mill. If you fancy a bite to eat on the go, grab a coffee and a devilish dark chocolate praline cruffin, and set off for a stroll.
Now walk it off
Sunday morning is the best time to take in Dublin’s excellent city parks. Even on the nicest of days, they’re somehow blissfully calm, with only the odd dog walker and early riser off for a potter around. Stephen’s Green is the better known – take a stroll around the periphery to read up on Dublin’s history on the informative plaques, then head to the main pond, where the city’s notoriously aggressive seagulls have learnt how to impersonate ducks in order to get fed. Head north, past the grand Georgian townhouses, and you’ll reach perhaps the prettiest of all the parks, Merrion Square. The meticulous planning of the plant beds and greenery means that something is always in bloom, from the leafy bamboo in the winter to the branches heaving with blossom in the spring. Dotted around its edges you’ll find busts and statues commemorating figures as diverse as the Irish revolutionary Michael Collins and the Father Ted actor and comedian Dermot Morgan, as well as the (somewhat gaudy) figure of a sprawling Oscar Wilde, which is overlooked by his childhood home.
Pretty as a picture
On the edge of Merrion Square, the National Gallery of Ireland (national gallery.ie; opens 11.30am) houses a fine and extensive collection of art, with pieces from artists from Ireland (Jack B Yeats, John Lavery) and around the world (the Caravaggio is a highlight). While the more historical pieces are held within the deliciously ornate space of the main building, you’ll find modern work displayed in the light-flooded courtyard – most noticeably the giant mural by Joe Caslin. Time your visit right and you can view the gallery’s standout piece: Hellelil and Hildebrand, the Meeting on the Turret Stairs by by Frederic William Burton. This delicate watercolour is displayed for just two hours every week, in order to protect it from the light. One of those hours falls on a Sunday, when the cabinet doors are opened at 2pm.
Up on Parnell Square, the Hugh Lane (hughlane.ie; opens at 11am) isn’t just one of the finest galleries in the city. On Sundays, it’s also the setting for a free lunchtime concert, with an eclectic array of musicians performing in the Sculpture Gallery at noon. While the acoustics in this domed space could make even a howling cat sound impressive, the talent chosen makes it the best bargain in town - think world-class sopranos and pianists, or renowned string quartets. While it’s technically free, a euros 2 donation is suggested. Before you leave, nip up to Francis Bacon’s studio - the entire space was brought over from London, piece by piece, and reassembled in the gallery, dirty paintbrushes, empty champagne bottles and all. By midday, the buskers of Grafton Street will be setting up shop, so head down to see who snagged a pitch - many a top musician started out by laying a cap on this very spot.
Many of Dublin’s markets have been forced out of their locations or driven to closure. Though the reopening location is yet to be set in stone, the Dublin Flea market (dublinflea.ie; third Sunday of the month; open from 11am) will hopefully be back this year, after a previous relocation and a hiatus in 2020. Beloved by Dubliners, it is a treasure trove of stalls, where people flit between antique stands and racks overflowing with vintage clothes. On non-market days, the antique shops of Francis Street fit the bill nicely, stacked high with heirlooms both beautiful and bonkers (think taxidermy badgers). In the middle of town, the Powerscourt Centre (59 William Street South; powerscourtcentre.ie; open from noon) is one of the finest Georgian townhouses in the city, filled with tiny boutiques and independent shops. There’s often live piano music at lunchtime, too.
Let us pray
At almost 1,000 years old, Christ Church Cathedral (Christchurch Place; christchurchcathedral.ie; morning service 11am) is an incredible space, from the magnificent nave to the 12th-century crypts below your feet.
Just down the road is the second of Dublin’s three cathedrals, St Patrick’s (St Patrick’s Close; stpatrickscathedral.ie; morning service 11.15am). There’s a service at 9.15am, but the Choral Eucharist at 11.15am makes better use of the space, when the echo of the voices soar through the eaves. On a fine day, the end of the Eucharist will coincide with the sun worshippers taking to the gardens, to sit with a coffee by the flower beds.