By Frans Rombouts,
in partnership with
Dublin, at not only close from any major European capital, is packed with attractions that will not only enchant de leisure tourist, but also MICE guests. Being a seaside city and located on the banks of a river, Dublin enjoys a unique atmosphere.
The population is surprisingly young for European norms: about half of the 1.5 million inhabitants of Greater Dublin are under 25. And this makes the streets very lively.
Old Dublin has left a lot of heritage: Dublin Castle (although not a lot of it still stands), Christ Church Cathedral (the oldest building in town, dating back to the 12th century), St Patrick’s Cathedral, which is almost as old. They both were rebuilt in the 19th century, and this gives them a strong Victorian look.
And those interested in art should not miss a visit of the National Gallery or the Irish Museum of Modern Art.
And certainly a must is Trinity College, Ireland’s oldest university established in 1592. Here the pole of attraction is the Old Library with de Book of Kells. It contains the four gospels that were copied by monks some 1200 years ago! It is the oldest “book” that we know off.
However, this was not the aim of our visit. We have come to have a look at the latest developments of interest to MICE organizers. Most striking is the boost of the meeting facilities. Any visitor to Dublin cannot fail to see a huge new glass building in the Docks right in the centre of town: the National Convention Centre, which is due to open in September this year.
The building has been designed by the Pritzker Prize winner, Kevin Roche, the Internationally renowned, Irish-born architect.
The venue accommodates up to 2,000 in the main auditorium. The building also has some 22 multi-purpose meeting rooms and approximately 4,500 m² of flexible exhibition and banqueting space, along with dedicated press and delegate support facilities, as well as general-purpose utility spaces.
Another major development that is difficult not to see is the completely renewed AVIVA Stadium. This, too, is opening in a couple of months to be ready for the new football and rugby season. Everything about the stadium, from its architecture to its environmentally friendly design, has been inspired by the best ideas around the world to create a truly innovative sporting venue.
It has a seating capacity of 50,000, all of them under a roof, which does not cover the pitch.
Outside of match days the AVIVA Stadium will host to national and international events, meetings, exhibitions, conferences, balls, product launches, award ceremonies, dinners, luncheons and much more.
The event facilities consist of more than 50 diverse spaces spread over five levels of the stadium. They vary in size and are completely flexible allowing for 2 to 800 people in any one space.
Especially charming are the 36 corporate boxes varying in capacity from two to seventy people for meetings or events.
Also available is the state of the art Media Auditorium with seating for 190 guests.
During our previous visit to Dublin, we visited the Citywest Hotel and Conference Centre, which was being extended then. In the meantime, it has turned into Ireland’s largest convention and events centre, at some 20 km from the city centre and from Dublin international airport.
The conference centre has turned out to be a beauty. The original 16-year old events location has grown into a flexible multi-purpose venue with 34 dedicated meeting rooms and breakout suites, 111,500 square meters of flexible congress/exhibition space, conference capacities for some 4,100 delegates, dining facilities for more than 2,000 guests, 1,714 hotel rooms in various categories…
Apart from these fairly recent venues, some other historical buildings can also host MICE groups. One of them is the Royal Dublin Society (RDS). Since its inception in 1731, the RDS –as everyone in Dublin calls it- has grown from a small gathering of visionaries into one of Ireland's most influential institutions. Various foundations are linked to the RDS, apart from being a genuine British club where the members can retire from the hectic city and enjoy drinks and meals, and read the papers.
The extensive grounds offer various meeting and incentive possibilities. Apart from the main outdoor arena for up to 35,000 guests, over 20 function rooms in different sizes cater for all sorts of events, including dinner for 2,200 or almost 5,000 m² exhibition space in one room of 89 by 53 meters.
Of a completely different order is the Old Jameson Distillery, the original location of the famous distillery. It is set in the heart of Dublin. A mere visit of it is already an experience in its own right, but many more thrills are possible, including tutored whiskey tasting. And the guests can take their own personalized bottle of whiskey home. The entire place can also be rented after hours, like for a ‘Shindig Evening’ with dinner, whiskey tasting, music and Irish dancers.
The ‘3rd Still Restaurant’ is a modern and atmospheric restaurant serving a selection of traditional Irish and modern dishes.
Now that we have come to speak of food, we cannot but mention some excellent restaurants that we visited, and which are also open for incentive guests. Chapter One is located in the basement of the Dublin Writers Museum. The place was fully renovated in 2007, and it has some fine private rooms for 14 and 16 guests in the vault, ideal to savour the real Irish coffee in an intimate atmosphere. Very special is the Chef’s table, which was installed in 2009 right in the kitchen so that the guests can observe the work of the Michelin-starred culinary artists. Although some dishes at first sight might seem ‘basic’ they know how to marry it with high-class ingredients, like their famous blackpudding with sweetbread.
Another attractive restaurant is Ely CHQ, where CHQ stands for ‘Customs House Quay. The huge space includes an authentic expansive vaulted basement area, as well as a bright, open ground floor space and a covered terrace, ideal for an outdoor even in summer. The success is for large part due to the honest, organic food that is served in all of the three restaurants of the same group. And if you are not wild about a burger, just try theirs! It is said to be the best in town, with: pure unadulterated prime organic meat - and €1 per burger is donated to a children's charity. Another of Ely CHQ’s charm is their glass wine cellar, visible to everyone in the restaurant, with almost 100 wines available by the glass.
Incentive groups can be hosted in one of the private rooms of 35 and 60, or outdoors (weather permitting, of course).
And why not have a very special farewell dinner with your group?
Johnnie Fox's pub in the Dublin hills (the locals call them ‘mountains’!) at Glencullen, some 20 minutes from the city centre was established in 1798, one of Dublin's oldest and most famous pubs. It has always been famous for its Irish music and folk culture.
Your guests will certainly be enchanted by the old-world charm of the place, with rough-stone floors, always strewn with sawdust, the crackling logs on the open fires, the antique furniture, lots of ancient memorabilia, including kettles, crockery, old prints, sewing machines, guns, books, farm implements, horse tackle, pigs head and much more. All this is topped off by great entertainment. Its ‘Hooley’ is famous throughout Ireland for its original and unique atmosphere. After enjoying various seafood dishes as well as our general cuisine, the guests enjoy live Irish music with traditional and folk to ballads and sing along music. And to close the evening the Johnnie Fox's famous Irish dancers who provide a spectacular performance.
When it comes to coffee and cake, you should not deprive your guests of Bewley’s Café in Grafton Street, the oldest coffee house in town. Since it opened in 1927, Bewley's has been an essential part of the city's life. Boasting a rich cultural and architectural heritage, its distinctive building in the heart of the shopping district has become a cherished landmark.
There's also a theatre upstairs, running lunchtime and evening plays as well as regular music gigs and comedy nights, showcasing local Irish talent.
Although it is ‘only’ a coffee house the place also serves superb luncheons.
A good alternative for lunch is the Fallon and Byrne Restaurant in Exchequer Street. Your guests first go through the impressive food halls of the classy department store to the restaurant on the first floor. To use their own words: “The season’s good stuff from land and sea, cooked with gentle respect for excellent ingredients, served by cheerful sorts in a beautiful space.” This is not just a marketing slogan, it is very true. The restaurant specializes in good ‘slow’ Irish food, extremely fresh like the products downstairs. This restaurant, too, is a perfect place for an event.
Dublin abounds with charming hotels to accommodate your guests. They come in all sizes. We could experience the hospitality of the Gresham Hotel. Located on O'Connell Street, in the heart of the city centre, this 4 star deluxe property is within minutes walk from The River Liffey, Temple Bar and the new convention centre. Each of the 288 bedrooms and suites are equipped with complimentary wireless Internet access, Quadriga Genesis interactive TV systems and there is a large multi storey car park under the hotel.
The hotel also provides 20 conference and meeting rooms to cater for any configuration up to 300 people.
The Burlington Hotel continues to be largest hotel conference venue in Dublin City. The grand-scale of its famous ballroom is unrivalled anywhere in Ireland. Behind its original, familiar exterior, the hotel welcomes guests to its entirely refurbished lobby. The Burlington Hotel's bars and restaurants are a buzzing place-to-be by night. Ample parking space and immediate proximity to Dublin's city centre, Aircoach and the speedy DART line mean that your incentive guests can enjoy this hotel as an ideal base from which to explore the city and its surroundings.
Also the Four Seasons Hotel might be a good base for your group. Just a short stroll from the heart of vibrant shopping and business, the guests can enjoy a peaceful retreat, immersed in greenery. Handsome architecture evokes Irish tradition and contemporary chic. Being one of Dublin’s most spacious accommodations, the Four Seasons Hotel offers 197 guest rooms and suites, some with private terraces. It is the only hotel in Dublin with a full-service spa.
Functions can be held in the huge ballroom, in the ballroom pre-function rooms or in any of the other 4 meeting rooms.
For more information:
Tourism Ireland: http://www.tourismireland.com/