Grand Canal Square, Docklands, Dublin, 353-1687-5100, themarkerhoteldublin.com; 187 rooms start at about $225.
This is not the sort of hotel one expects in Dublin. It's like a boutiquey midrise you'd find in Prague or Linz, Austria, with its extraordinary beehive-like sunlit interiors and stripped-down contemporary furnishings. Plus, staying here will introduce you to a whole new part of the city.
The hotel is one of the centrepieces of Dublin's Docklands, an area that became one of the Celtic Tiger's chief beneficiaries and transformed from an industrial adjunct into a new urban centre. When I was there, more than a dozen kids were swimming and learning to windsurf in what used to be the slips for Dublin Harbour. The hotel is next door to the unfortunately named, 2,000-seat Bord Gais Energy Theatre, where shows like The Lion King and Hairspray play, and it's in walking distance to Trinity College and all other major Dublin attractions. The Docklands is not the Dublin you may have stayed in before, but it's one worth working into your mental image of this increasingly complex 1,000-year-old city.
If I could change one thing
The interiors are wonderful, designed by Portuguese architect Aires Mateus, and they're apparently meant as a reference to various Dublin rock formations such as the Giant's Causeway. But ineffective interior lighting means daylight washes out the design in much of the lobby, and leaves the rest in cavernous darkness.
While we're on the subject, it's worth noting that the architect's original plan was for the exterior to more closely align with the interior. This was in 2004, when the hotel was meant to open in 2006. Financial troubles intervened, and it opened on April 2 of this year, with a bland checkerboard façade that seems like a placeholder, a fancy hoarding of sorts, until the money comes through for the real thing.
The well-designed rooftop bar offers a wonderful view of the city on a clear day. The bar seats 100 outside, and about 20 indoors during inclement weather. It's open to the public, which means it might make a good place for mingling with the locals (I was there two days before its official opening).
Who you'll meet
It's a business-traveller crowd. They're mostly under 40 and a little on the trendy side, appropriate for this part of town, where even the Spar (think 7-Eleven) has a full-service carvery and sandwich bar.
Eat in or eat out?
I had some good meals here – the baked Irish camembert with apple and plum jam was a standout in the Brasserie – but the dinner for two, with two appetizers, steak and chicken (a little bland) and two pints each cost $288. Absurd, especially in a room that bears such a striking resemblance to a cafeteria. I hear Ely gastropub across the street is good, though.
Room with a view
If you get a standard room facing west, you may get a view of the harbour, but if you go for a deluxe you'll be guaranteed it. There's a lot going on in the plaza below, as well as the water on a summer's day, so it's worth it.
The writer was a guest of Tourism Ireland.