The Shelbourne – Dublin, Ireland

In a Class by Itself

Just as the once sleepy Dublin continues its renaissance, so does its favorite old dowager hotel, Le Meridien Shelbourne. Not that it was ever out of style, but showing off its new renovation, the massive reddish Victorian building stands stately once again on the north side of the city’s landmark St. Stephen’s Green (Europe’s largest garden square). Built in 1824, it is the last survivor of Dublin’s great 19th-century hotels.

Steeped in tradition, the Shelbourne holds on to much of its historic grandeur—the Irish Constitution was drafted here in 1922—with public areas replete with chandeliers, glowing fireplaces, and fine art. The Lord Mayor’s Lounge is a great spot for a sumptuous tea: like William Thackeray, who took to the deep armchairs overlooking the green, Dublin’s elite gather here to nibble finger sandwiches, pastries, and scones with thick preserves and cream.

The famous Horseshoe Bar is the only place to be for August’s prestigious Home Show Week, or any Friday night, for that matter. The Shelbourne speaks more of the Dublin of lit­erary legend (think Ulysses) than of the new Dublin, morphing into one of Europe’s trendiest capitals. And though it has for years been a destination for those of wealth and pedi­gree, it remains both welcoming and unstuffy.

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