This new Secret Dublin guidebook is from the same series that also produced Secret Amsterdam, reviewed elsewhere, and other guides to the hidden sides of cities including London, Paris, Venice and Barcelona. It’s a wonderful series of books from Jonglez, and Secret Dublin is one of the best I’ve seen so far. I couldn’t put it down, which is saying something for a guidebook, especially when you see a lot of them, as I do.
The books pride themselves on being ‘Local Guides by Local People’, so I’ll get my one minor criticism of this book out of the way first. The author, Pól Ó Conghaile, has done a brilliant job in not only unearthing the city’s secrets, but in writing about them well and in taking almost all of the excellent photographs. I’d love to have known more about him, but I couldn’t find anything about him anywhere in the book. Come on, JonGlez, when a writer does such a good job for you, give them a bit of a write-up!
So what secrets has the author uncovered? Well, they’re all here, from Rory Gallagher’s guitar to a rhino in a river, from Napoleon’s toothbrush to naked women climbing walls (right), from amazing graffiti art in a car park to a letterbox that turns out to be a work of art. It’s an astonishing array of great stories that could only come from this great story-telling nation.
Although this is not a conventional guidebook, it will enrich any Dublin guidebook that you do buy. It includes the city’s major attractions like Phoenix Park, The Dublin Writers’ Museum, the National Gallery and one of our favourite places, the Chester Beatty Library, but in each case he directs you to a particular object or place that you might otherwise miss. In the Writers’ Museum he chooses a particular letter from Brendan Behan, in the Chester Beatty Library it’s the roof garden, and in the National Museum of Ireland I never knew that anyone could visit the Artefacts in Storage section and see the gems that are not on display.
Street Art in Dublin
The book is especially good on street art – as is Dublin. If you ever wondered what happened to the Floozy in the Jacuzzi, who used to grace O’Connell Street, check out page 21. If you want the story of the nude woman scaling the walls on the Treasury Building on Great Canal Street, it’s in here. There’s some great graffiti to be found in a car park in Francis Street in Dublin 8, and a bright red letterbox (left) on Dame Lane turns out to be not a letterbox but an original work of art.
The book is broken up into geographical sections, and at the start of each one is a good map showing you where you’ll find the hidden gems.
Where is the Blessington Street Basin in Dublin?
Secret Dublin Guidebook: The Verdict
OK, I do have one other criticism: the Index. It’s very poor. You have to know what the author is singling out before you can look it up in the index. The Dublin Writers’ Museum (right), as just one example, is not under D or W or even M, but indexed under L: Letter from Brendan Behan. It will lead to a lot of flipping through the pages if you’re visiting somewhere and want to know what the author has found there.
That said, Secret Dublin is a brilliant book, which made me want to go back to Dublin just to unearth some of these secret treasures. And next time I do go back, this book will definitely go with me.
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