What does the Irish capital have to offer for conferences, events and incentives? Let’s take a look

Business destination focus Ireland Dublin Westbury Hotel

We all want to know where our food comes from now, and Dublin is listening. It was raining as we arrived at Airfield Estate, but the wet stuff only freshened our sense of the venue’s lushness. A working farm within the M50 motorway that sets Dublin’s city limits, it’s given itself the fashionable mission of reconnecting people to the food they eat and the land it comes from.

Meeting rooms back onto paddocks and vegetable gardens, where groups can go face to face with livestock and learn to pick a romaine out of a lineup of lettuces. At the newly spruced restaurant, the farm’s bounty is thoughtfully transferred onto the plate. Run as a charity, Airfield doesn’t just reintroduce farm to fork – it ticks CSR boxes too.

A city that’s adapting

But rain isn’t always uplifting, and that’s when it’s useful to have the facilities of an internationally minded capital city close at hand. The Irish tourist board has reported that Dublin will gain another 5,000 hotel rooms by 2020 but, even before the industry catches up with demand, some big names are making changes.

Afternoon tea in its Lord Mayor’s Lounge is a steadfastly old-school pleasure but, elsewhere behind its handsome 19th-century façade, the Shelbourne has been updating. All of its rooms have had attention, with Guy Oliver, who’s chosen the wallpaper for Claridge’s, The Connaught and 10 Downing Street before now, overseeing the final bits of work in the St Stephen’s Green-facing suites. 

Business destination focus Ireland Dublin Shelbourne Hotel Saddle Room

Just over the other side of the green, the Conrad is a business hotel that knows how to take the edge off. There’s an old-style boozer in the basement for low-key gatherings, or you can take over art-deco Lemuel’s Lounge for cocktails and poetry evenings. As well as offering its own newly refurbished ballroom for big events, it can join forces with the National Concert Hall across the road.

A decade ago, on a carefully chosen site close to the 22,000sq m RDS Venue, the Dylan opened as the city’s first five-star boutique hotel. Today, it’s back at Dublin’s leading edge after a £9m renovation that’s brought 28 new rooms and some more statement artwork. The art’s the star at the Westbury too. Its art trails begin amid the five star’s own collection, go outside for some street sculpture and finish at one of the city’s big galleries.

Business destination focus Ireland Dublin Dylan

Rooftop venues

A wide-angle urban backdrop will make your event more Instagrammable, but it can have a more profound impact too. When you come back down, you’ll feel that little bit more immersed in the city. With a historic centre to protect, Dublin has not gone high-rise – yet. Its tallest building wouldn’t reach a quarter of the way up The Shard, but we still found a couple of hotels with outstanding rooftop spaces.

In the middle of the Docklands tech hub, the Marker handles groups of up to 120 with aplomb: it’s got beds for all, can host them for a single-space gala dinner, and they’ll all fit onto its seventh-floor rooftop for a barbecue. Atop the Dean, Sophie’s is a glass-box restaurant with a terrace for private events and views across town on all four sides.

Business destination focus Ireland Dublin Marker Hotel Rooftop Bar Terrace

For something a little more down to earth, you’ll want the Winding Stair restaurant. Above a second-hand book shop, in a winningly rickety space overlooking Ha’penny Bridge, it serves Irish comfort food. Nicholson’s hand-smoked haddock, poached in milk with onions and white cheddar mash set us right before a foray across the river into the lively Temple Bar area.

Irish icons fit for events

After a six-year, €30m renovation, the National Gallery of Ireland fully reopened in June. You’ll need a corporate partnership (though €50,000 might also swing it, we’re told) to get your group a table in the newly spritzed Shaw Room. Open the evening with a private tour of an exhibition (Vermeer was the big ticket when we were there) and your ROI will be a profoundly unique event.

Business destination focus Ireland Dublin Jameson Bow Street

After a £10m renovation, Jameson Distillery Bow Street can host up to 200 for guided tours of the site where John Jameson founded the company in 1780, followed by supper and more post-dinner drinks. Groups of up to 32 people can blend whiskey and mix cocktails before retiring to the privacy of JJ’s Office for an all-out party. 

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