You know what they say about beauty being in the eye of the beholder.
A case in point is the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, which was just named Europe’s Leading Tourist Attraction 2015, a World Travel Awards designation.
Not only did the Storehouse nab top spot, but it beat out other contenders such as the Acropolis, Buckingham Palace, La Sagrada Familia, Ribeira do Porto, the Eiffel Tower and the Roman Colosseum.
Before you say “huh?,” it’s fair to point out that some of these notable attractions have already won the award. The Acropolis came in at No. 1 in 2014, for example, and the Eiffel Tower won in 2013.
But still, Leading Tourist Attraction in all of Europe?
For one thing, the attraction is far from historic; in fact, it opened its doors in 2000. And because it focuses pretty exclusively on the brewing and marketing of Guinness, it could be construed as a giant ad for the iconic brew.
So what’s the appeal? For starters, the attraction is just plain fun, so much so that it has been Ireland’s top international attraction for the last several years. The building itself is shaped like a colossal pint glass of beer, and its interactive displays wend in a circular pattern from the first to the seventh floor.
Have you always wanted to learn how to pour Guinness properly into a glass without having it come out all foam? You can do that here. Do you love vintage ads and posters? There’s an entire exhibition showcasing the company’s best.
Or are you curious about why Guinness means so much more than beer to this city, which credits the company for employing a significant portion of the population in the 19th and 20th centuries. In fact, Guinness made a name for itself by paying its employees well and treating them with respect as a matter of policy.
Even the location of the site at St. James Gate Brewery means something; it preserved and revitalized a part of the city that might otherwise have been rehabbed into something modern without respect for the beautiful brick buildings already in place.
Of course, not everything at the Storehouse is about looking back. The displays demonstrate both traditional and modern brewing techniques, and every time I visit, it seems like there’s a new attraction to enjoy. For example, I spent a happy interlude at the Beer Connoisseur Bar Experience, which opened in 2012 and offers tastings of the various Guinness products with explanations of their differences.
Probably the most popular part of the Storehouse is the Gravity Bar at the top of the building, which offers stunning panoramic views of the city along with a free pint of beer.
I should add that the employees have clearly been chosen for their ability to charm the socks off even the most exhausted, jet-lagged visitor, as I experienced during my last visit.
On that occasion, I staggered into the Gravity Bar with my two young adult sons, feeling addled from the very short overnight flight from Boston. My sons each collected their pint from the bartender, who then waved off my explanation that my inner time clock wasn’t ready for Guinness.
“No worries at all,” he said affably. “A pint is too much for yourself. I’ll just give you two half-pints instead.” He handed me the two smaller drinks and it wasn’t until I was halfway across the room that I realized this didn’t make any sense. I turned back to find he was watching me with a smile.
Since resistance was obviously futile, I settled in with my sons to enjoy the view and lively company. Was it my top attraction in Europe? Maybe not, but on that afternoon in one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, it was pretty great.