Room Key: The Merrion Hotel
Address: Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2, Ireland
Reservations: (800) 223-6800
Telephone: (011) 353-1 603-0600
Fax: (011) 353-1 603-0700
Rates: About $470 for a garden room
DUBLIN -- The sedate exterior of the five-star Merrion Hotel,
stately as it is, doesn't give first-time visitors much of a hint
of what lies within. In fact, such is the contrast between inside
and out that arriving guests might be forgiven for passing the
property by altogether, if they weren't alerted by the row of flags
out front and the doorman in an ever-so-proper cloak and top
Inside, this Georgian mansion-turned-hotel -- or, to be more
precise, four 18th century townhouses painstakingly restored and
joined -- encapsulates the split personality that characterizes
In short, it's both modern and traditional as well as quirky yet
Situated on Upper Merrion Street in the city center, directly
across from St. Stephen's Green, the hotel has racked up enough
industry awards to impress even the most jaded upscale
In addition to its four red pavilions in the Michelin Guide, the
Merrion has been singled out by Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast
Traveler's Gold List and won the top overall score for Commitment
to Quality from the Leading Hotels of the World.
None of this means, however, that the hotel is staid or boring:
One look at the art on the walls will tell even the most casual
observer that, grand as it is, this is a hotel where guests are
expected to have fun.
Designers cheerfully mixed eye-popping contemporary works with
paintings dating from as far back as the 1600s.
Nearly all the works are by Irish artists, and some are
strikingly modern, including Fabricated Evidence, a surreal pair of
paintings by John Boy that depict masked men in strange, hawk-like
Dramatic art notwithstanding, there are plenty of traditional
elements at the Merrion, including cozy seating areas, stately
gardens and a private dining room with blue wedding cake plaster
Irish designer Alice Roden worked to create a contemporary
environment, incorporating light and space while respecting the
The Main House comprises a combination of public areas,
including a series of drawing rooms where guests can collapse in
upholstered furniture inspired by 18th century Irish manors. There
are also guest rooms in the house, outfitted with Irish linen,
toile and high-end fabrics.
Guests also can opt to stay in the Garden Wing, which offers a
subtle decor combining neoclassical design and light fabrics.
For all-out luxury, a new, two-bedroom duplex penthouse suite
offers a private roof terrace, complete with cedar hot tub, private
entrance, living room, multipurpose room and two Carrara marble
The 3,800-square-foot space, including the terrace, is priced at
about $2,800 a night.
Eating in, working out
And while the atmosphere at the hotel is upscale, the odd guest
in a bathrobe can be seen scooting from the on-site Tethra Spa to
his or her room, looking dazed from one of the spa's signature
During a recent visit, I chose a 75-minute hot stone treatment
that incorporated the use of aromatherapy, hot oil and lava stones
along with an ingenious addition: a temperature-controlled massage
A daily challenge for waistline-conscious guests is resisting
afternoon tea and Irish coffee in front of the drawing-room
fireplace, served with groaning trays of scones (with the requisite
clotted cream and preserves), crustless sandwiches and
I could have worked off the scones at the fully outfitted
fitness center but chose instead the infinity swimming pool, which,
with its murals and limestone surround, has a grotto-like,
Scones aside, full-on dining is the real draw at the Merrion,
with eateries that range from the Michelin two-star Restaurant
Patrick Guilbaud, overlooking the garden, to the Cellar Restaurant,
offering upscale dining in a more relaxed setting.
Clients for whom price is no object can go all out via the
Merrion's Out of This World package, good through December.
The three-night deal includes penthouse suite accommodations;
use of a chauffeur-driven, vintage Rolls-Royce or S Class Mercedes;
a private tour with a curator of Dublin Castle; and lunch with
local luminaries such as Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney.
The package also includes a helicopter transfer to Ballybunion
Golf Club for 18 holes; lunch at Glin Castle; and a ball in the
client's honor at the Hon. Desmond Guinness' 13th century Leixlip
Castle, complete with a performance of Riverdance.
Guests also get a day at Leopardstown racecourse, a private
visit to the Berry Brother & Rudd wine cellars, guest of honor
status at the Gate Theatre, a Wicklow Mountains eco-safari and
transfer to Dublin airport via helicopter.
The package, commissionable at 10%, is priced at nearly
To contact reporter Felicity Long, send e-mail to[email protected].