The Merrion Hotel Rating: 5.0 Pearls
The Merrion is Dublin's most exclusive luxury hotel, and has a convenient location across from the Government buildings in four 18th-century townhouses. It has fewer rooms than the nearby Shelbourne and feels more intimate and private, though its list of features is still extensive: The hotel has a full-service spa, lovely Roman-style indoor pool, and well-equipped fitness center. The impressive restaurant offering includes Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, the only restaurant in Ireland to receive two Michelin stars, as well as the casual and atmospheric Cellar Bar, housed in the original 18th century wine vaults. It's true that some rooms have unremarkable views of other buildings, the gym is a bit small, and not all rooms have iPod docks, but most will find little fault with this five-pearl gem.
The Shelbourne Dublin, A Renaissance Hotel Rating: 4.5 Pearls
The 265-room Shelbourne, built in 1824, is one of Dublin's best-known luxury icons, with a grand entrance right on St. Stephen's Green and an impressive roster of famous past guests (Bill Clinton, Julia Roberts, and Liam Neeson have all stayed here, to name a few). Rooms have elegant traditional decor, though some are quite small and standard Queen Rooms lack bathtubs. Still, the ornate common spaces, hot spot bars and dining venues, luxury spa, and historic cachet combine to make this one of Dublin's premier options. Only The Merrion can compare.
Ashford Castle Rating: 4.5 Pearls
Ashford Castle embodies the fantasy of the Irish castle hotel, featuring a massive historic stone facade, complete with towers and turrets; gorgeous, manicured grounds; a stunning setting on a huge lake; and common spaces that are truly grand, with rich wood paneling, chandeliers, and antique furniture. After such magnificence, the rooms can be a bit of a letdown. They still retain elements of their original elegance, but some have frumpy style and need renovations. George V Dining Room offers excellent, formal fine dining (jackets are required in the evening), and drinks and tea can be enjoyed in the graceful drawing room with lake views. The wide range of estate activities includes falconry lessons, boat tours on the lake, golf on the 9-hole course, clay shooting, and archery.
Sheen Falls Lodge Rating: 4.5 Pearls
Sheen Falls Lodge is arguably the top hotel in County Kerry. The 300-acre estate belonged to the Marquess of Landsowne in the 18th century, and the hotel -- opened in 1991 -- feels like a country manor house. It has a stunning setting on both Kenmare Bay and Sheen River, which has, as the name suggests, gentle tumbling waterfalls. The 66 rooms have classic country decor -- crown molding, cheerful prints (plaids and florals among them, in moderation), and soft yellow walls; all but one have water views. Estate activities range from clay pigeon shooting to fishing to tennis, and more traditional luxury hotel features include a lovely indoor pool, spa, and small fitness center. Formal fine dining is offered at La Cascade restaurant, while (slightly) less expensive dishes are served at the classy Restaurant Lounge. The sommelier hosts daily tastings in the wine cellar.
The Fitzwilliam Hotel Dublin Rating: 4.5 Pearls
The Fitzwilliam Hotel is a beautiful design hotel with a fantastic location overlooking St. Stephen's Green. A bold use of color, modern furniture, and eclectic accents combine in fun rooms with huge bathrooms. Many rooms have soaking tubs and separate walk-in showers; all have minibars, flat-screen TVs, and free Wi-Fi. In addition to a full gym and spa, the Fitzwilliam also has three distinct restaurants serving Irish, Mediterranean, and French cuisine (Thornton's has one Michelin star). The hotel also offers 24-hour room service. With small touches like fluffy duvets and nightly chocolates, this hotel -- with its location at the heart of Dublin -- is the best pick in town.
Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Dublin Rating: 4.5 Pearls
The Radisson Blu Royal is a 150-room, contemporary luxury property on the south side of the River Liffey. The modern, quiet rooms feature up-to-date amenities such as flat-screen TVs, stocked minibars, and free Wi-Fi; business rooms have Nespresso coffeemakers. Bathrooms are sleek, and have separate soaking tubs and walk-in showers. Suites offer extra space to lounge, and some come with balconies. Hotel amenities include on-site parking (for a fee), two restaurants, a cocktail lounge, a bar, and a business center.
Dylan Hotel Rating: 4.5 Pearls
The Dylan Hotel is a stylish 44-room boutique with a quiet and safe location in Dublin 4, an upscale neighborhood a short walk from the city center. Each room has been individually styled with a mix of whimsical decor -- artistic headboards, intricate mirrors, and statement couches/chairs -- and classic pieces. Amenities are fantastic for such a small property. In the room, there are flat-screen TVs, iPod docks (with iPods loaded with historical Dublin walking tours), stocked minibars, and bathrooms with underfloor heating. Some bathrooms also have big, luxurious soaking tubs with small flat-screen TVs. Amenities in the hotel include a fitness room, cozy bar, heated outdoor terrace, solid restaurant, and 24-hour room service. In addition to its character and sleek style, the Dylan is known for excellent service.
The Westbury Hotel Rating: 4.5 Pearls
Westbury is a luxurious hotel located in the heart of Dublin, just off Grafton Street and within walking distance of major sights. The 205 rooms and suites are beautifully decorated with neutral colors, plush couches and linens, and modern patterns. All rooms have Nespresso machines, minibars, and elegant bathrooms. The Westbury is known for space, and even the standard rooms are generous in size. The huge lobby is full of comfortable couches where a delicious afternoon tea is on offer. The hotel also has an upscale restaurant, Wilde, named after the writer Oscar Wilde, a casual restaurant called Cafe Novo, and the Marble Bar. When booking, be sure to read the fine print: Some packages come with breakfast and Wi-Fi while others do not. Though the decor is attractive and the hotel has a chic vibe, its lack of a spa or fitness center puts it at the bottom of our list.
Ballynahinch Castle Hotel Rating: 4.0 Pearls
The 40-room Ballynahinch Castle Hotel is a less formal, more accessible alternative to the more famous Ashford Castle to the east. It has a riverfront location amid the wild, unspoiled beauty of Connemara and decor that's alternately homey and elegant. It's more of a manor house than a castle, but the main structure dates to the 18th century and both the building and the estate are steeped in history. The 450-acre grounds offer a range of activities, including beautiful hikes, woodcock shooting, and fishing. Both restaurants serve terrific gourmet cuisine using fish, game, and mushrooms from the surrounding region.
The Morgan Rating: 4.0 Pearls
The Morgan is a boutique hotel located in Temple Bar, the "cultural quarter" and nightlife center in Dublin. The all-white rooms have comfortable beds and crisp linens, and are complete with modern bathrooms, flat-screen TVs, minibars, and electric kettles. To some, the pops of color and animal prints will feel chic, while others may not find the style to their taste. The Penthouse Suite has a large balcony and is often rented out for events. While there is no gym or spa and in-room Wi-Fi comes at an additional fee, the hotel is home to a popular neighborhood bar serving a small tapas menu and cocktails. Families might want to look beyond this hip spot as some guests complain about noise on the weekends and bathroom doors are simply frosted glass, not providing much privacy.
The Beacon Hotel Rating: 4.0 Pearls
The Beacon Hotel is a trendy 88-room boutique that is a breath of hip, fresh air in the Dublin hotel scene. All-white rooms have fun design features including pops of color, bamboo shoots, and ornate headboards. Bathrooms are equally chic with modern fixtures, gray tiles, and walk-in showers; some rooms have sexy freestanding soaking tubs in front of floor-to-ceiling windows. The location is far from Dublin's tourist spots -- but close the tram (LUAS) for reaching the city center -- and parking is free. Hotel features include the Crystal Bar for cocktails, My Thai restaurant, a beer garden, and free Wi-Fi.