Full-service spa and fitness center opened in fall 2012
Landmark building dates to 1824
Some rooms face unappealing interior courtyard or neighboring buildings
Some complaints that air-conditioning doesn't work well
Can get overrun during weddings or private events
Standard Queen Rooms are small and lack bathtubs
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.
The Shelbourne is one of the most famous hotels in Dublin -- indeed in Ireland -- and its icon status is immediately clear from the moment guests arrive. St. Stephen's Green is one of the most popular (and crowded) tourist areas in the city center, and The Shelbourne's stately brick facade, colonnaded entrance, intricate wrought iron fence, and doormen with top hats draw plenty of attention; it's not unusual for the flow of pedestrian traffic to slow or stop in front of the hotel as tourists pause to stare.
The hotel makes an even grander impression once visitors pass through the wooden vestibule into the foyer, which has gleaming marble floors, crystal chandeliers, Palladian columns, gold gilding, and intricate moldings. The Lord Mayor's Lounge, an elegant space where a first-rate afternoon tea is served, is located off to the right, and the buzzing No. 27 Bar, one of the top places to see and be seen in the city, is located to the left. Horseshoe Bar, which gets its name from the horseshoe shape of its wooden bar, is a dimly lit pub that's popular with officials who work in the nearby Government Buildings. Visitors may even spot a politician or celebrity at these hot spots (Julia Roberts popped into No. 27 for a drink during her stay).
The Shelbourne has a long history of attracting such notables -- VIPs have been choosing to stay here for a hundred years. Famous past guests include Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, the Kennedys, Princess Grace, and more recently, Julia Roberts, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Bill Clinton, and Bono. The hotel is understandably proud of this heritage, and has a short video with photos of these guests on display in the lobby. In addition, a number of suites are named for the notable guests who have slept in them.
Celebrities aside, the most notable aspect of the hotel's history is arguably its role in Ireland's politics. In 1922, the Irish constitution was signed in Room 112, now dubbed The Constitution Room and open for guests to view. A small museum dedicated to the hotel's rich history is located off the lobby.
The downside to The Shelbourne's evident popularity -- and it's relatively minor -- is that it can feel a bit too busy at times, particularly when the hotel is hosting a wedding or private event. Some may prefer The Merrion's quiet exclusivity to The Shelbourne's pomp and circumstance.
The Shelbourne has a prime location right on St. Stephen's Green near many popular tourist sights. Grafton Street, a popular shopping drag, multiple museums, and Trinity College (where the Book of Kells is displayed) are all within easy walking distance.
Right on St. Stephen's Green
5-minute walk to the National Museum of Natural History
3-minute walk to the National Museum of Archaeology
9-minute walk to the National Gallery of Ireland
10-minute walk to Trinity College and the Book of Kells
7-minute walk to Grafton Street, a popular shopping destination
17-minute walk or 7-minute drive to St. Patrick's Cathedral
17-minute walk or 5-minute drive to Christ Church Cathedral
8-minute drive to The Old Jameson Distillery
9-minute drive to Guinness Storehouse
13-minute drive to the Kilmainham Gaol, a former prison that's now a museum
Elegant rooms with flat-screen TVs and iPod docks -- but some are small and lack bathtubs
The Shelbourne's rooms have elegant decor in shades of gold and cream, and all come with flat-screen TVs and iPod docks. As is common in historic buildings, some rooms are quite small -- the standard Queen Rooms start at a mere 194 square feet (compared to 330 square feet for the standard rooms at The Merrion). Marble bathrooms come with either walk-in showers or shower/tub combos in the lower-level rooms; guests should upgrade to a Heritage Premium Room or above for separate showers and tubs.
Rooms have views of either the park, an interior courtyard, or neighboring buildings. Park views are more desirable (and more expensive), but may get some noise on lower floors as a result of facing the street.