Set within the show grounds of the Royal Dublin Society in leafy Ballsbridge, this seeming Victorian-Georgian hybrid—topped by gigantic eaves and a lovely cupola—looks like the real McCoy (from afar at least), but was in fact built during the boomtime excesses of the brash Celtic Tiger era. The impressive landscaping across the 4 acres of gardens aims to make the hotel seem like an oasis; a big effort has been made to ensure that a bit of greenery can be seen from most rooms, which is a sign of the attention to detail throughout that you'd expect from this brand.
Guest rooms are spacious, with large windows that allow light to flood in, and luxurious purple throws. Beds are king-size, with duck down duvets, and rooms also feature large writing desks as well as all the amenities of a high-end chain hotel.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Perhaps we are being fussy here, but there were a few niggles with service on our visit. The key didn't work in the lift, and then the offered newspaper was never delivered. Small things, but the kinds of things top hotels should get right.
Bathrooms are large too, with deep baths and power showers. The products are Agraria, and fluffy bathrobes and slippers are provided.
Once you enter the six-floor building, you see how the pre-20th-century design mixes luxuriously with modern glass and concrete and lends the place a warm touch. The lobby, with long reception desks to the left and huge floral displays in the middle, leads attractively onto the conservatory and courtyard.
The 14m sun-lit pool is quiet, attractive, and large enough to swim a decent few laps.
The lower-level antiques-adorned spa is one of the finest in the country, with a sauna, steam room and jacuzzi too.
The gym is modern and well-equipped.
Breakfast is a gorgeous affair, served in the conservatory and restaurant, and laden with goodies. The hotel's Seasons restaurant (a nod to its past as the Four Seasons hotel) also does stylish contemporary Irish a la carte dining, Wednesday to Sunday. All-day classic dining is available in the blue and gold lounge. The hotel also has afternoon tea in the Reading Room, which is a suitably swanky treat.
The hotel also hosts regular culinary events - an evening with a top chef, for example, or currently three pop-up 'pods' in the garden where guests can dine.
The hotel's grown-up Whiskey Bar, with wood paneling and lots of drink options, is a cozy spot.
The hotel is in the leafy suburb of Ballsbridge - it's still only around 30 minutes on foot or 20 minutes by public transport into the city center, and the bonus is you are also near seaside Dublin - around a 20-minute walk in the other direction. The rugby stadium is also only 15 minutes on foot.
In Sandymount, Dunne & Crescenzi (14-minute walk) is a great local Italian restaurant - and after dinner you can have a stroll along the nearby seafront. Or in town, Dax (10-minute drive, 30-minute walk, 25 minutes by public transport) fits the fancy bill.
The Bath Pub (22-minute walk), by the Aviva stadium, is one of Dublin's prettiest. Or head for cocktails in the center at the Vintage Cocktail Club (17-minute drive, 25 minutes on the Dart), one of Temple Bar's more grown-up drinking establishments.
WHY WE LIKE IT
Reliably high-end, this Intercontinental has a welcoming feel to it and some lovely extras, from its attractive courtyard and conservatory to its top-class spa and pool. It's not the most personalized of places, but it's a reliable choice for those who like their luxury recognizable and international.