Hotel Review: Has the InterContinental Dublin come of age?
It’s just over 20 years old, but the lavish InterContinental has been through so much that it feels like a grand dame of Dublin hotels.
Launched as the Four Seasons in 2001, the sprawling hotel was an instant, no-irony temple to Celtic Tiger Ireland. Set deep within D4, the OTT boom-era construction nodded to the city’s Georgian and Victorian heritage while somehow destroying them; interiors were dotted with chandeliers, lavish suites, and miles of marble; the infamous Ice Bar hosted a dizzying stream of developers, Champagne and glamorous models. It was the best moment. It was the worst of times.
The hotel has since been acquired by the Irish MHL Collection (which includes Westin and Powerscourt Hotels) and today operates under franchise as an InterContinental.
The scale, chandeliers and Ice Bar remain, but it has evolved and added layers in recent years – refurbishing its public spaces and whiskey bar, for example, and rebooting its conservatory and garden terrace during the pandemic. It was time to check in.
Arrival and location
The InterCon dubs itself “Dublin’s only true five-star city resort,” and its portico offers an extravagant and slightly intimidating setup (I vacuum our Ford wagon before arriving). A Porsche 221D was parked nearby, we were offered valet parking for €25 or self-parking for €18, and a porter promptly arrived to take our bags.
Of course, the staff is far too professional for anyone to feel uncomfortable. Upon entering the lobby, with its large vases of fresh flowers carrying your gaze to the lounge, the receptionists and concierge were the epitome of friendliness behind face masks. We were checked in in a jiffy, shown to the lifts and given a welcome note outlining things to do in the area, from walks to city events (Dublin is described as 10 minutes away). 8/10
Service and style
Prior to the pandemic, InterCon carried out a staggering volume of leisure, corporate, wedding and event activities. It’s quieter now, but I liked the space and quiet of her living room, lounging over breakfast and browsing a surprising art collection (including Tony O’Malley, Orla de Bri and Blaise Drummond – ask Concierge Valerie Keogh for details).
It still feels classy and ostentatious, but the revamped whiskey bar is a warm, chic nook; the tasteful and airy living room, and the reinvented garden add a new dimension for good weather. There’s plenty of room for distancing, operations are assured and safe, and we started the evening listening to a live piano player as young families, couples and other guests slipped between these stylish rooms.
Below deck is a small spa and 14m two-lane pool, which felt cold and dark during an evening swim (I also found the men’s locker rooms drab and clubby, with an enclosed sauna overlooking the bathroom). The pool shone more in the daylight – renovations are planned I was told.
I was also surprised by the Ice Bar…in a good way. I expected Celtic Tiger flashbacks, but it has mellowed and settled over time – to me the white marble, clean lines and textile art panels now feel historic and retro, an intriguing mix of Dublin design and tradition. A reboot is in the works, and the space definitely needs some sprucing up – but could they also lean into the past life a bit? 7/10
If you like space to spread out in a hotel room, you’ve come to the right place. InterCon’s 208 rooms are some of the most spacious in the city, with entry-level “classics” starting at 42 square meters and suites all the way up to the multi-room hideaways used by the Rolling Stones, Pink and Bruce Springsteen, among other famous guests.
We stayed in a two room suite overlooking the RDS and the garden, with a king size bed, beautifully crisp linens and a marble bathroom combining old and new luxuries. Huge TVs, a deep (albeit short) tub, a full-size iron and board, and a smart light on the vanity mirror were great comforts, but the shower took a few minutes to warm up, and I wish see alternatives to mini toiletries. 7/10
Guests can eat at the Lounge or Seasons Restaurant, which serves a three-course table d’hôte menu from €60pp with breads — quite reasonable for this level.
Service is pleasant at dinner and breakfast – from the moment you’re shown to your table, to wine recommendations, polite conversation, and invitations to relax at your leisure. I liked the room best in daylight, when the natural light added a shimmer to the muted gray-gold tones, and the large conservatory-style windows blurred the lines between inside and out.
Breakfast is a wide range, though pricey at €30 pp; dinner an opportunity to wallow in the fantasy of five-star service, with well-designed, unrushed treatments. We tried a pumpkin risotto from the Lounge menu, and a medley of crispy pickled beets, followed by seared halibut with parsnip and vanilla, curry and cauliflower from Seasons. All were tasty and well executed, with salted caramel and apple sponge cake desserts. 7.5/10
A winter sale offers 20% off the best available B&B rates. Stay two or three nights and you can get an additional 15pc discount.
Sandymount village is a 10 minute walk away, with Bujo, Browne’s and the local pub making tempting stops. The famous strand is just five minutes away.
The bottom line
Dublin’s is a small but sublime family of five stars – from Shelbourne to Merrion, Westbury, Marker and Dylan. To me, InterCon feels even more like a brand, a property you can find in any city. But there’s a place for these resorts too, and this one gets more and more subtle and thoughtful than its Celtic Tiger heritage suggests. Check in before the crowds (and sky-high prices) return.
B&B from €285 per room, while a junior suite with dinner and breakfast is on sale from €450. Pól was a hotel guest. intercontinentaldublin.ie