There’s no place like Howth. It’s a sun trap on a great day and a tourist trap in rain, hail or shine. A ‘trap’ might connote negativity but I mean it in the best sense. Well, in every sense. This captivating harbour village sits on its namesake, Howth Head and by land, it’s only accessible via the tombolo where neighbouring Dublin suburb, Sutton, lies. With just one ring road circumventing Howth Head that spawns at Sutton Cross, this compact almost-island punches above its weight and stature. There’s more than enough to occupy revellers travelling from near and far for a day out, weekend or longer. In fact, despite the heavy footfall of revellers, it maintains a reputation as one of Ireland’s most desirable addresses to live in. Here’s The Taste Guide for the best cafés, stays and restaurants in Howth.
One of the founding frothers, ahem, fathers of the latest coffee movement, Bodega flanks one side of Howth Market. Serving cool vibes in a cup since 2017, this local landmark delivers great coffee, goodies and various coffee-making accoutrements for any discerning aficionado. Dublin coffee roasters, Full Circle are on bean duty whilst The Cookie Bro is delivering the (baked) goods with their fun-filled cookies.
Full Circle are also funnelling their beans into the grinders at Minetta Delicatessen. Perched on the corner of Sutton Cross, you can’t reach Howth without passing it. This perfectly-positioned pitstop has made a name for itself with its coffee, sourdough pizza, pastries, painstakingly-sourced pantry goods, wines and more. Putting the deli in Minetta Delicatessen, there’s also an extensive pre-order menu available for collection and pre-order, including take home meals and salad boxes in or around the €12pp mark.
If brunch is on the agenda, PÓG Howth has its own firm following and the queues at the door of its Harbour Road outpost on a busy Saturday reaffirm just that. Ideal for the non-pescitarians in your life, they offer up all-day favourites that diverge from the expected, widely-available fishy fayre throughout Howth. Highlights include twists on poached egg-laden brunch classics like the shakshuka-esque gochujang beans with sourdough or a pulled pork and potato cake interpretation of an eggs benedict. If that’s not enough to lure you to the queue, there’s also a dedicated pancake menu.
Perpendicular to Harbour Road, along the incline of Main Street, lies The House. A triple threat, this haunt houses a restaurant, takeaway and self-catering accommodation (more on that later). Restaurant-wise, all bases are covered with breakfast, lunch and dinner. They’re also famed for their weekend brunch menu which kicks off from 10am-4pm. Must orders include the home-smoked trout croquettes with black garlic mayo, celeriac & seaweed salad, the smashed avocado with poached eggs and the Howth seafood chowder, adorned with nduja, sourdough and brown bread. Like PÓG, brunch mains at The House will set you back roughly between €10 and €22.
There’s no shortage of early and all-day dining restaurants in Howth. Tailored very much to the day-tripper, most restaurants open early but close early too. Armed with this information and a reservation to avoid disappointment, there’s still ample opportunity to enjoy a sunset sitting.
A real treat for the gourmands, Jess D’Arcy and Killian Durkin’s Mamó restaurant has garnered the attention of Irish diners and the Michelin Guide. Serving European-inspired cuisine from Thursday-Monday, they strive to use local and seasonal produce from the likes of Higgins Butchers, Kish Fish, organic vegetables from Mc Nally’s, and even honey from Howth’s own resident bees. À la carte dinner is served Thursday-Monday and from 12:30pm every Monday, Thursday and Friday, there’s a set lunch menu. €35 will get you three courses and €39 gets you four.
Aqua, at the very end of the West Pier, also offers a fine dining experience with undisturbed views of the water. Nearby and amongst the other tourist and local favourites, The Pier House and Octopussy’s Seafood Tapas don’t wane in quality and also stay open until 9pm or so. Meanwhile, King Sitric, a Howth institution operating since 1971, continues to deliver quality seafood and comfortable lodgings from its landmark red building at the foot of the East Pier.
If the sun is on your side, or at least if the rain is at bay, plenty of Howth’s eateries and bars have streetside seating and beer gardens to enjoy a tipple or two. Based at the foot of the East Pier, O’Connell’s is as traditional an Irish pub as you’ll find in any seaside town in the country. They have extensive cocktail and whiskey menus and a classic pub grub menu including family favourites like wings, burgers, pasta and rustic seafood staples like chowder, fisherman’s pie and scampi.
Beshoffs might be renowned for its fish and chips but the Seafood Bar at its Howth Harbour HQ is the perfect spot for a plate of oysters with a glass or white or a pint of the black stuff. Over the road sits the imposing Findlater while its sister bar, The Bloody Stream, lies within Howth Railway Station and offers outdoor seating, fresh seafood and live music.
While eating and drinking one’s way around Howth is a worthy pastime and ultimately my favourite thing to do on any day out, there’s plenty more to experience and explore here. Burrow beach, a local favourite, is a secluded sandy beach in Sutton while there’s cliff walks and trails channelling throughout Howth Head.
The views from both of Howth’s two piers, towards Howth lighthouse and into Dublin Bay are a feast for the eyes. Island Ferries, Ireland’s Eye Ferries and Dublin Bay Cruises are just three companies that offer up-close access to the coastal cliffs, Ireland’s eye and the chance to enjoy a different perspective: looking back towards Howth harbour and the swoon-worthy architecture on verdant plots in the hills beyond.
Those hoping to mark their trip to Howth with a souvenir can pick up some arts, crafts and jewellery at Howth Market, open daily, or return home with a more edible reminder of the perfect day out. Howth has a strip of award-winning fishmongers along its West Pier. Mosty multi-generational stalwarts, if you didn’t manage to get your fish fix at lunch, end your day out with a trip to shops including but not limited to Doran’s, Nicky’s Plaice, Reid’s or Wrights of Howth.
Traditional family-hosted B&Bs, self-catering apartments, annexes and back garden cabins dot Howth Head. Back up the hill on Main Street and upstairs in The House, there’s the aforementioned self-catering apartment that has the very tempting offer of a catered breakfast from the restaurant below.
Sutton boasts the Marine Hotel with rooms starting at €150 and the East Pier’s King Sitric has guestrooms priced at a similar rate. For those on the hunt for an exclusive and adventurous place to lay their heads, the Martello Tower awaits. Built in 1804 and dubbed the “coolest place to stay in Dublin”, it offers an experience like no other. Lovingly restored, the tower houses two guest rooms, a living room floor and a kitchen boasting panoramic views of Dublin Bay. Enjoy the 360-degree balcony or take steps down to the pebble beach and see if you can spot the tower’s closest neighbours, the harbour seals.
With great seafood, walks and views in abundance paired with the prospect of having seals for neighbours, it’s understandable that for so many, Howth is where the heart is.
Prices listed are accurate as of May 2023 but are subject to change
The Taste Guide: The Best Cafés, Stays and Restaurants in Howth
Hazel Byrne is a lifestyle, travel and food writer and editor. Originally from Ireland, she’s just returned home after almost a decade of eating and drinking her way around London. Over four of those years were spent at Condé Nast, where she worked across editorial and branded content on titles including British Vogue, Vanity Fair,GQ, Glamour and Condé Nast Traveller. From reviewing the world’s finest luxury experiences to producing celebrity shoots and events, she has a story or two to tell. When she’s not eating, drinking or talking about doing both, she’s plotting her next adventure.