With its long, colourful and sometimes turbulent history, vibrant student-inspired culture, world-class arts scene and love of the “craic”, do you really need an excuse to visit the Irish capital?
Dublin was founded as a Viking settlement in the 10th century and its historical path since has been one littered with conflict, invasion and empirical rule. It’s also been blessed by a rich and vibrant cultural tradition as well as a people noted for their sense of identity not to mention the warmth of their welcome. For a short time in the 18th century, Georgian Dublin was the second largest city of the British Empire. The wonderful architecture from that period remains a defining feature.
Following the “Celtic Tiger” meltdown, Ireland has a sense of renewed optimism and this most friendly of cities remains as vibrant as ever. It’s a perfectly formed short break from the UK and, at the time of writing, the euro was at a seven-year low against the pound, helping to soften a reputation Dublin had acquired for being expensive.
Who’s It For?
If you want to party all weekend in Temple Bar, go in search of the origins of the “black stuff”, spend time in some world-class museums and galleries (the Chester Beatty Library – cbl.ie – has been described by Lonely Planet as the best in Dublin and one of the best in Europe) or immerse yourself in the literary genius of Oscar Wilde and James Joyce then Dublin is for you. And if you’re a rugby fan then the Irish capital is the place to be for the annual Six Nations.
British Airways (ba.com), Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com), Ryanair (ryanair.com), Cityjet (cityjet.com), FlyBe (flybe.com) and EasyJet (easyjet.com) all offer regular daily services. Fares start from around £70 return including taxes.
Most flights from the UK arrive into Dublin Airport’s Terminal 1. Air-coach (aircoach.ie) operates from outside the terminal building with regular services into the city centre. Return ticket is €12 and the journey takes around 30 minutes. Airlink also operates a service (slightly cheaper at €10 return). A taxi to the city centre should cost no more than €20 one-way.
Dublin is an easy city to get around and most places are within walking distance. The tram network (www.luas.ie) is extensive and Dublin Bikes (www.dublinbikes.ie) are popular with both locals and visitors. The River Liffey divides the city. On one side you’ll find St Stephen’s Green, Trinity College (Dublin University), the Christ Church and Temple Bar, and to the other, Phoenix Park, the iconic General Post Office and many of the main shopping streets. The Dublin Pass (dublinpass.ie) is a good investment.
Dublin has accommodation to match most tastes and budgets. The four-star Camden Court Hotel (camdencourthotel.com) has rooms from £130 a night; the Academy Plaza (academyplazahotel.ie) start from £70 a night, and if money’s no object then The Merrion (merrionhotel.com), which has welcomed the likes of Hillary Clinton and Michael Buble, is yours for around £200 a night.
One of the best ways to get to grips with any city is explore it on foot. Pat Liddy’s Walking Tours (www.walkingtours.ie) offers a number of options. The ‘Dublin Highlights and Hidden Corners’ lasts two hours, costs €10 and leaves from outside the Dublin Bus Office (59 O’Connell Street). There is also a range of evening events spanning the city’s traditions of literature and folklore (www.irishfolktours.com) as well as a custom-built “storytelling bus” complete with its own piano, bar and fireplace (www.hiddendublinwalks.com).
Out to Dinner
It’s pointless trying to narrow down recommendations for places to dine. If you’re in Temple Bar then you might want to seek out Shack Restaurant (shackrestaurant.ie), an award-winning, friendly and cozy eaterie. And if you’re near St Stephen’s Green, then Il Primo (ilprimo.ie) is said to serve the best risotto in Dublin, while Odeon (odeon.ie) is a trendy restaurant and bar within the century-old, listed former Harcourt Street Railway Terminus.
A Walk in the Park
Phoenix Park (phoenixpark.ie) is bigger than all the parks in London combined and twice the size of New York’s Central Park. It also houses Dublin Zoo and the residences of the Irish President and the U.S. ambassador. In the city centre, St Stephen’s Green has been maintained in the original Victorian layout and the 22-acre space boasts a number of sculptures, children’s playground and, in summer months, lunchtime concerts.
Mischief and Mythology
The National Leprechaun Museum (leprechaunmuseum.ie) invites you to step into another world and discover the sights, stories and magic of mythical Ireland. The museum offers day and evening tours featuring storytellers inviting visitors to join a series of interactive experiences tracing the first sighting in the eighth century through to the leprechaun’s representation in popular culture.
Go On, It’s Good For You!
Arthur Guinness had 21 children so you could be forgiven for signing up to the notion that a drop of the “black stuff” will do you no harm. The drink that bears his name is now a truly global brand with a staggering 10 million glasses enjoyed around the world every day. You can visit the Guinness Storehouse (guinness-storehouse.com; book online for discounts) for guided tours before heading to the Gravity Bar for a 360 degree view of the city and, of course, to sample the world famous stout.
Packed Lunch…Romantic Dinner
Located in the former St Mary’s Church and now spectacularly transformed into a popular bar and restaurant, The Church (thechurch.ie) is as inviting for a quick pit-stop while trying to pack in all Dublin has to offer as it is for a romantic dinner in its mezzanine Gallery.
In Search of ‘The Craic’
If it’s nightlife you’re after, a chance to experience the Irish love of ‘the craic’ and to hear great live music while striking up new friendships then there’s only one place to head. Temple Bar is a series of narrow, cobbled streets jam-packed with watering holes and restaurants but still managing to retain an atmosphere that helps to ensure you’re enjoying a proper Dublin night out.
Even the most compact of cities can be exhausting so it’s always good to schedule in some time to rest and revive. Bewley’s Café in (bewleys.com) is a Dublin institution. Located on Grafton Street (Dublin’s Bond Street) with a history that dates back to 1840, the interior is all mahogany, marble sculptures and stained glass while the coffee is excellent and the menu extensive.
For further information: visitdublin.com
Did You Know?
You might think the word “dude” was invented by 21st century California surfers but it was in fact coined by Oscar Wilde – a combination of “duds” and “attitude”
Words: David Leck
Images: Courtesy Visit Dublin