Dublin stands resolutely on Ireland’s East Coast, at the mouth of the River Liffey. Although it is home to more than a third of the population, Ireland’s dynamic capital city retains a lyrical village magic and a playfulness few other cities can match. Despite a long and sometimes tragic history of invasion and resistance, this thriving business capital has poetry, music and literaturepercolating through its cobblestones.
Dublin’s ancient streets are compact enough to explore on foot or by bicycle. The River Liffey separates the city into two neat halves. It is criss-crossed with historic bridges, many of which are tributes to Dublin’s finest moments and heroes. Dubliner, Oscar Wilde once said“life is too important to be taken seriously.” While Dublin proudly honours its past, it is equally passionate about enjoying each and every new day. Nowhere is life celebrated more than in the city’s nearly 700 pubs. Nothing matters more to Dubliners than having a good time or, as locals call it, the craic. Pubs and music are at the very heart of Dublin’s traditions and society.
Just south of the river is the Temple Bar area, where locals and tourists have been meeting for generations. This is the place to find art galleries and colorful shops and immerse yourself in the spirited and often improvised traditional folk music. Irish emigrants have taken their music all around the world but there is nothing like hearing it played live. Entertainment is also important a little further south on Grafton Street, a lively shopping precinct known for its buskers and proud to be a launch pad for many international musical acts. At the other end of the spectrum and a little further to the east is the architecturally spectacular Aviva Stadium.
Time your visit to catch an international superstar here. Of course, any local will tell you that music and a pint glass go hand in hand. The history of Guinness, one of Ireland’s most famous institutions, is on display at the Guinness Storehouse. Also known as “the Black stuff”,“ black custard” and“Irish champagne,” this world famous tipple is said to have been born in the 18th century when water from the Liffey became too polluted to safely drink. The brewing process removed the germs and also provided sorely needed nutrition. Today the river is cleaner, but Dubliners’ thirst for Guinness has remained undiminished. The picturesque Grand Canal was built around this time, connecting Dublin to the west of Ireland, allowing Guinness to be exported marking the beginning of one of Dublin’s great success stories.
Visit the Old Jameson Distillery, and discover the magic of how three simple ingredients are transformed into a smooth whiskey that is enjoyed all over the world. But of all the gifts, Dublin has given to the world, perhaps the most intoxicating are its stories. Originally built for the sons of the Irish gentry, the stone buildings of Trinity College are home to some of the oldest remaining manuscripts in the world, including the 1000-year-old Book of Kells. This ancient manuscript is only a small part of Dublin’s literary history. This city is famous for its authors, playwrights and poets and tributes are dotted all over the city. Visit the flamboyant statue of Oscar Wilde, decorated with precious stones that reflect his love of beauty. Or, pay your respects to James Joyce, one of Dublin’s literary giants.
There are more tributes to the past just a stroll away in St Stephen’s Green which holds a special place in the heart of Dubliners. While today it is an oasis of calm in the centre of the city, the park has witnessed many turbulent episodes of Irish history. During the 1916 Easter Rising, a pivotal battle took place here which reignited the long and passionate fight for Irish independence from English rule. The ghosts of Ireland’s battle for independence also feel very real at the Kilmainham Gaol, in which many of the rebellion leaders were brutally executed. Right at the centre of Dublin’s historic heart is Dublin Castle. Originally built on a viking site, it has been a prison, a fortress and a treasury. From within these stone walls, the English administered Irish rule for more than 700 years.
Famously, the Irish Crown Jewels were stolen from the castle in 1907and their whereabouts remain a mystery to this day. The National Museum of Ireland – Archeology on Kildare Streetshowcases other early treasures which illuminate Dublin’s history throughout the ages. A little further from the centre of town is Phoenix Park, one of the largest walled parks in Europe. Visit the Wellington Monument,a tribute to the 1st Duke of Wellington, a Dubliner known as the Iron Duke who defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. Of all Dublin’s heroes, perhaps none are as important as St Patrick, who is credited with many miracles including, converting Ireland to Christianity. The site of St Patrick’s Cathedral is said to be where he first baptised the pagan chieftains and altered Irish history. The nearby Christ Church Cathedral was founded almost 1000 years ago and has born witness to the lives of warriors, kings and saints. Dubliner Jonathan Swift, once said,“ May you live all the days of your life.” There is no better way to define Dublin. Its passion for life is contagious, captivating and sure to stay with you for the rest of your days.