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Dublin, Ireland

 

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Small, friendly, civilised Dublin remains one of Europe's most appealing little cities. Except for the dozens of embassies, it's sometimes hard to believe this is a national capital. Somehow Dublin has more life, energy, art and music than many a place several times the size.
  The city's true nature is unpretentious, amiable and genuine. It was transformed for a while by a combination of EU cash and high-tech multinationals that gave Ireland's economy the nickname 'Celtic Tiger', while Dublin and south east Ireland was called the 'Silicon Valley of Europe'. That boom ended with the financial crash, and the country fell into a depression that ended only to fall victim to the ongoing euro debt crisis. Yet none of its ups and downs have made a dent in the city's extraordinary charm and contagious good-humour.
  The most exhilarating change of the good years was the transformation of Dublin city centre. First the Liffey riverside, then the quaint Temple Bar district, and then majestic O'Connell Street were given a facelift that has done wonders for the place. With the economic downturn and the end of Ireland's little boom, that legacy remains. And if the place seems a little calmer than it was, so much the better for those of us who like to hop over for a relaxing drink in Ireland's welcoming capital.


 Get the feel

Whatever the changes, Dublin's greatest attractions are still people, music and pubs.
  There can't be another city anywhere with as many pubs per head. There are about one thousand altogether. For masses of atmosphere and great craνc, push open the door into almost any of them. The very best are gorgeous unmodernised places gleaming with mirrors, mahogany and brass. Come the evening, and in the daytime too, many city pubs settle down with some live music, usually foot-tapping folksy traditional Irish sounds.
  John Kehoe's [no website] at 9 South Anne St is a fine example. The Brazen Head, Dublin's oldest pub, has music most nights. Or join the throng listening in the Victorian bars of The Oliver St John Gogarty, one of the very best for traditional Irish music. Round the corner at bigger, crowded Fitzsimons, which is a night club as well as an all-day bar, there's a wide range of music and dance on five floors.

 What, why, where

Located on Ireland's eastern shore, Dublin started life 1000 years ago as a Viking settlement.
 Over the centuries it was taken over by a succession of conquerors and colonists, especially the English, whose period of rule left many scars but some positive legacies as well, including the dignified Georgian architecture that now gives the city much of its charm and character.
 Many of Dublin's landmarks and memorials recall the bloody but eventually successful struggle to drive the British out, but today there's no ill-feeling at all towards British, with whom Ireland now has close ties and cordial relations.
 Dublin's population today is about 1 million. The Irish name of the city is Baile Atha Cliath.

 Getting started

Dublin Visitor Centre is at 17 Lower O'Connell St and College Green, Grafton St, both in the city centre (tel. +353 1 898 0700).
Discover Ireland Tourist Information Offices can be found at 14 Upper O'Connell St and south of the river at 25 Suffolk St, as well as at Dublin Airport.
  If you're planning to see a lot during your stay, it could be worth buying a
Dublin Pass from the tourist office (1 day - €49, 2 days - €69, 3 days - €79, 5 days - €99) giving entry to over 25 attractions.
  You can book accommodation in advance, as well as finding information on sights, offers, shows, shopping and travel to Dublin, on these official websites:
www.dublinvisitorcentre.ie (Dublin Tourist Board)
www.visitdublin.com (Irish Tourist Board)

 Compass points

The city centre is the busy, crowded area on both sides of O'Connell Bridge over the River Liffey (picturesque "Ha'penny Bridge" and the Millennium Bridge are two pedestrian bridges just upstream).
North of the river is broad O'Connell Street, Dublin's magnificent principal boulevard with a wide central pavement under a row of trees.
South of the river is a more atmospheric, historic district (in effect, Dublin's Old Quarter), with Temple Bar on one side, running down towards Trinity College.
The tourist office is on the south side, in a former church in Suffolk St.
Away from the centre, some sights on the western edges of town are best reached by catching a bus along the riverside.

 Getting around

Most of the time, it feels like nowhere in Dublin is more than a short distance away, and it's a pleasure to walk in the city centre. At night, certain streets can be rowdy, though, including the Temple Bar area and O'Connell Street.

The Guinness Brewery is a 20-minute walk from the city centre, so you might prefer to catch a bus. The no.123 leaves from O'Connell St every few minutes and takes 10 minites.

For longer and faster trips around the city, use Dublin's superb
DART urban railway.

 Eat & drink in Dublin

With 1000 pubs and 100s of restaurants, Dublin is well served at mealtimes. In keeping with the unpretentious Irish style, cooking often tends to be plain, robust and hearty, and portions huge.
  There are some outstanding Michelin-starred restaurants, too:

L'Ecrivain,
Chapter One (in the basement of the Dublin Writers Museum), and The Greenhouse all continue to keep one Michelin star in 2017, with a newcomer to the list, Heron & Grey in the suburb of Blackrock.

Patrick Guilbaud One of Ireland's best restaurants for decades, and the only one with 2 Michelin stars, is in an elegant Georgian setting. Chef Patrick Guilbaud offers refined modern French and Irish cuisine emphasising seafood.

 Hotels in Dublin

Visit Dublin's website details a wide choice of accommodation which can be browsed by type and locality.
www.visitdublin.com (
Where To Stay)

The Clarence Hotel  A sense of fine quality pervades this renowned city centre luxury hotel, part of the Dublin scene for 150 years, now owned by Irish rock group U2.
www.theclarence.ie

The Morgan Hotel A haven of cool designer chic, well placed in Temple Bar, comfortable, stylish rooms.
www.themorgan.com

 Getting to Dublin

Dublin has good transport links to the UK, with ferry routes from two ports (Dublin Port and Dun Laoghaire) to Holyhead and Liverpool, and flights from about 30 UK airports. Flight time is generally around one hour.

Aer Lingus provide full service flights to Dublin, with low fares. Aer Lingus fares to Dublin from almost all UK airports are under £60pp round trip (all taxes inc), and some under £20. There are plenty of special offers.
www.aerlingus.com

 In the Know

••Don't ask for a "beer" - say which kind you want. Guinness is the famed dark, locally brewed stout, but there are plenty of others to choose. The barman will be happy to explain, especially if you buy a pint for himself.
••Half a pint of beer is called a "glass" in Ireland. For a pint, ask for a pint!
••Craνc (pronounced 'crack') is Irish for good company and good times, usually accompanied by good drink and good music.  
••
Phoenix Park, reaching all the way from Dublin's western suburbs to the city centre, is said to be the largest enclosed city park in Europe. It includes Dublin Zoo, the world's oldest city zoo.

Must-see

 Guinness Storehouse -
 The Guinness Experience 

The Guinness Storehouse is Dublin's number one attraction. Its 6-storey exhibition gives a fascinating glimpse into the alchemy of ingredients in Ireland's favourite glass. The twin secrets are the water (from St James' Spring, 25 miles west) and the carefully tended yeast culture (still the one Arthur Guinness borrowed from a neighbour in 1759). Historical artefacts include the lease entitling Guinness to make beer here for 9,000 years!
  At the rooftop Gravity Bar you'll be handed "the perfect pint" - free of charge. The bar also enjoys the perfect view of Dublin, a 360-degree glass-walled panorama taking in the whole city, the dark shapes of the Wicklow Mountains and the Irish Sea beyond.

www.guinness-storehouse.com

 Temple Bar 
Running along the south bank of the River Liffey, Temple Bar's cobbled lanes have become the vivacious focal point for the arts, culture and the avant-garde, as well as (after dark) a centre for stag and hen parties, with scores of pubs and restaurants which once fuelled Dublin's brash role as the Party Capital of Europe. In recent years, some local bars have banned big groups. Such measures have only partly succeeded, but the mood usually stays fairly mellow.

 Dublin's Literary Heritage 
The city of Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, Brendan Behan, Sean O'Casey, W.B.Yeats and Samuel Beckett loves literature and has quite a cultured air. Learn about its writers, and see many of their personal effects and first editions at the Dublin Writers' Museum in Parnell Sq. In the same square is the Irish Writers' Centre.
  Drama is a local speciality, and there's usually an Irish play showing at the prestigious
Abbey Theatre. Other theatres with programmes well worth checking are the Gate and the Gaiety.

 The Book of Kells, Trinity College
 and 'the Dublin Experience' 

Dignified and sombre, Trinity College has been Ireland's premier university since it was founded in 1592. The oldest remaining parts are 17th century. It says much about Ireland that Catholics (almost the entire Irish population) were barred until 1873, and then that for almost another century the Catholic church prohibited Catholics from attending.
  Pass through the lovely neo-Classical Reading Room, with its impressive Long Room gallery, to reach the Book of Kells, the 1200-year-old "most beautiful book in the world", which lies open at a richly painted page. Facing the library, The Dublin Experience is a multimedia attraction on the history of the city,
www.tcd.ie/visitors/book-of-kells/

 O'Connell Street  
Most Dublin attractions are south of the Liffey, but its principal institutions and monuments are on the north side of the river, especially along this fine 18th- and 19th-century boulevard. Among them is the astonishing 393-foot (120m)  slender metal Spire of Dublin (known as the Spike), erected in 2003 to replace a Nelson's Column previously destroyed in a Republican bombing.
  Statues along the length of the street commemorate the great names of Irish life and letters, including Irish nationalist campaigner Daniel O'Connell (1775-1847) after whom it is named.
  A great landmark in the nation's fight for independence is the city's grandiose main post office or GPO (General Post Office), which was seized during the 1916 Easter Rising, became the besieged HQ of the doomed nationalist leaders. It still has bullet marks in the facade.

NB - the street is rowdy and seedy at night.

 National Museum  
Gold, silver and gems feature among this treasure trove of ancient Ireland.
www.museum.ie/

 17th/18th-century architecture 
Majestic set-pieces of neo-Classical and Georgian architecture survive in the city centre.
  Bank of Ireland Westmoreland St, facing Trinity College; 17C, neo-Classical; Ireland's parliament until the Act of Union. The banking hall is the old House of Commons.
  Merrion Square A few paces SE of Trinity College; a beautifully preserved ensemble of 18C Georgian town houses.
  Custom House on the north bank, east of O'Connell Bridge; 18C, neo-Classical; now occupied by the High Court.

 Buy it

Silly souvenirs abound; with miniatures of Irish booze, carved leprechauns, Irish joke books, etc, apparently in strong demand. Better quality Irish products worth taking home include fine linen and lace, glassware, sweaters and tweeds. Irish music CDs and tapes are worth buying.
Visit
Powercourt Townhouse for high-class shopping, and the city branches of Kilkenny and Avoca Handweavers for genuine traditional and modern Irish goods.

 Events and festivals

Dublin Festivals
There are festivals and events throughout the Dublin year, devoted to fashion, books, music, theatre, culture and beer - a good Dublin mix. The "Festival Season" of September-October usually sees 10 festivals in two months.
www.visitdublin.com/whats-on/

16-19 Mar 2017: Go crazy for Patrick.
The saint's special day is March 17, enthusiastically celebrated anywhere in the world that Irish people are to be found. Ireland's capital spends a wild few days on its annual St Patrick's Festival, with street parties, food fairs, exhibitions, storytelling, funfair and music and a vast array of entertainment for four days. Wear green, drink Guinness.
  The highlight is the St Patrick's Day Parade, starting at 12 noon from Parnell Square and heading this year down the east side of O'Connell Street. The theme for 2017 is "Ireland You Are...". Full programme on the Festival website:

www.stpatricksfestival.ie

11-16 Jun 2017 - Bloomsday:
Dublin Re-
Joyces
The day recalls Dublin on June 16, 1904, the setting for Ulysses, by James Joyce. Not just Bloom, central character of Ulysses, but all Joyce's life and work, and Dublin itself, are celebrated
in this strange literary appreciation that has become a city-wide festival. Several days of events and tours culminate on the 16th. Book well ahead.
www.bloomsdayfestival.ie

 Dublin Basics

••Where is it? It's the capital of Ireland, on the east coast.
••International phone dialling code:  00 353.
••Time zone: GMT/BST (same as UK).
••Money: Euro (€).


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 Dublin
Revised and updated January 2017.
All rights reserved worldwide.
Text © Focus Guides and Andrew Sanger.
Permission to use: This guide may be freely PRINTED ONLY for personal non-commercial use. Unless a LICENCE has been obtained it may not, in whole or in part, be COPIED nor used for any COMMERCIAL purpose.
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