Dublin, Ireland, is a small, charming walkable city that offers a warm welcome. It is a city in transition, from medieval capital to exciting commercial center. Dublin's unpretentious charm is still there, but chic urbanity has moved in beside it. Now known for its vibrant nightlife. Visitors can spend a week in Dublin and still not cover all the attractions.
Sights—Ancient Christ Church Cathedral; the 8th century Georgian architecture of Merrion Square; the beautiful Book of Kells at Trinity College; St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin Castle, with its elegant State Apartments.
Museums—The National Museum of Ireland's sites at Collins Barracks and Kildare Street; the impressive collection at the Irish Museum of Modern Art; the Dublin Writers Museum; Dublin City Gallery: The Hugh Lane; Dublinia, the Viking heritage center; The Chester Beatty Library, with its magnificent Asian art holdings.
Especially for Kids—Farmleigh and the Dublin Zoo, both in Phoenix Park; the Viking Splash Tour; Liffey River Cruises; the wonderful playground at Malahide Castle, including the Fry Model Railway Museum and Tara's Palace antique dollhouse and toy museum.
Dublin is situated on the east coast of Ireland. Its famed river, the Liffey, cuts through the center of the city, dividing the city into north and south. On the north side are 18th century architectural masterpieces such as the Custom House and the Four Courts. South of the Liffey are Trinity College, the trendy (but old) streets of Temple Bar, the fine Georgian buildings of St. Stephen's Green, Grafton Street's upscale stores and restaurants, and most hotels.
During Easter of 1916, a band of Irish rebels led by James Connolly and Patrick Pearse took over Dublin's General Post Office and proclaimed an Irish republic in what became known as the Easter Rising. The British subsequently executed most of the rebel leaders, enraging many Dubliners who had been less enthusiastic about independence. On 6 December 1921, the Irish Free State was finally established. A bitter civil war immediately followed, leaving Dublin in ruin. The conflict ended in a partition of Ireland: The 26 southern counties gained their independence, but six counties known as Northern Ireland remained part of the U.K. Dubliners rebuilt their city, and after seven turbulent and impoverished decades, they experienced an economic upturn in the 1990s.
The River Liffey is the center of activity in Dublin today, just as it was in medieval times. Though not particularly picturesque or impressive, the river's banks are a good place to begin exploring the city. South of the Liffey you'll find much of the tourist infrastructure and the new developments spurred by the city's rapid economic growth. Hotels, restaurants, trendy cafes, shops and attractions abound. North of the Liffey, the flavor of the old city is easier to find. There, stately Georgian buildings coexist with humble 19th century workers' cottages.
Chief among Dublin's churches are St. Patrick's Cathedral (whose most famous dean was satirist Jonathan Swift) and Christ Church
Cathedral (originally constructed in 1038 but rebuilt many times since).
Ireland's oldest university is Trinity College, founded by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592. Its refined academic atmosphere remains. On display at the Old Library is the college's most famous treasure: the must-see Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript that dates from around AD 800.
Dublin is also a city of wonderful museums. Take time to see the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) and the National Museum of Ireland.
NEIGHBORHOODS & DISTRICTS
Take a walk on the posh side in Dublin's legendary "D4" district. Mansion-lined Aylesbury and Shrewsbury roads are reputedly the most expensive streets in Ireland, and Raglan Road (of the well-known Irish song) boasts impressive redbrick Victorian houses with huge gardens. Herbert Park is a genteel, beautifully maintained oasis for a walk or a picnic lunch. Although there is no high-end shopping street (such as Madison Avenue or Rodeo Drive) per se, the gleaming fancy-food markets, wine shops and trendy lifestyle and fashion boutiques along Donnybrook and Pembroke roads attest to this area's prosperity.
One of the city's best-known Georgian squares, Merrion Square has plenty of well-maintained winding walkways, flower beds and statues—including one of Oscar Wilde, whose parents lived at No. 1. Other famous residents included W.B. Yeats, who lived at No. 52 and No. 82. With its proximity to the National Gallery, Merrion Square is a popular place to relax, and on the weekend the square comes alive with artists selling their wares on the street.
Extensive redevelopment has ignited this historical area bordered by the Liffey to the north and Dame Street to the south. (The district's main street running through the area also is called Temple Bar.) Artists, designers and young entrepreneurs have set up small shops, galleries, restaurants and pubs, and many of Dublin's vibrant arts organizations are headquartered there. On Saturday, Meeting House Square boasts a fabulous fresh-food market; other markets sell books, clothing, crafts and furniture. All are abuzz with social activity. On a more cautionary note, be aware that Temple Bar has its elements of sleaze and can be a nighttime haunt for drunken revelers—it's pretty well guaranteed to be rowdy during weekends. Watch your wallet.
WINERIES, BREWERIES & DISTILLERIES
Although the Storehouse is adjacent to the Guinness Brewery, you don't get to see the actual beer-making process or facilities. Instead, it's a large, multifloor museum that tells the story of the famous stout using various mediums, including an interactive "Tasting Laboratory" where visitors can try some beer directly from the keg line. The seventh-floor Gravity Bar offers a fantastic view of the city and is the place where visitors also receive a complimentary pint of Guinness.
Old Jameson Distillery
This 18th-century brewery includes a tour that reviews the history of whiskey making, which began in the sixth century. You get a taste of the product at the end of the tour.
BARS, TAVERNS & PUBS
The pub is the social center of Irish life. Each has its own charms and clientele. It's a people-watcher's paradise, and you don't have to order a pint of Guinness to enjoy the lively atmosphere. Pubs are generally open from late morning until 11:30 pm. On Friday and Saturday nights they usually stay open at least an hour later. Many pubs in the center of the city have been prettified in the last few years (with attractive antiques, for instance) to create an Irish nostalgia that they were never meant to have in the first place. But the real thing is still around, and it's worth looking for. Guinness produces a very useful Dublin Pub Trail map, listing some 30 must-try pubs for the do-it-yourself pub crawler. This free leaflet can be found at all tourist offices.
A consumer frenzy developed with the growth of Ireland's economy in the early and mid-2000s, and many shopping centers and smaller retail stores popped up around the city. North of the Liffey, you'll find lots of British chain stores and small Irish boutiques, especially along Henry Street. South of the river, the Temple Bar district is packed with stores selling retro items and the work of local designers. On Grafton Street are Brown Thomas (the Irish department store) and a host of international shops. The largest concentration of well-known antiques dealers is in the Francis Street area, but there are pockets of shops on Patrick Street, in the Molesworth/Dawson Street area and along the north quays in the first few blocks off O'Connell Street. For books, head to Dawson Street. A must-have item is Irish smoked salmon. It's sold vacuum-packed and can be imported into most other countries this way. Make sure you buy it at a supermarket, such as Dunnes Stores in the St. Stephen's Green Shopping Centre—you'll save a bundle over prices at the airport.
In Dublin, you'll find plenty of traditional Irish food: potato cakes, colcannon (potatoes mashed with cabbage or kale), salmon, Irish stew
(mutton, onions and potatoes), prawns (fresh from Dublin Bay), oysters and breads. But don't stick just to the traditional fare. In addition to a respectable selection of international eateries, you'll find restaurants that specialize in a distinctive school of New Irish cuisine. It uses rich, indigenous Irish foodstuffs prepared with influences from the European continent and the Mediterranean.
Eating out in Dublin is pricey, although an increasing number of places offer set lunch and dinner menus, Early Bird specials and pretheater menus that are a good value. Pubs also offer affordable sandwiches and light meals. Check with the tourist board for a list of such restaurants.
Dining times are generally 7:30-10 am for breakfast, 12:30-3 pm for lunch and 6-10 pm for dinner.
One cautionary note: Although Ireland was considered smoker-friendly in the past, legislation banning smoking in all workplaces, including restaurants and pubs, is now in effect.
Expect to pay within these general guidelines, based on the cost of a basic dinner entree for one, not including drinks, but including tax and tip: $ = less than 15 euros; $$ = 15 euros-25 euros; $$$ = 26 euros-40 euros; and $$$$ = more than 40 euros.
Dublin is a reasonably safe city, but use caution when venturing into the northern part of O'Connell Street and surrounding areas at night. Temple Bar can get crowded and rough late at night, especially during weekends—pickpockets haunt the area. Do not leave valuables in a parked car, even if they are in the trunk or covered with a coat. Do not park your car in the streets—use designated car parks, as they are safer. Be as careful of your handbag or wallet as you would be in any major city; do not carry your passport or large amounts of cash on you or leave them in your hotel room (unless it has a safe). Cell phone theft has become common around the city center, so be extra careful about using one in public places. Dublin also has a drug problem, which is more prominent the farther north of the river you go.
In general, Dublin's sanitation standards are decent, and tap water is safe to drink. Food is not generally sold on the street, but when it is (fish-and-chips or ice cream, for instance), it's safe, though of varying quality. Medical care, if needed, is excellent. In the event of medical emergency, dial 112 or 999. St. Vincent's University Hospital is centrally located at Elm Park, off Merrion Road,
Pharmacies are available all over the city, including many branches of the chain Boots the Chemists, and most operate at least part of the day on Sunday. Although 24-hour pharmacies are a rarity, Hamilton Long & Co., at 5 Lower O'Connell St., Dublin 1 (phone 01-874-8456), and its sister branch at 4 Merrion Road, Dublin 4 (phone 01-668-3050), are open until 9 pm.
Ireland's currency is the euro, which is divided into 100 cents. ATMs are the most convenient and usually the least expensive way to get euros. Most ATMs take major credit and bank cards and dispense currency at the going rate of exchange. ATMs are located throughout the city. Money-exchange bureaus usually offer rates similar to those at banks. A large number of banks and money-exchange bureaus can be found on Grafton and O'Connell streets. There's also an exchange bureau and an ATM run by Bank of Ireland at the Dublin Airport, open Monday-Friday. A number of other international currency-exchange bureaus located at the airport are open daily.
A 23% VAT (value-added tax) is incorporated into prices for almost all goods, with the exception of books, which are not taxed, and
restaurant meals, takeaway food and bakery goods, which are taxed at 13.5%. But with a little paperwork, nonresidents of the European Union can obtain a tax refund. To reclaim the tax you paid, you must see the VAT refund officer at the airport before departure and present the receipt for the article you purchased and a refund form (which must be obtained at the place of purchase). Some larger stores will handle most of the paperwork for you and then mail you the refund.
Tipping is not part of Irish culture, and, as is the case in most of Europe, restaurant patrons will often round a bill up or leave some small change on the table. Wait staff are paid a reasonable wage in Ireland.
Dublin's weather is best described as changeable. Rain showers can come at any time (carry an umbrella even if it looks sunny). February- July is the driest time of year, with an average of about 2 in of rain each month. December is usually the wettest, but then again, no one goes to Ireland for the weather. There are few extremes of hot or cold. July is typically the warmest month, averaging 60 F; January and February are the coldest, averaging about 40 F. Snow falls just a few days a year at most.
Walking may be the most practical way of getting around this compact city.
Dublin Airport (DUB) lies 6 miles north of the city. It takes approximately 25 minutes to drive into the center of town if traffic is light, but congestion is becoming a way of life in Dublin. Allow at least an hour to access either of the airport's terminals from the city center.
Cars are driven on the left side of the road, and speed limits are posted in kilometers per hour. Dublin's rapid development over the past few years has greatly increased traffic volume. If you're traveling by car, allow plenty of time to get into and around the center of the city, especially on holiday weekends. The best times to travel by car are 10 am-2 pm Monday-Friday, early morning or late evening on Saturday and Sunday.
There are two ferry terminals in Dublin: Dublin Port on the northern side of Dublin Bay and Dun Laoghaire, just a few miles south
of the city center. Destinations include Liverpool, England; the Isle of Man; and Holyhead, Wales. Five ferry companies operate from Dublin, including Irish Ferries and Stena Line. For more information, visit http://www.ireland.com/flights-ferries.
Visitors who plan on taking full advantage of Dublin's various public transportation systems should consider purchasing a Leap Card, which can be used on DART, Dublin Bus, Luas and Commuter Rail services. Aside from the convenience factor, traveling with a Leap Card is cheaper than purchasing individual fare tickets. The cards are sold at a number of shops in the arrivals hall at Dublin Airport; they can also be purchased online. http://www.leapcard.ie.
In the city, nearly all taxi companies can be phoned for pickup service. You can also go to a designated taxi stand or try hailing one on the street. Taxi stands are located in front of the larger hotels, at St. Stephen's Green, on O'Connell Street and College Green, at all train stations, and at the Busaras terminal. Fares are determined by meter, except for hackneys, which can only be arranged by phone. Hackneys' rates are fixed; settle on the price before getting in the cab. Additional information on Dublin taxis, including the latest fixed fares, can be found at http://www.taxi.ie .
DOs & DON'Ts
Do check out the free entertainment provided by Dublin's buskers. Although Grafton Street has been the traditional haunt of these street performers, many of the more exotic artists now frequent Temple Bar Square, where you can catch fire-eaters, limbo dancers and madcap comedians, as well as your average guitar strummer.
Don't be daunted by Dublin's reputation for hard drinking. Drinking is considered a sociable pastime, but generally speaking, it's a drinking culture of leisurely pints enjoyed over long conversations.
Do try the Guinness—it's the country's most famous beverage, after all. But don't feel compelled to drink it for your entire stay if it doesn't suit your palate. They say it's an acquired taste, and not everyone acquires it—even some born and bred Dubliners. But be careful where you try it. Ask a local for the best places. Kilkenny and Smithwick's are two other good beers, with the former harder to come by.
Don't assume all pubs are the same. If you want to get a good deal, do check the drinks price list, displayed by law just inside the entrance of each bar. Prices can vary wildly from pub to pub, and mixed drinks are generally very expensive.
Do purchase the Dublin Pass, advertised at a lot of tourist venues, but only after you have read the fine print. It may make sense if you want to pack a lot of sightseeing into a short time, but remember that the benefits of the card are limited.
Don't travel during morning or evening rush hours if you can avoid it. Getting stuck in Dublin's infamous traffic gridlock is not a great way to spend time. Despite express bus lanes, public transport will also be jammed with people traveling to and from work.
Do use the word "lift," not "ride," when asking someone to take you someplace in their car. "Ride" is the slangy equivalent of the f-word.
Don't expect to hear much Gaelic in the city: English has long been the first language of Ireland, other than in some rural areas, and although most Dubliners have a basic grasp of the Irish language, some aren't too familiar with it. However, you could be lucky enough to meet some fluent Irish speakers. Some phrases you may encounter include slainte (pronounced slawn-cha), which is a toast to good health; cead mile failte (pronounced cade mee-la fawl-cha), which means "a thousand welcomes"; and go raibh mile maith agat (pronounced guh rev mee-la moh a-got), which means "a thousand thank yous." Also, on public lavatories you may see the words fir (men) and mna (women).
At noon and 6 pm, the national broadcaster RTE stops all TV and radio programs on its main stations to play "the Angelus," a one-minute recording of church bells, to allow people to say their daily prayers. The tradition is a vestige of the institutional power held by the Catholic Church in the days when the station was founded.
Dublin's most notable statues are given nicknames that are usually rhyming and often politically incorrect. A statue of Molly Malone near Grafton Street is called "the tart with a cart" or "the dish with the fish." The Anna Livia statue, a woman sitting in a fountain to represent the spirit of the River Liffey, was unveiled in 1988 and promptly became "the floozy in the Jacuzzi"—or even more impolitely "the hooer in the sewer." The sculpture attracted so much abuse from pranksters that it was replaced by the Millennium Spire, soon known as "the stiletto in the ghetto," among other names. In the Grand Canal Basin, just off Pearse Street, the floating cubic building—officially known as the Waterways Ireland Visitors Centre—is affectionately referred to as "the box in the docks."
Dublin's O'Connell Bridge, which spans the River Liffey and connects the north and south sides of the city, is known for being the only bridge in Europe that is just as wide as it is long.
Dublin's Trinity College is probably best known as the home of the legendary Book of Kells. Its lengthy list of notable alumni, however,
includes Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett and even Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, who was born in Dublin.
Population: approximately 527,612.
Languages: English, Gaelic.
Predominant Religions: Christian (Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland).
Voltage Requirements: 220 volts. 50 Hz.
Telephone Codes: 353, country code; 01, city code for Dublin
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Courtesy of: Darla Logsdon
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