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Dublin City

Dublin, the capital city of Ireland, is the most popular arrival city for international visitors to Ireland. Not renowned for its architectural beauty, Dublin is, however, popular for its vibrant nightlife, its warm and friendly people, and its wide range of tourist attractions. Dublin is the heartbeat of Irish life. Almost a quarter of all Irish people -- roughly 1.4 million -- live in the greater Dublin area. 

Tourist Attractions in Dublin

Dublin is a popular city break location and there are many things to do and places to visit. Here is a sample of some of the most popular attractions:

  • The Guinness Storehouse - The home of the world-famous stout is the number one attraction on the entire island of Ireland
  • O'Connell Street - the main street of the capital city
  • The Book of Kells – The world's best example of an early medieval illuminated manuscript is on display at Trinity College.
  • Chester Beatty Library - An international museum, the once-private collection contains artefacts from around the world, particularly the Muslim regions.
  • The National Gallery of Ireland – View paintings of Irish artists dating back to the middle ages.
  • ChristChurch Cathedral – A fine and historic building, but more worth visiting for its interaction exhibition, which tells the story of Dublin’s Viking history.
  • Glasnevin Cemetary - With so many famous Irish people buried here, a tour of the cemetery is a great way to discover the story of how Ireland developed
  • St. Stephen's Green - A charming urban park that features in the novel Ulysses by James Joyce
  • Irish Museum of Modern Art – Located in the historic 17th century Royal Hospital Kilmainham building, the museum showcases major travelling exhibits.
  • St. Patrick’s Cathedral –  An impressive thirteenth-century cathedral that is famous for housing the remains of Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver's Travels
  • Malahide Castle - A beautiful castle in a seaside area half an hour from the centre of Dublin, with a fantastic coffee shop/cafe and crafts shop on site
  • Temple Bar – The vibrant, cobbled-street bohemian district, full of pubs and restaurants
  • Dublin Zoo - A popular if slightly expensive zoo more than 700 hundred animals, Dublin's zoo is one of the world's oldest
  • Old Jameson Distillery - Popular attraction showing how Irish whiskey (the worlds oldest!) is distilled, and how it differs from Scotch
  • St. Michan's Church - This ordinary-looking church has an unusual secret -- a crypt of mummies!
  • Dublin Writers Museum - Learn about Ireland's remarkable history of world-famous writers such as Yeats, Joyce and Shaw
  • Casino Marino - Off the beaten track, this Georgian building is a remarkable architectural illusion
  • Jeanie Johnston - A replica of the original famine ship that transported thousands to the New World and remarkably lost no lives
  • The Abbey Theatre - Founded by W.B. Yeats and his contemporaries, The Abbey is still the barometer of Irish drama and culture
  • Shrine of Saint Valentine - preserved in an old church on an unassuming side street, is this really Saint Valentine's heart?
  • Dundrum Shopping Centre - the largest shopping mall in Ireland, with over 150 stores

History of Dublin

The city of Dublin displays countless reminders of a tumultuous history rich in conflict, violence and rebellion, as well as modern economic progress and remarkable artistic and literary achievement. Dublin, as a city, really took off  in the first part of the 9th century, when the Irish outpost became the first substantial Viking settlement beyond the boundaries of Scandinavia.

But the Vikings were not the first settlers here. Evidence of civilization in the area extends as far back as 7500 B.C. and the Celts had been present in the area from around 700 B.C. They had welcomed St Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in AD 432. The St. Patrick's Cathedral visible today was erected in 1192 on the site where Ireland's most famous patriarch is said to have baptised more than a few converts upon his arrival.

The original settlement that later developed into Dublin City was located at the junction of four main roads and served as the singular crossing of the River Liffey from its north shore. Ath Cliath was its Gaelic name, and it suffered a brutal invasion of the Vikings, who remained in the area from 841 to 902. Their story is told at Dublinia, the Viking exhibition.

The Viking absence was short-lived, however, and they returned in 917 to erect a fortified town on the spot where the Rivers Liffey and Poddle meet to create a 'black pool", referred to by the invaders as Dyfflin or Dubh Linn. After more than a century of blending with the Celts through marriage and community, the Vikings were finally defeated by Irish High King Brian Boru in 1014.

During the period of Anglo-Norman control, Dublin expanded and grew more prosperous. The foundations of Dublin Castle were built in 1205, and St. Patrick's Church became a cathedral later in the decade. The population had increased nearly to the point of overcrowding when the Black Death arrived in 1348.

Subsequent attempts to gain independence from Britain by blended Anglo-Norman and Irish dynasties were easily quashed. Then King Henry VIII passed the Act of Supremacy in 1541 and became King of Ireland as well as head of the Church. Monasteries were disbanded and Protestantism came to Ireland following the Reformation -- leading to separation from the leadership of Rome. Queen Elizabeth I left her unique imprint on Ireland, and specifically Dublin, by founding Trinity College in 1592 on the site of a former monastery. Its mission, which it achieved successfully, was to become a Protestant Centre of higher learning.

The passage of the Penal Laws (1695) did not make it unlawful to practice Roman Catholicism in Ireland but barred Catholics from holding most government offices, practising law, or serving in the military.

Later, the Georgian Era witnessed the completion of some of Dublin's most awe-inspiring structures. Renowned architect James Gandon designed the Custom House in 1791 and the Four Courts (1786-1802). The advancement of commerce and development of urban planning produced institutions like the Grand Canal and Ireland's most famous corporate entity, the Guinness Brewery, in 1759.

In 1782, the Irish parliament passed a Declaration of Rights that sought independence for Ireland and returned some of the rights to Catholics that had been denied by the Penal Laws. A series of struggles for independence were unsuccessful, and concern for independence was eclipsed by the concerns of the Potato Famine in the century that followed. Half of the population was decimated, and grain distribution policies that allowed thousands to die of starvation fuelled the movement toward Home Rule by 1900.

Daniel O'Connell, a Catholic lawyer who became Dublin's first catholic mayor, was instrumental in the passage of the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, and known as the "Liberator" because of his efforts to demand basic human freedoms on behalf of all Irish Catholics.

World War I delayed the implementation of Home Rule in Ireland, but the Easter Rising of 1916 pushed the British rulers to the limits of their patience and the leaders of the rising are known as some of the most beloved martyrs in the history of the country. More than 300 citizens were killed in the Easter Rising, which took place in the centre of Dublin at the General Post Office on O'Connell Street and the surrounding area. While the rising was a military failure, the cruel and humiliating summary execution of the rebel leaders at Kilmainham Gaol led to a mass groundswell of support for the nationalist cause.

The following years concentrated Irish history in Dublin, notably through the Irish Civil War. The Sinn Fein party increased in power, and urban guerilla warfare became commonplace under the leadership of Michael Collins and the Irish Volunteers. There were instigation and retaliation, resulting in the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which reserved six Ulster counties from the free state and forced them to swear allegiance to the British monarchy.

In 1949, the Republic of Ireland was formed, and the City of Dublin remained mostly isolated from the political problems of Northern Ireland, aside from bombings and retaliations in 1966 and 1972.

The long and turbulent history of the city of Dublin is told by its attractions and places of interest, the artwork and exhibits in its galleries and museums. Dublin was declared the European City of Culture in 1991 and has since experienced a surge of development and economic prosperity known as the Celtic Tiger, which came to an abrupt end in 2008.

Economic activity has since picked up, however, and a  wide range of social and cultural activities, along with varied attractions, continue to bring millions of tourists to this lively cosmopolitan centre every year.

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Skyline of Dublin City. Image: melfoody

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