Our first blog of 2016 and as we are back in Ireland for the holidays we can’t think of a better city to write about than a place we know well, Dublin. After several blogs about our European adventure from Barcelona to Bucharest and Amsterdam to Zürich, we felt it was a good time to write about our home city of Dublin, Ireland. Many people we met from around the world have raved about how wonderful the night-life is there but we are here to tell you that Dublin isn’t all pubs and potatoes and how 2016 is a special year for the city.
Dublin Ireland Baile Átha Cliath Cockles and Mussels
Dublin is a wonderful place for a European city break and not just a stop before going to London. There are plenty of things to do indoors when the rain is falling and outdoors when the rain…isn’t falling… as much! Dublin is the capital city of Ireland and the majority of the country’s population lives here and in the surrounding county suburbs.7
Dublin is the home of world-famous Guinness, the birthplace of U2 and literary figures such as James Joyce. A weekend or week can be spent sitting at one of the many bars sipping a creamy Guinness and chased down with a Jameson whiskey but there is so much more. Many people who arrive in Dublin will arrive either by plane or boat. If you arrive at Dublin airport you will be in the north side of the city and by boat can arrive at Dun Laoghaire in the south side or Dublin port in the north side. Knowing what side of the city you are on may seem like trivial information but to locals the north/south divide is an identity.
It is a long-standing joke and common source of fun for north siders to mock south siders and vice versa. The south side with its affluent areas such as Dalkey and Foxrock may seem to possess the wealth and moral high ground but the north side also boasts their own prime real estate with suburbs such as Castleknock and its close proximity to the Phoenix Park, the largest enclosed urban park in Europe boasting its own Zoo, and Clontarf and Malahide overlooking the Irish sea.
Dublin is a mix of affluent suburbs and working class areas all coming together in the city centre to create a destination that can suit all tastes. Creating the city’s north south divide is the River Liffey. On the north side of the Liffey is O’Connell Street–the main thoroughfare, which is intersected by numerous shopping streets, including Henry Street and Talbot Street.
On the south side are St. Stephen’s Green, Grafton Street, Trinity College, https://www.tcd.ie/, Christ Church, St. Patrick’s Cathedrals, and many other attractions. Along the Liffey there are many bridges linking both sides with the famous Ha’Penny bridge being a city icon. Before the bridge ferries were used to cross the river but they started to fall into disrepair, requiring much expense, so a bridge was the alternative. Initially the toll charge was based, not on the cost of construction, but to match the charges levied by the ferries it replaced. A further condition of construction was that, if the citizens of Dublin found the bridge and toll to be “objectionable” within its ﬁrst year of operation, it was to be removed at no cost to the city. The toll was increased for a time to a Penny Ha’penny (1½ pence), but was eventually dropped in 1919, hence its name to this day. Pity that same spirit isn’t show today with the M50 (Major county motorway) toll increasing frequently without much objection!
Aside from its many bridges the river also serves as a useful navigation point, if coming from the west into the city you will find Heuston Station which is one of Ireland’s main railway stations, serving the south, southwest and west. It was originally called
Kingsbridge Station from the nearby Kings Bridge over the Liffey, but was renamed in 1966 after Sean Heuston, an Easter Rising leader who had worked in the station offices.
Designed by Sancton Wood, the handsome original buildings remain. From Heuston you can easily reach Phoenix Park, home of Dublin Zoo http://www.dublinzoo.ie/ and the residence of the country’s President, with The National Museum of Ireland http://www.museum.ie/Home and Kilmainham Gaol a short walk away. The Gaol is a particularly interesting place and a former prison in the Kilmainham area. It is now a museum run by the Office of Public Works, an agency of the Government of Ireland. Many Irish revolutionaries, including the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising, were imprisoned and executed in the prison by the British, and in 1923 by the Irish Free State.
Another must visit attraction in the area is the Guinness brewery at St. James’s Gate https://www.guinness-storehouse.com/en. As I stated previously Dublin is more than pubs and potatoes so a visit to a brewery certainly doesn’t help our nation’s stereotype but as Guinness is a global brand it is worth a visit. Aside from the history of the drink a wonderful view of the city is to be had on the seventh floor which houses the Gravity Bar, here visitors may drink a pint of Guinness included in the price of admission, which was €18 in March 2015. At €18 it is quite expensive but then again everything is in Dublin! Expect long queues at peak times and a fight for a good seat near the bar’s window!
Making your way back towards the city centre can be made on foot as the city is relatively small, otherwise you can take the tram or as it’s known The Luas. Now Luas is the Irish word for speed but this must be an example of the Irish sense of humour as the Luas is far from fast. Many of the passengers may be on speed but it can be quicker to walk. There are two lines -red (running from Connolly railway station and the Point Theatre to the suburb of Citywest) and green (running from St. Stephen’s Green to Bride’s Glen in Cherrywood). The lines do not connect at present but I believe the government are working on rectifying this.
The Luas can be an interesting experience with many drugged up and drunk frequently on board and collisons with traffic not unheard of. Back in the city centre is O’Connell Street, the city’s main thoroughfare. Despite recent upgrade works this street is disappointingly under utilised. There are many methadone clinics in the area so junkies can be an annoyance. Many of them are harmless but to tourists they can be intimidating, overlooking the street is the Spire, or stiletto in the ghetto! An ugly, plain and boring piece erected in 2003. The nearly 400 foot pin like structure cost approximately €4,000,000 and unlike many world cities cannot be scaled by the public.
You can’t help feel that the government missed a trick and didn’t erect a structure that tourists and locals could reach the top for a wonderful view out over the city and out to the Irish sea. In addition to the Spire there are many shopping streets flanking both sides of the street, Henry and Talbot street being the most popular. Here you will find many department stores from Arnotts to the Jervis centre with Penney’s on Mary street being a local favourite for clothes and accessories at reasonable prices. However for us the GPO General Post Office is a must see, in 1916 it was taken over by Irish Rebels led by P.H. Pearse. During the Easter Rising, the interior was completely destroyed. Amazingly, the beautiful exterior managed to survive the shelling from General Maxwell’s forces and fires caused. This year, 2016, will be the centenary anniversary with the GPO the focal point of festivities and remembrance.
Crossing south on O’Connell bridge takes you to the famous Trinity College where notable figures such as Jonathan Swift, Wolfe Tone and Oscar Wilde have attended and of course the Book Of Kells. Nearby is Grafton street, Dublin’s most famous pedestrianised shopping street, which runs between St. Stephen’s Green and Trinity College. Here you will find many high street retailers such as Brown Thomas, Dublin’s most famous and expensive department store but if shopping isn’t your thing you can always enjoy one of the many street acts from dancers, magicians to singers. If you are lucky with the weather St Stephen’s Green boasts a lovely park where you can lie on the grass and get some peace.
If all that peace is too boring for you can go to one of the many bars in nearby Camden street and further along is George’s street where their arcade/market is a nice place to browse for some local souvenirs.
Temple Bar with its many pubs and clubs is a busy but expensive place to spend a night but during the day The Temple Bar area offers some alternative to shopping at the larger chain-stores. Small clothing boutiques, including the city centre’s only swap shop, are popping up all around the area (Temple Lane, Crow Street and Fownes Street) with an emphasis on vintage and unique original independent designer pieces. If you can’t make it to any of the markets at the weekend, the best can be found here during the week.
Other must visit attractions on the south side are the Aviva stadium home to the Irish football and Rugby Union teams Football Soccer Stadiums Of The World and a walk to the nearby Poolbeg Generating Station in Ringsend. Here you will find the city’s iconic Pigeon house chimneys and further along a nice walk awaits out to south pier or south Bull walk to view the many boats coming from the UK.
Not all the action happens on the south side however, another famous stadium Croke Park or Croker as it’s affectionately known is the perfect place to watch Irish games such as Gaelic Football and Hurling. Croke Park has a capacity of 82,300, making it the third largest stadium in Europe, and the largest not usually used for association football. Not only can you watch the games but tours are available including a skyline tour, http://www.crokepark.ie/visitorattractions/etihad-skyline, From 44 metres above the ground, it offers views of Dublin city and the surrounding area. The Olympic Torch was brought to the stadium along the walkway on 6 June 2012.
Dublin Ireland Life on the Liffey
Aside from its fun side the stadium was the site of a dark day in Irish history, During the Irish War of Independence on 21 November 1920 Croke Park was the scene of a massacre by the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC). The Police, supported by the British Auxiliary Division entered the ground, shooting indiscriminately into the crowd killing and fatally wounding 14 during a Dublin-Tipperary Gaelic football match. The dead included 13 spectators and Tipperary player, Michael Hogan. Posthumously, the Hogan stand built in 1924 was named in his honour.
Other attractions on this side of the city include Glasnevin cemetery http://www.glasnevintrust.ie/, the Garden of Remberance on Parnell street and our own “Chinatown area” again on Parnell street. Beautiful parks such as St. Anne’s in Raheny and the adjacent North Bull walk, a sand spit in Dublin Bay. As a National Nature reserve it is a paradise for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts, a good place for walking, cycling and beach activities.
To many the major draw remains the many pubs and clubs the city has to offer. No visit to Dublin would be complete without a visit to one (or ten) of its many pubs (last count says there are over 600 pubs). Temple bar is a tourist hot spot but do expect to pay more for your food and drink here. The narrow, cobble stoned streets gives it an original feeling within the heart of the city.
Its central location also makes it easy to walk to from Dublin’s Centre. However, late night revellers tend to make it an unpleasant place to be at times after dark. It can be taken over by drunken stag and boisterous hen parties, many who travel cheaply from the United Kingdom to avail of Temple Bar’s delights. Tourists should beware that prices in the Temple Bar area can go as high as €7.50 for a pint US$8.
Traditional bars such as the Brazen Head, O’Donoghues and Mulligans are worth a visit to more modern trendy venues such as the Odeon on Harcourt street and Café en Seine in Dawson street, here expect to pay more for your drinks and do wear shoes as you’re most likely to be turned away otherwise. There are many nightclubs mainly based around the south side of the city with Copper Face Jacks a tourist and culchie (country folk) favourite.
As a lady expect to be groped and leered at and as a bloke expect to “pull” and get hammered drunk! After all that drinking you will need to eat but never fear there are plenty of hot dog and burger vendors on the street and late night kebab houses such as Zaytoon. No culinary experience of Dublin would be complete without fish and chips from Burdocks or Beshoffs and if you seek something a little more refined and expensive you cannot go wrong with Chapter One on Parnell street for a truly wonderful dining experience. Do book ahead however as it is popular.
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