Visiting Dublin is like taking a big breath of fresh air. It is modern and historic, exciting and relaxing.
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Dublin: it’s a mix of old and new, where Viking remains, medieval churches, 18th century classical architecture and modern street sculpture live side by side. This is a city at ease with itself, happily absorbing new ideas, while embracing traditions of old. Hipsters cycle to work along Georgian streets; young musicians Instagram pictures as they rehearse ancient folk tunes, and landmarks are never usually known by their allotted titles. Dubliners, you see, have always been quick to adopt irreverent nicknames for the city’s trimmings, and “Tart with the Cart” has long since replaced the official moniker of Molly Malone and her infamous wheelbarrow.
Live music is huge. Traditional music in pubs, rock music in big venues, classical in concert halls – it’s all here, as is the joy of a tune or two from a litany of buskers, playing for claps along Grafton Street’s cobbled stones. Literature, too: plays, poetry and novels have poured out of writers here, including Wilde, Joyce, Yeats, Kavanagh, Behan, Beckett – the city has produced four Nobel Prize winners for literature, earning it a UNESCO City of Literature title.
Of course, this comes as no surprise to those who know that Ireland has been a beacon of learning since the monks first established monasteries on this island around the 6th century. Visit the spectacular Book of Kells, on show at Trinity College Dublin (where you’ll also find the Long Room bearing a strikingly familiar similarity to some scenes in the Harry Potter).
Dublin also has a heavyweight artistic heritage and is proud to display some of the world’s greats – and unlike many cities in the world, entrance to marvel at them is absolutely free. Many still gasp at the National Gallery’s discovery: Caravaggio’s masterpiece, The Taking of Christ, as well as a collection that includes Van Gogh, Monet, Titian, Rubens, Van Dyck and Irish expressionist Jack B Yeats. Visit Francis Bacon’s Studio at the Hugh Lane Gallery; see works by Dorothy Cross, Louise Bourgeois and filmmaker Neil Jordan at the Irish Museum of Modern Art; and learn about Eileen Gray – one of the world’s most influential designers – at the National Museum of Decorative Arts & History.
Astounding Viking finds uncovered in Dublin changed our view of these marauders from 1,000 years ago; they weren’t vicious pirates, but farmers made desperate by climate change. People who left home to survive and fell in love with this kind land. Their stories and more are all exhibited at the National Museum of Ireland, with its stunning medieval antiquities, a Bronze Age gold collar and Iron Age bog bodies.
Dublin also offers a fascinating look at how a modern, confident, city is born. Tour Dublin Castle, once the seat of power, and Kilmainham Gaol, where political prisoners were held. Find out about the lives of ordinary people in the Little Museum of Dublin, or more tragically, on the Jeanie Johnston Famine ship moored permanently on the River Liffey.
Take a guided tour – from pubs and open-top buses to music and literature – or self-guide with four Discovery Trails intertwining across the city, there’s nothing to stop you enjoying Dublin one step at a time.
"Dublin is a mix of old and new, where Viking remains, medieval churches, 18th centure classical architecture and modern street sculture live side by side. This is a city at ease with itself, happily absorbing new ideas, while embracing traditions of old. "
All that exploring won’t go unnoticed by rumbling stomachs. Choose from gastro-pubs, high-end Michelin-starred restaurants – lunch deals are incredibly good value – family-owned fish and chip shops and cool cafés. There’s a satisfying quality to traditional dishes, like coddle or Irish stew, and the creative prowess provided by chefs returning home to craft their menus to perfection. Browse the food markets for modern Irish produce at Temple Bar market, or head for the lively traditional Dublin street markets in Moore Street and the Liberties. And, of course, make time for a pint in the city’s busy pubs – take aim for the snug, a prime spot for people watching and a bit of gossip.
In a city that has survived Viking attacks, a devastating fire, and even the plague. A place that
founded of one of the oldest universities in Europe, Trinity College, and is home to Ireland’s legendary brew, Guinness. A place where Viking roots, medieval churches, Georgian streets and gleaming modernity all stand proud together in one compact, buzzing city. This is Dublin, and a short stroll will