With its population of over a million inhabitants, Dublin (or Baile Átha Cliath in Irish) is the capital of Ireland and the largest city. Ireland is a monocentric country with more than 1/6 of the population concentrated in Dublin. The city was established by Gaels before the 7th century and during the centuries it expanded rapidly to the largest and most important Irish city.
I arrived in Dublin on Thursday afternoon and started to explore the city and its most important sights. I passed the Ha'Penny bridge (it's called like this because the toll to cross over cost half a penny), walked along the river Liffey until I reached the Wood Quay and the Christ Church Cathedral.
Christ Church Cathedral
It's the oldest of two city's cathedrals and it's the seat of Dublin's bishop. It was founded after 1028 by King Sitric Silkenbeard. The church was built on the high ground overlooking the Viking settlement at Wood Quay. In the 1180s, the church was rebuilt by Normans and extended in the 13th century. Its design was inspired by the architecture of the English Western School of Gothic. The Christ Church Cathedral was renovated later in the 19th and 20th century, but it preserved its Gothic/Romanesque look. The entrance to the cathedral is 7€.
St. Patrick's Cathedral
I passed the small net of picturesque streets with painted doors and found myself in front of the St. Patrick's Cathedral, the largest and the most famous Irish cathedral. It was founded in 1191 by Normans in a place where St. Patrick used to baptize new Christians. The present-day church is a Gothic-style cathedral from the beginning of the 13th century. One of the interesting facts about the cathedral is that in the 18th century, its decan was the famous writer Jonathan Smith („Gulliver's Travels“). The church contains a collection of his belongings, as well as some of his works. In 2006, a group of 18 Afganistan refugees found shelter in the cathedral. The entrance fee is 8€, but I didn't go, because, at the moment, it's under reconstruction.
To be honest, before going to Ireland, I didn't have an idea that Dublin has a castle and I was surprised to see the huge dimensions of the place – a real castle! Now a seat of the Irish government, his history began in the time of the first Lord of Ireland, King John. From then it served as a seat of the British government until the Irish independence in 1922. The castle was built on a place called „dark pool“, a „pool“ between two Dublin rivers – river Poddle (today runs under the Dublin castle) and river Liffey. Dublin city actually got his name over the „dark pool“, on which it stood („Dubh Linn“ in Irish). If you want to take a peek into the old royal chambers, the entrance fee is 8€.
On Friday I just had enough time to visit Dublin's prestige Trinity College before catching a bus to Cork. I bought a tour of the college (14€), which includes a guided tour around the college yard and the entrance to the old library (which looks like from Harry Potter and you have to wear gloves and masks while browsing the books!) and to the exhibition about the Book of Kells, a nicely illustrated manuscript Gospel book written in Latin.
I strongly recommend a tour of Trinity College guided by students and ex-students. You'll hear about some general facts about the college, but most of all, you'll learn interesting stories about student life here. I was surprised by how prestige the college is (in rang with British Oxford and Cambridge!) and how disciplined the students must be. Our guide, an ex-drama student, showed us a hall, where the exams are taken and the graduation ceremonies are held. The graduation ceremony is held completely in Latin and they are giving the diplomas in order from the student with the best notes until the one with the worst. It could be pretty embarrassing...
On the other side of the yard, there is a chapel adjusted to few different religions, where you can have your wedding (only if you get married in 5 years time from finishing your studies) or funeral. The building next door is some kind of a student dining hall, but only for the students in higher years of their studies. Exactly at 6.15 p.m., the dinner is served and if you're more than 5 minutes late, the door will close and you'll be left hungry. L The majority of the buildings in a Trinity College complex are student dormitories. The special place in the dormitories takes the old red brick building at the end of the square. There, the student dormitories, without heating and Internet, are placed next to the professors' ones. The showers are only in the middle tract of the building, which you can access only through the front door. Could you imagine taking a shower there in a cold winter morning?
While walking through the yard, we passed a sculpture of a former university dean, who was against letting women study at the university his whole life, but at the end of his days, under the peer pressure, he allowed it. The women have an opportunity to study in Trinity College since 1904 and at their graduation, they paint a statue of the dean with lipstick as a sign of victory. Trinity College complex is made of two squares. At the end of the second square, there is a building where annual balls are held. The balls are a big deal and big stars as Madonna perform there. The ticket for the ball is expensive, so students, who have friends living in the building where the ball is held, hide under their beds and wait to enter the ball for free. The ex-Irish president, Mary McAleese, also sneaked into the ball, while she was studying on Trinity College. 😀
The former prison tells a moving story about the oppression and suffering of the Irish independentists, who were held here by the British government. The gaol („prison“ in Irish) was opened in 1796 and since then, it kept children, women, men, Irish revolutionaries, who rebelled against the British rule in the rebellion of 1798 and later in the Easter Rising in 1916. The prisoners were arrested for different reasons – from the simple theft of food to murder. They were kept in terrible conditions inside their cells, waiting to be deported to Australia. Some of them were shot in front of the prison walls or hanged in the hanging rooms. Today the prison is a symbol of the Irish nationalism and it's turned into a museum. A guided tour costs 8€, but you have to book it online maybe a month ahead because it's a very popular tourist destination. Unfortunately, I didn't reserve it on time. Instead, I went to the bigger former prison on Spike Island to learn more about this part of Irish history.
Dublinia and Leprechaun Museum
Two other tourist attractions are Dublinia, a museum located at Christ Church, which shows you the life in Dublin during the Medieval and Viking times (8,50€), and Leprechaun Museum (Twilfit House Jervis Street, 16€). Both museums have divided reviews on TripAdvisor, but I wanted to see one of them. I chose poorly. I chose the Leprechaun museum, because of its name, and I wanted to find out more about Irish folklore. This is not a museum in a classical sense, it doesn't have any exponents (except for the enlarged furniture), but it's a mix of theatre and storytelling. A guide takes you from room to room, each one is with different scenery, and tells you a little bit about Leprechauns and fairy tales. I wasn't satisfied at all, I've heard two stories, the rest was an attempt to entertain us, and the ticket is definitely not worth the price. Not to mention that everything lasted only about half an hour. The stuff that works in a museum is nice and in the end, there is a small souvenir shop, where you can buy a book with more Irish tales.
Guinness Storehouse and Jameson Distillery
Dublin is home to two of the world's leaders in the alcohol industry – Guinness beer and Jameson whiskey. In my first visit to Ireland in high school, I visited both of them, and actually, Guinness was the first beer that I had in my life. Later on, I became more of fond of the blonde beer so I didn't revisit the storehouse. A tour of the Guinness Storehouse (18,50€) will show you the process of making the famous beer, you'll pass seven floors of the brewery and finish your tour with a pint of Guinness in the rooftop Gravity bar. Jameson distillery was founded in 1780 by John Jameson and since then it stands in the same place. In Jameson distillery, you have a few different tours. The basic one (22€) includes 40 minutes of the guided tour through the distillery, comparative whiskey tasting and a glass of Jameson at the end. You can also learn how to make whiskey cocktails and how to blend your own whiskey in complementary courses.
As I already mentioned, Irish pubs are sacred places where the people of all ages go to celebrate and have some fun. In Dublin, or also called „Publin“, were 751 pubs in 2015. A number that has probably increased throughout the years. Knowing that, on my first night in Dublin, I went to do some pub crawling. I was walking around the city and entering the pubs with live music, that can be heard a street away. This is a list of pubs that I found interesting.
1) Temple bar
It's the legendary Dublin's pub that's printed on postcards, magnets, and other souvenirs, and where the live music almost never stops. The bands are playing from noon to 2 or 3 a.m., and the people are singing, dancing and enjoying their pint of beer or whiskey. The pub is popular as much amongst tourists as amongst locals. As you can imagine, it's also the most expensive pub in Dublin with a price of beer about 7-8€. On their menu, you can also find oysters, fish and chips and other things to nibble while enjoying your drink. I'm not sorry about the money that I spent there because the pub has an atmosphere that you simply MUST experience.
On Aston Quay, just next to the O'Connell Bridge, there is a nice pub with classic bar chairs all over the long hall, called Fitzgeralds, where I winded up at the end of my evening. They also had live music, playing The Cranberries, and I was surprised by the low price of beer – only 5,50€!
3) Peadar Kearney's
This is a pub that I found on the Internet list of cheap pubs on my last evening in Dublin (when I was running out of money :)). It's located on the wide Dame street. Although it's not the cheapest one (a pint for 6€), I stayed there the whole afternoon. I somehow got into the atmosphere of the place. Two live musicians were entertaining us with popular Irish and foreign songs, an old and cute couple came to dance with us and at the bar stood the whole choir from the Christ Church Cathedral. It was simply great!
There is also a list of pubs, that my friend, who lived in Dublin, recommended me:
- Cassidy (Westmoreland Street 27)
- The Blackbird (Rathmines Road Lower 82-84)
- The Barge Gastro Bar (Sráid Charlemont 42)
- The Church (Junction of Mary Street and Jervis Street)
- Mcgrattan's (Fitzwilliam Lane 76)
So, either you come to Dublin for sightseeing or pub crawling, you'll definitely have a lot of fun. Don't forget about the Irish chatty nature and you'll certainly find some new friends, also. 🙂