I’ve been to Dublin several times before, both for work and pleasure and have always found it an effortless city to navigate with its walkable centre, energetic nightlife and accessibility with the River Liffey bisecting the city into north and south. This time I wanted to make an effort to extend me reach beyond the normal tourist routes and explore a little more. Here are a few of my key tips:
Taking in the View
Dublin is a relatively low-rise city and although some taller developments are afoot in docklands there aren’t many great vantage points. The Guinness Storehouse tower and Gravity Bar provides one of the best views. However if you’re feeling a bit more energetic and have a free afternoon head to Howth and take the coastal cliff walk which gives stunning views backwards over the city and Dublin Bay.
I know I said I want going to focus on the beaten track but going to Dublin and not drinking a pint in a pub is like going to Sydney and not seeing the Opera House. The one thing everyone knows about Dublin is that it’s good for a ‘craic’, Guinness also boasts that one in every two pints drunk in Ireland is the black stuff which is reflected throughout Temple Bar where there’s a pub on almost every street corner and one in between.
By day there are worthy cultural pursuits such as the Photographic Archive, the Irish Film Institute, food markets and book stalls, but as the sun sets it’s time to hit the high road with late night bars, music and lively pub culture tailored for the masses. Trust me everything tends to be over-priced and over-hyped with little local culture.
Dubliners are super friendly, keen for a conversation, hot on politics and always willing to give advice. This is a city with strong unchanging roots, a great pride and quality of characters, which is almost as important as the physical elements of the city itself.
St Stephens Green
Grafton Street is one of Dublin’s most popular shopping destinations, however it’s amazing how most people miss St Stephen’s Green at the end of the Street. This peaceful Georgian square park is set behind a wall with a large pond to its centre making it a great escape from the busy streets around it. By far one of my favourite places to escape sit relax eat a picnic and watch the world go by.
Dublin Castle is not your traditional castle in the true sense but has a colourful history and is architecturally intriguing. Originally built in 1230 by King John of England as a defence from the invading Normans, it later became the formal headquarters of the English Government and seat of the Monarchy.
After independence it served as the Royal Mint and police headquarters. Today its mainly used by the Irish government for functions and ceremonies, such as the President of Ireland's inauguration, and the European Presidential election every 10 years.
Dublin is a UNESCO city of Literature and has been home to many of the greats from James Joyce to oscar Wilde. This literary influence is never more present than at Trinity College where taking a walk through the ground and visiting the Long Library is a must.
The library is the largest in Ireland and famous for being the home to the Book of Kells, written by Celtic monks circa 800. The lawns, cobbled quads and bell towers are a pleasant escape from the mad rush of the city that lies beyond its walls.
Slightly off the beaten track is Kilmainham Gaol. It’s like a time capsule and remains almost untouched since it closed in 1924. Many of Ireland’s most “rebellious” criminals were incarcerated here including children as young as 4 years old for petty thefts. The Gaol also forms a key part of Ireland’s history and its fight for independence, the museum documents the inhumane executions that took place here during the uprisings.
Walk The Streets
Although not often mentioned in popular guides Dublin is one of the most beautiful Georgian cities in the world and easily compares to Bath in England. The formal facades, windows and intricate ironwork have a language and culture of its own which is unique to Dublin. Head off the beaten track beyond St Stephen’s Green and be amazed by the grandeur of Dublin’s colonial past.
Dublin has an obsession with statues, they are literally littered all over the city. One of the local quirks is to rename them, Oscar Wilde is known as ‘The Queer with the Leer’ and Molly Malone the ‘Tart with the Cart’.
Once you have walked the streets, immersed yourself in Georgian architecture why not complete the experience with high tea at the Shelbourne hotel. Afternoon tea is a must but if you are on a budget the bar is just as good for people watching. Take a minute to look at the main staircase and if you can sneak a peek at the formal meeting rooms upstairs.