close navigation menu
Dublin, Ireland

About Dublin

Founded as a Viking settlement in the 10th century, Dublin became Ireland’s principal city following the Norman invasion. Its name comes from the Gaelic dubh linn, the “black pool” where the Poddle River met the Liffey River to form a deep pool at Dublin Castle. The city rapidly expanded in the 18th century and was briefly the second largest city in the British Empire. It was during this period that its most notable buildings were built. Dublin’s most significant employer, Guinness Brewery, also opened during this time, in 1759, and bolstered the economy. After the War of Independence of 1919 to 1921, the Anglo-Irish Treaty named Dublin the capital of the Republic of Ireland.

Some of Ireland’s finest buildings were destroyed during the fight for independence and the 1922 civil war that followed. In the 1980s, however, awareness around the need to protect Dublin’s architectural heritage led to preservation orders that would bring the city’s Georgian neighborhoods back to life. The boom of the mid-1990s to mid-2000s that earned Ireland’s economy the name “Celtic Tiger” brought rapid economic growth and new construction fueled by foreign investment.

The lilting Irish language, also known as Gaelic or Irish Gaelic, was the predominant tongue of the Irish people for most of their recorded history. Today it is spoken as a first language by only a small minority.

Dublin Lifestyle and Culture

A UNESCO City of Literature straddling the Liffey River, Dublin is one of Europe’s most significant cultural hubs and the birthplace of many of Ireland’s finest writers—from James Joyce and Oscar Wilde to George Bernard Shaw. The people of Dublin have long celebrated the written word, nowhere more deeply than at the library of Trinity College, the hallowed home of the inspiring 9th-century illuminated Book of Kells, a collection of the four Gospels of the New Testament painstakingly penned and painted by Columban monks. Ireland’s biggest libraries and literary museums are found throughout Dublin.

Dublin is a capital city with a village feel, simultaneously cosmopolitan and down-to-earth. Dubliners are amiable, witty and love their beer. Pubs have come to symbolize the city as easily as Celtic crosses, and a visit to the capital wouldn’t be complete without a properly poured Guinness.

In March of every year, Dubliners gather to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, observed in more countries than any other holiday. The annual St. Patrick’s Day Festival has come to honor not only the city’s patron saint, but the spirit of Irish pride.

Dublin Sights and Landmarks

A Gothic masterpiece, Ireland’s largest church is the soaring St. Patrick’s Cathedral, built between 1191 and 1270. Here, on the site of the nation’s spiritual touchstone, legend says that St. Patrick baptized local Celtic chieftains. Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels, was the dean of the cathedral from 1713 to 1745; he is entombed within. Another grand church is the Gothic-Romanesque Christ Church Cathedral. Its belfry soars above city streets and the pealing of its bells over Dublin’s rooftops is among the city’s most beloved sounds. The nation’s political heart is Dublin Castle, built after the Norman invasion that unseated the Vikings.

Trinity College, Ireland’s most prestigious university, is well worth visiting. The campus is a masterpiece of Georgian architecture and landscaping with most buildings dating to the 18th and 19th centuries. Within its halls rests one of the world’s most precious manuscripts, the 9th-century Book of Kells. The Long Room on the main floor of the library contains 200,000 books, including one of the few remaining copies of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic.

For a glimpse of the city’s priceless art, visit the National Gallery, where works by Rembrandt, El Greco, Goya and Picasso grace the galleries. Or visit the National Museum of Ireland, a repository of Ireland’s most famous handcrafted artifacts. For something slightly out of the ordinary, visit the Oscar Wilde statue in Merrion Square Park, cast in unusually colored stone.

Dublin Entertainment and Activities

For a taste of true Irish sports, join the locals at Croke Park to watch Gaelic football, the most popular sport in Ireland. Or witness a hurling match—the fastest and possibly toughest field sport in the world.

The Guinness Storehouse at the St. James’s Gate brewery pays homage to Ireland’s revered beer. Discover everything you wanted to know about the creamy stout and enjoy a taste in the top-floor Gravity Bar. If you still haven’t had your fill, pull up a stool at one of Dublin’s pubs—there are more than 1,000. The Temple Bar Pub is the most photographed in Dublin and usually full of visitors. Other notables include the Brazen Head, Dublin’s oldest pub; Café en Seine, with its upscale, stylish Parisian design; and the low-key Bar with No Name. While the Temple Bar neighborhood is popular with tourists, sometimes the best pub is the one you happen to discover off the beaten path.

For a bit of culture, Gaiety Theater is home to plays, ballets and the world-famous Irish show Riverdance. Performance schedules vary. And for something a little more intimate, O’Donoghue’s is one of the most renowned traditional music bars in all of Dublin.

Dublin Restaurants and Shopping

Modern Irish cuisine extends beyond the traditional shepherd’s pie, black pudding and potatoes. A growing movement of craft producers and an emphasis on local ingredients is changing the culinary landscape. For instance, the chef at the Winding Stair serves traditional fare with modern twists. For a more traditional meal, 101 Talbot is a stalwart of good Irish cooking.

Branching out from Irish dishes, Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud is Ireland’s only Michelin two-star restaurant and considered the best in the country for its French haute cuisine. Some of the best beef in Ireland, grazed on the countryside’s endless pastures of green grass, can be had at Shanahan’s on the Green. More daring taste buds appreciate M&L for its spicy Szechuan-style dishes. Top off your dinner with dessert from Le Petit Parisien, where you’ll find some of the most delectable cakes in the city.

If you want to take home a bit of Ireland, Ulysses Rare Books stocks a large selection of Irish-interest titles, including rare finds. Claddagh Records is your stop for traditional Irish folk music and the Irish Design Shop carries beautiful Irish-made handicrafts. Francis Street is home to interesting and unique shops.