Dublin has been a city of huge influence over the years. Founded by the Vikings, it became the capital of Ireland under the Normans to then become the second city of the British Empire. These days Dublin has become the European home for US-owned companies like Google and Facebook, but has suffered badly after the credit crunch and the young Irish are leaving in their droves to Australia and North America. It’s now a cosmopolitan city just like many UK regional cities so you have to dig that little bit deeper to find the Dublin of old, but it’s definitely worth looking for and a joy to behold when it’s found.
It’s no longer the destination of choice for rowdy stag and hen parties now that Eastern Europe has stolen them away making central Dublin much more bearable for those who want to enjoy the finer aspects of Dublin culture and nightlife. Dublin has a superb selection of luxury hotels situated on the margins of the city, and a number of currently under used-restaurants worthy of far more mention than they’re getting.
Getting to Dublin
Dublin is the home of Ryanair, so you can fly with them if you want – it’s just not much of a holiday is it? So from London take BA or BMI from Heathrow or even good old Aer Lingus.
If you live in the north of England we strongly recommend considering taking the Irish Ferries Dublin Swift service from Holyhead to Dublin Port. It’s fast, just 1.5 hours, convenient if you want to get to an out-of-town hotel like the Radisson SAS St. Helens Hotel and the first class section is excellent value for money. There are a number of alternative ferry routes to try if you are travelling from other parts of the UK to use our ferry price comparison page to get a one-stop overview of what is on offer.
Things to do in Dublin
Museums and Galleries
Dublin is one of Europe’s oldest cities, so would expect to find a wealth of artefacts in its National Museum in Kildare Street. In fact it has objects from as far back as 7000BC plus priceless treasures from its Celtic tribal past in the form of intricate brooches and golden hordes. Learn more about the development of Catholicism in Ireland and the Norman, Roman and British periods of its history. The museum is free to enter and is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am. Mondays are closed, Sunday an early-closing day at 4pm.
Well worth visiting is the National Gallery of Ireland with its extensive display of, amongst others, works by Vermeer, Caravaggio, Picasso, Van Gogh and Monet. Access to the permanent collections is free with free audio guides. Payment required for periodical exhibitions. The Gallery is open 09:30 to 17:30 every day with a late opening on Sunday at 12:00.
The Modern Art Museum is closed until the end of 2012 for refurbishment but a worthy alternative is the Hugh Lane Gallery with its superb collection of contemporary art, most notably a large recent addition of Francis Bacon work from the sole beneficiary of his will, John Edwards. Bacon was brought up in Dublin, so Edwards felt it appropriate to move his entire collection his studio in London to Dublin.
You may also be interested in the National Libraries’ photographic exhibition in Meet House Square in Temple Bar. You’ll see art photos to photojournalism in one big excellent display.
At some point during your stay in Dublin you’ll decide to walk along the River Liffey towards the docks. You’ll come across a tall ship long the way called the Jeanie Johnson, a famine ship now turned into a museum. You can try to imagine the hardship the passengers would have experienced after the threat of famine and deep poverty drove them to leave their families behind to find a new world. Admission is €8.50. Join up to five guided tours daily.
If you’ve been intrigued by Gaelic Sports you can learn a lot more about Gaelic football and hurling at the Croke Park Museum. Croke Park is a 83,000-seat stadium which acts as the home of Gaelic sports where they,ve opened an interactive museum. The stadium alone is worth the journey. Note the stadium shuts down for the summer months. Admission for adults is €5.75
Famous Sights of Dublin
If you’re staying in central Dublin a good place to start is to head for Dublin Castle in Dame Street. Although the building as it stands mostly for British rule, it is built on a former Gaelic site later taken over by the Vikings. King John became the first Lord of Ireland in 1171 which then morphed into the Kingdon of Ireland in 1541. Michael Collins took over the whole complex on behalf of the provisional Government in 1922 after the Irish Revolution. See the state apartments used by visiting dignitaries and for holding important EU Meetings. Next to the Castle you’ll see the City Hall where you can learn more about Dublin.
On a fine day a walk in Phoenix Park is a must where you can see the residence of the President of Ireland, Áras an Uachtaráin. First granted to the Knights Hospitaller by the Norman Conquerors in the 12th century the park is one of the largest in Europe at 1750 acres (707 hectares). You can find a large herd of fallow deer, a number of monuments and a zoo.
Back in town look out for the Bank of Ireland Building in College Green, a place which has seen its fair share of tumult of late, and the World-famous Trinity College, Ireland’s top university where you can see the Book of Kells. The Book of Kells was written in the 9th century by Irish monks who then hid it from the Vikings for hundreds by being buried in the ground.
Look out for Dublin’s oldest building, Christ Church Cathedral, the seat of the Church of Ireland, built on a site first used as a catholic church in the early 11th century, some time before the Norman Conquest.
If you ever start feeling weary from all the walking pop into Bewleys, the renowned tea and coffee shop first opened in 1927 by Charles Bewley. It opens at 07:30 and closes at 22:00.
Where to stay in Dublin
*****Radisson SAS St Helen’s Hotel
One of the finest hotels in the Irish capital, the five star Radisson SAS St. Helen’s Hotel stands in the magnificent Formal gardens surrounded by established woodlands on the Stillorgan Road in the prestigious Booterstown district, overlooking Dublin Bay.
*****The Westin Dublin
Combining an historic, 19th-century facade with all-new interiors, The Westin Dublin has created a new level of luxury in the heart of this capital city.
The Fitzwilliam Hotel Dublin is the ultimate in contemporary style and Irish warmth and is located at the hip heart of Dublin city.