Trinity College lies at the heart of the city and provides an oasis of calm just steps away from the city’s main thoroughfares. Founded by Queen Elizabeth 1st in 1592 it has produced many well known and influential figures, including Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett. Visitors can see the famous Book of Kells here and tour the magnificent Old Library or can simply enjoy the ambience of its impressive architecture and cobbled courtyards.
Located on the city’s southside beside the River Liffey and just 1 minute from the famous O’Connell Street Bridge is Temple Bar. With a rich history through the 18th and 19th centuries, more recently its fortunes declined and its cobbled streets attracted artists and others who were looking for cheaper places to rent than was usually to be found in the city. As a result it became known as an ‘alternative’ quarter where cultural activities thrived.
Today, while it continues the tradition of being in Ireland’s cultural avant garde, its fortunes have improved and it is one of the main destinations for those wishing to sample Dublin’s nightlife. The Irish Film Institute (IFI) is just one of the many organisations found in this area, including around a dozen art galleries.
The Ha’penny Bridge was built in 1816 and is one of Dublin’s best known landmarks. Curving in an arch across the Liffey it’s unique metalwork and attractive original lamp fixtures have witnessed the passing of generations of Dubliners and have appeared in numerous books and films.
It is a pedestrian bridge and is now one of the oldest cast-iron bridges in the world. It was closed in 2001 for major repairs, reopening in 2003 with its original paint colour restored. It is as essential to Dublin as the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, yet more venerable still.
Established by John Jameson in 1780, Jameson Whiskey has come to be known as one of the world’s premier whiskeys. It undergoes a triple distilled process, said to impart twice the smoothness of other whiskeys.
The Jameson family motto is ‘sine metu’, latin for ‘without fear’, said to have been given to the family in earlier times because of their fearlessness on the high seas in the face of pirates! In a way John Jameson carried on this tradition of fearlessness by setting up a whiskey distillery as a complete outsider at a time when Dublin was famous as the capital of the world’s best whiskeys.
But set it up he did and soon, through the judicious use of the best quality ingredients and the application of his famous ‘triple distillation’ process, Jameson whiskey set itself apart as amongst the finest of whiskeys to be had.
The distillery in Bow Lane just beside Smithfield market in Dublin operates to this day and is open to visitors all year round.
The story of Guinness is synonymous with the name of Ireland. It began with a signature in 1759 when Arthur Guinness signed a 9000 year lease on a disused Brewery in St. James’s Gate, Dublin. It continued through 250 years and several generations of the Guinness family to today where it is the best known beer in the world.
In the state-of-the-art Guinness Storehouse visitors can travel step-by-step and floor-by-floor through the twists and turns of this remarkable history, ultimately emerging at the top of the building into the Gravity Bar – and a stunning 360 degree view of the city.
After so much education it’s only right to top it off with a fine pint of the black stuff itself, compliments of the house!
Leopardstown Racecourse is situated in an easy to reach area of Dublin’s suburbs and is one of the premier racecourses in Europe. It is not surprising to find such a fine facility in the capital of a nation that has put its stamp so firmly on the Sport of Kings on a global scale.
Home to the Hennessy Gold Cup and the Irish Champion Stakes, it has hosted many of the greats of Irish and international racing on its turf. Visitors to Ireland can see some of the Irish love of horseracing close-up at this and another famous racetrack, Fairyhouse, also close to the city. Leopardstown has a full set of fixtures running from January all year through to December.
‘Luas’ is the Irish word for ‘speed’ and aptly describes the state-of-the-art tram system in Dublin.
Originally Dublin had a very extensive tram network at the end of the 19th century but this was dismantled in the mid 20th century due to a preference for cars and buses. In 2004 however this mode of transport made a comeback in Dublin, updated in style and comfort to reflect the modern times. The total price for construction was also very modern – a hefty three-quarters of a billion euros!
There are 2 tramlines through the city, the Red and the Green lines. The Green line runs from St. Stephen’s Green to Sandyford in South Dublin, passing through Ranelagh, Rathmines, Dundrum and many other stops en route. The Red line connects Connolly train station and Busaras bus station to Hueston train station & St. James’s hospital all the way out to Tallaght in southwest Dublin, a distance of over 16km.
Trams run from 5.30 in the morning until 12.30am at night and provide a very useful way for visitors to the city to access the many museums, parks and historical sites scattered throughout the city.
Located between Trinity College and St. Stephen’s Green, Grafton Street is Dublin’s most fashionable and popular shopping street. Dotted with designer label stores, jewellers and cafés it is within a stone’s throw of other principal shopping areas such as The Powerscourt Centre, The George’s Street Arcade and Dawson Street.
Grafton Street is pedestrianised and street entertainment from buskers to limbo dancers are almost always to be seen there, day and night. It is a fantastic place to spend some time people watching and getting a sense of the energy which makes this city special.
The Dublin Spire was erected in January 2003 and stands 120 metres tall. It is visible from almost any part of the city and, like a pin in a map, has proven to be a handy orientation point for visitors.
It was the eventual replacement for Nelson’s Pillar which stood in the same spot until 1966, when it was blown up by the IRA. Today the Spire dominates O’Connell Street and Henry Street, towering over each with a distinctly otherworldy feel. It looks different under different light conditions and at certain times can appear to merge into the sky.
The Abbey Theatre, The Gaiety Theatre, The Gate Theatre and The Olympia – just some of the renowned names associated with what has been an incerdibly rich artistic heritage in Dublin.
The Abbey Theatre, just 2 minutes from the main thoroughfare of O’Connell Street, was founded in 1903 by W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory as part of the political and artistic movement known as the ‘Celtic Dawn’. The Celtic Dawn had as its explicit aim the reawakening of the cultural and nationalistic spirit of Ireland and its people. It comprised many enthusiastic and determined endeavours, including social commentary, pamphleting, political challenge, economic self-reliance and military preparations as well as plays, poetry and novels. It is from this tradition that the Abbey Theatre descends and for which it has earned a global reputation.
There are many other theatres in Dublin too – the Peacock, the Project Arts Theatre in Temple Bar, The Helix further to the northside in Glasnevin beside Ireland’s answer to Pere Lachaise ‘Glasnevin Cemetery’. There is the Civic Theatre and – further out by the sea in Dun Laoghaire -the Pavilion Theatre where not so long ago this present writer had the pleasure of seeing a visiting ballet company perform Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Theatre in Dublin is very vibrant and very diverse. Between music venues, comedy clubs, concerts and a very large choice of theatre venues, there is always something exciting to see and do in this city of 1.5 million people.