Although origins point to a settlement in the Dublin area as early as the second century, the city considers its founding to be 988 AD, when Vikings dubbed their settlement Dyflin. Today, Dublin is the capital of the Republic of Ireland, which has shared the island of Ireland with Northern Ireland (part of the United Kingdom) since the country’s division in 1921. The Fair City is renowned as the hometown of such literary greats as George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, and James Joyce, whose short-story collection Dubliners paints a picture of the city’s early 20th-century working class. The capital’s location on the country’s east coast, on the Irish Sea, provides for a maritime climate, with mild winters, cool summers, and few extremes in temperature.
The City’s Culture
Dublin boasts one of the youngest populations in all of Europe, with a 2009 study reporting that 50 percent of residents were under 25 years of age. Such a youthful populace may account for the city’s 600-plus pubs, where copious amounts of whiskey and Guinness are consumed while revelers enjoy some good craic (a local term referring to fun times). In addition to its literary pedigree, Dublin is notable for its music scene, which has produced such artists as U2, Sinead O’Connor, and Thin Lizzy. Rugby and football (soccer) are favorite pastimes both for playing and spectating, while annual events such as the Bloomsday Festival (in honor of Joyce’s masterpiece Ulysses) and, of course, St. Patrick’s Day draw visitors from around the globe.
Ireland’s oldest university, Trinity College, is also home to the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript believed to date back to 800 AD. Unlike many cities, Dublin boasts two cathedrals, the medieval/Victorian Christ Church and St. Patrick’s, the latter being the largest in the country. Many notable Irish names once did time in Kilmainham Gaol, a 19th-century jail that now serves as a museum of Irish nationalism. With origins dating back to 1759, Guinness beer has become practically synonymous with Ireland, and aside from the numerous pubs that serve the stout, the Guinness Storehouse offers one-of-a-kind tasting experiences. Although its actual founding date is in dispute, the Brazen Head pub is often cited as the city’s oldest drinking establishment.
Where to Explore
Most Dubliners view the city in terms of the Northside (more of a working-class atmosphere) and Southside (more upscale), with the River Liffey dividing the two. In the Northside lies the main drag of O’Connell Street, containing the heart of the city’s shopping as well as numerous statues honoring luminaries of Irish history. Also north of the Liffey is Phoenix Park, Europe’s largest walled park and a favorite destination for Dubliners. In Dublin’s Southside, the artsy Temple Bar district is renowned for its many galleries and pubs, although locals often decry that the area has become too geared toward tourism.