Dublin has always been in my bucket list. And I found the opportunity to visit it last weekend. This guide is about the places I saw. It's not about every must-see place although I refer towards the end to some of those I missed out on.
But before we start, here's the history part:
The first settlers in Ireland are dated all the way back to 7000 BC. However, it took until 600 BC until the Celts became established in Central Europe and jumped over to Ireland. The earliest possible reference to a settlement in the Dublin area comes from the writings of Ptolemy, around 140 AD.
The name Dublin comes from the Gaelic word 'Dublind', meaning 'black/dark pool'.
Although the Romans never settled in Ireland, it was through them that Christianity reached the island around 431 AD. But it is St Patrick who is credited with the conversion of the pagan Celts and establishing the church between 42 and 461 AD.
Dublin was established as a Viking settlement in the 10th century and remained under their control until the Normal invasion in 1169. Dublin castle, founded in 1204, became the centre of Norman power in Ireland. Although it prospered as a trade centre, it remained a relatively small medieval town during the 14th century.
By 1350 the Normans had settled in the island and had introduced the feudal system of government. This was led by a justicial, who was head of the army, chief judge and top administrator. He was helped by a council of officials. By the end of the 14th century representatives of counties and towns were part of a process known as the Lower House, or Commons.
After the defeat by William of Orange, James II fled to France leaving Ireland in the hands of the Protestant Ascendancy. The Irish suffered for more than a century from the penal measures inflicted on them.
Many of the most important sites around Dublin were built during the Georgian era of the 18th century. During that time Dublin became the 2nd largest city of the British Empire and the 5th largest in Europe. During the 19th century it suffered a period of political and economic decline, when the seat of government was transferred in to London. As the city had no significant resources of coal and was not the centre of ship manufacturing, it did not play a major role in the Industrial Revolution. Belfast developed faster during that period.
On Easter Monday 1916 Patrick Pearse and others opposed to British rule and proclaimed the Declaration of Independence. In 1921 the Anglo-Irish treaty was signed, creating the Irish Free State. Following the partition of Ireland in 1922 Dublin became the capital of Ireland.
Places I Visited
In no particular order, these are the places I managed to see/visited during my two days. You can click on each photo to enlarge it:
Between Golden Street and Bridge Street lies a complex of council built apartments built in 1998. As the buildings were nearing completion, 8 roundels were embedded into the facades, each one depicting a scene from Jonathan Swift's famous book 'Gulliver's Travels'.
St Patrick's Cathedral
St Patrick's Cathedral, commonly known as the 'People's Cathedral', stands on the site where St Patrick is said to have baptized converts in a well, around 450 AD. The original structure was made of wood and was rebuilt in stone in 1190.
Christ Church Cathedral
Although the church was founded in 1028, in 1172 it was completely demolished by Norman Richard de Clare and rebuilt in stone. What we see today is a 19th century restoration.
The cathedral passed to the Protestant church during the Reformation and, together with St Patrick's Cathedral, has remained in the use of the Church of Ireland.
Next to St Patrick's Cathedral is Marsh's Library, Ireland's first public library. It was built in 1701 by Archbishop Narcissus Marsh. Its collection of over 25,000 books covers religion, medicine, law, travel, science, mathematics, music and classical literature. The books themselves date largely from the 16th to the 18th centuries.
Unfortunately you are not allowed to take photos inside the library, so the photos here are from Google.
Built between 1769 and 1779, the building was originally designed to be the Royal Exchange, but political events changed its usage in the 19th century.
One of Dublin's most sophisticated Georgian buildings, it marked the introduction to Ireland of the Neo-Classical style of architecture.
The castle was the symbol of British rule for 700 years, until it was formally handed over to the Irish Free State in 1922. It was commission in the 13th century and it evolved from a medieval fortress into a vice-regal court and administrative centre. Only one of the towers remains of the original castle, while the rest of the complex is now used by the Irish Government for official engagements including inaugurations of Presidents and hosting State Visit ceremonies.
The State Drawing Room
Built in the 1830s, today this room (photo above) is used for the reception of foreign dignitaries.
The State Dining Room
Also called 'the Picture Gallery', this is the oldest room in the castle and is used for dining when conferences take place in St Patrick's Hall.
St Patrick's Hall
The grandest room in the State Apartments, it contains one of the most important decorative interiors in Ireland. Nowadays it is used for presidential inaugurations.
Trinity College and The Book Of Kells
Trinity College is Dublin's most famous educational institution since its foundation in the 16th century. It has produced some impressive alumni, such as Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift and Bram Stoker.
The Berkeley Library Building
In front of the library is Arnaldo Pomodoro's 1982 creation, the sculpture 'A sphere within a sphere'.
The Old Library
Built between 1712 and 1732, its finest feature is the magnificent 64m Long Room, with two tiers of antiquated oak bookcases holding more than 200,000 books. The collection grows yearly as Trinity College is entitled to copies of all the titles published in Ireland and the UK.
This beautifully decorated illuminated manuscript is one of the city's most treasured possessions. It is thought to date from around 800 AD and believed to be the work of monks from the island of Iona in Scotland. They moved to Kells to escape Viking raids and the book was given to Trinity College in 1654. No photos are allowed so the photo above is from Google.
The Hungry Tree
It is hard to guess whether this is nature's revenge or a human folly. The hungry tree greets the people as they enter King's Inns from the south gate. It is quite a funny spectacle to see a bench being slowly eaten up by a tree! The tree has also been listed as a heritage tree by the Tree council of Ireland.
The Black Church
The church got its name from the calp limestone used in its construction. On wet days it can take on a dark guise. It's actual name is St Mary's Chapel Of Ease and dates back to 1830. It was deconsecrated in 1960 because of the diminishing numbers at its services.
James Joyce Centre
James Joyce is without a doubt the writer who put Dublin on the literary map. Known best for 'Ulysses' and 'Finnegan's wake', a visit to the James Joyce Centre will give you the opportunity to enter into one of his famous books.
You see, the backyard of the Centre has a front door: No 7 Eccles Street. That address was the fictional home of Leopold Bloom, the central character in 'Ulysses'.
The street was named after the Duchess of Grafton and was laid out between 1720 and 1740. For a decade it remained one of Dublin's most fashionable addresses. Even to this date, it is the single most intact and important collection of individual houses, according to Dublin City Council's conservation plan.
Unfortunately, over time the street has fallen into disrepair, its crumpling houses only survive thanks to a handful of residents and other committed parties.
Designed in 1786by James Gandon, Four Courts is a blend of Corinthian columns, a copper lantern dome, arcades and arches. The five statues on the centre block represent Moses, Wisdom, Authority, Justice and Mercy.
Rory Gallagher Corner
Blues legend Rory Gallagher inspired a huge devotion, both during his life and after. His quitar, a Fender Stratocaster, is almost as famous as Rory himself. Although the original was retired by Rory's brother, you can find a copy of it in this rather unusual place: attached to the wall on the corner of Meeting House Square and Essex Street.
The River Poddle
Most people have never heard of river Poddle, since the only river passing through Dublin is river Liffey. Wrong!! There are other rivers running through it, including Poddle which runs almost entirely undergound! The best way to catch a glimpse of it is to stand on the boardwalk at Ormond Quay during low tide. You will then see the river running out of the small arched opening in the photo above.
Sunlight Chambers Friezes
Sunlight Chambers is possibly the most unusual house in Dublin. It dates back to 1901 and was designed by Edward Ould, the architect of Liverpool's Port Sunlight. It is designed in Italianate style and is most notable for its ceramic friezes.
Since the building was constructed as the Irish headquarters of Lever Brothers (the British soap and detergent manufacturers) the friezes pay homage to the art of a good scrub! Look closely and you'll see washerwomen cleaning clothes, merchants haggling for oils and smellies, labourers ploughing fields, women drawing water from a well, etc.
Stag's Head Mosaic
This is my favourite way of showing someone the way to a pub!! A colourful mosaic of a stag's head is set into the pavement, with a black arrow directing you towards the Stag's Head pub. The pub itself dates as far back as 1770.
Gaiety Theatre Hand Prints
Outside Gaiety Theatre you'll find this array of plaques. Cast in bronze is a collection of handprints from some of the theatre's performers, the most famous ones being those of Peter Ustinov and Luciano Pavarotti.
Outside the building of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, atop the fivey-storey windows, you'll see the face of Erin - the female embodiment of Ireland.
Designed in 1745, the building is now home to the parliamentary chambers.
The 40 Steps
A medieval shortcut around St Audeon's church was all it took for the faithful of Dublin to descent all the way to hell. You see, it only took 40 steps for the 18th century citizens to descend to a squalid pocket of brothels, taverns and laneways known as 'Hell'.
One of the most interesting stories is that of Darkey Kelly, a notorious madame that ran the Maiden Tower brothel. The story goes that she became pregnant by Dublin Sheriff Simon Luttrell, who accused her of being a witch to avoid having to accept the child. She was burnt at the stake in 1761. Sightings of her ghost have been reported at the 40 Steps ever since.
Built in 1739 to accommodate the Irish House of Lords and House of Commons, it was taken over by the Bank of Ireland in 1803.
My opinion of Dublin
I have to admit that I was a little bit disappointed from Dublin. I didn't find the city beautiful or warm, which really contradicts the beauty and hospitality of the rest of Ireland. So I think in the future I'd stick to visiting the rest of the country.
You get the feeling that nowadays the city has been built to attract stag and hen parties! At times, it really felt as if Liverpool's Matthew Street moved to Ireland and grew into a city! And you always got a vibe of sadness or depression amongst its people. It reminded me much of Athens in that respect, so I think it's a result of the austerity and economic problems of the past few years.
Obviously there were other places I wanted to visit while in Dublin. For example, I didn't get to see Kilmainham Gaol, the Guinness Storehouse or the National Museum of Ireland. But one thing is definite. Guinness does taste a lot better in Ireland!!!!