Dublin is a beautiful city on the bank of the river Liffey. There have been people living along these banks for well over a thousand years. There were early settlements that even predate the Viking landings. It’s a city that underwent huge change in the last 20 years, primarily due to the building boom (those years were often referred to as the Celtic Tiger)
But like many old European cities it has managed to maintain its old-time feel and the culture has been preserved immaculately. It’s a perfect mix of the old and the new. The planners and locals here have shunned the large high-rises all too common in other first world cities. This is what has allowed the city to remain so beautiful. Albeit at the expense of chronic traffic problems that don’t now seem to be solvable.
So it’s clear nobody can deny that over the past ten to fifteen years Dublin has gone through a very rough ride. It started with a huge debt fueled housing boom, where even your average Joe on the street had a second home or a holiday home in Marbella or the south of France.
And it ended at a recession so deep it nearly become a depression. The crash caused many families to be nearly crushed under heavy debt. They were forced to sign onto social welfare and had to drastically cut back on spending. They had to completely cut back on anything but the barest of essentials.
In recent years thankfully, austerity has loosened her steely grip on the country and times are starting to improve once again.
Of course many are still nervous and jittery. They remember the feelings of desperation and pain, of having to watch their friends, family and loved ones emigrate to the likes of Canada, Australia and England for work. But generally the country and certainly Dublin City feels slightly more upbeat than before. Some can even be heard whispering that the good times are on the way.
But even though the times are a little easier, there’s a hesitation to go back to the flamboyant times of the early 2000’s when it seemed like everyone was living in a mansion, with a Mercedes and Range Rover Sport parked outside.
Now tastes are a little simpler. Gone are the overpriced dishes and fancy cocktails. Replaced instead with a much more down to earth, pint and much less pretentious, albeit still very tasty dishes focusing on Irish, locally-sourced ingredients.
Today I’ve compiled a great list of places to visit. If you only have 48 hours or less to spend in this great city, then these are the sites and scenes you should prioritise above the rest.
The first has absolutely got to be the National Museum of Ireland. It’s 100% free (even though its absolutely worth paying for). It’s so vast and interesting that it’s even worth revisiting multiple times.
Although if you are only here for a short while you wont have that luxury. So if I were you I would make sure you first see the bog men and women. they are people who were sacrificed and thrown into bogs in various parts of the country. They have been preserved to an incredible level and are a very remarkable site indeed. There are also huge troves of treasures from swords and jewelry, some dating back as far as the bronze age and to times when Vikings roamed these parts of the world.
All in all a very interesting site to behold and something that is not to be missed. it’s also conveniently located as there is a LUAS stop right outside of it.
Many readers of my blog will know about my love of craft beer (well maybe some of you would argue that it would be better described as an obsession at this stage!). So it always make me smile to see craft beers becoming more and more popular. I’ve been championing the cause for years and now I can go down to any local bar and have a wide range of of local drinks to choose from including many different ales and ciders.
The risk that you run when dealing with the craft beer scene is that it can be quite pretentious. The belief that you are somehow superior to someone because of the very specific, not well known (and expensive) beer you drink is utterly ridiculous, but all too common. I stay well away from that nonsense and if you want to avoid it too then you should check out Against the Grain. It’s a place where all the airs of superiority are done away with. The atmosphere is warm and friendly and these guys love nothing more than a new face, fresh to the scene looking to taste some new beers or better yet even get involved. They’re not badly priced either and even more importantly this pub has got a great location. It’s easy to get to with some great restaurants in the surrounding area for that late night snack.
Next on my list just for some variety is a wonderful little restaurant called The Green Hen. It’s a sort of mix between Irish and classic French cuisines. Now I’m no foodie, but i have been fortunate enough to eat in some Michelin-star restaurants in the past and I’ll tell you this for nothing, the food here beats them all hands down. It’s also pretty good value. 40 Euro gets you a solid feed. Their specialty, and something you absolutely must try, is their dark bread made from a thick treacle and of course good old Guinness. It sounds strange I’ll admit, but it’s taste great. Well worth adding to your list.
Let’s get back onto more things to do for history buffs like myself now, with a visit to the iconic GPO. It’s just a simple post office on the inside today, but on the outside many bullet holes and other marks can be seen. Left over evidence of a shootout that occurred here just over a century ago. Here was the headquarters of the 1916 Easter Rising. This is regarded as the very start of the push to banish the British from Ireland and for the Irish to take back control of their lands.
Following on from that and still firmly on the trail of the 1916 Rising, you should visit Kilmainham Gaol. Here is where many of the the leaders of the Irish Rebellion against the British in 1916, were executed. It has a dark and checkered past and was originally built in 1796 to house wrongdoers and political opponents. In recent years movies have been filmed here too. If you are an avid film-goer you may recognise it the second you step inside.
Wow I didn’t expect to write so much. But I tell you what, I haven’t even gotten to some of my very favourite places yet. I’ll leave this article for now as it’s already getting quite long. Instead I’ll turn this into a two part article (maybe even a three part article actually) and I’ll be posting the second part of this amazing trip down memory lane, tomorrow.
Chat to you guys very soon indeed.
PS Check out this awesome video that a few of my friends put together titled “25 Things to do in Dublin”. There’s a few golden nuggets in there.