Just as Irish people have for centuries travelled the world seeking their fortune, so the world has come to Dublin, turning the city into a modern, vibrant and cosmopolitan capital, as well as one of the most expensive cities in the world.
The top-class international cuisine, thriving arts scene and scores of trendy bars do not detract from the essentially Irish feel of the place, although visitors hoping for old stone cottages and fields of sheep will have to look elsewhere. Dublin is a city which is constantly looking forward, building, developing and creating, while still remaining fiercely proud of its past.
And it's quite a past. A city immortalised in story and song, Dublin's history is multi-layered, often turbulent and always intriguing. But it is these trials and tribulations which are said to have given the Irish people their sharp wit and welcoming attitude, earning them a reputation as the world's friendliest nation.
What keeps Dublin ticking is its social life, and it's the locals themselves that really give the city that certain something; usually grumbling about the weather on the outside, Dubliners remain ever optimistic on the inside and are always willing to share the craic with visitors to their city.
That central Dublin is relatively small is part of its charm; by the time you've navigated your way from O'Connell Street to Grafton Street, with a stop off in one of Temple Bar's famous drinking establishments en route, you'll have already begun to think of yourself as an honorary Dubliner.
Things to do in Dublin
• Temple Bar A small web of cobbled streets next to the River Liffey makes up Temple Bar, Dublin's top tourist area. Traditional Irish music mixes with the latest chart hits as it drifts out of the lively pubs and bars, and a plethora of restaurants serves everything from Mongolian food to good old fish and chips. Temple Bar is also the centre of Dublin's arts and culture scene, with regular exhibitions, events and festivals.
Visit the official website for Temple Bar
• Trinity College Dating back to 1592, Ireland's oldest university boasts some of Dublin's most beautiful architecture, and just walking through the grounds will provide plenty of photo opportunities. Trinity College is also home to the Book of Kells, a stunning illuminated manuscript produced by monks around 800 AD and one of the oldest books in the world. The Book of Kells can be found in the university's Old Library, whose beautiful Long Room houses 250,000 historic texts and is a fine contribution to Dublin's literary wealth.
Visit the official website for Trinity College
• Guinness Storehouse Unsurprisingly Dublin's number one attraction, the Guinness Storehouse is an interactive homage to Ireland's most famous export, on the site where 2.5 million pints of the Black Stuff are produced every day. Learn how Guinness goes from hop to glass through a series of audiovisual displays, then enjoy a pint of your very own along with unbeatable city views from the storehouse's 7th-storey gravity bar.
Visit the official website for the Guinness Storehouse
Whisky connoisseurs should pay a visit to the Old Jameson Distillery in Smithfield, a museum and guided tour dedicated to uisce beatha (the water of life).
• Dublin Castle & the Chester Beatty Library Not much remains of Dublin's 13th-century castle, the seat of British power for nigh-on 800 years, but it is home to the world-famous Chester Beatty Library. The treasure trove of manuscripts, artworks and artefacts from all over the Eastern and Middle Eastern world was collected by mining engineer Sir Alfred Chester Beatty and bequeathed to the Irish State in 1968, and has become one of Dublin's top cultural attractions.
Visit the official website for the Chester Beatty Library
• St Stephen's Green The nine hectares of landscaped gardens located at the southern end of Grafton Street that make up St Stephen's Green attract both tourists and locals alike to feed the ducks, picnic on the grass and enjoy a bit of fresh air at the heart of the city centre. Amid the manicured lawns, colourful flowerbeds and fountains, it's hard to imagine that this was the site of numerous public hangings in the past!
The nearby Iveagh Gardens are less well-known, providing a bit more peace and quiet on a summer's day, and the high walls give the impression of a private garden. Also worth an afternoon stroll is Merrion Square, en elegant park to the south of Pearse Station, surrounded by some of Dublin's finest Georgian buildings.
• Phoenix Park At 709 hectares, Phoenix Park is the largest city centre park in Europe and boasts gardens, lakes, numerous sports pitches, a castle, police headquarters, the home of the Irish president and Dublin Zoo. Formerly used as royal hunting grounds, Phoenix Park has been open to the public since 1745 and is still home to a herd of around 500 deer. Hiring a bike at the south east corner of the park is the best way to get around.
Visit the official website for Phoenix Park
• Croke Park Far more than just a stadium, Croke Park is the spiritual and administrative home of Gaelic games, and one of the finest places in the world to witness hurling (or camogie) or Gaelic football. Don't know what they are? Better get yourself to a match!
Visit the official website for Croke Park
Of course if rugby's your game you'll want to head to the newly built Aviva Stadium at Lansdowne Road, the home of the Irish rugby team.
Visit the official website for the Aviva Stadium
- • Temple Bar Trad Fest (January)
- • Jameson Dublin International Film Festival (February)
- • St Patrick's Festival (March)
- • Dun Laoghaire Festival of World Cultures (August)
- • Oxegen (July)
- • Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival (September)
- • Dublin Fringe Festival (September)
- • Arthur's Day (September)
- • Dublin Culture Night (September)
- • Temple Bar Chocolate Festival (December)
Dublin Bed and Breakfasts
Merrion Hall is a beautiful boutique guesthouse set in a privileged location in Ballsbridge, one of Dublin city centre's most elegant areas, close to the RDS and the Aviva Stadium.
Rooms are luxurious and well-appointed with free WiFi, satellite TV, telephones and hospitality trays. Full en-suite bathrooms are stocked with complimentary toiletries and the comfy beds are dressed in the finest linen.
An award-winning breakfast is served up in the period-style dining room, while afternoon tea, light meals and drinks can all be enjoyed in the drawing room and library, the perfect locations to relax and unwind.The Mercantile
Just minutes from Temple Bar, Trinity College and Grafton Street, The Mercantile is ideally located for discovering everything Dublin has to offer.
A range of 28 bright and spacious rooms have all been decorated to reflect our warm and friendly atmosphere, with comfort and relaxation in mind. All rooms feature free WiFi, television, telephones and hairdryers, and many offer great views over the River Liffey.
Downstairs, the Mercantile Bar & Grill serves up top-quality food at very reasonable prices, making a great place for city centre dining. Burgers, fresh soups and the stew of the day are all made using only the finest Irish produce.
Getting around Dublin
Dublin Airport, with its newly opened second terminal, is located 13km north of the city centre, with regular buses and coaches running between the two. Dublin has two ferry terminals, Dublin Port and Dun Laoghaire, and the main bus and train stations (Busáras and Connolly Station) are located right in the city centre.
Parking in the city centre can be expensive, but with plenty of buses, trains, trams, taxis, a public bike rental system, and the fact that most of Dublin can be easily reached on foot, it's unlikely you'll need a car to get around.
Dublin has a number of picturesque seaside villages and towns to its north and south, perfect for a day trip out of the city.
To the north is the attractive Howth Peninsula, with its pretty village, castle, lighthouse and golf course. Climb to the summit for great views across Dublin Bay and down to Wicklow, or take a boat to the tiny island of Ireland's Eye, a sea-bird sanctuary. Make sure you don't leave without sampling some of the excellent seafood at one of the village's restaurants.
A few kilometers north of Howth is Malahide, an attractive town with a busy marina and plenty of boutique shops and fine restaurants. Malahide also has a castle, which dates back to the 12th century and holds a fine collection of antique furniture and paintings, as well as a resident ghost.
Fans of the great outdoors should head down to the stunning Wicklow Mountains, where the 127km Wicklow Way passes through some of Ireland's most beautiful scenery, taking in lakes, waterfalls and ancient ruins. Glendalough is particularly worth a visit, with two dark lakes and the remains of a monastic settlement tucked into a forested valley.
Do you own a guesthouse or bed and breakfast in Dublin? Visit our sign up page to list your property with BedandBreakfastworld.com.
By Eleanor Brown