A welcoming city, full of parks and modern flare, here, you’ll find notable buildings, modern architecture and quaint pubs co-existing in a place where history melds with everyday life. Split in two by the River Liffey, Dublin is a fully-fledged European city with modern buildings, offices, major brand names and Grafton Street – a high street with a touch of glamour.
You’ll cross paths with a number of famous characters while walking through town, including Oscar Wilde and James Joyce, as well as a series of monuments and museums that shed light on the millennial history of this Irish capital, which was initially founded by the Vikings and was once a centre of the slave trade.
Dublin is a green city. It’s full of parks for the nature lovers among you. But it also offers lots of entertainment by way of the Temple Bar district, where you’ll find pubs with live music, street artists and young people full of life. This capital is a buzzing, open-minded, youthful and frequently trendy place, which is perhaps why it has become such an up-and-coming destination, capable of bouncing between extremes, from the sacred to the profane, and from entertainment to tradition.
Dublin is a brave place, proud of its history while making sure to appreciate its previous trials and tribulations. It transforms this awareness into local culture, which you’ll find on practically every street corner: in its parks, gardens, pubs and perhaps even at a hurling match – a national sport of Gaelic Irish origin. Read on to find out more about this city’s must-visit attractions.
- St Patrick’s Cathedral
- Temple Bar
- Guinness Storehouse
- Trinity College
- St Stephen's Green
- Dublin Castle
- Christ Church Cathedral
- O'Connel Street
- Merrion Square
- The River Liffey
- Phoenix Park
- County Wicklow
- Glendalough Monastery
- Powerscourt Gardens
- Malahide Castle
- Leinster House
- The National Gallery
- Grafton Street
- Old Jameson Distillery
- Ha’Penny Bridge
St Patrick’s Cathedral
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is one of Ireland’s most famous buildings. Located in the centre of town, it’s one of two Protestant cathedrals in the city. It boasts Gothic architecture and a 69-metre-high tower, and its construction is shrouded in legend. It is said that the original church was built on top of a well once used by the patron saint of Gaelic Ireland, St Patrick, to baptise Irish Christians. This well, which was ‘bottomless,’ supposedly represented the entrance to Purgatory. Another legend has it that during his sermons, St Patrick used clovers to illustrate the concept of the Holy Trinity, causing the plant to became a national symbol.
Inside, you’ll find majestic interiors and a huge 4,000-pipe organ, which is the definition of the word ‘monumental.’ This cathedral really embodies a feeling of sacredness and solemnity, and as such, it demands quiet and respect. The building also houses the tombs of over 500 notable people, including Jonathan Swift, a famous Irish writer.
Inside the cathedral, you’ll spot a curious wooden door missing two panels. Its history has led to a very popular saying in Ireland, ‘to chance your arm,’ which essentially means to risk a lot to get something. During a period of hostility between two wealthy Irish families, two Earls entered into a duel in the cathedral. The Earl of Ormod defended himself behind this very door in an attempt to escape the duel. The Earl of Kildare, his opponent, decided to save his life and put an end to hostility. To mark his decision, he made two holes in the wooden door with his sword, with the aim of shaking the earl’s hand. Ormod hesitated, fearing that his arm would be cut off, but he was eventually won round. Their agreement was settled with a handshake.
The Temple Bar district is the beating heart of Dublin, both day and night, and it’s not too far from the historic centre. Buzzing with clubs, restaurants, galleries and theatres, its history is full of anecdotes, starting with its name. According to legend, the district’s name derives from Sir William Temple, rector of Trinity College, who came to live in the area with his family. Markets and craft shops reign supreme during the day, and you can find everything from food, to crafts to rare records here. At night, the streets are filled with young people out to enjoy the evening. Live music is pretty much a given in every pub, as is the beer. People dance, sing and have a merry time together.
The neighbourhood dates back to the Middle Ages, when it was frequented by craftsmen, gunsmiths and weavers. At the time, the neighbourhood was a dangerous place to be at night and pretty much anything went in its pubs, brothels and streets. It was more recently abandoned in the 1950s and ‘60s, before becoming popular again in the ‘70s thanks to a group of local artists and creatives. However, its new lease of life didn’t last long, and the area soon returned to its dangerous roots, laden with crime. Not long after, the Irish Transport Agency submitted a plan to do away with the neighbourhood and build a bus station. Citizens and local shop owners protested and managed to halt the project. In the 1990s, the government decided to commence a neighbourhood redevelopment plan, which considerably improved the area, thus returning it to its rightful place as a city landmark.
Stories with a happy ending sometimes need time, which is certainly the case for Guinness, the iconic Irish beer whose origins date back to the eighteenth century. The story starts in St James’s Gate, in the heart of old Dublin, thanks to an entrepreneur called Arthur Guinness who was unafraid to take risks, and signed a rental contract to pursue his visionary ideas. A couple of centuries later, the Storehouse was opened, and it’s now one of the country’s main attractions, despite originally being used to ferment beer.
Today, the building offer visitors a 360-degree tour of the beermaking process. A multimedia exhibition tells you everything you need to know about marketing, technical fundamentals and the actual beer-brewing process. While the ground floor is dedicated to Guinness’ key ingredients: water, barley, hops and yeast, each of the floors above has its own beer-making theme. Old photographs of the brewery lead onto an exhibition about the beer-making process, followed by an overview of the Storehouse’s machinery and working techniques. The exhibition ends with a free pint of Guinness, which you’ll be taught how to pull yourself. And with beer in hand, you can enjoy an amazing view of the city from the Gravity Bar.
Trinity College is a true institution and one of the oldest standing buildings in the world, given that Queen Elizabeth I of England founded it in back in 1592 to educate young Irish people looking to continue their studies. The university has welcomed many illustrious students since then, including Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker and Samuel Beckett, to name a few. One particular jewel in the university’s crown is its library in the centre of town, which houses thousands and thousands of books. The most valuable is perhaps the Book of Kells, a manuscript featuring precious reliefs dating back to the ninth century. It contains the four Gospels of the New Testament in Latin.
Nearby, you’ll find numerous attractions open to the public, which are accessible via the College’s elegant gardens. The Science Gallery for example, is an innovative scientific hub that likes to get visitors involved in all things biology, science and technology related. There’s also Douglas Gallery, which houses national art collections, as well as some international themed exhibitions. Old (founded in 1777) and also very popular among the general public, is the Geological Museum, which boasts a collection of over 80,000 rocks.
On campus, you’ll also find the Samuel Beckett Theatre, dedicated to a famous alumnus and exceptional playwright. It was opened in 1992 to mark Trinity’s 400-year anniversary and now hosts prestigious international dance and theatre companies, as well as student shows during the academic year.
St Stephen's Green
St Stephen’s Green is a public park in the centre of Dublin with a very interesting history. Until 1663, it was located outside the city limits and had an altogether different purpose: it was used to graze cattle. In the mid-1600s, the government decided to transform the green expanse into a park, and it was enclosed the following year. The renovation project also involved the surrounding areas, where a number of Georgian buildings were built, thereby attracting people from high society. The gardens were given new a lease of Victorian life in 1800 and have remained that way ever since.
The park occupies over nine hectares of land and features a wonderful pond home to seagulls and swans. Completing the natural landscape are various species of aromatic plant. There’s also no lack of shaded areas to relax here, as well as a fountain and monuments dedicated to historical Irish figures.
Dublin Castle is located exactly halfway between the two most important places of worship in the city: Christ Church Cathedral and St Patrick’s Cathedral. It was King John of England who ordered the construction of the original building in 1204, which has since undergone a number of changes over the course of history. It remained under British rule until 1921 and has previously been used as a court, castle, and to carry out executions. Its architecture has evolved and developed over the years, but it’s always taken change in its stride.
Now standing without its turrets, the complex is more like a campus and is often the official setting for grand national events. You can visit its gardens and walls for free and its interiors can be accessed with a ticket. While walking through its majestic apartments, refined lounges and rooms with huge chandeliers, you’ll feel as if you’re travelling through time. In fact, it’s in this very castle that a number of prized historical possessions are kept, including a throne belonging to King William III of England, which sits in the Throne Room.
A quick glance at its neo-Gothic interiors and the 100 heads carved into limestone will tell you everything you need to know about the beauty of Chapel Royal, which you’ll find outside the castle. It became a Catholic church in 1943, but has since been deconsecrated. Its galleries and windows are decorated with coats of arms representing numerous Irish viceroys and it was designed by Francis Johnston, before opening its doors on 25 December 1814.
Christ Church Cathedral
The most impressive church in Dublin is Christ Church Cathedral in the old town. It was erected in the place of a wooden Viking church, which remained standing until 1172. The medieval crypt is the cornerstone of this particular building and is where you’ll find valuable treasures such as rare coins, jewels and coats of arms. The crypt is the only part of the church to have kept its original architecture. The rest of the church, on the other hand, has undergone several renovations over the years, resulting in a series of overlapping styles.
The church’s original Romanesque-Gothic architecture was integrated with Victorian features during construction works in the late 1800s, in an attempt to remedy years of abandon. Among the interesting artefacts you’ll find inside is Strongbow’s tomb, whose arrival in Ireland marked the beginning of Anglo-Norman influence. Next to him lies a half-size effigy, who, according to legend, could be the remains of his son. Apparently, Strongbow ‘cut his son in half’ due to his cowardice in battle. However, the cathedral is also the birthplace of two other very important characters: Tom and Jerry. In fact, a cat and a mouse were once found mummified inside an organ pipe and were later transformed into the famous cartoon duo.
The River Liffey
The River Liffey is an integral part of Dublin’s personality. It splits the centre of town in two, running right through the middle of the city and soaking up the local atmosphere as it goes, before travelling down to the Irish Sea, 125 kilometres away. It has been a source of everyday inspiration for many poets, artists and writers and was a primary resource for the very first urban settlements back in the eighth century. It has always been used for navigational purposes and to transport goods, and in fact, one of the most anticipated moments for both tourists and local residents in past years was the passing of ships loaded with Guinness. Visitors to the city can now enjoy organised boat trips.
Tourists and residents in this area love to walk along the river’s wooden walkways. Nearby, you’ll find some of Dublin’s most important buildings and streets, such as the Four Courts, which is home to the seat of the Irish parliament, and Custom House, a former customs building. You’ll also find the Famine Memorial here, which serves to commemorate the severe hunger suffered in Ireland during the mid-nineteenth century.
A beautiful oasis of peace stretching for over 700 hectares, here, you’ll find sprawling lawns, tree-lined gardens and avenues in an area twice the size of Central Park. Phoenix Park is the largest enclosed city park in Europe and home to many different species of mammal and bird. This is a gloriously diverse and fascinating area featuring deciduous trees, endless varieties of plants, greenery and small lakes. What’s more, it’s also home to a number of historical monuments and buildings.
The first attraction you’ll spot is the highest obelisk in Europe, the Wellington Monument, (63 metres tall), which was built in honour of the Duke of Wellington, who hailed from Dublin. Here, you can also admire the ornamental gardens, known as the People’s Garden. The park also boasts a very interesting history, which dates back to 1662 and is in part owed to the Duke of Ormond, who turned it into a hunting park, after having it enclosed. The area had previously been confiscated from the Kilmainham monks. The park was opened to the public in 1745.
A green space full of wonder, priceless views and landscapes carved into the untamed surrounding nature of County Wicklow, Powerscourt Gardens occupy over twenty hectares of land and gift their visitors with some truly beautiful views. Here, you can explore paths emerging from well-kept, elegant, Italian-style gardens and admire hundreds of different flower and aromatic plant species. You can also explore the Japanese gardens, which are home to a network of paths, mazes and small hidden entrances. The gardens also feature a pet cemetery.
Its top attraction is definitely Powerscourt House, which is not only surrounded by greenery and luxuriant vegetation, but also contains several shops, where you can rifle through intricate Irish artefacts and jewellery. It’s also worth visiting the highest waterfalls in Ireland, which descend from the nearby Wicklow Mountains, before dropping over 120 metres.
The National Gallery
While exploring Georgian Dublin, you’ll no doubt stumble across one of the city’s most popular attractions, and one of the most prestigious public art galleries in Europe: the National Gallery of Ireland. Open to the public since 1864, it has undergone numerous expansion works over the years in order to house larger art collections. Today, it showcases more than 15,000 exhibits, including an impressive collection of paintings, prints, watercolours, and art objects. Inside, you’ll find thirteenth-century masterpieces alongside modern artworks from leading European movements, including the Irish movement.
From Caravaggio to Turner and Rubens, the gallery is also home to works by Flemish artists, English and French Impressionists, and numerous Irish masters. Among the various refined and extravagant paintings, you can also explore a room paying homage to Jack Yeats, an Irish illustrator who created the first ever Sherlock Holmes comic strip. The gallery is a dynamic place hosting a number of temporary exhibitions and conferences. You can also visit its art library and Irish study centre, which are both open to the public.
Old Jameson Distillery
Travel to Dublin with Costa
Boasting a vibrant historical centre filled with history and magical views, Dublin sure knows how to welcome and satisfy even the most demanding visitors. Dublin is, first and foremost, a place of literature and has been a source of inspiration for many great writers. It is a city with no shortage of institutions and buildings, and it’s a great place to relax in one of its many parks. It’s also a brilliant spot for a fun evening with friends, Guinness in hand, in a traditional pub. All that’s left to do is book your holiday with Costa Cruises and start exploring.