Dublin is a city absolutely teaming with history. The first Viking settlements were established here over a thousand years ago and Dublin had an established parliament by the beginning of the fourteenth century. Yet Dublin is also a modern and vibrant capital city with many cultural festivals and events. It’s the kind of place you could spend a week and still not see everything, but even just a day will give you a great overview and some lovely memories to take home.
Easily reached by car, plane or train, Dublin is located on the eastern side of the Republic of Ireland on The River Liffey. Most recently we visited by train from Cork, about two and a half hours away. I was seriously impressed by the punctuality and comfort of Irish Rail. There is a good city bus service in Dublin, but particularly if you are only there for a day, I recommend considering one of the hop on, hop off open topped bus tours on offer. I have used City Sightseeing on two occasions and am happy to recommend them (not a sponsored link, just a recommendation between friends). The tickets are reasonably priced and actually good for two days unlimited travel. The best part is one of the stops on their tour is Heuston railway station, so you can begin your tour as soon as you leave the train.
From the National Art Gallery to St Patrick’s and Christ Church Cathedrals and Trinity College, The Guinness Storehouse and Jameson’s Distillery to the darkly famous Kilmainham Gaol, there is something to interest virtually everyone in Dublin. The city’s literary history includes greats such as Oscar Wilde, James Joyce and Jonathan Swift and you can even see the well where legend has it St Patrick baptised converts to Christianity. For excitement and great food, Temple Bar provides a huge selection of restaurants and bars, although great places to eat are scattered throughout the city and you’ll never be far from a pub if you get thirsty.
One of my favourite places to visit in Dublin is Trinity College. Established by Queen Elizabeth I in the late sixteenth century, the college boasts many famous graduates including Sir Isaac Newton, British prime ministers and members of the royal family. The buildings and grounds are absolutely beautiful. Many people visit the college to see The Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript containing the four Gospels in Latin that is over a thousand years old. While the colours in the manuscript may now seem pale, it has to be remembered that back in the ninth century, books were extremely rare and people were not used to seeing colour except in nature. If you enjoy armchair travelling, you can see pictures of the famous manuscript on The Trinity College Library website.
On display at the college since the mid-nineteenth century, the Book of Kells attracts over half a million visitors every year. However, as our student guide put it, “You’ve come to see The Book of Kells, but it’s the library that’s going to knock your socks off.” (It’s well worth taking one of the student-led tours, available from a small kiosk at the entrance to the college for only about a Euro more than the cost of admission to see The Book of Kells. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and very witty.) And knock our socks off The Library did.
We finished our day with a tour of The Guinness Storehouse, learning about the history and preparation of this famous stout beer. As the sun began to set we enjoyed a pint of this dark brew in The Gravity Bar overlooking the city. I still have a list of places I want to visit in Dublin, but carefully spent, even just a day there allows you to get a good overview of this historic city and a great feel for the buzzing atmosphere that makes it one of Europe’s most popular capitals.