Dia dhaoibh! Hello everyone!
It seems like spring is finally arriving in Ireland. We had a wonderful weather last weekend, which was the perfect excuse for everyone to go out and enjoy a little bit of sunshine. Although I have been very active since the day I arrive, most of my previous plans were highly dependent on weather conditions. However, Dublin is a city where a bunch of different events, activities, parties, happenings, etc. are constantly happening. No matter whether you are interested in art, history, fashion, culture, gastronomy, sports or any other field, you will sure find the perfect option for you.
In order to summarise all of what Dublin has to offer, I decided to create a post series called ”Dublin City Tour”. The series will hopefully cover the most interesting things to do in the city, from museums to hikes, food, sports, music, etc. In this first post, you will find my top 5 places to visit in Dublin. Many of them are classics, particularly for those who have been in Dublin before. Yet, they are a MUST for any tourist and student, so let me guide you through them!
Dublin Free Walking Tour
Walking around the city is the best way to get to know its distinguished corners. But even greater than that is doing it accompanied by a local guide. There are several companies in Dublin that organise free walking tours around the city centre (such as Yellow Umbrella Tours, Sandemans, Generation Tours). The idea is simple; a local guide will walk you through the main attractions of the city while they talk about the history, culture, traditions, society, etc. At the end of the tour, the guide will thank you for the attention and will accept donations based on how much you enjoyed their work. If you are new to Dublin, I would recommend doing the City Centre Tour. If you already know the city, some companies have tours about misteries and legends, gastronomy, literature and other specific topics, but they may not be free (watch out for student discounts).
In my case, I did the City Centre Tour with Civitatis (a Spanish company that offers free tours all over the world) in English. We gathered at 11 am at The Spire, one of the most iconic spots in Dublin and started our tour with our lovely guide Daniel. He took us from O’Connell Street, across the Liffey River towards Trinity College Dublin and then to the mythical Temple Bar, where we had a short toilet break. Afterwards, we headed towards the old town to see the Viking remain of the city, as well as Christ Church Cathedral and St Patrick’s Cathedral. Before ending up the tour at the Town Hall, we passed by the Chester Beatty Library and Dublin Castle. It was grand!
The Old Library and The Book of Kells
As a student at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), The Old Library visit was on my bucket list since day one. Plus, entrance is free for TCD students and we are allowed to bring up to three guests. Bookings can be done emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with at least three working days of notice.
The experience starts with an exhibition about the manuscript of The Book of Kells and other similar books. It was very fascinating to learn about the process of handcrafting and editing the books and to discover the symbolism behind its main figures and phrases. The Book of Kells by itself is located in the next room (Treasury). They keep it at low light and covered by a glass-cage, to preserve the condition of the manuscript. Honestly, The Book of Kells itself was the most disappointing part of the visit. It is only open on one page, which they apparently change every day. However, when we came, the pages that were shown were really pain, with no paintings, but almost exclusively plain text. Other than that, it was nice to appreciate the beauty of its colours, illuminations and ornate Latin text during the exhibition. Finally, the Long Room was breathtaking. With more than 250,000 ancient texts, classified in various sections, I wish my own library looked as impressive. It is also home for many famous characters’ bust sculptures, the Brian Bory harp (Irish national symbol) and a copy of 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic.
Phoenix Park is the largest inner city park in Europe, often referred to as ”where Dubliners go to breathe”. It is undoubtedly one of my favourite spots in the city. It offers a variety of attractions and activities to do, from bike rental to sighting wild deers, visiting Dublin Zoo, and discovering a handful of remarkable monuments (The Wellington Testimonial, The Papal Cross, The Magazine Fort, etc.). Likewise, the residence of the Irish President (Áras an Uachtaráin) sits inside Phoenix Park and can be observed and admired from the distance. The visit to Phoenix Park is quite straightforward and it can be reached by public transport (Red Line Luas, Heuston stop or Museum stop and plenty of Bus Lines). So far, I have had the chance to enjoy this park in multiple occassions, either by myself (going for walks) or in company (doing a picnic with friends). And the best part of all; if you are lucky enough (unlike me), you might spot wild deers wandering around the park. They are very cute (thanks to Grégoire Duquenne for the footage, since I had not managed to see the deers any of the days I have been there).
Who does not associate Ireland with Guinness? The impressive Guinness Storehouse is located only a few steps away from St James’ Hospital, where I work. Even though tickets are a bit pricey (from 22€ on for adults, and 19€ on for students), it is definitely worth it. The basic ticket includes a self-guided visit through the museum and a pint of Guinness at the top floor Gravity Bar.
We came in the storehouse on the afternoon/evening of a very rainy day, which was a bit unfortunate because the views from the Gravity Bar were not as astonishing. The first two floors of the museum are totally dedicated to the brewing process. During that stage, we found out the four principal ingredients of a Guinness (barley, hop, yeast, and water), had a glance at the precious yeast kept under lock and key, felt the heat of the 232ºC degrees at which the barley is roasted and were introduced to Arthur Guinness. On the third floor, there is a Guinness tasting. You enter a small room where quarter pints of Guinness are served and a professional teaches you the art of drinking a Guinness. Contrary to general believe, you are supposed to drink Guinness taking big sips, not to disturb the foam that preserves the integrity of the beer. The fourth and fifth floors contain an exhibition of the Guinness’ advertising campaigns and its impact on different societies. Similarly, there is the STOUTie bar, where they print your picture on the foam of a Guinness (this costs extra, but it is super fun and curious, so we actually paid for it). Finally, the Gravity Bar is located at the top floor, where you can savour a pint of Guinness and enjoy of a panorama of Dublin City.
And last but not least, our final stop will be in Dublin Docklands, the most modern area in the city. Although there are several museums and theatres that can be visited, it is mainly a residential and office area, and home for very famous IT companies such as Google, Facebook, etc. Some years ago, it was considered the less touristy and ”ugliest” part in Dublin (because a lot of ship industries are also located in the surroundings of the Docklands). However, its modern architecture, historic buildings and proximity to the sea make it the perfect place to go for a enjoyable stroll away from the city centre or just do some jogging/roller skating (quite popular sport in Dublin). Examples of monuments and attractions present in Dublin Docklands are The Famine Memorial, Samuel Beckett Bridge, The Custom House, EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, The Grand Canal Square, etc. I just love it!