Some of my friends have ancestors who came to the US from Ireland a few generations ago. For them, visiting the capital city of Ireland, Dublin, might be a good opportunity to make themselves familiar with the history of where their grandfathers came from.
But what to do once you’re there. You could do what many do and head straight to the bar but you’d be missing out on a lot of history seeped into the walls of the beautiful buildings dotted in and around the city.
You don’t have to leave the city center to visit Dublin Castle, an 18th century building,now used for state visits and conferences and offering some amazing dining facilities. When you see it for the first time, don’t be surprised if it looks familiar as its appeared in loads of films and even doubled for the Vatican in the opening episode of The Tudors.
Stroll across the beautiful, Georgian Ha’penny footbridge (don’t worry, you won’t need a half cent to cross it anymore) which will take you over the River Tiffey. From the bridge, you get an amazing view of the Custom House, which is arguably the most magnificent building in Dublin. Every single stone mason in Dublin was commissioned to work on the bridge in 1791, and it cost a staggering $300,000 to build. Sadly, the original interior was destroyed by the IRA bombings in 1921 during their War of Independence.
Transport yourself back to the 18th Century with a walk through the cobbles of Trinity College which homes the ‘Book of Kells’ – a 9th Century Gospel manuscript. You can even get a tea-towel for your Mums with it printed on! Sticking with the religious theme, Christ Church Cathedral, where King Edward VI was crowned, has had a church built on the same site since 102 AD! and is well worth going to see.
You won’t be able to miss ‘Spike’ as you wander around the city as he dominates the skyline. He was commissioned for the Millenium celebrations and stands on the site of Nelsons Pillar, again destroyed by the IRA.
If you like gore, go see Kilmainham Gaol,now a museum, but once home to Dublin Gaol where many men, women and children were imprisoned in appalling conditions and Irish Rebellions were publicly hung. Now the largest vacant gaol in Europe, but whilst empty of prisoners it is crammed full of their history.
Temple Bar, on the south bank of the Liffey, is the “cultural quarter” and it has kept its medieval feel with gothic buildings and narrow cobbled streets.
The Storehouse is Dublin’s number one attraction – home to Irelands most famous brand. And while the building itself is worth a visit people undoubtedly go to savour a complimentary glass of the black stuff in the trendy Gravity Bar on the seventh floor where the views are as spectacular as the surroundings and the drink itself.
And after all that history you can reward yourself by visiting some of the many trendy bars and clubs in Dublin (although many of those are housed in some pretty splendid architecture too).