Greater Dublin has a population of just under two million, yet the bustling city center is compact enough to explore on foot or a rented bicycle. Its rebellious and joyous Celtic traditions are alive in the music spilling out from the pubs, while the historic buildings and monuments tell the stories of the country’s rich religious and cultural heritage. Take part in Bloomsday festivities on June 16 each year when locals celebrate the life of author James Joyce, one of Dublin’s most famous residents.
Along the city’s grand thoroughfare, O’Connell Street, you can’t miss the Spire of Dublin. It’s visible for miles around, so use it as a landmark to regain your bearings in Dublin’s winding medieval streets.
Just across the River Liffey stands Ireland’s oldest university, Trinity College, which offers highly educational two-hour tours conducted by the school’s history graduates. Or explore on your own, and be sure to visit the Old Library to see the Book of Kells, a priceless illustrated manuscript created by monks in the year 800. Nearby is the National Gallery of Ireland.
Wander down stately Dame Street and past the City Hall to Dublin’s religious heart, Christ Church Cathedral. From the awe-inspiring medieval crypt to the mummified cat and rat, there is plenty here to enthrall even non-believers.
A 15-minute walk away is the spiritual home for the world’s stout drinkers, the Guinness Storehouse. Take the interactive tour, which finishes at the Perfect Pint Bar where you can pour your own pint of “black gold.” If you prefer whiskey, head to the Old Jameson Distillery to learn the secrets of turning grain into the water of life.
A little further to the west stands one of the most important and sobering monuments in Ireland, the museum at Kilmainham Gaol. The grim walls and stone-breakers’ yard in this former prison built in 1796 now keep history alive. Expert and passionate tour guides bring the story of Irish independence to life.
After the somber confines of the gaol, unwind with locals in Dublin’s largest park, St. Stephen’s Green. Once the site of public floggings and hangings, this peaceful 22-acre (nine-hectare) collection of gardens, playgrounds, fountains and walking paths is now filled with memorials to Ireland’s patriots and writers.
When evening falls, follow the merry bands of locals and visitors to the popular Temple Bar district. It’s known as the arts quarter of Dublin. By night, however, the area’s nightlife fires up, turning the narrow, cobbled streets into one big party.