Dublin, the capital of Ireland – a place famous for pubs, bars and cobbled streets. Big enough to claim city status, but small enough to maintain its rich Irish charm, Dublin has been named as the friendliest city in Europe, and having a pint with the local Dubliners is almost a given while visiting. Travelling there during the week of the Irish marriage equality referendum vote in May 2015, the city was alive with the winds of change and social justice – it’s hard to describe the electric atmosphere of central Dublin on the night the voting booths closed (and I’m not just saying that because I had a few too many pints!)! People were singing and dancing in the streets – add in the fact that it was the finals of Eurovision the same week, and it made the Irish capital a particularly festive place to visit!
We stayed in a stunning old Georgian Townhouse (built around 1720) right in the middle of the Temple Bar district, close to the hustle and bustle of the bars and pubs that line the streets and alleyways of the city. Complete with cozy fireplace, hard wood floors, grand piano and all the dusty old books you could need, the three-story townhouse was a charming Irish piece of history that served as a great base camp from which to explore Dublin.
And there is a lot to explore and discover in Ireland’s largest city – hitting the streets is the best way to immerse yourself in the Irish atmosphere. The river Liffey with its many bridges is picturesque and quiet, surrounded by narrow lane-ways and historical remnants of Dublin’s past. The Vikings origins of the city are also obvious – explore the crypts of Christ Church and take a walk around Dublin Castle’s impressive courtyard and towers. Enjoy the pubs, cafe culture and cobbled streets of Temple Bar, established in the 1980’s by the creative community and which quickly became a bohemian enclave. A constant stream of traditional (and non-traditional) music flows into the streets around Temple Bar, creating a lively street culture and atmosphere full of people – if you visit Dublin, a night out in Temple Bar is definitely recommended!
No visit to Dublin is complete without a visit to the world-famous Guinness brewery and storehouse at St James’s Gate. The Irish dry stout was first brewed by Arthur Guinness in Dublin in 1759 and has gone on to become one Ireland’s most well-known exports and one of the most successful brands of beer in the world – over 1.8 billion pints are estimated to be consumed each year! The Guinness Storehouse sits next to the historic site of the brewery (it was once a fermentation factory) and costs €18 to enter – learn how to pour the perfect pint, learn about the history of the beer and enjoy the views out over the city from the Gravity Bar perched on the seventh floor. One interesting artefact within the storehouse is the 9,000 year lease signed by Arthur Guinness back in 1759 – sadly the lease is not valid in contemporary times, the brewery having expanded beyond the original 4-acre site. It’s a little overpriced and glaringly aimed at tourists, but the history and cultural ties definitely capture the Irish stereotype. The price also includes a free pint of Guinness, so there’s also that!
As mentioned earlier, during my visit in May 2015, Ireland was preparing for a referendum on the question of marriage equality. As the marriage equality debate still rages in Australia, it was interesting to have been in a country that made the change with relative ease. It was an exciting time to be in Ireland, and you couldn’t help but become infected with hopeful ideologies and thoughts of social equality. Dublin was plastered in political signs from both sides of the debate, and it really highlighted the division of opinions that existed. It was interesting to see some streets covered in overwhelming supportive graphics, while others you could see the support was minimal. Ultimately a resounding ‘Yes’ from the Irish people was announced on the 22nd of May at Dublin Castle – huge crowds of Dubliners celebrating the overwhelmingly positive result of the referendum flocked to the streets in celebration, the vote ensuring that Ireland joins the growing number of countries in Europe that have legalised same-sex marriage, and the first country in the world where same-sex marriage has been legalised in a nationwide popular vote.
Dublin is fascinating city, full of some of the friendliest people you’ll ever have a pint with – spend a few days walking the city and meeting the locals, embracing the history and culture of the Irish capital, and you might even decide to stay a little longer. Hell. You might even decide to stay indefinitely!
Check out this video of people describing the city of Dublin – it is a city of endless stories and interesting characters.