The river Liffey divides Dublin into two distinct halves: the southside of the city and the north.
South of the River The southside of the city traditionally has been the domain of Dublin's middle-classes and is—generally speaking—more affluent than its northern counterpart.
Temple Bar Area A maze of cobblestone nooks and crooked crannies, between Dame Street and the Liffey, Temple Bar is still Dublin's most upwardly mobile area. In the 1980s, the district was scheduled to be demolished to make way for a vast bus station, but was saved by some last-minute planning decisions and became instead the focus of Dublin's urban regeneration scheme throughout the 1990s. Every turn uncovers more distinctive shops and another trendy arts centre. With music and television recording studios, the excellent Irish Film Centre and other media magnets, this is where Dublin's cultural heart is to be found. By night, visitors (and some Dubliners) gravitate towards Temple Bar and its environs to socialise. Here, above a former Viking settlement, they come to soak up the cafe culture or have a drink in one of the ever-growing number of bars and pubs. The atmosphere in the area has been much improved as a result of the decision to ban stag parties from the area on weekends; you'll still, however, find the streets and lanes thronged after dark.
Medieval Dublin The area around Temple Bar flows seamlessly into the historic heart of the city.
Tucked behind St Patrick's is the exquisite
Georgian Dublin The elegant charm of southeast Dublin stands as a testament to Georgian urban design. Amongst the throngs of tourists is the exquisite
A few minutes walk west brings one to the lovely open space that is
Liberties Inherited its name from its days as a toll-free district. Brick Lane and Francis Street boast a glittering array of antique shops and the colourful Mother Redcap's market.
Kilmainham The greatest attraction of this western district is undoubtedly
North of the River The northern districts of Dublin never really recovered after being abandoned by the professional middle classes, who migrated south of the river or left for London after the Act of Union in 1801. Once home to Europe's worst city slum, times are changing, but gentrification is still a relatively slow process in comparison to the rate of development in areas south of the Liffey.
O'Connell Street The main artery of Dublin's city centre has been sadly neglected in recent years, but now seems due for revival. The grand, broad and tree-lined boulevard has suffered from intrusions of fast-food outlets, but ambitious plans are now afoot to return to its former reputation as Main Street, Ireland. This should not, perhaps, prove too difficult: all of O'Connell Street's main institutions remain in place: the
North of O'Connell Street, in the Drumcondra area of the city, lies the
East of O'Connell Street lies Custom House Quay, set on fire by Sinn Fein supporters in the turmoil of 1921. Custom House is the 18th-century masterpiece of architect James Gandon and was long considered a powerful symbol of British colonialism. The restoration of the impressive, colonnade-lined structure we now see on the waterfront was finally completed in 1991. While the building now houses government offices, sections of the elegant interior are open to the public. While the Custom House is particularly imposing when illuminated at night, by day it is worth studying for the great statue of Commerce which adorns the tip of the copper dome, and for the representations of the gods of Ireland's 14 great rivers. (Worth noting: the only river deemed to be female is the Liffey herself.) Beyond the Custom House, the quays stretch for miles to the Pigeonhouse Fort, now an electricity generating station with candy-striped towers which have become something of a city landmark. The thin and low South Wall breakwater stretches a mile into Dublin Bay, culminating in the Poolbeg Lighthouse: it is probably the best place in Dublin for a bracing, seaside walk.
West of O'Connell Street, the city quays continue to the
The Coast Dublin's proximity to the sea has always been one of its greatest assets, and there is much to see along the shoreline of Dublin Bay. The DART public metro, which hugs the coastline for miles, is a good way of orienting yourself. Coastal villages such as Dalkey, Killiney & Greystones all lie along the DART line and are worth visiting in their own right.
North of the Liffey estuary,
South of the Liffey, prosperous suburbs follow the railway to Dun Laoghaire and beyond. The wide sands at Sandymount stretch for miles and the great harbour walls at Dun Laoghaire, one of engineering miracles of the 19th century, are a favourite walk for many Dubliners (20 minutes out and 20 minutes back). A little further out, the pretty village of Dalkey is a classified heritage area and haunt of the rich and famous (U2, Enya, Lisa Stansfield and more hang out in the area) and the sweep of Killiney Bay is compared (frequently and tediously, but truly) with the Bay of Naples.
A booming economy and a young, affluent urban population have both given rise to a surge of commercial development throughout Dublin's city centre. While the 1980s were arguably a depressing time for socialising in the city, Dubliners now have more disposable income than ever, and as a result, the restaurant and bar industry continues to thrive. Countless new pubs and eateries open monthly and a visitor to the city may be somewhat bewildered by the diversity of choices on offer.
Restaurants Dining in the city has become a more cosmopolitan experience than ever and includes everything from traditional Irish restaurants and American-styled diners to Italian pizzerias and Japanese noodle houses. Ireland has a particularly good reputation for the quality of its fresh produce from both land and sea. An obvious port of call if you're looking for a quick bite to eat is the Temple Bar area of the southside. Rather inappropriately labled Dublin's "Left Bank," this popular tourist area is packed with a variety of affordable eateries. Restaurants like the ever popular Elephant & Castle, Tante Zoe's, Yamamori Noodles, the Indonesian-themed Chameleon and the theatre-friendly Trocadero all offer a range of varied dining options that won't put too serious of a dent on your wallet. More upmarket, meanwhile, and considerably more sophisticated, Eden, Odessa and Cooke's are all stylish restaurants with excellent service and a modern, often innovative, approach to cooking.
The southside Georgian area that encompasses St Stephen's Green, Fitzwilliam and Merrion Square is considerably more affluent and the restaurants that boast such a prestigious address pride themselves on a more formal dining experience. The Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, L'Ecrivain, and La Stampa have all won international acclaim, and often put emphasis on French cuisine. Reservations are almost essential in such restaurants, but the experience is usually worth it. Those seeking something a little different are advised to check out the Good World restaurant, Saagar or the critically-acclaimed Jacob's Ladder.
The northside of the city is not particularly well-served when it comes to quality eateries. The area's main thoroughfare is O'Connell Street, packed with fast food diners like McDonald's and Eddie Rocket's, has an occasional gem to be found if you look hard enough. 101 Talbot is a favorite with vegetarians, the Winding Stair café is an excellent spot for lunch, while the Chapter One restaurant in the basement of the Irish Writers' Museum remains very popular with discerning locals. The Halo restaurant in the Morrison Hotel, has a great reputation for itself, while the tiny Bangkok Café on Parnell Street has also won acclaim and serves authentic Thai cuisine in an unpretentious and friendly setting.
If you are travelling further afield, suburban areas such as Dun Laoghaire, Howth or Malahide offer a wide variety of quality restaurants, which are particularly noteworthy for their seafood. The King Sitric and Cavistons are both good options.
Bars and Pubs While Dubliners are wealthier, better-dressed and more culturally sophisticated than ever, some have argued that the city is fast losing its authenticity and character. The days of the traditional Dublin pub thriving with intellectual debate and spontaneous humor are certainly numbered, although it's possible to argue that the idea was a myth in the first place. Many traditional establishments, such as Farrington's, The Foggy Dew and the White Horse Inn have all undergone renovations. Much of the newer development is centered around the Temple Bar area: once a decaying part of the south city, the district is now thriving, and if you're staying in the area, you certainly won't have any difficulty finding somewhere to have a pint. Pubs like the Oliver St. John Gogarty and the eponymous Temple Bar Pub are almost permanently packed with visitors and (sometimes disgruntled) locals, and if it's a boisterous and convivial atmosphere you're in search of, look no further.
If Temple Bar is just a little too hectic for your liking, where can you go? That depends what you expect from a night out. More contemporary bars like the Bailey and the Front Lounge, put the emphasis on style and sophistication, and are generally full of stylishly attired twenty-somethings who enjoy chilling out in plush and expensive surroundings. For the die-hard fashion victim, the longer established Hogans and the Globe are arguably a little passé these days, but still draw a committed, hip and clued-in clientele. Many of these bars feature live DJs and are often open until late on the weekends.
The more seasoned drinkers amongst you might find this self-congratulatory bar scene a little smug, however. There are a significant number of Dubliners who would never be seen dead in these denizens of cool and prefer to stick to more traditional pubs, where the emphasis is on conversation and atmosphere, as opposed to music and style. Some include The Long Hall, Grogan's, Mulligan's, Kehoe's, The Stag's Head and McDaid's are all steeped in literary and musical heritage, and offer an atmosphere second to none, where you're also more likely to get a good pint of Guinness. For the more adventurous amongst you, the northside of the city also offers a variety of excellent pubs. Forever synonymous with the Abbey Theatre, the Flowing Tide is certainly worth a visit, as are the Welcome Inn, the Life Bar and the Kavanagh's (Gravediggers), which takes its curious nickname from the fact that the pub is adjacent to the historical Glasnevin Cemetery.
If you have a somewhat nostalgic view of Ireland and expect a traditional music 'session' to be the staple of every pub, you're in for a disappointment. It can be found, but expect to go a little further afield than the immediate city centre: O'Sheas, O'Donoghues, the Harcourt Hotel and the Cobblestone in Smithfield are just a few.
Despite the huge number of bars and pubs across the city, Ireland's licensing laws still remain rather prohibitive. Pubs generally close at 11:30p (Th-Sa 12:30a), and nightclubs begin turning away customers as early as 2a. There are, of course, some exceptions: many of the larger, more popular pubs in the city have negotiated 'late' licences, which allows the establishment to remain open a little longer during the weekends. Finding somewhere to drink later than 2a is virtually impossible, however. There are a variety of wine bars in the Leeson Street that serve until the late hours, but alcohol is often scandalously over-priced and the atmosphere has a reputation for being rather seedy. You're probably best off just going to bed, in the hope that your hangover won't prevent you from rising early the next morning to do some sightseeing.
Unlike some of its European counterparts, Dublin still remains a relatively compact city that can easily be negotiated on foot. Whether your interest be historical, literary or cultural, or if you simply want to relax, Dublin offers a range of interesting diversions in a stylish and increasingly cosmopolitan environment. Some would argue that the social life of Dubliners still revolves around the pub (see the Drinking & Dining guide), but if you're staying within the immediate city centre, you'll find plenty of alternatives to nursing a pint of Guinness right on your doorstep.
Literary Attractions Boasting no less than four Nobel Prize winners to date, Irish writers are famed the world over. The first stop on any literary related excursion to Dublin would have to be Trinity College. First established in 1592, the university is home to the famed medieval manuscript, the Book of Kells, and also has associations with Samuel Beckett, Bram Stoker, Edmund Burke and Oscar Wilde. The nearby Merrion Square is also steeped in literary heritage. The former home of both Oscar Wilde and W.B. Yeats, the square boasts an impressive central garden and a beautifully camp memorial to Wilde himself. The spectacular St. Patrick's Cathedral and adjacent Marsh's Library are associated with satirist Jonathan Swift, while devotees of the playwright George Bernard Shaw can visit his birthplace in a restored Victorian house at 33 Synge Street.
Dublin's north-side is also rich in literary attractions. Still a focal point for much of Ireland's new dramatic writing, the Abbey Theatre was originally founded in 1904 by W.B. Yeats and played host to plays by Sean O'Casey and J.M. Synge's infamous Playboy of the Western World. More contemporary dramatists such as Brian Friel, Frank McGuinness and Marina Carr have all had premieres staged here, and the Abbey's sister theatre, the Peacock, continues to promote new writing. Theatre buffs may also be interested in the Gate Theatre, which was first founded by Hilton Edwards and Edward MacLiammoir in 1928.
For those less familiar with Dublin's literary contributions, a visit to the Dublin Writers Museum may be in order. Located on Parnell Square, the museum's collection includes an impressive array of photographs, paintings, first editions and memorabilia, all of which offer an excellent introduction to Irish writing in general. The popular Chapter One restaurant is located in the basement of the museum.
While there is a plethora of writers and dramatists associated with the city, Dublin was undoubtedly best captured by its supreme chronicler James Joyce. Despite popular conjecture, Joyce wasn't awarded a Nobel Prize, but his influence on both world literature and culture has been staggering. Ulysses still remains the novel by which most others are measured, and its labyrinthine structure name-checks countless city landmarks, the most immediately obvious of which is the Martello Tower in Sandymount. While the majority of Dubliners would probably admit to having not actually read the novel, the city celebrates its Joycean heritage on June 16th. Increasingly becoming a high-profile event, Bloomsday recreates the events that take place over the novel's 24-hour time span, and plays host to festivities all over the capital. The James Joyce Centre on the elegantly restored North Great Georges Street organises the event, and remains a focal point of activity all year round.
Museums and Galleries Given the fact that Dublin is still a relatively small city, there is an impressively wide range of galleries and museums within walking distance of the city centre. For those interested in the history of Ireland, a visit to the National Museum is certainly advised. Based on two sites, the Museum houses artifacts which date from 7000 BC to the present day. The original Kildare Street site was first opened in 1890, and features examples of Celtic and medieval art such as the famous Ardagh Chalice, Tara Brooch and the Derrynaflan Hoard. The museum also houses a fascinating exhibition dealing with the turbulent 1916-1921 period of Irish history, which led to independence. The impressive Collins Barracks site, meanwhile, is based in the oldest continuously occupied barracks in the world and is Ireland's museum of the decorative arts and of economic, social, political and military history. Those seeking a more contemporary image of Ireland should check out the Gallery of Photography in Temple Bar.
The Chester Beatty Library , originally owned by the American engineer Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, houses a fine collection of Early Christian, Islamic and East Asian manuscripts, paintings, prints, icons and books. Those conducting genealogical information should pay a visit to the National Library, which offers research facilities that are second to none.
The Natural History Museum on Merrion Square was first opened in 1857. Particularly popular with children, the gallery has a Victorian, almost Gothic feel to it, and appears to have remained wholly unchanged since the 19th century. In an age of computer-aided exhibits and technology, it provides a marvellous glimpse at the mausoleum-museums of days gone by; and poking through its range of grotesque stuffed animals, bottled insects and bizarre flora and fauna is a surprisingly fascinating way to spend an afternoon.
While not having the fine art legacy of other European cities, there are also several excellent galleries in Dublin, where Ireland's relatively little known artists can be appreciated. The National Gallery is an essential stop-off in an exploration of the history of Irish art. A Jack B. Yeats room displays the paintings, notebooks and other artefacts from this important and compulsively creative Irish family. A five minute walk from the National Gallery is the RHA Gallery on Ely Place. The RHA displays exhibitions from the more successful of living Irish artists, as well as significant retrospectives and the annual National College of Art and Design degree showcase.
The development of the Temple Bar Gallery and Studios has been a prime example of the maturing of the Irish arts scene. In the 1980s and '90s, artists took over a dilapidated building in the then run-down Temple Bar area and set up studios and a gallery. With the design of the area as a cultural quarter, the gallery enjoyed a major refurbishment and is now one of the more important contemporary galleries in the city. The Taylor, Kavanagh, Kerlin galleries are all also worth a visit.
Adjacent to the Garden of Remembrance, a stone's throw away from historic O'Connell Street, the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art is probably the most significant gallery on Dublin's northside. The Hugh Lane houses an impressive permanent collection and a series of ongoing contemporary art exhibitions.
A short walk from the city centre, the Irish Museum of Modern Art is well worth a visit. Located in the stylishly refurbished Kilmainham hospital, IMMA always has something interesting on show, with ongoing exhibitions of both Irish and international art. The museum has hosted successful retrospectives of Andy Warhol and Joseph Beuys, amongst others, and the permanent collection of modern art is also essential viewing. A children's response room and artists in residence add to the modern art experience in this fine 18th century building.
Live Music Dublin's live music scene is as vibrant and as happening as ever. Sporting slickly designed interiors and accompanying nightclubs, music venues draw a variety of established Irish and international acts, the more popular of which generally play at larger capacity venues like the Olympia Theatre.
For atmosphere, quality and character, however, Dublin's smaller pub venues are still where it's at. Whelan's on Wexford Street is probably one of the best music venues in the city: with great acoustics, a friendly and loyal crowd and a spectacular balcony view of its tiny but perfectly adequate stage. Whelan's is a great place to catch up-and coming Dublin bands and emerging international acts, usually of a rock, folk or alternative variety, and the cover charge is always reasonable.
If traditional Irish music is your thing, you're not exactly spoilt for choice. Some of Dublin's more authentic pubs like the Cobblestone, the Harcourt Hotel, O'Shea's and O'Donoghues feature trad sessions, but the quality varies considerably from night to night.
Sport Sport is hugely popular in Ireland and for many it is more than a matter of national pride, but a way of life. The Gaelic Athletic Association, which was first founded in 1884, drew up rules and regulations for native, indigenous sports, and was just as much a political movement as a recreational one. Members of the GAA were even banned from playing English sports. In recent years, however, Gaelic games like football, hurling and camogie have arguably been superseded in popularity by international and British soccer tournaments, not least because of the Republic of Ireland's qualification for the World Cup in 1990 and 1994. GAA games during the championship season, however, still draw huge crowds to Dublin.
Golf is also extremely popular in Ireland and Dublin boasts approximately 55 different links, most of which are located in suburban areas, including the internationally renowned Portmarnock Golf Course, which has hosted many major championships including the Irish Open. Many of these clubs are privately owned, however, and require membership of a golf union. A number of smaller clubs such as Hollystown, Stepaside, Elm Green and the Swords Open Golf Club, operate a green fees policy and are within easy reach of the city centre. More information, including a list of private courses, can be obtained from the Golfing Union of Ireland. The Murphy's Irish Open is one of the highlights of the professional golf calendar and is held every July. Other marvelous courses are located within an hour's drive of the city, including the magnificent K Club and Mount Juliet.
Ireland also boasts some of the finest fishing locations in the world, although Dublin is not exactly spoilt for choice. Coarse fishing options can be found along the river Liffey, the Royal Canal, the Dodder and the Grand Canal, while Dublin's coastline offers excellent sea fishing opportunities. Dun Laoghaire, Howth, Skerries, Dalkey and Killiney beach are all good locations. Permits can be obtained from most fishing tackle shops. A state licence is required for river fishing for salmon or sea trout from the Fishery Board. Sea, rock, beach or canal fishing does not require a permit, however.
Children Although not always apparent from first glance, Dublin offers a wealth of attractions for both the young and young at heart. The Dublin Zoo is a popular haunt, making for an enjoyable and often educational afternoon. The Ark in Temple Bar is Ireland's only cultural centre for children, regularly hosting exhibitions, theatre performances and workshops. Cinemas, of course, remain always reliable, particularly on rainy days, and with several well-situated theatres like the Savoy and the UCG Multiplex on offer, you should be spoilt for choice.
"Dubh linn" means "dark pool," and "Baile Átha Cliath" (still the Gaelic name for the city) translates as the "town of the Hurdle Ford." The official date for the foundation of the city is 988 AD but these two settlements had existed in one form or another for centuries before this date. Eventually, the two fused into one town along the river Liffey, a town which eventually became known as Dublin.
Long before the official foundation of the city, the golden age of Christianity had witnessed the creation of some of the treasures of modern Ireland. The Book of Kells, Book of Durrow and Ardagh Chalice all date from the period after 432 AD, when St Patrick baptized the pagan Irish and Irish monks spread the Word throughout Europe.
Viking Dublin Dublin began its long evolution into a city, however, under the Vikings. They found it to be a useful base from which to plunder the surrounding country at will—the round towers which are such a characteristic feature of Irish monasteries were built as defensive structures to help defend the inhabitants from bands of godless Vikings - but trade, nevertheless, began to develop with the surrounding country. The Scandinavian settlement was far from politically or militarily secure, however, and they were driven from Dublin more than once before the final Viking defeat. This occurred at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, when the forces of Brian Boru defeated the Scandinavians once and for all. A period of local rule then followed—a time which saw the foundation of Christchurch Cathedral—before the arrival of the English.
Dublin & the English In 1169, the Normans arrived on the southeast coast of Ireland. They had been invited over by an Irish chieftain, Diarmait Mac Murchada, who wanted some extra muscle in his struggle for power. The Normans were led by one 'Strongbow'—otherwise known as Richard de Clare—who owed allegiance to the English King Henry II. Strongbow quickly took Dublin and the Norman occupation began. Against a backdrop of plagues and fires, Dublin continued to grow throughout the middle ages. Catholicism was its spiritual rock, upon which stood two cathedrals: St Patrick's and Christchurch. The area controlled by the English, however, was very small, consisting of only a few hundred miles around Dublin. This region was known as 'The Pale' (hence the term 'beyond the pale' of one who is uncivilized or disorderly) and even it was subject to continual attack from without.
The Tudor Period The reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I saw a consolidation of English rule in Ireland: the tentacles of power spread from Dublin across the island and Elizabeth I used the city as a base from which to further her policy of plantation: the settlement of Protestant families on confiscated 'papist' land. Dublin became a centre of Protestant rule; by 1540 all of the monasteries had been dissolved and the churches taken over. In 1592, the grounds of a former monastery became the site of the newly-established Trinity College Dublin, founded by Elizabeth as a means of educating the new ruling class and of curing Ireland of 'popery'. Meanwhile, the fabric of the medieval city decayed: both Dublin Castle and Christchurch were falling into ruin and plague and poverty continued to claim lives. By the end of the 16th century, the situation was as woeful as it had ever been in Dublin—the defeat of Irish rebellion leader Hugh O'Neill in 1601 opened the door to the influx of English and Scottish Protestants, and Dublin became little more than a garrison town.
The 17th Century This was a turbulent period in Ireland: Cromwell landed in the country from England and proceeded to massacre the people of Drogheda and Wexford in 1649 as a means of preventing further uprisings; and the Williamite wars saw the struggle for control of the English throne played out across Ireland, from Derry to Limerick. Eventually, however, Catholic James II was defeated by William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. In the subsequent settlement, Catholics were denied the political rights they had been promised. While Dublin itself was little effected by the upheavals across the rest of the country, the process of the Anglicization of the city continued, and at the close of the 17th century, the city entered its heyday.
The 18th Century The great terraces and squares of Georgian Dublin date from the city's 18th century golden age of architecture. The period saw the erection or renovation of some of Dublin's greatest buildings. Dublin Castle was fully restored and the great green bowl of the Phoenix Park was established in the west of the city. Also built at this time were the Royal Hospital (now the Irish Museum of Modern Art at Kilmainham, the Long Library of Trinity College, the Royal Exchange (now City Hall), the elegant Marsh's Library and the Mansion House. Later in the century, the Four Courts and the Custom House were raised on the city quays, and St Stephen's Green was laid out as a formal park. Sackville Street, now called O'Connell Street, a grand formal boulevard, became the city centrepiece.
It was also a golden age for politics and culture. The Irish parliament ("Grattan's Parliament") won increasing measures of self-government and the confidence of Dublin increased, as it became the focus of an extraordinary cultural boom, with theatre and music flourishing across the city.
The 19th Century This period of power and influence came to an end with the 1798 Rising, when a rebellion in the south, west and northwest and a botched French invasion convinced Westminster that Ireland had been allowed too much independence. The result was the Act of Union of 1801: the Irish parliament voted itself out of existence and England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales were formally politically unified for the first time. Many of Dublin's movers and shakers left the city for England and Dublin declined into a mere provincial city. In 1841, on the eve of the Great Famine, Daniel O'Connell won Catholic Emancipation, another indication of the decline of the punitive laws against Catholicism.
In the Famine of 1845-1849, Dublin suffered rather less than the rest of Ireland, as it was generally more wealthy (disease-ridden slums notwithstanding). In these years, indeed, the social life of the Anglo-Irish went on as normal and the establishment of the National Museum and National Library was planned on the city's south side.
Home Rule & the Rising Under the surface, however, pressures were growing. The city was to become the focal point for the struggle for and against Home Rule. Throughout the 19th century, this pressure continued to mount remorselessly until eventually, at the beginning of the First World War, Home Rule was promised, as soon as the war itself should end. This modest promise was swept away by the Easter Rising of 1916, when a small band of rebels paralyzed the city and the Irish Republic was proclaimed from the steps of the GPO. They had little public support - many Irish volunteers had joined the war effort in Belgium and the rebels were perceived to be traitors to the greater cause. The people of Dublin were especially angry, for in the course of quelling the uprising, much of the centre of Dublin was bombarded by British Naval vessels standing out to sea. The execution of the rebels at Kilmainham Gaol, however, swung the tide of public opinion and a process was set in motion which would culminate in the Treaty in 1921. The greater part of Ireland achieved a limited independence as the Irish Free State, but the island was partitioned: six northeastern counties remained a part of the United Kingdom. The vicious Civil War which followed saw further damage to the fabric of the city, but once civil unrest had ended the city began the long process of restoration.
The Free State The 1920s saw the gradual rebuilding of a city centre ravaged by the Rising, the War of Independence and the Civil War. Government policy in these years was much more concerned with the theory and practice of nationalism than with building a modern society and areas such as social welfare were severely neglected. The country, under the leadership of Eamon de Valera (the only survivor of the leaders of the Easter Rising) became increasingly isolated and introspective, and upon the outbreak of the Second World War, Ireland declared itself neutral, to the anger of both Britain and the United States. In practice, however, the country was far from neutral, granting (for example) over-fly rights to Allied planes. The morality of this policy of neutrality, however, continues to be questioned to this day: the banning of Jewish refugees from the country is certainly a source of national shame. One consequence of neutrality, however, was that Dublin (unlike Belfast and Derry/Londonderry in Northern Ireland) escaped the ravages of German bombing. In 1947, the Free State became the Republic of Ireland, and the country left the Commonwealth.
The Republic The post-war years saw economic and cultural stagnation; thousands upon thousands of young people abandoned the countryside for Dublin, which began a period of population growth. Even larger numbers left Ireland altogether, with incalculable consequences for the cultural health of the country. The 1960s saw Ireland begin to look towards the outside world, and the changes which swept across western society in these years began to make their presence felt in Ireland as well. The widespread civil disorder which began in Northern Ireland in 1968 left its mark on Dublin also: the capital was the target of occasional violent attacks in the 1970s and 1980s: the worst of these, in 1974, saw over thirty shoppers killed in a bomb attack. The perpetrators have never been caught.
Dublin Today In 1973, the Republic joined the Common Market. The effect of this decision can be seen in the fabric of Dublin today: enormous amounts of money have been poured into Ireland in the last few decades and have resulted in the kick-starting of the Irish economy. Today, Ireland is one of Europe's fastest-growing economies and Dublin is at the centre of this economic revolution.
In recent years, the political, cultural and social climate of the country has also changed radically. The election of Mary Robinson to the Presidency of Ireland in 1990 also ushered in a series of social changes to the country—divorce, for example, is now legal in Ireland for the first time; and a raft of liberal legislation has challenged the conservative ethos of the country, already damaged by a series of sex scandals involving the Catholic Church. These social changes have left their mark on Dublin most of all, and there is no doubt that the city has changed radically.
Literary Dublin Dublin is one of the world's great literary cities. Three Nobel laureates—George Bernard Shaw, W.B. Yeats and Samuel Beckett—were born in the city, and James Joyce, the most famous Irishman never to have won the Nobel, was also a Dubliner.
Modern Irish writing, however, begins in Dublin's 18th century heyday. Trinity College produced three of the most prominent writers of the century: dramatist Oliver Goldsmith, philosopher Edmund Burke and satirist Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver's Travels. Only Swift, however, remained in Dublin: Goldsmith and Burke moved to London as quickly as they could get away, setting a precedent for writers to come.
In the 19th century, James Clarence Mangan drank and brawled his way through Dublin, managing to produce some of Ireland's most distinctive poetry in his spare time; Bram Stoker wrote Dracula and Oscar Wilde spent his youth in the city and studied at Trinity before he joined the flight to England. Shaw was born in the city in 1856 - he left for England too, where he produced Pygmalion. Joyce (also writing in exile) set Ulysses on a single summer's day in Dublin - June 16, 1904, a date now celebrated in the city as Bloomsday. Beckett went into exile in Paris but some of Ireland's leading lights managed to stay: Yeats, for example, remained in the new Irish Republic until his death in 1939, and the post-war years saw the emergence of such writers as Flann O'Brien and Patrick Kavanagh.
Today, Irish writing is more popular and vigorous than ever. Such novelists as Colm Toibin (The Heather Blazing), Anne Enright (The Portable Vigin), Roddy Doyle (The Committments), Jennifer Johnston (How Many Miles to Babylon?), Dermot Healy (A Goat's Song) and Robert McLiam Wilson (Eureka Street) established international reputations; and they are joined by such important poets as Medbh McGuckian, Eavan Boland, Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill and Ireland's fourth Nobel laureate, Seamus Heaney. Not all of these writers have made their home in Dublin itself, of course, but they figure prominently in the city's energetic literary scene and their achievements have added to the rich texture of Dublin's literary life.
DUBLIN IN TRANSITION In May 2000, Dublin Corporation opened the Millennium Bridge, linking Ormond Quay to the Temple Bar area. A pedestrian-only alternative to the 19th century Ha'penny Bridge, it's a fine addition to the urban landscape, and a metaphor of sorts, too: for now, more than ever, Dubliners need new walkways to accommodate a rapidly expanding city.
Home to almost a million people, Dublin has undergone a startling transformation of late. Countless apartment blocks have been built in an attempt to accommodate a burgeoning population; while a plethora of stylish restaurants, cafes, bars and hotels serve the needs of those who crave international cuisine, glamorous surroundings and better coffee. Traditional, nostalgic images still abound in promotional tourist literature, but today's Dublin arguably has more in common with the high streets of London or New York than it does with James Joyce, Eamonn De Valera or 'pints of plain'. Dubliners can now be seen sipping cocktails in stylish bars like Dakota; and a casual stroll down Grafton Street displays a growing multi-cultural and multi-racial atmosphere. Dublin has become an international city, and what's more, it seemed to happen almost overnight. Depending on your point of view, all of this is either a breath of fresh air or a testament to the steady dissolution of a concrete national identity, but either way.