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Dublin’s Fair City

Dublin, Ireland

Dublin, the capital city of the Republic of Ireland, is one of the most fun places in the world. It’s especially popular with tourists and travelers from the US, for whom a trip to the city is often a journey back in time in search of Irish immigrant ancestors.

But Dublin is much more than a museum: it is emphatically a city that is looking to the future while taking care of its rich and varied past. The Republic of Ireland, of course, is one of the youngest independent nations in the world – it has been in existence for well under a century – and its capital city encapsulates its vibrant and forward-looking nature.

LiffeyFor all that, it’s difficult to ignore the past. The Irish War of Independence against the UK – and its subsequent Irish Civil War, during which the Irish fought it out among themselves over the nature of their new country – are still (just) within living memory. Dublin is full of monuments to the fallen. One of Dublin’s major buildings, the General Post Office in O’Connell Street, still carries the scars of bullets that were fired during the Easter Rising of 1916. The Post Office was the main headquarters of the republican rebels, and, as such, holds a special place in Irish memory and culture to this day.

Temple BarThings are a lot less fraught in Dublin these days, although the intensity of political and religious conflicts is in some way mirrored by the vigor and energy of the city’s burgeoning business sector. Dublin is one of the biggest centers of the world IT industry outside of the US, and in recent years talented young developers have flocked to the city in search of work. All this had led to a pretty lively nightlife, which is largely focused on the area of Temple Bar. It’s quite a small area, bounded by the Liffey to the north, Dame Street to the south, Westmoreland Street to the east and Fishamble Street to the west. In one sense, to walk around its cobbled streets is to step back in time: the pubs (of which there are many) are painted in traditional styles. It’s great place to grab a pint of Guinness (for more on which, see below) and to relax and have fun. There are quite a few interesting things to see and do in the area as well as simply chill out with a pint: Temple Bar is very strongly associated with the arts – and especially the performance arts. As well as being the home to Ireland’s largest acting school, Temple Bar also houses the Temple Bar Music Centre, the Arthouse Multimedia Centre and the Temple Christ Church BridgeBar gallery and Studio. Opportunities for dining also abound in the area, though one local traditional delicacy – Guinness with oysters – is probably best enjoyed by those whose constitutions can cope with these two unique but extremely distinct taste sensations simultaneously. It’s probably a good idea to remember that on evenings, and especially the weekend, the area can get a little boisterous with locals and visitors from the UK out enjoying themselves in distinctively Anglo-Irish style. You’re very unlikely to run into any kind of trouble, but if you’re thinking of finding accommodation in the area do remember that evenings can get a little noisy as revelers spill on to the streets after maybe one too many pints of ‘the black stuff’.

Liffey RiverAh – Guinness. Ireland’s greatest gift to the world is a thick, dark variety of beer known in the British Isles as ‘stout’. Most brands have their roots in Ireland, Scotland or northern England. Guinness has been brewed in Dublin since 1756. If you’re used to drinking Guinness the way it’s made and served in the States, prepare yourself for a rather different experience. Guinness that is brewed in Ireland is made with a uniquely ‘soft’ water from the Lady’s Well spring in Wicklow (not, as legend has it, from the water of Dublin’s River Liffey – you wouldn’t want to drink that!). This gives Irish homegrown Guinness a distinctly smoother taste than the stuff that is brewed under license overseas. Good practice also dictates that a good pint of Guinness should be two-thirds poured, left to stand a while, and then ‘topped off’. Although this technique is widely used in Scotland and England, very few US bars use it – leading to a pint that most discerning Irish drinkers wouldn’t care for.

If you want to learn a little more about Guinness, you can visit The Guinness Storehouse. More than just a museum, the Storehouse has been described as ‘The Disneyland of Beer’. It’s shares premises on St James’ Gate with the central Guinness brewery.

After you’ve enjoyed the Storehouse – and maybe a few pints – you can walk unsteadily out in the Dublin streets once more to enjoy this most alive of all cities.

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