Your Trip to Dublin: The Complete Guide

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Does Dublin City really need an introduction? Everybody knows a bit about the capital of Ireland, but what are the basic facts and striaght-to-the-point description that you really need to know in order to start planning your trip? That it is the home of Guinness? That it is on the Liffey? That it is not as large as it seems to be? Here's what you need to know before touching down at Dublin Airport.

Dublin's Location

Dublin City is located in the east of Ireland in County Dublin — a county which does not exist any more, technically speaking. The sprawling entity has been split for years now, first into Dublin City proper, and County Dublin surrounding the hard-core urban part. In 1994, the Dublin County Council was abolished, because it had grown too big. It was succeded by three separate administrative county councils - Dún Laoghaire and Rathdown, Fingal, and South Dublin. All of these areas surround Dublin City, the fourth administrative entity.

The whole Dublin area is part of the Province of Leinster.

Geographically speaking, Dublin lies nestled around the mouth of the river Liffey (which bisects the city), and along Dublin Bay. It can be found on Ireland's east coast, and the city itself is quite close to the Irish Sea. The geographical coordinates are 53°20′52″ N and 6°15′35″ W (follow the link for maps and satellite images).

Dublin's Population

County Dublin as a whole entity has 1,173,179 inhabitants (according to the census held in 2016) - of this 527,612 live in Dublin City proper. Dublin is the largest city in Ireland, heading the list of the twenty largest cities and towns of Ireland)

Having always had a very multicultural population, Dublin these days is somewhat of an ethnic melting pot. Around 20% of the population are not Irish, with around 6% having an Asian or African ethnic background.

A Short History of Dublin

The first documented settlement here was a "permanent raiding camp" of the Vikings, which was established in 841. It was only in the 10th century that a more serious trading colony was founded by the Vikings near today's Christ Church Cathedral. The settlement was called after the nearby "dark pool", which is in Irish dubh linn. After the Anglo-Norman invasion and during the middle ages Dublin was the center of (Anglo-Norman) power and an important merchant city.

Major growth started during the 17th century and part of the city was rebuilt in the formal Georgian style. Around the time of the French Revolution (1789) Dublin was considered to be one of the fairest and richest cities in Europe. At the same time, horrible slums developed and the inner city faced a serious decline after the Act of Union (1800), when many wealthy citizens left for London.

Dublin was the center of the Easter Rising in 1916 and soon became the capital of the Free State and finally Republic - however, the city at this time decayed dramatically. It was not really until the 1960s that the first moves were made to to rebuild Dublin as a more modern city, mainly by tearing down old houses and building new office blocks. Public housing was built on a grand and uninspiring scale, leading to new problem areas.

Only in the 1980s did the city of Dublin finally develop a sensible policy of reconstruction, combining preservation and renewal. The booming "Celtic Tiger" economy of the 1990s led to further growth, with the now affluent Dubliners moving out into suburban areas.

Dublin Today

The Irish capital is a strange mixture of the busy city center, outlying village-like communities, and huge suburban estates all melting together into one big metropolitan sprawl. The tourist will more than likely stick to the walkable center (roughly defined by Parnell Square to the North, St Stephen's Green to the South, Custom House to the East and the cathedrals to the West), with only excursions to the Phoenix Park, Kilmainham Gaol, or the Guinness Storehouse taking the average visitor outside of this well-known and central area.

But even in this small part nearly all aspects of Dublin life can be seen - from the hustle and bustle of the ultra-modern IFSC to the problem-prone areas of public housing nearby, from the Georgian splendour of Merrion Square to the utilitarian office blocks placed between here and the Liffey, and including cobbled side-streets, magnificent parks, stately (and mostly state-owned) buildings, and seemingly millions of young people.

What to Expect in Dublin

Dublin used to be Europe's "Number One Party Destination" - and on busy weekends can still feel like Daytona Beach during Spring Break. The fun-loving reputation has only been enhanced thanks to cheap plane tickets and a party image (ceol agus craic is the big thing here) fostered by the tourism industry attract crowds of young Europeans that brave the Dublin weather and prices for a few pints at the best pubs. Add to this the English-language students (mostly from France, Italy and Spain), as well as sightseeing tourists, and you will appreciate that Dublin is best described as "busy."

The idea of Dublin being a quaint and quiet, old-fashioned town is outdated (though all these attributes can be applied to parts of Dublin). Dublin can be noisy and overwhelming, especially between April and September.

When to Visit Dublin

Dublin can be visited throughout the year. The annual St Patrick's Festival (around March 17th) draws huge crowds and is usually seen as the start of the peak tourist season. The city then stays busy well into September. Pre-Christmas weekends are truly packed with shoppers from all over Ireland, adding lots of crowds to the festive atmosphere Dublin develops during the holidays.

Places to Visit in Dublin

Dublin is full of attractions so you will have to pick between the best attractions of Dublin, or plan an essential walk through Dublin's city center for a bit of city inspiration. And it would not be a real trip without spending time in the best pubs of Dublin.

Places to Avoid in Dublin

The side-streets off of O'Connell Street and the Liffey Boardwalk are not generally considered "safe" at night. Otherwise, you should be okay anywhere - but check up on safety in Ireland to avoid nasty surprises.