Usually any of our tours of Ireland start in Dublin and end in Dublin…..for very good reason. Ireland Luxury Tours believes that any tour of Ireland should include this magical city. Even if you are in Belfast a day trip to Dublin is recommended. Our Belfast tours include this option.
This great city and its culture is changing at a rapid rate. Oscar Wilde claimed that “life imitates art’, and so Dublin today has traded on its cultural reputation to become a vibrant city of literary walks, rock music walks, pub tours and stars hanging out in the back rooms of nightclubs. Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian architecture were long associated with oppression here, and it is only now, as Dublin’s massive youth population claim their rightful place as citizens of Europe, that bad memories, both real and traditional, are laid to rest and the city’s architectural heritage reclaimed for the present. ‘Dear dirty Dublin’ is a thing of the past, and this is a city re-invented by James Joyce and U2, Roddy Doyle and ‘Riverdance’.
You will find old men in flat caps who claim to remember de Valera, and thre are still talented traditional musicians playing for free in pubs. Guinness is still good for you, and you might still find a pub that won’t serve pints to women. But the subtle change is that modern Dubliners have learned their worth on the world market, and a strategy for self-salesmanship has settled in for good.
The fair city? It is indeed a beautiful place, set on a broad river-basin fringed by the majestic sweep of Dublin Bay. Yet the ‘fair city’ of song was better described by James Joyce, one of its most famous citizens, as ‘dear dirty Dublin’. The best of its Georgian architecture rivals anything that can be seen in Bath or Edinburgh, but much has been destroyed by crass development or sheer neglect. Some of the demolition is forgivable; those pretty Georgian facades often disguise impossibly friable brickwork and tottering foundations that only total reconstruction would cure. Now, thankfully, the process is being reversed and Dublin’s fanlit doorways glow amid newly restored surroundings.
To some extent, as in London, the great divide is the river. The Liffey neatly bisects Dublin from east to west, meeting the Poddle near the Grattan Bridge and forming the dubh linn, or dark pool, that gives the city its name. The respectable classes enjoy elegant architecture, smart restaurants and fashionable shops, now based mostly in the south around St Stephen’s Green and Trinity College. In a few other areas the city’s poor inhabit twilight zones where it is not recommended for tourists to stray.
Currently the Greater Dublin area contains about a million people, almost a third of the Republic’s population, many of whom have drifted in from country areas in search of work. A large proportion of Dublin’s inhabitants are under 25. It is a cosmopolitancity withmany different nationalities and social groupings. Generally, there is a natural friendliness about both its citizens and the whole atmosphere of the city.
Dublin has declined since its 18th-century heyday, when great architecture sprouted all over the city, when the first performance of Handel’s Messiahwas held here , and when it was considered one of the foremost cities of Europe. Things have improved in recent years, however. A new foundprosperity and confidence inspires the Dublin scene: Georgian buildings and their contents are cherished and conserved, restaurants buzz with patrons, and many fashionable celebrities have made the city their second home.
East and west of O’Connell Street are densely crowded shopping areas, including the colorful open market of Moore Street, where you can be sure to get a tongue lashing in old Dublinese dialect if you dare squeeze the fruit or complain of being slipped a rotten one. The better off still shop on the southside’s lively Grafton Street, stuffed with designer boutiques and malls, and beyond here you’ll find some of the best preserved Georgian squares.
The period from 1714 to 1830 was Dublin’s apogee, a great flowering of architecture, literature, philosophy and art. The quality of Irish craftsmanship in the superb Georgian buildings epitomises the ‘age of elegance’. After the depredations of Cromwell’s visits and the turmoil of Williamite battles, the 18thcentury was a time of comparative peace and prosperity here. Aesthetes and businessmen, wealthy gentry and talented artists merged resources to make Dublin one of the foremost cities of Europe. Terraces, parks, squares, imposing monuments and dignified town houses burgeoned throughout the central parts of the city, bounded by the Grand and Royal canals. In 1757 the Wide Streets Commission, Europe’s first planning authority, established new guidelines for development, and in 1773 the Paving Board set up regulations on lighting, cleaning and drainage, making densely populated residential areas much more salubrious.
The best examples of Georgian architecture can be seen south of the river. The city was largely spared during the World Wars, but fared ill at the hands of 20th-century developers and politicians. A new generation of conservation-minded citizens thankfully seem bent on preserving what is left.