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Discovering Dublin

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Dublin the capital of  Ireland, is disproportionately large for the size of the country.

There are nearly two million residents in the Greater Dublin Region—well over a third of the Republic’s population. Thankfully, though, the centre is relatively small and can be navigated by foot, with mostof the population living in suburbs.

This makes central Dublin one of the best cities worldwide for a short city holiday. Not that you’d be disappointed to run into Dublin’s locals. Despite the troubled history that they’ve had to endure, even relatively recently, the Irish are well-known for their friendliness, chattiness and willingness to welcome and share.

Dubliners very much espouse these qualities, meaning that a simple stop to ask someone for directions can easily turn into a conversational adventure. In these situations, it’s best to go with the flow, and simply allow the locals to lead the way, offering a chance to see the ‘real’ Dublin, rather than the tourist traps.

That said, the tourist traps can often be more interesting than you might think, particularly if you’re an architecture or history buff. Although some of Dublin’s finest Georgian architecture was demolished in the mid-20th century, a remarkable amount remains.

They were a reminder of the past British imperialism and were pulled down without regard to their beauty and architectural significance. They were replaced with modernist or pastiche office blocks, St. Stephen’s Green (Dublin 2) being a prime example.

Thankfully, attitudes have changed, and Dubliners are now rightly proud of their impressive buildings from all eras. This means that there are fantastic sites, old and new, around the city that the eyes can feast on.

Some of these buildings will be busier than others, and in the peak summer season, the top attractions are known for being packed with crowds. The Christ Church Cathedral, the oldest building in Dublin (dating back to the eleventh century), is a good example of this.

It underwent a massive restoration in the 19th century, and has since become one of the city’s top tourist attractions. The crypt, which actually pre-dates the cathedral, is a particularly popular spot, meaning it’s best to get there early to beat the crowds.

Other buildings of note include St Patrick’s Cathedral, the largest church in Ireland, and built in 1191; Dublin Castle, the former seat of the British rule in Ireland; and the General Post Office, one of the country’s most iconic buildings, designed by Francis Johnston in a neo-classical style.

Dublin is also famous for its art galleries and museums. In terms of art, worth a visit are the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the Projects Art Centre, the National Gallery of Ireland, and the Irish Georgian Society.

Meanwhile, the Green on Red Gallery is one of Dublin’s most dynamic and exciting art galleries, featuring the best of the country’s contemporary artists. There are also many worthy museums that offer a deep dive into Ireland’s, often troubled history.

For a frank but sensitive take on the history of Dublin, head to the Little Museum of Dublin. Meanwhile, the National Museum of Ireland features three sections—Archaeology, Decorative Arts and History, and Natural History.

For eating, Dublin has a wide range of high-quality restaurants. Many have a reputation for being overpriced by European standards, but tougher economic times have given rise to a new wave of stylish but casual, low-priced eateries offering great food.

There several fantastic Indian restaurants around the South William Street area, parallel to Grafton Street. The Khyber Tandoori on South William Street and Shalimar on South Great Georges Street are highly recommended. A similar multi-cultural hotspot is Parnell Street in Dublin 1, which has a dense concentration of Chinese and Asian restaurants extensively frequented by expat communities.

And don’t forget to try Leo Burdock Fish and Chips, a small indoor eatery that has been frequented by a number of famous people whose names are listed on the wall.

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