Overview and History
Dublin finds its beginnings over one thousand years ago in a Viking settlement named Eblana. Remnants of old walls and buildings can be seen today in Wood Quay in the modern city's center.
In the Battle of Dublin of 919 AD, Celtic armies fought against Danish Vikings, after which the Danish began to intermarry with the Celts. Irish protest over the next three hundred years eventually led to the expulsion of the Danish in 1171 AD, under the leadership of Henry II of England. Dublin was under Anglo-Norman control until the early 1550's, when Silken Thomas led a revolt against London. The rebellion was defeated and Dublin became known as the "second city" of the british empire.
Dublin remained a small, walled medieval town until the 17th century. Wealth began accumulating and the city expanded rapidly in an architectural flourishing. Literature, music, science and commerce thrived, and support for a new independence movement turned into revolution in 1798. This effort failed for lack of international support, and in 1800 the Act of Union between England and Ireland dissolved the Irish Parliament.
This began a period of general decline in Dublin. Belfast became the center of industrial activity and at one point was larger in size than Dublin. Pressure again built up towards an independence movement, as the Dublin Castle had been turned to ceremonial status only, with all rule coming from London.
Home Rule was the issue which sparked the Irish War of Independence. It began with the Easter Rising in 1916, when the Proclamation of the Irish Republic was issued by revolutionary forces who took over several government buildings in Dublin. England retaliated with a heavy hand and shelled the city from a battleship. Their ruthless response backfired and ended up driving more support to the Irish cause.
A Civil War erupted in 1922 concerning the Anglo-Irish Treaty. One side wanted nothing less than full Irish autonomy, while the other side wanted to cooperate with the British in a treaty. These two factions fought each other in the Battle of Dublin, which left a permanent stain on Irish independence. The establishment of the Irish Free State was the result; this was the pro-treaty side.
Dublin became the political, economic and cultural center of Ireland after Independence. They remained neutral during WWII, escaped the mass bombings, and even referred to it as "the Emergency." In recent history, Ireland has made waves in the EU by being one of only two states to reject the Lisbon Treaty, the EU's current attempt at a Constitution.
The Dublin Airport is located 10km from the city center and you can only get to it by car or bus. An underground train to the airport is in the works. Approximate fare to the city center is 25 Euros.
Ferries connect Dublin to Liverpool, Holyhead and other UK ports. From the Rosslare-Europort a few hours away you can catch a ferry to France, too.
Getting around Dublin on the bus has become a lot faster now that they have the Quality Bus Corridors, which are like a speed lane for buses only. The city has an integrated ticket system for use on buses and Luas together (the light rail system).
The DART suburban rail system follows the coast around to neighboring counties, and within Dublin county the Bus lines go all over the place. If you're out and about past 11:30 at night, look for the late night bus called the Dublin Bus Nitelink.
People and Culture
Dublin has generated a disproportionately large number of world-famous works of literature. James Joyce, Jonathan Swift, Samuel Becket, William Butler Yeats and George Bernard Shaw are only the beginning of the list.
There's even a holiday based on a literary character! Bloomsday (16 June) commemorates Leopold Bloom's odyssey throughout the city, from James Joyce's "Ulysses."
Things to do, Recommendations
Visit Phoenix Park! It's nearly two thousand acres of area that makes up the second largest enclosed park in the world, only surpassed in size by Yellowstone National Park in the USA.
Even more popular than that is St. Stephen's Green and the Iveagh Gardens. A great mix of students, tourists and office workers can be found soaking up the sun at lunchtime, or soaking up whatever else may be in the sky.
Here are some sites of historical interest and architectural interest:
Christ Church Cathedral, built in 1234 AD. It's the seat of the archdiocese of Dublin and Glendalough, which it's been since 1038 AD. The current cathedral represented the English Empire in Ireland and as such was an important building in the city, also the site of the coronation of King Edward VI.
The Ha' Penny Bridge, a beautiful old Georgian pedestrian bridge dating to the 18th century. It arches over the River Liffey which divides the city into its northern and southern halves. The Ha' Penny Bridge gets its name from the original toll for crossing it, which was a half penny in the old english currency; the toll has since been abolished.
St. Patrick's Cathedral, the National Church of the Church of Ireland. It was originally built in 1192, on the site where it is believed that St. Patrick performed his first baptism. the author Jonathan Swift was dean here in the middle of the 18th century, by the way.
Trinity College, the first university established in Ireland, dating to 1592 AD. It houses the "Book of Kells", an ancient Celtic manuscript.
The Guinness storehouse! What trip to Dublin would be complete without a pint of Guinness? The home of the famous 250 year old beer offers a free complimentary pint with the brewery tour, which ends in Gravity, the sky bar overlooking the city. In most cities we recommend that you get up high to have a look at the whole layout of the area, and in Dublin you can do it with the best refreshment imaginable. Enjoy!
Text by Steve Smith.