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The capital of Ireland and also its most populous city, Dublin is situated half way along the east coast, at the mouth of the River Liffey. Two other rivers, the Dodder and the Tolka, also run through Dublin, although it is the Liffey that splits the city into its traditional north and south sides.
Dublin has its origins as a 9th century Viking settlement, which was subsequently developed by the Normans, before expanding exponentially during the 17th century to briefly become the second largest city in the British Empire, and the fifth largest European city.
To relieve the congestion of its narrow, winding streets, the city was redeveloped from its old mediaeval plan during the 1800s. During the Georgian period the river front became a central focus of the city, no longer just an open sewer to be found at the rear of most buildings, and introduction of the fine new quays and houses remodelled Dublin into an international and refined city, and a modern commercial hub. Although many historic buildings were demolished during the 1960s and 70s, much of the fine Georgian architecture remains to this day, with the broad expanse of Henrietta Street one of the earliest surviving examples. Regeneration work since the 1980s has been largely led by a greater awareness for Dublin's architectural heritage.
Things to do in Dublin
Walking tours around Dublin are a particularly popular way for new visitors to explore the city. Whether you choose to go it alone or to pay for a specialist guide, there is much to see on foot. One particular feature of the urban Dublin landscape is the wide range of sculptures, many of them recent additions; many have been given typically tongue-in-cheek nicknames by the locals, albeit with some of the names more repeatable than others. The Monument of Light, a needle-like structure at the centre of O'Connell Street, which is the tallest piece of public art in the World, is known as 'the Stiletto in the Ghetto'. The Anna Livia monument – a striking bronze water sculpture which represents the personification of the River Liffey – is known colloquially as 'the Floozie in the Jacuzzi'. At the bottom of Grafton Street, Molly Malone's monument is variously referred to as 'the Tart with a Cart' and 'the Trollop with the Scallop', whilst the statue of two women chatting on a bench on the Ha'penny Bridge has been informally named 'the Hags with the Bags'.
Literary pursuits – As the birthplace of James Joyce, WB Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett, it is hardly surprising that Dublin was designated the UNESCO City of Literature in 2010, and the city continues to proudly wear its badge as a centre for literary excellence. The annual Bloomsday Festival on June 16th each year celebrates the central character of Joyce's Ulysses, whilst other local literary events include the Dublin Writers Festival, the Dalkey Book Festival, the Mountain to Sea Festival, the Dublin Book Festival and the Franco-Irish Literary Festival. The Dublin Writers Museum and the James Joyce Centre similarly celebrate some of the giants of the local literary scene. Should you wish to pursue even older literary connections, the beautifully adorned Book of Kells, which was written by Irish monks around 800AD, now resides on public display in the Library at Trinity College.
Natural interests – Visit the superb glasshouses and exotic gardens at the National Botanic Gardens on the south bank of the River Tolka, or explore the 1,750 landscaped acres of Phoenix Park, once a Royal deer park and today home to Dublin Zoo, as well as a Victorian flower garden and a number of important national monuments. Hire a bicycle in Phoenix Park, or try the DublinBike scheme from one of the 44 bike stations positioned around the city to explore the wider urban environment.
Musical connections – The lively and vibrant music scene in Dublin means that whether your tastes are traditional or of a more contemporary persuasion, you are certain to find something to appeal. Most leading modern bands and musicians include Dublin on their international tours, and the city boasts some first class venues. However, many visitors are drawn to the city by the promise of the numerous traditional live music gigs, which are easily to be found on a more informal basis in many of the pubs and bars throughout the city.
Watering holes – Whether your fancy is towards a pint of stout, a more petite cocktail, or even a refined cream tea, Dublin can offer all manner of beverage, usually in a welcoming hostelry to match anything to be found elsewhere, not to mention the finest line in 'craic' (Irish amusing banter). Although Temple Bar is often the first point of contact for many visitors, there are plenty of other, less frantic options, and because Dublin is a relatively compact city, most venues are well within walking distance.
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