During the 18th Century, Ireland briefly became the second largest city in the British empire and the Georgian architecture in the centre that remains today is reminiscent of this short but sharp period of growth. However, following the Act of Union in 1800 where the seat of government for Ireland was moved to London, England, the country fell into political and economic decline.
The 19th Century also saw ‘The Great Famine’ (also known as the potato famine) and Ireland’s population shrunk by 25% equating to one million deaths and a further one million emigrated from Ireland. Dublin’s population suffered vastly in this period and the total population of Ireland still hasn’t recovered to the amount before the outbreak of the famine.
This period of hardship was almost immediately followed by the Easter rising of 1916 which consequently led to the outbreak of the Irish civil war that only fully terminated in 1922. Dublin was at the heart of these conflicts and bullet holes still mark the pillars of the General Post Office (GPO) which was in the centre of the conflict. Rebels set up their headquarters within the GPO and were forced to surrender when the building was heavily shelled.
Places to visit
Due to this extensive and tumultuous history, there are a lot of things to see in the city centre alone. It is advised that you set out a map of what you want to see and walk around the city, providing the Irish weather is favourable, as the city centre is easily manoeuvrable. In this way you will discover more than by any other mode of transport. For sights such as Trinity College University campus in the centre there are guides available that will walk you around and explain interesting facts.
Even for those of you that don’t like the infamous dark, dry stout, it is recommended that any visit of Dublin should be completed with a tour inside St. James’s Gate Guinness Brewery. The museum is now in the ‘storehouse’ and will explain the modes of production and even has pieces of machinery used to make the drink. You will even get to taste a sample at the end of the tour at the top of the brewery, with panoramic views of the city.
For shoppers, Grafton Street is the largest shopping street in Dublin. The pedestrian only street extends from College Green, alongside Trinity College, all the way to St. Stephens Green and has a top choice of shops.
Among many historical sights, it is essential that you visit Dublin Castle. The castle has been involved in most of the key moments in Irish history and a guided tour is highly recommended. The castle is located in the city centre and can therefore be accessed easily by foot. The National Museum of Ireland is located at Collins Barracks, again in the city centre, the museum is only roughly five minutes walk from Grafton street and it is well worth taking some time to examine all of the various exhibitions fully.
During your walk through Dublin you should hopefully see a lot of Georgian architecture that is reminiscent of the sharp growth of Dublin’s population during the mid 18th century. For a complete Georgian house, head to No. 29 Fitzwilliam Street Lower. There you will find a Georgian house that has been restored to be a monument to Georgian architecture. The house is completed furnished as one would have been in the mid 18th C. and it is definitely worth seeing.
How to get to Dublin
Plane - Dublin airport is Ireland’s largest airport and 25th busiest in Europe. It serves most of Europe, Aer Lingus and Ryanair being its main airlines. There are also ten long-haul destinations in North America available.
Train - Heuston and Connolly stations are the main railway stations in Dublin and both are relatively central. Between them, they serve the majority of the rest of Ireland and you can get to the other cities, Cork and Limerick, with services from these stations.
Boat - Dublin’s port is roughly 35 minutes away from Dublin’s city centre by road and you can get non-stop buses to and from the city centre to the port. Ferries are very regular and it is even possible to get sea-rail tickets whereby the train from anywhere in Britain and the ferry fare is combined.
Car - The road network in Ireland is primarily linked to Dublin and so getting to and from Dublin is fairly simple. The M50 motorway almost completely surrounds the city, therefore making links to the rest of the country very easy.
Coach - Due to the extensive road links, there are frequent coach services linking Dublin to the rest of Ireland. It takes roughly four hours to Cork and three hours to Limerick. Buses to Cork and Limerick run on an hourly basis.