Introduction Home to over a third of Ireland’s population, Dublin is an island of urban vibrancy in what is generally a rural island nation. Along with cultural assets from its long history are the hallmarks of big city sophistication, and both should be enjoyed in equal measure during your time here. Whether you came here wanting to hoist a glass of Guinness, or to contemplate struggling for freedom against imperial repression, Dublin will come through for you in spades.
Being the capital of Ireland, Dublin is the best place to learn about this nation’s history, but if you only have time for a limited number of attractions during your time here, make certain that you visit the Kilmainham Gaol.
Serving as a prison until the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1923, it had played host to the many leaders and agitators that were driving the effort to secede from the United Kingdom throughout the 19th century and the first part of the 20th.
The living conditions were truly deplorable as the well-trained tour guides will relay to you as you tour this well maintained complex … truly, it is the best place to understand the lengths to which the British went to attempt to quell the fires of rebellion, and the determination of the independence movement to see the realization of their vision, despite the herculean sacrifices that were necessary to achieve it.
Next, head over to Dublin Castle, whose palatial grounds have served as the seat of government in Dublin and Ireland since the days of English control.
Despite its ongoing role in being a centre of Irish government activities, tourists are welcome to stroll the grounds freely on most days, with only the lavish interiors of the State Apartments requiring advance reservations in order to be toured.
Before heading out into the countryside to discover the history of this country with your own eyes and hands, get some context on what you are about to discover by spending some time at the National Museum of Ireland beforehand.
There are actually three separate branches of this institution within Dublin (another focusing on Irish country life is located in Turlough Village, County Mayo), each with a separate theme (natural history, archeology, and decorative arts).
From artifacts that breathe life into the prehistoric and medieval periods in Ireland, to animal and plant specimens that define its natural heritage, a day spent hopscotching from one building to another will give you the background you’ll need to properly appreciate what you will be seeing over the course of your trip.
Other Attractions If you wish to pay homage to the world’s best known and loved stout, then visiting the Guinness Storehouse at St. James Gate is the perfect way to tick this box off on your travel bucket list. Consisting of seven floors where a different aspect of the history, creation and marketing of Guinness is covered and explained, the experience ends with the visitor pouring their own perfect pint (the guides will coach you on how to do it properly), making it an awesome place to take the beer enthusiast in your travel group. Throughout the world, there are many examples of walled cities, but Phoenix Park is in a category practically by itself, as it is a rare example of a walled park. Encircled by stone defenses in the 17th century to create a hunting reserve for Charles II and his viceroy in Dublin, it has become one of Europe’s most unique urban green spaces in the present day. In a nod to the past, a herd of fallow deer still roam its 1,700 acres, but modern attractions such as the Dublin Zoo, the Papal Cross (built for the visit of Pope Jean-Paul II in 1979) and the 62 metre high Wellington Monument (an obelisk built to commemorate the victory of the famous English general over Napoleon’s forces in the Battle of Waterloo will make this park a viable for those of all interests. Finally, get a taste for some of Ireland’s unique contributions to the world of sports by spending a fun-filled afternoon at Experience Gaelic Games. Gaelic Football, Hurling, Handball and Ceilí Dancing are all offered here, giving those that love to experience the world through their bodies a chance to engage in exercise and cultural exchange at the same time.