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Imagine Dublin and visions of Guinness, Leopold Bloom, and hearty breakfast plates piled high with Irish bacon and farm-fresh eggs (and maybe even U2 and Bono) might spring to mind. Think what you will, but Ireland's largest city and its capital for more than a thousand years, is currently enjoying its newfound status as one of the hottest and most livable cities in not just Europe, but the world.
On Ireland's central east coast along the banks of the Liffey River, where so many literary greats beyond James Joyce were born -- Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett, to name a few -- Dublin and its more than 1.1 million residents now show off trendy coffee houses, foodie-friendly restaurant stops and smart boutiques filled with Burberry-clad shoppers combing the racks and shelves. However, there's still much to see from days gone by in this historical city.
The city center is bisected by the River Liffey, a good orientation point for visitors. The Royal Canal forms a skirt through the north half, and the Grand Canal does the same through the south half, which is where most of the sights you're interested in are found. Within the south half, aim for the triangle between O'Connell Bridge, St. Stephen's Green, and Christchurch Cathedral, where you'll find Trinity College, Grafton Street (for shopping), Temple Bar (for hot nightlife), and Dublin Castle.
The upscale neighborhoods and the majority of hotels, restaurants, shops and sights are south of the river. The main shopping thoroughfare is Grafton Street, but you'll find the more exclusive shops along the side streets. Dublin's most beautiful squares, St. Stephen's Green, Merrion Square, and Fitzwilliam Square, are within 10 minutes' walking distance of Grafton Street. Temple Bar lies along the Liffey near Ha'penny Bridge. North of the river is working-class Dublin, but also Dublin's most important theaters -- the Gate and the Abbey, and a pocket of fine Georgian townhouses on and around North Great George's Street.
Dublin has a mild, temperate climate, and though showers can come up suddenly at any time of the year, they usually pass just as quickly. Average temperatures in summer range from 16 - 20 degrees Celsius (60 - 67 degrees Fahrenheit) and in winter from 4 - 7 degrees Celsius (39 - 44 degrees Fahrenheit).
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Other British Isles & Western Europe Cruise Ports:
Amsterdam • Antwerp • Belfast • Berlin • Bilbao • Brugge (Bruges) • Brussels • Dover • Dublin • Edinburgh • Ghent • Hamburg • Harwich • Holyhead • Le Havre • Lisbon • Liverpool • London (Tilbury) • Newcastle (England) • Paris • Prague • Rotterdam • Rouen • Southampton • St. Peter Port (Guernsey) • Vienna • Vigo
English is the primary language in Ireland. Gaelic, the ancient Celtic language of the country, is spoken by about five percent of the population.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The national currency in Ireland is the Euro. Currency exchange can be made in most banks and post offices as well as some hotels and travel agencies. Traveler's checks should be exchanged at banks or exchange offices since very few businesses will accept them (ATMs and credit cards make them nearly obsolete). For the best exchange rate, use ATMs, found almost everywhere.
Note: Many European ATMs display only numerals on the keypad. For pin codes that include letters, commit to memory or jot down the translation to numbers.
If you're visiting from outside the European Union, you can get back 17.36% of the Value Added Tax (VAT) you paid on certain items. You will need to carry your passport with you and fill in a form at the time of purchase. Present the forms to Customs at the final departure from the European Union, but keep in mind the agents most likely will ask to see the goods. For more information, visit www.globalrefund.com.
Where You're Docked
At Maritime House, North Wall Quay -- less than a 10-minute taxi ride into Dublin's center. There's not much when you disembark, as the area is virtually all industrial, so your best bet is to board one of the shuttle buses your cruise line has arranged for a trip into town or to get a cab into town for about $18/15 Euros.
The Irish Life Shopping Centre between Abbey and Talbot streets is close by, if you're dead-set on sticking close to the ship (Monday - Wednesday and Friday - Saturday 7:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m., Thursday until 7 p.m.). You're also within walking distance of the Georgian-style 1791 Customs House, where you can stroll through the arcades and pavilions. The Visitor Center describes the building's history, including the fire of 1921 during the War of Independence, which caused extensive damage. Monday - Friday 10 a.m. - 12:30 p.m., Saturday - Sunday 12:30 p.m. - 2 p.m. Customs House Quay.
Taxis: A typical 2mi/3km daytime journey will cost about $9/7.25 Euros, increasing by another $2/1.60 Euros at night. Some taxi companies operate a 24-hour radio-call service, among them Co-Op (01-676-6666), Shamrock Radio Cabs (01-855-5444) and VIP Taxis (01-478-3333). Calling for a cab will add an extra $1.90/1.50 Euros.
Only intrepid bikers should consider peddle pushing through Dublin. Between the traffic and one-way streets, it can get a bit dicey. For rentals, which average about $23/18.50 Euros per day, try Raleigh Ireland (firstname.lastname@example.org) on Kylemore Road.
Fine Irish linens -- especially from Bottom Drawer, nestled sweetly inside the Brown Thomas department store on Grafton Street. Hand-knit woolen anything can be found practically anywhere, but we love the soft-as-butter hand-loomed cashmere knits from hot Irish designer Lainey Keogh's shop on Dawson Street.
A cool way to get a bird's eye view in no time flat is with a group of history graduates who run Historical Walking Tours to see the city's top historic sights (Trinity College, Old Parliament House, Dublin Castle and Christ Church Cathedral). You'll be filled in on everything from Viking origins to political struggles with Britain to today's booming "Celtic Tiger" economy -- the best in Europe right now. The same group also offers tours at other times and days that focus on the 1916 Easter Rising, Sexual History of Ireland or Architecture and Society. April - September: Daily 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.; October - March: Friday - Sunday noon only. All tours depart from the front gate of Trinity College. For more information, visit www.historicalinsights.ie.
Christ Church Cathedral is a majestic mix of Norman, Gothic and even Victorian neo-Gothic style. Its unusually large crypt is Dublin's oldest building. If you want to make a short stop here, which is all we suggest, and make a small donation to the church, you can get into the crypt to see the statues and silver coins. Otherwise, we recommend stopping by Wednesday or Thursday at 6 p.m. (Saturday at 5 p.m. and Sunday at 3:30 p.m.) to hear the 45-minute Evensong -- performed by either the girls' or adults' choir. Christchurch Pl.
Built in 1204 by King John, Dublin Castle was the seat of British rule in Ireland for 700 years. It was the official residence of the viceroy who implemented the will of the British royalty when, in 1922, the Brits handed power over to Michael Collins and the Irish. 45-minute tours through the many rooms and lavish apartments as well as a look at the foundations of the Norman tower (the best remaining chunk of the 13th-century town wall) are worth the time. Monday - Friday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Saturday - Sunday 2 p.m. - 4 p.m. Palace St. (off Dame St.)
Theater buffs must stop at the Abbey Theatre. Founded by Yeats, it opened in 1904. All these years, it has enjoyed fame for its impeccable staging of Irish classics. A fire in 1951 destroyed the original theater along with the Peacock -- and the current theaters have stood on the same sites since 1966. Though some might say the newer Abbey doesn't have the passion of the old theater, efforts are being made to "preserve" some of its history. One way they do this is with a wonderful collection of portraits hanging on the walls of the lobby -- some saved from the 1951 fire. The theater's centenary celebration includes a series of lunchtime lectures on theater and on the Abbey itself -- and we think they're worthwhile enough to stop in for one. For more information the lectures, performance schedules and ticket prices, visit www.abbeytheatre.ie. 26 Lower Abbey St.
The Abbey may be more famous, but the 1764 Gate Theatre is now the best, at least for contemporary drama. For more information on performance schedules and ticket prices, visit www.gate-theatre.ie. 1 Cavendish Row.
The impressive 19th-century National Gallery is the city's main art museum, with works from Rubens and Monet to Gainsborough and Picasso -- and a wonderful Caravaggio that was rediscovered in Dublin. One of the most interesting galleries houses the paintings of Ireland's own Jack Yeats. Monday - Saturday 9:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m., Thursday until 8:30 p.m., Sunday noon - 5:30 p.m. Merrion Square West.
Showing off its treasures from the Stone Age to modern times, the National Museum is wonderful. Wait till you see the word-class collection of medieval ecclesiastical objects and jewelry, the Ardagh Chalice and the amber 18th-century Tara Brooch. Tuesday - Saturday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sunday 2 p.m. - 5 p.m. Closed Monday. 2 Kildare St.
Built by the Guinness family, the 22-acre St. Stephens Green is Ireland's oldest park. It was enclosed in 1664 and gradually became surrounded by the fine Georgian buildings you see today. Join the locals any sunny afternoon on this grassy oasis.
Enjoy a visit to St. Patrick's Cathedral, where Jonathan Swift (author of "Gulliver's Travels") was dean in the 18th century. Ireland's largest church, this 13th-century cathedral was founded near a well where St. Patrick is said to have been baptized in 450 A.D. You can also stop by Evensong Sundays at 3:15 p.m. and Monday - Friday at 5:30 p.m. April - October: Monday - Friday 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. - 11 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. - 3 p.m.; November - March: Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. - 6 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. - 4 p.m., Sunday 10:30 a.m. - 11 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. - 3 p.m. St. Patrick's Close.
One of the city's oldest areas, the once run-down neighborhood of Temple Bar and its zigzag maze of cobblestone streets is hotter than New York's SoHo and the Left Bank of Paris. Though it's a must any day of the week, you'll see it at its best on weekends when hordes of eager revelers pub-crawl till all hours. Check out Fishamble Street, Dublin's oldest thoroughfare. At 4 Parliament Street, you'll see Read's Cutlers, a shop opened by Thomas Read (of Irish corkscrew fame) nearly 250 years ago, making it Dublin's oldest. Head for Meeting House Square off Essex Street for some free street theater and the book market that's on from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. on Saturdays.
There are many reasons to visit the ivy-draped Trinity College, but the big draw is the priceless Book of Kells -- a Christian Manuscript of the four gospels that were established by staunchly Protestant Elizabeth I in 1592 in an effort to stop "popery". Doggedly Protestant until 1793, when Catholics were theoretically allowed in (although the Catholic Church banned its faithful from entering until 1970), the college went coed in 1903. Did you know that George Salmon, provost from 1886 to 1904, famously carried out his threat to allow women into the college "only over his dead body", promptly dropping dead the moment the bluestockings walked through the door?
Elite alums include Jonathan Swift, Samuel Beckett, Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde. A self-guiding walking tour is terrific here, but there is a 30-minute guided tour led by students, weather permitting, which includes entry to the Book of Kells in the Old Library. Late May - September: Daily 10:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.; late February and early May: Weekends only. Tours starts inside the main gate in front of the small blue kiosk. If you wish to see the Book of Kells on your own, along with the dozen surviving original copies of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic read by Patrick Pearse outside the General Post Office on April 24, 1916, starting the Easter Rising that led to Irish independence, just follow the signs. Monday - Saturday 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sunday 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. For more information, call 01-608-2308.
Note: There's usually a pretty long line to purchase a ticket, so if you've picked up a ticket through other means, such as the Dublin Experience (get it across the way inside the Modern Arts Building), just scoot past the crowd.
Been There, Done That
There are now three museums devoted to James Joyce. The newest is Usher's Island's James Joyce House in Dun Laoghaire, which was formerly owned by Joyce's aunts, who were the inspiration for his most famous short story, "The Dead". What's great about this new museum that's barely six miles south from Dublin along the coast road is that you'll find yourself in the area affectionately dubbed the Dublin Riviera. You'll love the wonderful walks around the harbor piers dotted with fancy yachts, and you'll most likely spot more than a handful of bathers at the Forty Foot, where people swim year-round. Yeats lived here, and George Bernard Shaw lived up the road a piece in Dalkey, which boasts seven castles plus stunning homes up in the hills belonging to Bono, Enya and Van Morrison. For great dining, choose anywhere in Dalkey.
You won't regret a stop at the Dublin Writers Museum to see wonderful memorabilia of Ireland's best storytellers, including W.B. Yeats and Jonathan Swift, spanning more than 300 years. January - December: Monday - Saturday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Late June, July and August: Monday - Friday 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. 18 Parnell Sq.
Practically everything you ever wanted to know about Ireland's famous brew can be found at the Guinness Storehouse. Arthur Guinness began brewing on this site, now an honest-to-goodness museum, in 1759. Top off your visit with a stop at their store. September - May: Daily 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.; July - August: 9:30 a.m. - 9 p.m. St. James Gate. For more potent potable fun, check out the Old Jameson Distillery that dates back to 1780. It's open daily, and guided tours run continuously from 9:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. Smithfield Village, Bow St.
A visit to the Irish Jewish Museum will give you an opportunity to peek into Jewish life in the early- to mid-20th century. You'll climb the stairs to the former Walworth Road Synagogue in the Portobello neighborhood -- where before it fell into decline when a large movement of Jews moved out to the Dublin suburbs, more than 150 men and women came to worship. The museum has a substantial collection of memorabilia that dates back 150 years. May - September: Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday 11 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.; October - April: Sunday 10:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. 3 - 4 Walworth St. (01-49-01-18-57).
If you loved "Riverdance", you'll love the Irish Traditional Music Archive, a multimedia archive and resource center for the traditional song, music and dance of Ireland. First established in 1987, it now holds the largest collection of books, recordings, photographs and videos on the subject in the world. Monday - Friday 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. - 5 p.m. 63 Merrion Sq.
Bad Ass Cafe: An institution, albeit quirky, in Temple Bar for everything from burgers to pizza -- and it's actually all pretty good. Per-person cost for three courses with wine will run about $22. Daily 11:30 a.m. - midnight. 9 - 11 Crown Alley.
Jacob's Ladder: Under the heading of nouvelle Irish. Per-person cost for three courses including wine will run about $40. Reservations required. Monday - Friday 12:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. 4 Nassau St.
Mermaid Cafe: Flawless Irish and Scottish cuisine with a modern twist. Per-person cost for three courses including wine will run about $25. Reservations required. Monday - Saturday 12:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m., Sunday brunch 12:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. 70 Dame St.
One Pico: Continental cuisine at its best. Don't miss their signature starter of seared foie gras with pineapple tatin. Per-person cost for three courses including wine will run about $25. Reservations required. Monday - Saturday 12:30 p.m. - 2 p.m. 5 Moleworth Pl.
Peacock Alley: There's an offshoot in London now, probably because the Mediterranean-infused cuisine is artfully joyful. Per-person cost for three courses with wine will run about $65. Daily 6 p.m. - 11 p.m. Fitzwilliam Hotel, St. Stephen's Green.
Peploe's Wine Bistro: Sure, wine's the name of the game here, what with 14 pages of bottle listings, with no less than 25 of them available by the glass -- but oh, the squab with blueberries drizzled with cauliflower sauce! Per-person cost for three courses with wine will run about $100. Daily 6 p.m. - 11 p.m. 16 St. Stephen's Green.
Total Splurge: The intimate celeb-haunted, see-and-be-seen Clarence in the heart of Temple Bar on Wellington Quay is partly owned by U2. Another option is the Four Seasons Hotel on Simmonscourt Road. As usual, the beck-and-call service is beyond reproach.
Middle of the Road: The stylish Morgan Hotel in the heart of Temple Bar is within walking distance of Trinity College and St. Stephen's Green.
On a Shoestring: Bewley's Hotel is a stone's throw from Embassy Row on Merrion Road. Well-appointed, spacious and clean.
Staying in Touch
ILAC Centre, off Henry St (free)
Central Cybercafe, 6 Grafton St.
Planet Cyber Cafe, 13 St. Andrews St.
Highly recommended: Over The Top Tours
Highly Recommended: Extreme Ireland/Irish Day Tours
For More Information
On the Web: www.visitdublin.com
Cruise Critic Message Boards: Europe
The Independent Traveler: Ireland Exchange