We enjoy traveling the globe. Most of the time our adventures are within a few hours of home, but this summer we had the opportunity to spend two weeks in Europe. We spent almost a week in both Belgium and England, but we also spent a day in Dublin at the beginning and the end of our trip (a traveling tip: we flew into Dublin from the US because it was much cheaper to fly to Ireland than mainland Europe; with the budget airlines in Europe, it was still cheaper to take the budget airline to a second destination on the continent rather than fly straight there). While our time in Dublin was short, we were able to see a fair bit of the city, especially its highlights.
On our first day in Dublin, we took a bus into the city. We stayed in a hotel near the airport, which is north of the city, so we needed to take a twenty minute bus ride into the downtown area. The airport hotel was much cheaper than the alternatives in the downtown area, and we thought the money saved more than compensated for the extra bus ride we needed to take. Once in downtown Dublin, we walked around the Temple Bar district, the main thoroughfare in Dublin centered around the River Liffey, surveying the various shops, bars, and other establishments, as well as their architecture. Most of the buildings have old stone and brick facades, which, along with the smoke and dirt covering the buildings and windows, lends the city an industrial, even gritty, vibe, accentuated by the often cloudy skies and cool, breezy weather.
The architecture continued as we wandered through the city away from the river, making our way to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The exterior of the famed basilica named after Ireland’s patron saint is austere, but the interior is a beautiful example of gothic architecture and exhibits exquisite tile floor and stained glass. As the cathedral is the national church of Ireland, the interior of the church is just as much Irish history as a cathedral.
After visiting St. Patrick’s, we made our way back to the Temple Bar district and happened upon a craft brewery and pub, The Porterhouse. We enjoyed our dinner there-standard pub food-as well as a tasting flight, which we found delightful. After dinner we returned to our hotel to get sleep before we began the rest of our European adventures.
We returned to Dublin for one full day before we headed back home to the States. We again stayed near the airport and took a bus into the Temple Bar area, hopping off down the street from the old post office. The post office has a large edifice and is hard to miss, but you must look closer for the bullet holes in the building’s facade-the post office was the headquarters of the rebellion during the Easter Rising of 1916.
We walked across the River Liffey and up a hill that led us to Dublin Castle. The site has been the center of political activity for hundreds of years. Most of the structure standing now is from the 18th century, although there is a tower from the original castle built in the 13th century. We toured the castle, learning a bit more about Ireland’s colorful and complex history. The castle was much smaller than some of those found on the continent, but was interesting and delightful to visit. The castle’s rooms were decorated in a tasteful, simple manner and lacked the baroque ornateness of other castles. Outside the castle we explored a small park, and we happened upon a tax museum tucked away behind the castle. The museum was small but free. It took only a small amount of time, but was interesting and worth a short visit.
We made our way to Christ Church Cathedral, the oldest of Dublin’s medieval cathedrals, which stands in the center of medieval Dublin. The nave of the church contains beautiful stained glass; the windows in the apse contain depictions of Christ’s life which we found moving. The cathedral was also hosting an icon exhibit while we were there, adding another treat for our visit. After walking around the nave, we journeyed downstairs to the crypt that dates to the 12th century. We found Christ Church Cathedral to be more interesting to visit than St. Patrick’s since Christ Church has fewer visitors and the crypt.
We walked down the street to St. Audoen’s Church. Parts of St. Audoen’s date to the 12th century, so the short tour allows visitors to see the church as it appeared in the middle ages. The structure is much smaller than the other medieval parishes in Dublin, but is worth a visit in order to get a glimpse of medieval Dublin.
The sun was dipping lower in the western sky as we left St. Audoen’s, so we made our way back to the River Liffey for the last stop on our agenda, the oldest pub in Dublin dating to 1198, The Brazen Head. We found the pub in a side street off the river. We walked into the pub and felt as though we had been transported back in time. Inside we found beautiful old stonework and wrought-iron, a dark but cozy atmosphere, the soft glow of candlelight, and a roaring fire in the fireplace. We decided to wait a few extra minutes to sit next to the fireplace. Our food was delicious, adding to the enchantment we felt in the pub. When it was finally time to leave, we were disappointed to depart such a satisfying and even homey pub, but we thought it was the perfect way to end our trip.
We enjoyed our visit to Dublin. We learned a bit more about the city’s complex history and visit the political, religious, and social establishments that have played and continue to play a large part in Dublin’s history. The city is filled with character, which is what makes the city such an interesting place to visit. We recommend visiting Dublin, and, if you are able to go, make sure to bring plenty of warm clothes (even in summer!) and a rain jacket.