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Cities in the Spotlight: Dublin, Ireland

Today we will be travelling to Dublin. Ireland.


Dublin City Information

Dublin is the capital and largest city of Ireland. Situated on a bay on the east coast, at the mouth of the River Liffey, it is in the province of Leinster and the Eastern and Midland Region. It is bordered on the south by the Dublin Mountains, a part of the Wicklow Mountains range. There is archaeological debate regarding precisely where and when Dublin originated, with a settlement established by the Gaels during or before the 7th century CE, and a second, Viking, settlement, following. As the small Kingdom of Dublin, the city grew, and it became Ireland's principal settlement after the 12th century Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland. The city expanded rapidly from the 17th century and was briefly the second largest city in the British Empire and the sixth largest in Western Europe after the Acts of Union in 1800. Following independence in 1922, Dublin became the capital of the Irish Free State, later renamed Ireland in 1937. Dublin is a contemporary and historical centre for Irish education, arts and culture, administration, and industry. As of 2018 the city was listed by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network (GaWC) as a global city, with a ranking of "Alpha minus", which places it as one of the top thirty cities in the world.


Dublin Historical Significance

The area of Dublin Bay has been inhabited by humans since prehistoric times, fish traps discovered from excavations during the construction of the Convention Centre Dublin indicate human habitation as far back as 6,000 years ago while further traps were also discovered closer to the old settlement of the city of Dublin on the south quays near St. James's Gate which also indicate Mesolithic human activity. The writings of Ptolemy (the Greco-Roman astronomer and cartographer) in about 140 CE provide possibly the earliest reference to a settlement in Dublin. He called it Eblana polis.

Dublin celebrated its 'official' millennium in 1988, meaning the Irish government recognised 988 as the year in which the city was settled and that this first settlement would later become the city of Dublin. It is now thought the Viking settlement of about 841 was preceded by a Christian ecclesiastical settlement known as Duibhlinn, from which Dyflin took its name. Beginning in the 9th and 10th century, there were two settlements which later became the modern Dublin. The subsequent Scandinavian settlement centred on the River Poddle, a tributary of the Liffey in an area now known as Wood Quay. The Dubhlinn was a pool on the lowest stretch of the Poddle, where ships used to moor. This pool was finally fully infilled during the early 18th century, as the city grew. The Dubhlinn lay where the Castle Garden is now located, opposite the Chester Beatty Library within Dublin Castle. Táin Bó Cuailgne ("The Cattle Raid of Cooley") refers to Dublind rissa ratter Áth Cliath, meaning "Dublin, which is called Ath Cliath".

Middle Ages

In 841 the Vikings established a fortified base in Dublin. But Dublin became more established as a Viking settlement in the 10th century and, despite a number of attacks by the native Irish, it remained largely under Viking control until the Norman invasion of Ireland was launched from Wales in 1169. It was upon the death of Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn in early 1166 that Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair, King of Connacht, proceeded to Dublin and was inaugurated King of Ireland without opposition.

According to some historians, part of the city's early economic growth is attributed to a trade in slaves. Slavery in Ireland and Dublin reached its pinnacle in the 9th and 10th centuries. Prisoners from slave raids and kidnappings, which captured men, women and children, brought revenue to the Gaelic Irish Sea raiders, as well as to the Vikings who had initiated the practice. The victims came from Wales, England, Normandy and beyond.

The King of Leinster, Diarmait Mac Murchada, after his exile by Ruaidhrí, enlisted the help of Strongbow, the Earl of Pembroke, to conquer Dublin. Following Mac Murrough's death, Strongbow declared himself King of Leinster after gaining control of the city. In response to Strongbow's successful invasion, King Henry II of England affirmed his ultimate sovereignty by mounting a larger invasion in 1171 and pronounced himself Lord of Ireland. Around this time, the county of the City of Dublin was established along with certain liberties adjacent to the city proper. This continued down to 1840 when the barony of Dublin City was separated from the barony of Dublin. Since 2001, both baronies have been redesignated as the City of Dublin.

Dublin Castle, which became the centre of Anglo-Norman power in Ireland, was founded in 1204 as a major defensive work on the orders of King John of England. Following the appointment of the first Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1229, the city expanded and had a population of 8,000 by the end of the 13th century. Dublin prospered as a trade centre, despite an attempt by King Robert I of Scotland to capture the city in 1317. It remained a relatively small walled medieval town during the 14th century and was under constant threat from the surrounding native clans. In 1348, the Black Death, a lethal plague which had ravaged Europe, took hold in Dublin, and killed thousands over the following decade.

Dublin was the heart of the area known as the Pale, a narrow strip of English settlement along the eastern coast, under the control of the English Crown. The Tudor conquest of Ireland in the 16th century spelt a new era for Dublin, with the city enjoying a renewed prominence as the centre of administrative rule in an Ireland where English control and settlement had become much more extensive. Determined to make Dublin a Protestant city, Queen Elizabeth I of England established Trinity College in 1592 as a solely Protestant university and ordered that the Catholic St. Patrick's and Christ Church cathedrals be converted to the Protestant church. The earliest map of the city of Dublin dates from 1610, and was by John Speed.

The city had a population of 21,000 in 1640 before a plague in 1649–51 wiped out almost half of the inhabitants. However, the city prospered again soon after as a result of the wool and linen trade with England, and reached a population of over 50,000 in 1700.

Early modern

As the city continued to prosper during the 18th century, Georgian Dublin became, for a short period, the second largest city of the British Empire and the fifth largest city in Europe, with the population exceeding 130,000. While some medieval streets and layouts (including the areas around Temple Bar, Aungier Street, Capel Street and Thomas Street) were less affected by the wave of Georgian reconstruction, much of Dublin's architecture and layout dates from this period.

Dublin grew even more dramatically during the 18th century, with the construction of many new districts and buildings, such as Merrion Square, Parliament House, and the Royal Exchange. The Wide Streets Commission was established in 1757 at the request of Dublin Corporation to govern architectural standards on the layout of streets, bridges, and buildings. In 1759, the Guinness brewery was founded; and would eventually grow to become the largest brewery in the world and the largest employer in Dublin.

Late modern and contemporary

Dublin suffered a period of political and economic decline during the 19th century following the Acts of Union 1800, under which the seat of government was transferred to the Westminster Parliament in London. The city played no major role in the Industrial Revolution but remained the centre of administration and a transport hub for most of the island. Ireland had no significant sources of coal, the fuel of the time, and Dublin was not a centre of ship manufacturing, the other main driver of industrial development in Britain and Ireland. Belfast developed faster than Dublin during this period on a mixture of international trade, factory-based linen cloth production and shipbuilding.

The Easter Rising of 1916, the Irish War of Independence, and the subsequent Irish Civil War resulted in a significant amount of physical destruction in central Dublin. The Government of the Irish Free State rebuilt the city centre and located the new parliament, the Oireachtas, in Leinster House. Since the beginning of Norman rule in the 12th century, the city has functioned as the capital in varying geopolitical entities: Lordship of Ireland (1171–1541), Kingdom of Ireland (1541–1800), as part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1801–1922), and the Irish Republic (1919–1922). Following the partition of Ireland in 1922, it became the capital of the Irish Free State (1922–1937) and now is the capital of Ireland. One of the memorials to commemorate that time is the Garden of Remembrance.

Dublin was also a victim of the Northern Irish Troubles, although during this 30-year conflict, violence mainly occurred within Northern Ireland. A Loyalist paramilitary group, the Ulster Volunteer Force, bombed the city during this time – notably in an atrocity known as the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in which 34 people died, mainly in central Dublin. Large parts of Georgian Dublin were demolished or substantially redeveloped in the mid-20th century during a boom in office building. After this boom, the recessions of the 1970s and 1980s slowed down the pace of building. Cumulatively, this led to a large decline in the number of people living in the centre of the city, and by 1985 the city had approximately 150 acres of derelict land which had been earmarked for development and 10 million square feet (900 thousand square metres) of office space. Since 1997, the landscape of Dublin has changed. The city was at the forefront of Ireland's economic expansion during the Celtic Tiger period, with private sector and state development of housing, transport, and business. Following an economic decline during the Great Recession, Dublin has rebounded and as of 2017 has close to full employment but has a significant problem with housing supply in both the city and surrounds.


Travel to Dublin

*taken from Lonely Planet*

A small capital with a huge reputation, Dublin has a mix of heritage and hedonism that will not disappoint. All you have to do is show up. Dublin has been in the news since the 9th century, and while traces of its Viking past have been largely washed away, the city is a living museum of its history since then, with medieval castles and cathedrals on display alongside the architectural splendors of its 18th-century heyday, when Dublin was the most handsome Georgian city of the British Empire and a fine reflection of the aspirations of its most privileged citizens. How power was wrested from their hands is another story, and you'll learn that one in its museums and on its walking tours. Dubliners will admit theirs isn't the prettiest city, but will remind you that pretty things are as easy to like as they are to forget…before showing you the showstopper Georgian bits to prove that Dublin has a fine line in sophisticated elegance. True love is demonstrated with brutal unsentimentally round here, but they'll go soft at the knees when talking about the character and personality of the 'greatest city in the world, if you ignore all the others'. Garrulous, amiable and witty, Dubliners at their ease are the greatest hosts of all, a charismatic bunch with compelling soul and sociability. Even in these times of green juices and heart-monitoring apps, the pub remains the alpha and omega of social interaction in Dublin. The city's relationship with alcohol is complex and conflicted but, at its very best, a night out in the pub is the perfect social lubricant and one of the highlights of a visit to Dublin. Every Dubliner has their favourite haunt, from the never-changing traditional pub to whatever new opening is bringing in the beautiful people. With more than 1000 of them spread about the city, you'll be spoilt for choice. For as long as it's been around, Dublin has looked beyond Irish shores for inspiration. Once the second city of the (British) Empire, Dublin has always maintained a pretty cosmopolitan outlook and in the last three decades has conspicuously embraced diversity and multiculturalism. You'll hear languages and eat foods from all four corners of the globe, and while it used to be said that ‘real’ Dubs had to be born within the canals like their parents and grandparents before them, these days you’re just as likely to meet a Dub whose parents were born in Warsaw, Lagos, Cairo or Beijing.


Must See Sites

Old Library & Book of Kells; Trinity's greatest treasures are found within the Old Library and the incredible Long Room is one of the most photographed rooms in Dublin, for good reason. The star of the show is the Book of Kells, a breathtaking, illuminated manuscript of the four Gospels of the New Testament. Unfortunately, only a few pages are ever on display at one time and in busy times it can be just a quick look for visitors. You can linger more in the magnificent Long Room, which houses around 200,000 of the library's oldest and rarest volumes. Other displays include a one of the last remaining copies of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, read out by Pádraig Pearse at the beginning of the Easter Rising in 1916, as well as the Trinity College Harp, the oldest medieval harp in Ireland and the model for the Guinness logo and the flag of the Irish president.

Kilmainham Gaol; An imposing grey building, built in 1796, it's played a role in virtually every act of Ireland's painful path to independence, and even today, it still has the power to chill. Sometimes referred to as "The Bastille of Ireland", Kilmainham Gaol was decommissioned in 1924 and is now a museum with an enthralling exhibit on the history of Irish nationalism. Browsing the museum will give you excellent context and access to some of the former prisoners' personal belongings and letters. The enthusiastic guides provide a thought-provoking tour of the eerie prison, the largest unoccupied building of its kind in Europe. The highly memorable tour takes about 90 minutes and finishes in the yard where the leaders of the failed 1916 Easter Rising were executed.

Trinity College; Trinity College Dublin is Ireland's most prestigious university, a collection of elegant Georgian and Victorian buildings, cobbled squares and nature-friendly wildflower meadows that make for a delightful place to wander. Located next to Grafton Street in the heart of the city, Trinity College is one of Ireland’s most visited sites, attracting more than two million visitors per year. Its biggest draws are the barrel-vaulted Long Room in Old Library, one of the most photographed rooms in Dublin, and the Book of Kells, the beautifully illuminated Gospel manuscript that dates back to the 9th-century and is one of Ireland's greatest cultural treasures. The campus is a masterpiece of architecture. Notable buildings include the 1798 Chapel, with its painted windows, and the red-brick Rubrics Building which dates from around 1690, making it the oldest building in the college. There’s also the neo-Gothic Museum Building, home to the Zoological Museum (a bit of a hidden gem that's great for kids) with a collection that includes examples of extinct creatures such as Ireland’s Last Great Auk and the Tasmanian Wolf. Not to be outdone is the brutalist, brilliant Berkeley Library, designed by Paul Koralek in 1967, and the Arts & Social Science Building, which is home to the Douglas Hyde Gallery of Modern Art - one of the country's leading contemporary galleries.

National Gallery; A magnificent Caravaggio and a breathtaking collection of works by Jack B Yeats – William Butler Yeats' younger brother – are the main reasons to visit the National Gallery, but certainly not the only ones. Its excellent collection is strong in Irish art, and there are also high-quality collections of every major European school of painting. Spread about its four wings you'll find: works by Rembrandt and his circle; a Spanish collection with paintings by El Greco, Goya and Picasso; and a well-represented display of Italian works dating from the early Renaissance to the 18th century. Fra Angelico, Titian and Tintoretto are among the artists represented, but the highlight is undoubtedly Caravaggio's The Taking of Christ (1602), which lay for over 60 years in a Jesuit house on Leeson Street and was accidentally discovered by chief curator Sergio Benedetti.

Guinness Storehouse; The most popular attraction in Dublin is this multimedia homage to Guinness. An old fermentation plant in the St James's Gate Brewery has been converted into a seven-storey museum devoted to the beer, the company’s history, how the beer is made and how it became the brand it is today. The top floor Gravity Bar is an atrium bar, where you can test your pouring power and drink a pint; just below it is an excellent restaurant for lunch.

14 Henrietta Street; Explore behind the facade of one of Dublin's famous Georgian townhouses, carefully restored to gently peel back layers of complex social history over 250 years. Part museum, part community archive, it covers the magnificent elegance of upper-class life in the 1740s to the destitution of the early 20th century, when the house was occupied by 100 tenants living in near squalor. It is sometimes referred to as the ‘tenement museum’ although it covers a lot more history than that.

St Patrick's Cathedral; Ireland's largest church and the final resting place of Jonathan Swift, St Patrick's stands on the spot where St Patrick himself reputedly baptised the local Celtic chieftains in the 5th century. Fiction or not, it's a sacred bit of turf upon which this cathedral was built between 1191 and 1270.


Must Try Food & Drink

Guinness Draught; Guinness Draught is an iconic dark Irish stout that is made from malted barley and roasted unmalted barley. To this day, Guinness remains one of the most exported beers in the world. The story of its invention starts with Arthur Guinness, who founded the brewery in 1759. At the time, lagers were all the rage, but Arthur decided to experiment with a dark beer known as porter that was becoming immensely popular in England. Unlike other breweries, Guinness heavily relied on export, sending its strong black beer all across the world. Arthur passed on his business to his son Arthur Guinness II, who went on to create the largest brewery in Ireland. Guinness Draught was created in 1959—as a festive brew to celebrate the occasion when Arthur Guinness signed his 9,000-year lease. The beer was an instant success praised for its complexity and rich, creamy, and velvety texture. It combines flavors of bitter hops, malt sweetness, and roasted barley, while the typical aromas include coffee and malt. They pair best with chocolate or caramel desserts, traditional British and Irish dishes, beef, oysters, and seafood. Guinness Draught is sold in cans, bottles, and kegs, and it usually has 4.3% alcohol by volume.

Spice Bag; Irish spice bag is a popular fast-food meal consisting of potato chips and chicken meat with red, green, and chili peppers. The dish that is strongly influenced by Asian cuisine was developed in Dublin in the 2010s, but its exact origins are still unknown. Spice bags are available in Chinese takeaways and chippers, where they are served in paper bags with an accompanying tub of curry.

The Full Irish; Irish breakfast is a traditional meal consisting of fried eggs, vegetables, potatoes, and meats such as bacon, sausages, and both black and white puddings. The large meal is almost always served with Irish soda or brown bread, a cup of tea, and a glass of orange juice on the side. All of the ingredients are most commonly fried in creamy butter. Originally, the breakfast was invented as a way to prepare the people for a day of hard work on the farm, and the meal was especially popular on cold winter mornings. Today, its huge size is making it somewhat impossible to consume on most working day mornings, so it is usually prepared on Sunday morning (or Christmas morning, when it's especially popular). Although it is called a breakfast, it can be consumed at any time of day. Key ingredients are not set in stone, so every household can add other ingredients according to their preference, such as mushrooms, baked beans, boxty, or hash browns.

Irish Stew; Irish stew is a traditional folk stew that first appeared at the beginning of the 19th century and was developed out of necessity to make a meal out of available, leftover ingredients. Originally, the stew was made only with mutton, onions, potatoes, and sometimes barley, while lamb meat and other root vegetables like carrots, turnips, and parsnips were added later. It is said that goat meat was also used in the past, but besides the previously mentioned mutton and lamb, beef is a common addition in today's recipes. Given that the meat used in the dish is chewy and hard, usually bone-in, the stew is cooked slowly for a couple of hours so that the meat turns tender and releases the fat into the stew, thus enhancing the flavor of the entire dish. A stew made with Guinness stout has gained widespread popularity throughout Ireland as it intensifies the flavors and gives the broth a rich, brown color. Traditionally, the stew is consumed on St. Patrick's Day and for Samhain, an old Gaelic festival, but it can also be found on the menus of most Irish restaurants throughout the year.

Breakfast Roll; The Irish breakfast roll is a filling, nutritious sandwich consisting of a bread roll filled with a number of ingredients that are usually a part of the traditional full Irish breakfast, such as bacon, mushrooms, sausages, pudding, and brown sauce. In Ireland, it is often bought at supermarkets or gas stations since it is meant to be consumed on-the-go. Due to its high nutritional value, it is commonly known as the ultimate hangover cure in the country.

Barmbrack; Barmbrack is a sweet bread from Ireland made from yeasted dough and either raisins or sultanas, which Irish also often call bairín breac (lit. speckled loaf). Although simple, barmbrack is a large part of the Halloween tradition in Ireland. Various objects, namely a pea, a stick, a coin, a piece of cloth, and a ring, all of which have a special meaning, would be baked into the bread that is then used in fortune-telling; each person that receives a slice with any of these objects would know their fortune for the following year. The bread is commonly sold in flattened rounds and consumed with a cup of tea as a sweet afternoon snack.

Colcannon; Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish made by mashing together previously cooked potatoes with kale or cabbage, while the creamy consistency is achieved by adding milk and butter, or cream. Salt and pepper are the only seasonings, and colcannon often contains additional ingredients such as chives, onions, scallions, and leeks, but many also like to add bacon for flavor and texture. The dish is traditionally prepared for Halloween and is used in many of the Irish fortune-telling traditions. As far as the origin, the name is derived from the Gaelic word cál ceannann, meaning white-headed cabbage. Typically, the dish is served either as an individual meal or as an accompaniment to meat, often with a knob of butter in the middle.

Baileys; This acclaimed cream liqueur is produced with a combination of neutral alcohol, triple distilled Irish whiskey, and cream, which is supplied by small, local Irish family farms. The base of the liqueur is additionally enriched with vanilla, cocoa, and caramel, to create the distinctive toffee flavor. The drink was invented in Dublin, in the 1970s and it still remains an entirely Irish product and one of the most prominent Irish brands. Baileys is usually served neat, over ice, but it also perfectly blends in coffee or hot chocolate, or in a wide array of cream-based cocktails.

Dublin Coddle; Consisting of sausages, onions, slices of bacon called rashers, and potatoes, Dublin coddle is a typical winter dish. The name probably comes from the French word caudle, meaning to boil gently, while the origin of the dish dates back to the 1700s. Allegedly, it originated from the habit of one-pot cooking employed by the sailors of Ringsend and was a favorite of both Jonathan Swift and Seán O'Casey, as well as mentioned in the works of none other than James Joyce himself. It was invented as a way to use leftovers and was typically prepared in bigger cities where it gained popularity because it was so easy to make. Additional ingredients traditionally include barley and seasoning, consisting only of salt, pepper, and parsley, but nowadays carrots, other root vegetables, tomatoes, cream, and some Guinness stout for the broth are common additions. However, depending on the added ingredients, Dubliners recognize three kinds of coddle — the white, the brown, and the black coddle. The white coddle is just your basic sausages, onions, bacon, and potatoes with some seasoning, while the brown version has either Oxo cubes, beef stock, or oxtail soup added to the mix, which some Dubliners consider a sacrilege. The black coddle, on the other hand, is hardly seen today as it's a remnant of a bygone era. In any case, no matter what kind of coddle is being served, it goes best with soda bread and a pint of Guinness.

Gur Cake; Gur cake is a traditional Irish dessert consisting of a pastry shell filled with bread slices that were soaked in tea, sugar, dried fruit, and spices such as cinnamon. The cake is baked until golden brown, and it is usually served in slices or squares, preferably with a cup of strong tea on the side. Originally, the cake was invented in the 1930s as a way to use up leftover bread at the end of the week, but today it can be found in most Irish bakeries.


Hope you enjoyed today's post.

What other cities should I cover?


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