The Rough Guide to Dublin 3

(Rough Guide Mini Guides)

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INTRODUCTION

A vibrant and compact city, Dublin has a pace and energy quite at odds with the relaxed image of Ireland as a whole. Prosperity generated by the Republic’s economic boom has brought fundamental changes to the life of its capital

A vibrant and compact city, Dublin has a pace and energy quite at odds with the relaxed image of Ireland as a whole. Prosperity generated by the Republic’s economic boom has brought fundamental changes to the life of its capital, reversing the tide of emigration and creating a dynamic cultural centre. The ongoing rapidity of transformation is constantly apparent; new exhibitions, chic bars and restaurants and fashionable shops all signify a major shift in Dublin’s identity, no longer dominated by the insularity of the past, but increasingly adopting a more global outlook.

The city’s emergence from provincialism is, however, only part of the picture. Increases in population have left Dublin bulging at the seams which, of course, brings its problems, not least in terms of the high cost of housing and rents: spend just a couple of days here and you’ll come upon inner-city deprivation as bad as any in Europe. Furthermore, the arrival of numbers of refugees and asylum-seekers has challenged perceived notions about Ireland’s homogeneity – and not all Dubliners have embraced the concept of multiculturalism.

Dublin’s collective spirit has its contradictions, too, with youthful enterprise set against a deeply embedded traditionalism. However, the collision of the old order and the forward-looking younger generations is an essential part of the appeal of this extrovert capital, and, despite their differences, its inhabitants’ famous wit and garrulous sociability are a constant feature of Dublin life. In the legendary – and plentiful – bars, the buskers of Grafton Street and the patter of the tour guides who ply the streets with visitors in tow, there’s an unmistakable love of banter. The city’s considerable literary heritage owes much to this trait, and on either side of the Liffey you’ll find reminders of literary personalities who are as intrinsic to Dublin’s character as the river itself – from the bronze pavement plaques following the route of Leopold Bloom, hero of James Joyce’s Ulysses, to the Oscar Wilde statue striking an insouciant pose in Merrion Square.

Ireland’s economic growth during the 1990s has lent new impetus to just about every facet of the capital’s cultural life. Historic treasures are being innovatively promoted and displayed, from the new Millennium Wing of the National Gallery to the wealth of decorative arts on show at the Collins Barracks, while the city’s social and political history is evoked with flair, both in the abundance of theme-based tours and in the fabric of the city itself. Everywhere in Dublin you’ll find evidence of a rich past well worth exploring: exceptional Viking finds excavated at Wood Quay (and now on show in the National Museum); impressive reminders of Anglo-Norman and British imperial power; elegant Georgian streets and squares; and monuments to Ireland’s violent struggle for independence from the British. The visual arts are enjoying a higher public profile too, with mouthwatering exhibitions in the city’s numerous galleries supplemented by the development of a unique design scene that’s characterized by subtlety, experimentation and exploration of Ireland’s Celtic past. Throughout the city there’s a palpable sense that Dublin’s cultural heritage is coming into its own – with striking confidence.

Dublin is, of course, known for its pubs, and for many, sampling the myriad bars and buzzing nightlife is an integral part of visiting the city. There’s also plenty of music on offer and, while the capital has nothing to match rural Ireland, there are plenty of traditional music bars as well as an abundance of rock and jazz venues, and a vital and ever-changing club scene. Theatre, too, has long played a part in the city’s cultural life – you can catch plays by O’Casey, Synge and Shaw all year round at venues such as the Abbey Theatre, as well as experiencing the vitality of Dublin’s continuing dramatic tradition during the annual theatre and fringe festivals. ...Continua

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