Europe: Ireland - Dublin | Grand Facades, Pubs & Literary Prowess

by Lori Seto

Ireland is known as the birthplace of many things: James Joyce, Guinness, Gerry Adams, Sinead O' Connor, The Cranberries . . . and the term "honeymoon." The word refers to a honey-based drink called mead that newlyweds would share for one full moon (a month) after their wedding to give them powers of virility and fertility.

Start your tour of the Irish countryside in the culture-filled capital city -- and college town -- of Dublin, which is divided into north and south shores by the Liffey River. The south bank is home to the lively Temple Bar and Grafton Street areas as well as the renowned Trinity College.

In A Word: Words

Lovingly called "Dear Dirty Dumpling" by ex-resident writer James Joyce, Dublin has inspired a wellspring of words, from the poems of William Butler Yeats and the plays of George Bernard Shaw to the songs of U2. Here, you can visit the Dublin Writers Museum, James Joyce Museum, and tranquil Trinity College, the 400-year-old home of the

Book of Kells

, a 9th-century gospel considered to be the most magnificent manuscript ever created. Famous alums include Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, Samuel Beckett, and George Berkeley, whose last name now graces another little town of learning in Northern California.

Why We'd Go: Six Features You'll Never Forget

  • Tours & Tastings: Visit the Hop Store at the 250-year-old Guinness brewery for an audiovisual show and one free pint of the stout black suds; learn how whiskey is made and sample "holy water" (as whiskey is known to the Irish) at the Old Jameson Distillery.
  • Columns: For the best examples of 18th-century Georgian-era digs, don't miss the Bank of Ireland, City Hall, the Custom House, and Trinity College. Interior lives are evoked at the Newman House off Stephen's Green or Newbridge House, a manor set on 350 acres of land 12 miles north of the city.
  • Green patches: Retreat to one of the city's many squares and parks for a breather. Particularly blissful spots include Merrion Square, St. Stephen's Green, Parnell Square (note the first-floor windows built large enough for passersby to peer in at distinguished guests), and Phoenix Park, Europe's largest public park.
  • Shopping: For Irish goodies -- knitwear, pottery, crafts, art, jewelry, hand-dipped chocolates, and farmhouse cheeses -- visit the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, one block off Grafton Street, the "Fifth Avenue" of Dublin. Hot antique spots are Molesworth, Patrick, and Francis Streets; Nassau and Dawson Streets are great for books.
  • 17th-century wonders: Hop a taxi to an area west of the city to see the dramatic and grim Kilmainham Gaol, a prison where leaders of the 1916 Easter Uprising were held before being executed, and the stunning Royal Hospital Kilmainham, which now houses the Irish Museum of Modern Art.
  • Nightlife: Dance at The Kitchen, a nightclub part owned by U2, Lillie's Bordello (go for the name alone), or Ri Ra -- "uproar" in Irish -- for let-your-hair-down fun. For a pub that offers more than warm beer, snuggle in for music at the Brazen Head, Dublin's oldest pub, or Cassidy's. Boisterous cabaret can be found at the Abbey Tavern; drama at the venerable Abbey (home of Ireland's national theater company) and Gate theaters; and a merry mix of productions at the Gaiety Theatre and Project Arts Centre.

Pucker Up: Best Place to Smooch

Imagine yourselves a fair maiden and gallant Viking at the romantic Malahide Castle, set on 250 park acres in the pretty seaside town of Malahide.

When to Go: Dublin At Its Best

  • Best weather: May to September; short showers common year-round
  • Best prices: Mid-September to June
  • Festival highlights: Cruise the Temple Bar Blues Festival for three days of free music at more then 20 pubs in mid-August; the Dublin Film Festival takes place the first week of March; the Dublin Theatre Festival occurs during the first two weeks of October; Bloomsday -- 24 hours in the life of Leopold Bloom, the main character in Joyce's Ulysses -- is celebrated June 16.

Photo: Failte Ireland

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