Dublin Travel Guide

Dublin has changed immeasurably over the past decade, in the wake of a remarkable economic boom.

At first glance, it may not seem much to brag about, and is perhaps run-down in parts, but a little exploration reveals pockets of Georgian grace, a series of priceless pubs, a proud cultural life and a plethora of open-armed, open-hearted people who will put serious dents in your cynicism. Dubliners are intensely proud of their history and their town.

Dublin's burst of prosperity gave it a new confident sheen, but what remains special is the spirit of the people, who ensure that despite whirlwind changes, Dublin remains one of Europe's most down-to-earth, friendly and accessible cities.

These days Dublin ranks among the top tourist destinations in Europe, and this vibrant city hums with a palpable sense that it is creating a new cultural heritage.

Facts in a glance

Area: 921 sq km
Population: 1.12 million
Country: Ireland
Time Zone: GMT/UTC 0 (Greenwich Mean Time)
Telephone Area Code: 01


Celtic habitation was beside the River Liffey and the city's Irish name, Baile Atha Cliath (the Town of the Hurdle Ford) comes from an ancient river crossing that can still be pinpointed today.

9th century: Viking raids had become a fact of Irish life, but some of the Danes chose to stay rather than rape, pillage and depart. They established a vigorous trading port where the River Poddle joined the Liffey in a black pool, or dubh linn.

1014: At the Battle of Clontarf, the Irish defeated the Vikings and broke their military power. But again many of the Danes remained, adopting Christianity and building churches, marrying with the native Irish.

12th century: The Normans, having consolidated control in England, moved west and also merged with the Irish rather than ruling over them. Until Elizabeth I (1558-1603), real English control over Ireland was restricted to the narrow eastern coastal strip, the Pale, surrounding Dublin. Beyond the Pale, Ireland remained unbowed, and raids from the fierce Irish warriors constantly threatened Dublin's Anglo-Norman stronghold.

14th century: It was produced an attempted Scottish invasion and the Black Death's devastation in 1348; the 16th saw a failed revolt against Henry VIII and Henry's dissolution of the monasteries.

1592: Elizabeth I founded Trinity College and gave Dublin an educational tradition that it maintains today.

1649: Oliver Cromwell took the city and seized Ireland's best land to distribute among his soldiers. Ireland backed James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. When the defeated Catholic James II fled to safety, his supporters were excluded from parliament and from many basic rights.

18th-century: The Protestant Ascendancy led to Dublin's boom years; it became the British Empire's second city, after London. The nouveau riche abandoned the confines of medieval Dublin, moving to a new Dublin of stately squares surrounded by fine Georgian mansions, where the slums soon followed.

1798: A subsequent century of trouble and unrest included a failed invasion by the French-backed Wolfe Tone and an unsuccessful revolt.

1803: There was another revolt, but it was badly planned and ill-conceived. Robert Emmet, the ringleader, was executed outside St Catherine's Church in the Liberties and joined an increasingly long list of eloquent Irish martyrs. The Act of Union, which came into effect on January 1, 1801, created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and ended the separate Irish Parliament, whose members moved to the British Parliament. The dramatic growth that characterised Dublin in the previous century came to a halt and the city fell into a steady decline.

Daniel O'Connell campaigned to recover basic rights for Ireland's Catholic population, gaining the nickname 'The Liberator'. However, he was only willing to agitate within the law, and in the 1840s his support faded after he cancelled a 'monster meeting' at Clontarf when the British objected.

1840: Ireland was struck by its direst disaster, the Great Famine. Dublin's decline accelerated. Although the city escaped the worst effects between 1845 and 1851, the streets and squares were still packed with refugees trying to escape from the countryside. At the same time, the clamour for Home Rule was growing louder. Charles Stewart Parnell (1846-91) was elected to the British Parliament in 1875 and campaigned for a Dublin parliament; however, the Home Rule Bill was repeatedly defeated. Parnell, dubbed the 'King of Ireland', suffered a dramatic fall from power when the Catholic Church found Parnell to be morally unfit as a leader because of his affair with a married woman. Resentment of British rule became violent in 1882, when the British chief secretary was assassinated by a group known as The Invincibles. This contributed to the often bitter mistrust with which the Church, in its conservative mode, is still regarded by many Irish.

20th century: Ireland was marked by the formation of the republican political movement Sinn Fein (We Ourselves). Agitation against Home Rule was on the increase in the Protestant-dominated northern Irish counties of Ulster, and authorities turned a blind eye to arms shipments coming into Ireland for irregular Protestant forces. That year Home Rule was passed into law but its implementation was suspended for the duration of WWI. This was not the case when the Asgard slipped into Howth harbour with a shipment of rifles for the Irish nationalist cause in 1914. Thousands of Irish volunteers fought in the war; the nationalists among them believed their efforts would ensure that Britain stood by its promise of Home Rule.

1916: Opposition to British rule exploded again in yet another ill-planned, poorly executed revolt, the Easter Rising. The General Post Office, the headquarters of the rising, was quickly taken by the rebels and other key points in the city were secured. However, the Irish forces were soon outnumbered and outgunned. After weeks of fighting the garrisons surrendered and the leaders were jailed. The British administration disastrously overreacted with 77 death sentences (though many were not carried out), which transformed the leaders of the Easter Rising from public nuisances into national heroes.

1918: The general election saw republican Sinn Fein candidates win nearly three-quarters of the Irish parliamentary seats. Instead of attending at Westminster, they declared Ireland independent, forming the first Dáil Éireann, the Irish Assembly.

At the same time terrorist strikes against symbols of British control began, led by the Irish Republican Army (IRA), the military wing of Sinn Fein. The British countered by introducing a tough auxiliary force, known as the Black and Tans because of the colour of their uniforms. Their violent tactics simply increased anger against the British.

1920: On November 11, Ireland's first 'Bloody Sunday' signalled a further escalation in the struggle. The violence fumed until a truce was signed on July 11, 1921, followed by the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which created the still-subservient Irish Free State on December 6, 1921. The six Ulster counties that make up Northern Ireland opted out of the new state. Thus the seeds were planted for a problem that continues to fester.

Although the Dáil narrowly ratified the Treaty and the general public did the same by a larger margin, civil war broke out in June 1922. On August 22, revolutionary leader Michael Collins was killed in an ambush near Cork. The Dáil then passed a bill making the death sentence mandatory for any IRA member possessing a gun.

1923: In May, 77 executions had taken place and the president of Sinn Fein ordered the IRA to drop their arms. The Civil War ground to a halt, driving a wedge between Sinn Fein as a political force and the IRA as a terrorist group.

1932: Former Sinn Fein leader de Valera and his new party, Fianna Fáil (Warriors of Ireland), won an election, repeating this victory with an increased majority in 1933. The oath to the British Crown went, the British governor general soon followed and, by the outbreak of WWII, Ireland was a republic in all but name. The forces that lost the Civil War in 1922 had taken power through the ballot box 10 years later. The government declared the Free State to be a republic and Ireland left the British Commonwealth in 1949.

1980: Ireland was once more in economic difficulties.

1990: Ireland underwent a dramatic change in its economic fortunes. The country and Dublin in particular experienced its greatest period of economic success since independence. Signs of the so-called 'Celtic Tiger' economy were everywhere, from the cranes dotting the skyline to the new Mercedes purring around town.

Since 1993 to 1997 Ireland's economy grew by a whopping 40%, leading to record-low unemployment, higher standards of living and lower interest rates. But in the new millenium growth levelled off significantly, and economists have expressed concern about rising inflation, interest rates and spiralling house prices.The renaissance prompted an explosion in tourism and a reversal of the age-old trend of emigration.

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