Small City, Big Surprises
Yes, it’s true. Dublin ranks just 49th on the list of the European Union’s biggest cities. When it comes to capital cities, we’re small. But, as the saying goes, the best things come in small packages…
Famous faces busk on our streets, masterpieces dot the walls of our galleries, birdwatchers flock to our biosphere and hikers make the trek. Whatever you’re looking for, Dublin can deliver. The only thing we never guarantee is sunshine.
Thanks to immigrants from around the world, Dublin’s culinary horizons have been drastically expanded. Don’t worry, you can still get the finest bag of chips from our historic chip shops, but you can also savour Mexican delights from a food truck, enjoy Korean in a traditional Irish pub or devour authentic Lebanese dishes too.
Walk the city centre streets and you might hear the soothing sounds of the harp. You might see a statue move out of the corner of your eye. You might have to dodge a dog made out of sand. Locals often hurry past, but take a closer look. Although occasionally baffling, Dublin’s street performers have a history of high-achieving.
Some of Ireland’s biggest names started busking on Grafton Street, including Oscar-winner Glen Hansard and Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela, who later performed for Barack Obama in the White House. And from time to time, bona fide megastars come back to the streets – U2’s Bono regularly leads a charity busking gig on Christmas Eve.
Dubliners have a thing for the arts. Icons like WB Yeats, Oscar Wilde, Louis le Brocquy and Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott all hailed from Dublin. So it’s no surprise that our cultural institutions are jammed with Irish treasures. But international gems are synonymous with the city too, with priceless masterpieces in our galleries, critically-acclaimed productions in our theatres and superstars strutting on our stages.
It’s easy to enjoy the great outdoors in Dublin too, with lots of green areas within the city limits. The jewel in the crown though has got to be the Phoenix Park. Boosting over 1,750 acres of land, it’s one of the largest parks in any European city. Founded in 1662 as a deer park, it still has a 400-strong herd. They share the space with Dublin Zoo and the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, who also resides within the park’s walls in Áras an Uachtaráin.
Dublin Bay rewards early birds with unbeatable sunrises, but it’s much more than pretty scenery. In 2015, UNESCO-designation was expanded to include the entire Dublin Bay biosphere, stretching from Howth Head in the north all the way down to Dalkey Island in the south. Come here to spot rare and internationally important species, including the Grey Heron, the Brent Goose and the Irish Mountain Hare.
If you like your scenery from a height, head to the Dublin Mountains. There are plenty of different routes to choose from, but the top haunt is the Hell Fire Club. Built in 1725 on an ancient burial ground, legend has it that the infamous club performed animal and human sacrifices in black masses in the lodge, and that the devil himself played cards there. The structure is still standing and ready to explore.
Dublin, despite its diminutive size, is full of surprises, diversity and things to discover. As the capital matures only one thing remains constant – it always has a new trick up its sleeve.