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Although founded in the 9th Century by the Vikings, little remains of Dublin's early history but its cobblestoned streets which showcase layer upon layer of history with Medieval era cathedrals and castles alongside the elegant Georgian facades from its heyday in the 18th Century as the British Empire's second city. Today, the capital city of Ireland boasts a cosmopolitan vibe, with restaurants catering to the diverse tastes of its increasingly multicultural populace. Dublin's pubs remain, however, the highlight of its nightlife and social scene, with the amiable natives mingling with tourists over pints of the legendary, local Guinness. For those with a taste for more genteel epicurean delights, Dublin also harbors Michelin starred restaurants. The city's penchant for revelry is balanced by its repute as a UNESCO City of Literature, associated with literary luminaries like Yeats, Joyce and Beckett. From architectural monuments like the Saint Patrick's Cathedral and historic sites like the Kilmainham Gaol to several fine museums, art galleries and theaters, Dublin envelops a wealth of culture and history into its relatively modest embrace. Child-friendly attractions like Dublin Zoo are quite popular as well, as are the city's designer boutiques and lovely parks.
Completed in 1779, the City Hall designed by Thomas Cooley housed the Royal Exchange. It is an elegant reminder of the wealth and opulence of Dublin in the city's 18th-century heyday. Today, City Hall is managed by the Dublin Corporation, which has restored the building beautifully. The great central atrium, complete with gold-leafed dome and mosaic floor, is one of the most impressive public spaces around. The history of Dublin is told in a vivid, computer-aided series of exhibitions.
The Millennium Bridge is one of the finest additions to the city landscape in recent times and is certain to become as loved as the neighbouring Ha'penny Bridge. The winner of a design competition with 153 entries, its designers describe the parabolic arch as "simple, lightweight, transparent and structurally daring". The pedestrian bridge is wheelchair accessible and should be crossed at night so that the subtle and beautiful lighting can be appreciated. The span was actually constructed fifty miles from Dublin - in Carlow - and was the single largest object to have ever been transported over land in Ireland. It only took 25 minutes to lift the structure into place - a fitting millennial tribute to twentieth-century design and technology.
Formerly located in the National Library's Kildare Street premises, the National Photographic Archive is now housed in an excellent purpose-built space in Temple Bar. The archive is dedicated solely to the preservation and care of the library's photographic collections, and facilities include a reading room, a darkroom and a small retail area. Currently, the Archive features an exhibition of photographs taken from the Commissioners of Irish Lights. Admission: Free.
Temple Bar is often used to symbolize the extraordinary changes which Dublin has undergone in recent years. In the 1980s, this district of the city was earmarked as the site for a vast bus station. Galleries and small shops colonized the cheap properties, however, the bus-depot plans were abandoned, and the area now boasts of a warren of bustling shops, cafes, galleries and restaurants. Some of the country's best cultural institutions have found a home in Temple Bar, including the Irish Film Centre and the Gallery of Photography. Two new civic spaces, Temple Bar Square and the striking Meeting House Square have been created and utilized by artist and traders. In short, this district is one of the city's most colorful and vibrant; make a point of seeing it for yourself.
The development of Temple Bar as a cultural quarter was the inspiration for the creation of this innovative city square. Surrounded on all sides by contemporary architecture, the square is used for outdoor films, concerts and art, check the local press for details of upcoming events. The market on Saturdays showcases the best of Irish home-made and organic food, and musicians will serenade you as you munch. It's a good idea to wander down here on a Saturday afternoon to see what's going on.
Dublin Castle symbolized English rule for 700 years, ever since the Anglo-Normans built their fortress on this site. Later, the castle was to serve as the headquarters of the English-appointed Viceroy of Ireland. It was not until 1922 that it was finally handed over to the Irish Free State. The castle's apartments boast of opulent, wonderfully-decorated rooms, while carpets of rolling, formal gardens lend it an alluring aura. Sheltered within the castle's fabric are insignia and collectibles of historical interest. The Castle is in use even today as a venue for state functions as well as home to multiple government agencies. The castle grounds are also home to the magnificent Chapel Royal and the splendid Chester Beatty Library. A window into the country's monumental, medieval past, this mighty castle is indeed one of the most priceless possessions of Dublin.
Awash in splendid Gothic and Romanesque architectural styles, the imposing Christ Church Cathedral underlines both, magnificence and might. The church is one of Dublin's two Anglican cathedrals and has stood on this site since the 6th Century. The present building was founded in 1172 by Strongbow, the Anglo-Norman conqueror of Dublin. In the hundreds of years since, the building has weathered many changes of design, and periods of steady deterioration. Since 1870 however, the Cathedral has been gradually and sensitively restored. The cathedral houses some of the remains of Strongbow, a pair of monumental, carved statues, aged books, altar artifacts, a casket containing the heart of St Laurence (the patron saint of Dublin), a tabernacle and candlesticks used by James II in 1689 when the Latin Mass was briefly celebrated. Furthermore, the cathedral is complete with a string of archways, a smattering of stained glass windows, and one of Ireland's largest crypts. The cathedral choir is one of the finest in Ireland.