Imagine Dublin and visions of Guinness, Leopold Bloom, and hearty breakfast plates piled high with Irish bacon and farm-fresh eggs (and maybe even U2 and Bono) might spring to mind. Think what you will, but Ireland's largest city and its capital for more than a thousand years -- which by the way went smoke-free recently -- is currently enjoying its newfound status as one of the hottest and most livable cities in not just Europe, but the world.
On Ireland's central east coast along the banks of the Liffey River, where so many literary greats beyond James Joyce were born -- Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett, to name a few -- Dublin and its more than 1.1 million residents now show off trendy coffee houses, foodie-friendly restaurant stops and smart boutiques filled with Burberry-clad shoppers combing the racks and shelves. However, there's still much to see from days gone by in this historical city.
The city center is bisected by the River Liffey, a good orientation point for visitors. The Royal Canal forms a skirt through the north half, and the Grand Canal does the same through the south half, which is where most of the sights you're interested in are found. Within the south half, aim for the triangle between O'Connell Bridge, St. Stephen's Green, and Christchurch Cathedral, where you'll find Trinity College, Grafton Street (for shopping), Temple Bar (for hot nightlife), and Dublin Castle.
The upscale neighborhoods and the majority of hotels, restaurants, shops and sights are south of the river. The main shopping thoroughfare is Grafton Street, but you'll find the more exclusive shops along the side streets. Dublin's most beautiful squares, St. Stephen's Green, Merrion Square, and Fitzwilliam Square, are within 10 minutes' walking distance of Grafton Street. Temple Bar lies along the Liffey near Ha'penny Bridge. North of the river is working-class Dublin, but also Dublin's most important theaters -- the Gate and the Abbey, and a pocket of fine Georgian townhouses on and around North Great George's Street.
Dublin has a mild, temperate climate, and though showers can come up suddenly at any time of the year, they usually pass just as quickly. Average temperatures in summer range from 16 - 20 degrees Celsius (60 - 67 degrees Fahrenheit) and in winter from 4 - 7 degrees Celsius (39 - 44 degrees Fahrenheit).
Dublin Quick Facts
English is the primary language in Ireland. Gaelic, the ancient Celtic language of the country, is spoken by about five percent of the population.
Dublin Tourism operates six visitor centers that are open everyday. The main office is at Suffolk Street and offers currency exchange, car rentals, an accommodations reservations service, bus and rail information desks, a gift shop and a cafe. For more information and the other locations and hours, visit www.visitdublin.com.
Major international and local car rental companies operate desks in town, but unless you plan to do a lot of driving outside Dublin, renting isn't a great idea. If you must, remember to keep to the left-hand side of the road, don't drive in bus lanes and plan to spend a pretty penny parking in Dublin's center. In high season, the average weekly cost ranges from $240/200 Euros to as much $1,800/1,525 Euros. Dublin's compactness is ideal for walking, but there are several options that don't include footwork. The Dublin Bus's double-decker buses, single-deck buses and minibuses (called "imps") run every 10 to 15 minutes throughout the city and into its suburbs. Service is daily from 6 a.m. (10 a.m. on Sundays) to a last departure at 11:30 p.m. The minimum fare is $1/0.80 Euros and the maximum is $2.50/2 Euros -- all dependent on the distance traveled. You'll need exact change. From Thursday to Saturday, there is the Nitelink that runs from the city center to the suburbs between midnight and 3 a.m. with a flat fare of $5/4 Euros.
Check out the discounted one-, three-, five- and seven-day passes to save some money (one-day: $6.25/5 Euros, three-day: $11.80/9.50 Euros, five-day: $18/14.50 Euros and seven-day: $21.75/17.50 Euros). For more information, visit www.dublinbus.ie.
DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) is the electric-transit train system that runs mostly at ground level or on elevated tracks. Service is about every 10 to 20 minutes, Monday - Saturday 7 a.m. - midnight and Sunday 9:30 a.m. - 11 p.m. Minimum fare is $1.25/1 Euro. One-day and 10-journey passes, as well family tickets, are available at reduced rates. For further information, visit www.irishrail.ie.
The new tram system, LUAS, has three lines that link the city's center at Connolly Station and St. Stephen's Green with the suburbs of Tallaght, Dundrum and Sandyford, departing every five minutes at peak hours. For more information and fares, visit www.luas.ie.
There seems to be a bit of a taxi shortage in Dublin, especially in the evenings and on weekends, but the city government is trying to remedy the situation. Hailing a cab is difficult, so prepare to line up at ranks found at the bus and train stations, restaurants, hotels and prime streets. A typical 2mi/3km daytime journey will cost about $9/7.25 Euros, increasing by another $2/1.60 Euros at night. Some taxi companies operate a 24-hour radio-call service, among them Co-Op (01-676-6666), Shamrock Radio Cabs (01-855-5444) and VIP Taxis (01-478-3333). Calling for a cab will add an extra $1.90/1.50 Euros.
Only intrepid bikers should consider peddle pushing through Dublin. Between the traffic and one-way streets, it can get a bit dicey. For rentals, which average about $23/18.50 Euros per day, try Raleigh Ireland (email@example.com) on Kylemore Road.
Where You're Docked
At Maritime House, North Wall Quay -- less than a 10-minute taxi ride into Dublin's center. There's not much when you disembark, as the area is virtually all industrial, so your best bet is to board one of the shuttle buses your cruise line has arranged for a trip into town or to get a cab into town for about $18/15 Euros.
Staying in Touch
ILAC Centre, off Henry St (free)
Central Cybercafe, 6 Grafton St.
Planet Cyber Cafe, 13 St. Andrews St.
Bad Ass Cafe: An institution, albeit quirky, in Temple Bar for everything from burgers to pizza -- and it's actually all pretty good. Per-person cost for three courses with wine will run about $22. Daily 11:30 a.m. - midnight. 9 - 11 Crown Alley.
Jacob's Ladder: Under the heading of nouvelle Irish. Per-person cost for three courses including wine will run about $40. Reservations required. Monday - Friday 12:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. 4 Nassau St.
Mermaid Cafe: Flawless Irish and Scottish cuisine with a modern twist. Per-person cost for three courses including wine will run about $25. Reservations required. Monday - Saturday 12:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m., Sunday brunch 12:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. 70 Dame St.
One Pico: Continental cuisine at its best. Don't miss their signature starter of seared foie gras with pineapple tatin. Per-person cost for three courses including wine will run about $25. Reservations required. Monday - Saturday 12:30 p.m. - 2 p.m. 5 Moleworth Pl.
Peacock Alley: There's an offshoot in London now, probably because the Mediterranean-infused cuisine is artfully joyful. Per-person cost for three courses with wine will run about $65. Daily 6 p.m. - 11 p.m. Fitzwilliam Hotel, St. Stephen's Green.
Peploe's Wine Bistro: Sure, wine's the name of the game here, what with 14 pages of bottle listings, with no less than 25 of them available by the glass -- but oh, the squab with blueberries drizzled with cauliflower sauce! Per-person cost for three courses with wine will run about $100. Daily 6 p.m. - 11 p.m. 16 St. Stephen's Green.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The national currency in Ireland is the Euro. Currency exchange can be made in most banks and post offices as well as some hotels and travel agencies. Traveler's checks should be exchanged at banks or exchange offices since very few businesses will accept them (ATMs and credit cards make them nearly obsolete). For the best exchange rate, use ATMs, found almost everywhere.
Note: Many European ATMs display only numerals on the keypad. For pin codes that include letters, commit to memory or jot down the translation to numbers.
If you're visiting from outside the European Union, you can get back 17.36% of the Value Added Tax (VAT) you paid on certain items. You will need to carry your passport with you and fill in a form at the time of purchase. Present the forms to Customs at the final departure from the European Union, but keep in mind the agents most likely will ask to see the goods. For more information, visit www.globalrefund.com.
The Irish Life Shopping Centre between Abbey and Talbot streets is close by, if you're dead-set on sticking close to the ship (Monday - Wednesday and Friday - Saturday 7:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m., Thursday until 7 p.m.). You're also within walking distance of the Georgian-style 1791 Customs House, where you can stroll through the arcades and pavilions. The Visitor Center describes the building's history, including the fire of 1921 during the War of Independence, which caused extensive damage. Monday - Friday 10 a.m. - 12:30 p.m., Saturday - Sunday 12:30 p.m. - 2 p.m. Customs House Quay.
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