Dublin

Short history

History of Dublin, the capital of Ireland, begins in the 7th century with its establishment by the Gaels. Its name, originating from the Irish term Duibhlinn, refers to a “black pool,” indicative of the city’s early geographical features. The Vikings, seeing the potential of its location, settled in Dublin. Throughout the ages, Dublin has been a battleground and a melting pot of cultures—bearing witness to Viking settlements, Norman invasions, and the Tudor conquest. The city flourished notably in the 18th century, under British rule, becoming the British Empire’s second-largest city and the fifth largest in Europe by population. This era, known as Georgian Dublin, was characterized by significant architectural and urban development.

Following this period, the end of British rule in the early 20th century was one of the key moments in Dublin’s history.

Moving to the end of the 20th century, Dublin underwent profound transformations, including industrial growth, technological innovation, and cultural shifts, solidifying its status as a dynamic, global city.

Geography

Dublin, or Baile Atha Cliath in Irish, is strategically situated on the east coast of Ireland, at the mouth of the River Liffey. The city’s topography is relatively flat, easing urban expansion and development over centuries, yet it is punctuated by several hills and surrounded by low mountain ranges.

Dublin’s climate is characterized by mild, temperate conditions, with moderate rainfall distributed throughout the year, ensuring a green environment synonymous with the Irish landscape. The city experiences average temperatures ranging from 5°C (41°F) in January, the coldest month, to around 20°C (68°F) in July and August, the warmest months, while annual rainfall averages at about 730 mm (29 in), making Dublin less rainy than the west of Ireland.

The urban layout of Dublin reflects a mix of historical and modern influences, with the River Liffey serving as a central axis from which the city expands. This configuration divides Dublin into the Northside and the Southside. 

Population

Dublin has a population exceeding 1.2 million people. While the majority of Dublin’s inhabitants are of Irish descent, the city has experienced an increase in multicultural populations, including individuals from the European Union, Asia, Africa, and beyond, enriching its cultural identity.

English is predominantly spoken in Dublin, serving as the lingua franca that unites its diverse population. However, Irish (Gaelic) also holds a special place, particularly in education and public signage, reflecting Ireland’s national heritage. A wide range of other languages can often be heard across the city, highlighting its cosmopolitan nature.

Religiously, Dublin is traditionally Catholic, but it has evolved to embrace a wide spectrum of faiths due to its growing multicultural demographic. The city’s places of worship include churches, mosques, temples, and synagogues, catering to its increasingly varied population.

Main sights

  • Trinity College Dublin: Founded in 1592, this historic university is renowned for its library which houses the Book of Kells, an ornately illustrated manuscript created by Celtic monks around the year 800.
  • Dublin Castle: Erected in the early 13th century on the site of a Viking settlement, Dublin Castle has been a central figure in Ireland’s history, serving as the seat of English, then British rule in Ireland until 1922.
  • The Guinness Storehouse: Located in the heart of the St. James’s Gate Brewery, this popular tourist attraction enables a look into the history of Guinness, Ireland’s most famous stout, complete with a rooftop bar offering panoramic views of Dublin.
  • St. Patrick’s Cathedral: Built in 1191, St. Patrick’s is Ireland’s largest cathedral and is said to be the final resting place of Jonathan Swift, author of “Gulliver’s Travels” and former Dean of the cathedral.
  • Temple Bar: Known for its nightlife, cobbled streets, and cultural events, Temple Bar is Dublin’s cultural quarter, filled with galleries, restaurants, and traditional Irish pubs.
  • Phoenix Park: One of the largest enclosed public parks in any capital city in Europe, Phoenix Park is home to Dublin Zoo, the official residence of the President of Ireland, and a herd of wild deer.

Food

  • Irish Stew: A heartwarming dish often made with lamb, potatoes, onions, and carrots, simmered slowly to perfection. This stew is a staple of Irish home cooking.
  • Boxty: A traditional Irish potato pancake, boxty can be served in various ways—boiled, baked, or fried. It is made from a mix of grated raw potato and mashed potato combined with flour, milk, and sometimes egg, then cooked like a pancake. 
  • Coddle: A Dublin specialty, Coddle is a savory stew made from leftovers, typically involving sliced pork sausages, bacon, onions, and potatoes. The ingredients are slow-cooked in a broth, making for a hearty and warming dish.
  • Soda Bread: Not necessarily a dish but an essential component of Dublin’s food scene, Irish soda bread is a dense, unleavened bread made with buttermilk and baking soda rather than yeast.
  • Fish and Chips: While not originally Irish, fish and chips have become deeply ingrained in Dublin’s food culture, especially in coastal areas. Freshly caught fish is battered and fried until golden, then served with a generous helping of thick-cut chips.

Fun facts

  • Dublin is home to the oldest pub in Ireland, The Brazen Head, dating back to 1198, making it a living relic of the city’s extensive history.
  • The city’s St. James’s Gate Brewery, founded in 1759, is the birthplace of Guinness, one of the world’s most famous beers. Over 1.5 million visitors flock to the Guinness Storehouse each year.
  • Dublin’s O’Connell Bridge is uniquely almost as wide as it is long, making it one of the few bridges in Europe with this distinctive feature.
  • The Book of Kells, housed in Trinity College Dublin, is considered one of the world’s most famous medieval manuscripts due to its lavish decoration. This treasure dates back to around 800 AD.
  • Phoenix Park in Dublin is one of the largest enclosed public parks in any capital city in Europe, covering an impressive 1,750 acres. It houses the Dublin Zoo, one of the world’s oldest, established in 1831.