Dublin-born icon, Oscar Wilde wrote, "It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious!" If there's one thing that's central to Dubliners, it's the dry wit you'll find here; the tongue-in-cheek, good-hearted humour that makes teasing just as much a sign of the welcome as it is part of the vernacular. The biggest draw to Dublin has to be its people. They’re the reason the city was recently voted in the top 10 friendliest cities in the world; why it has the greatest nightlife; why its art and culture is some of the most influential and vibrant to be found anywhere.
Dublin’s legacy stretches back over a millennium of history, change and development. The first known settlement here was Áth Cliath, which took its name from a major ford across the tidal River Liffey. Around the sixth century, a monastery named Duiblinn (Irish for ‘blackpool’) was founded, where Vikings eventually arrived.
After the Anglo-Norman invasion in 1170, Dublin became the capital of the English Lordship of Ireland and was populated extensively with settlers from England and Wales.
The early 16th century was a turbulent time when King Henry VIII’s split with the church led to the closure of monasteries and the destruction of religious institutions with papal ties. This brought about a revolution in landholding in the city, including the adaptation of All Saints into Trinity College, Ireland’s first university.
By the end of the seventeenth century, Dublin was the capital of the Kingdom of Ireland, ruled by the Protestant New English minority. In order to exert more control over the Catholic majority in Ireland, the oppressive Penal Laws were implemented vigorously during the Georgian Period. By 1700, the population had surpassed 60,000, making it the second largest city in the British Empire.
After the 1800 Act of Union, much of Ireland’s governing class, aristocracy and gentry left Dublin for London or travelled back to their Irish estates. Dublin slowly became more distinctly middle class and mercantile. Parliament House was sold to the Bank of Ireland (which remains there to this day). Smaller houses were constructed, this time for merchants, doctors, lawyers and bankers. The city centre became the place where business was done, but where the destitute lived; while the glorious Victorian suburbs emerged as the preferred areas to set up home.
The politics of 19th-century Ireland were characterised by constitutional, social and revolutionary struggle – such as the campaign to repeal the Act of Union and restore self-government. Later, the Home Rule movement under Charles Stewart Parnell eventually led to the culmination of modern Irish political history and the struggle for independence playing out on the very streets of Dublin. The 1916 Rising, the Irish War of Independence (1919), the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1922 and the Civil War the following year all left their mark on the city. The destroyed areas were rebuilt and Dublin became a capital once again. The Irish government still sits in Dublin today, in Leinster House on Kildare Street in the city centre.
Today, Dublin is a vibrant European capital city. With over 520,000 people living here and a metropolitan population of nearly two million, its history and heritage is very much valued as the heart of this thriving, modern city. Its medieval streetscape is faithfully preserved around the cobbled streets of Temple Bar, and stretches of the old city walls can still be found in Wood Quay and at St Audoen’s Arch.
An introduction to the districts of Dublin The River Liffey flows through the centre of Dublin dividing it in two. Traditionally, the north side of the river was home to the city’s working class residents, while the south side was associated with Dublin’s middle and upper classes. However, this is changing as neighbourhoods like Smithfield, Stoneybatter and Clontarf to the north become gentrified. Today, the county would be more accurately described as having a west-east division. Although there isn’t any river drawing a line between the two areas, the east side of Dublin is generally considered to be more affluent – particularly along the coast.
Is Dublin expensive? While there are plenty of reasons to live in Dublin, it’s not a cheap city. A recent survey by The Economist shows that the cost of living in Dublin is among the highest in Europe. While Dublin is less expensive than Paris, Geneva, Copenhagen, Oslo, Vienna, Helsinki and Frankfurt, it’s more expensive than the likes of Amsterdam, Berlin, Barcelona and Milan. Our nearest neighbours in London pay slightly more for everyday essen