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Dublin by night
The city occupies a generally flat site, bisected by the River Liffey into the South Side (mainly posh or middle-class) and the North Side (mostly naff). The river is spanned by ten bridges, notably O’Connell Bridge and the Ha’penny Bridge.
DUBLIN (Baile Atha Cliath) (pop. 1,002,000), established by the Vikings as a walled town in the C9th, has been the Capital of Ireland for over a thousand years. It has always been the only real city in Ireland, and was used as a base by the English from the C12th onwards to administer and “civilise” the rest of the island (with varying degrees of success!). It reached its architectural apogee in the C18th, at the height of the Anglo-Irish Protestant Ascendancy. In the C19th, it was regarded as the Second City of the British Empire, after London. It is famous for its literary and theatrical traditions and perhaps even more for its pubs. The city is full of interesting historic buildings, libraries, churches, museums and galleries. Dublin has one of the youngest populations in Europe, reflected in the vibrant music scene and lively nightclubs. The Carnival in June and the RDS Horse Show in August are summer highlights.
Except in its former medieval zone, where the streets are narrow and crooked, the city centre is well laid out, with broad avenues and spacious squares, parks and gardens. The port, confined to the lower reaches of the Liffey, has quays and basins open to large vessels. Two canals, the Royal (154 km) and the Grand (335 km), provide connections between the port area and the northern and southern branches of the River Shannon in the midlands. Within these two canals, Circular Drive, a rather erratic 14 km long avenue, extends along the late C19th periphery of the city, later amplified to the rivers Dodder on the south side and Tolka on the North side. Since then, the municipal limits have been considerably extended. In the last 50 years sprawling suburbia has spread up and down the coast and advanced increasingly westwards, engulfing many former villages. Within the Dublin Metropolitan Area, some places can only be reached by car.
Dublin city centre is very compact, and visitors will have little need to go much beyond the C18th boundaries of the Grand Canal to the south and the Royal Canal to the north, except for excursions (see below).
There are guided coach tours of Dublin, including a City Tourist Bus, but these are not particularly recommended, due to serious traffic congestion and the fact that most sites are anyway within easy walking distance. However, the Dublin Splash, involving a converted military amphibious vehicle that tours streets, the river and canals, looks like it might be fun.
By far the best way to explore the city centre is on foot. I therefore recommend my favourite city-centre walks: