Magical Nights in Dublin
I spent only two nights in Dublin – which sadly meant only one full day in the city, but even after just a short time there, I know that Dublin will always stand out as a great place to visit. My friend and I stayed in a hostel in the Temple Bar area, where I would completely recommend staying. It was really nice, and my friend and I (we’re both female) felt very safe there – and in Dublin in general – both in and out of the hostel itself. Also, there’s no lack of options for dining there: there’s a bunch of streets lined with pubs, bars, and restaurants. The vast majority of these also had live music every night, which I would recommend checking out.
As for the sights, I highly recommend St. Patrick’s Cathedral – it’s beautiful! The tour of Dublin Castle was great, too. The building that’s currently there is a more modern structure, but a little remains of the original castle, which you can visit on the tour. (On the tour, you also get a very informative lesson on how Ireland gained its independence from the UK.) The City Centre is a lot of fun, too, if you want to do some shopping – though even just walking around the City Centre streets you can stumble upon some of Dublin’s famous sights, like the Molly Malone statue.
Culturally, one of the coolest things I noticed about Dublin was that people were actually speaking Irish to one another! Like Cardiff (the capital city of Wales, where my friend and I were studying abroad), all of the street signs are written in Irish and English, but unlike in Cardiff, I actually heard the language being used conversationally. So keep an ear out for people who sound like they’re speaking a language that isn’t English – it might be Irish!
The best tip I can give someone traveling to Dublin is this: find a pub anywhere in the city (preferably one of the smaller ones that looks like it’s populated mostly with locals), and wait and see if anyone, off in a corner of the pub, starts playing some traditional Irish folk music. If you’re lucky, this might just grow into an impromptu Irish music session! This is exactly what happened to my friend and I. We were having dinner in a Temple Bar pub and started talking to an Irish college student who was there, too. He told us about his friends, who were playing music in a pub nearby. My friend and I decided that we would go along to see his friends, and it was probably one of the best decisions we made. (At first we were a bit wary, since we had only just met the guy we were following, but as my friend and I had already decided that we would leave the moment either of us felt uncomfortable, we thought it was a risk worth taking-and was it ever! And, thankfully, perfectly safe, as well.)
We had assumed that his friends were playing in a band, which would have been cool enough, but when we got to the pub, we saw this wasn’t the case: what he’d meant was that his friends happen to play instruments, and they were in a pub waiting for other people to come along who happen to play instruments so that they could play together. Listening to this group of people just playing whatever came to their heads – many of them on traditional Irish instruments – was, honestly, magical. And when the pub closed, we moved down the street to one that was open later! And when that pub closed, we went to one open later still! At each pub, the line-up of players changed slightly, but the quality of the music never did.
All of the musicians were extremely welcoming, too, as were the other pub patrons who were there to enjoy the music; they were happy to talk to us about Ireland, Irish music, Irish customs, and anything else. One kind lady, who started talking to us just because she heard us speak with American accents (she was originally from the States herself), even taught us a bit of Irish and introduced us to the concept that in Ireland, when you get a bunch of people together, you may well be asked to share a song or a story! (Yes, even if you’ve never met before!) Honestly, this pub experience was the highlight of my time in Dublin, and I highly recommend finding this out for yourself.
If you’d like more information about my time in Dublin, feel free to visit my blog: http://shinyroses.livejournal.com/