Dublin: Not the Quaint Capital I Thought it Would Be

Dublin. Capital of the Republic of Ireland. That small country next to the UK. I always thought that Dublin would be a small, quaint, quiet capital city. I expected to see old couples sat on benches watching the world go by, cute little pubs with a chubby landlord at the door and to hear the murmuring of Irish folk with their distinctive accents. But I’ve experienced none of the above here in Dublin.

It’s a much more modern, vibrant and international city than I imagined. If you closed your eyes and just listened on the streets, you could mistake it for any other capital city as you hear the beeping of the traffic lights, different languages being spoken and the whir of car engines and buses that pass by. I am surprised to hear so many Spanish speakers on the streets and not all of them are tourists. The River Bar holds a weekly Latin night and Mexican ‘cantinas’ are dotted around the city adjacent to Italian, Lebanese, Greek, Korean, American and Chinese restaurants.

I first (and last) came to Dublin as a child, and I don’t remember it at all. But I can’t help but feel like the big wide world has honed in on Dublin and taken away some of it’s Irishness. Something tells me the Ha’penny Inn of Temple Bar which has “TRADITIONAL IRISH PUB” blazened on its walls is not as traditional as it claims to be.  Don’t get me wrong, the bridge itself over the murky river Liffey was lovely, painted in white with only a few love locks on it, but the pub with the same name just seemed a bit touristy and even tacky to me.

Halfpenny Bridge
Halfpenny Bridge

Dublin still keeps it’s Irish charm in the architecture, Celtic patterns, grand Catholic churches and the Irish language which accompanies each street name.

Irish and English

Guiness is also prominent in the city, with most pubs having a Guiness signs or barrels outside. Many of the buildings here have the Irish flag flying proud above them and there are many things painted green – lamposts, postboxes, decorations etc.

Church in Dublin
Church in Dublin

Yesterday, we went to Malahide Castle, it was a 30 minute train journey away and well worth the visit. As the train arrived at the little village station, I felt relieved to be away from the capital and it’s busyness. The ticket to the castle included a guided tour which was well worth it to see all the rooms of this beautifully kept little castle and it’s long history. After looking around the gardens, we went to a local pub for a lunch of fish and chips for €5. The people in the pub were friendly, it wasn’t overflowing with people and more importantly, it didn’t need to write the word ‘Irish’ on its walls to show its charm and heritage. I enjoyed the food as well as the peaceful village feel that Malahide had to it and would recommend it to people wanting to take a trip to somewhere that feels a bit more authentic that isn’t too far away. A round trip from Tara Street to Malahide was only €6, with a student ticket to the castle €8 it was great value for money. And just look at those blue skies too! I couldn’t have asked for more.

Malahide Castle
Malahide Castle

Despite Dublin not being as ‘Irish’ as I hoped, I have really enjoyed my four days here and will be sad to leave tomorrow. I must admit, I didn’t like the Irish coffee and Guiness still leaves an irony aftertaste like blood in my mouth but most of the locals (we were greeted by a swearing bus driver at the airport) have been great – helpful, jolly and happy. The weather has treated us well, it’s been chilly but the blue skies make it better and the small size of Dublin means I haven’t taken a bus since I’ve been here. I’ll be back.

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