When choosing a country for my study abroad program there was no second choice. I was going to Ireland. I was lucky enough to be placed in Bray, a lovely city about an hour south of Dublin (which I also recommend visiting, if only for a half-day trip). I was lucky enough to be able to visit Dublin frequently over several weeks, but when my best friend came to visit I was able to take her to the best and most interesting attractions.
For the history buff looking for ancient architecture that doubles as a museum, I first recommend visiting Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. Founded in 1191, the church reputedly stands near the site of the well where Saint Patrick baptized local inhabitants in the fifth century A.D. Here Handel’s Messiah was first performed in 1742, and the original script is still on display. Jonathan Swift, satirist and author of A Modest Proposal, was dean of Saint Patrick’s from 1713 – 1747. Swift’s death mask is now on display a few feet from his final resting place, under the floor of Saint Patrick’s.
For shopping the best place to head to is Grafton Street. Along with quaint shops (I bought the best hat here) there are also street vendors selling everything from scarves to jewelry. At the north end you will find a notable landmark, a statue of Molly Malone, known to the locals as The Tart With the Cart. At the south end of the street you will find Saint Stephen’s Green Shopping Center, which is a mall worth exploring. If you are lucky enough to visit during the Christmas season you will be treated to extensively decorated store fronts (the year I was there I saw several fairly tales brought to the 21st century). And directly across the street you will find Saint Stephen’s Green (yes, that’s where they got the name for the shopping center), a lovely park that often boasts performers. Bring your walking shoes!
When you’ve decided that it is time to stop for maybe a pint and perhaps a delicious meal, then head over to the area known as Temple Bar. While you will find more shops here too, you will also find plenty of places to park yourself and watch Irish life in process. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with a local, or perhaps meet another world traveler like yourself with tips and advise to make your trip even more memorable.
Take this as only a starting point for your journey. Wander the streets of Dublin, taking many opportunities to stop and gaze at the wonder of Dublin. You never know what you will happen upon if you follow your heart down one street and around another corner.