Ireland, land of the shamrock, folks music and red beards. A country where people drink pints like water and where towns have names like Muckanaghederdauhaulia. A fascinating combination and I bet it is a delight when you have had a few and someone asks you where you live. It is a country where people think that if you get a haircut on Good Friday you will not get any headaches all year. I would say it is less going to the pubs but something tells me that is not really an option. Then again, if they would not have gone to the pubs so much, they might have never came up with great stories like pots of gold at the end of the rainbow and leprechauns guarding it.
Recently I visited Ireland’s capitol city Dublin and I was surprised in a very good way. I expected a depressing city but instead it was very lively. Instead of grey I saw colors, instead of cheerlessness I saw happiness and instead of rain I saw the sun. I know in the last case I was just lucky but I got to see a very bright side of Dublin.
Dublin is a friendly and easy going capitol with a great atmosphere. It is not very big and it is easy to explore on foot. Interesting buildings are spread around the city and there is lots to do. There are great parks to escape the crowded city and of course there are the famous pubs where you can have a meal and a Guinness to wash it away. The only downside is the fact that Dublin is quite expensive! It felt like everyone had found the legendary pot of gold except me. Some kind of a guardian that leprechaun!
Luckily you are always in charge of your own money and what you do not spend, you do not spend. When you search for it, you will always find great things you can do for free in a city. That is what I did in Dublin and I have found quite a few things to do. Actually, it was more like I stumbled upon them. So before you rush to the Guinness Factory ,the St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the temple bar, consider these things as well.
1. Relax at St. Stephens Green
Escape from the crowded streets in this wonderful green and well maintained park. Take a walk or sit on a bench and watch life quietly pass by while you enjoy the colorful flora. When the weather is good, people come to the park to lay on the grass, to read or to have a pick nick. In my opinion it is always wise to learn from the locals so it might be a good idea.
2. Watch Musicians in Grafton Street
Although it is THE shopping street in Dublin, Grafton street has a great other thing to offer. Musicians! Every day the streets are filled with music and it is not bad either. They are spread around the whole street and it varies from a women with a harp to whole bands. Take the time to listen to some of them.
3. Gallery of Photography
Tempel Bar is named after a pub and is the cultural heart of Dublin. Many tourists come here to taste Dublin’s dark nectar in the pubs but it is also an artistic area. The Irish Film Institute is housed here and there are many galleries and expositions. One of them is the Gallery of Photography. It is a center for contemporary photography with a variety of exhibitions and definitely worth a visit.
4. Explore Trinity College
Walk through the gates of Trinity College and a whole different world is opening up. This is not what you would expect in the middle of the city center. Trinity College is known as the best and oldest university in Ireland. It is modeled after Oxford and Cambridge and still breaths the 16th / 17th century atmosphere. It is like one of those colleges ‘from the movies’ and that is why it almost felt like it was fake. Sure you are a student, sure you are a professor! Which casting agency are you from?
But it is actually really fun to walk around and to explore the campus. The buildings are very nice, there are fields for sports and it is really cool to get inside the building. Just try some doors and if you find yourself by accident in a restricted area and got caught by security, put on your stupid-face and say: “Me not know, me no speak English”. Then start to dance really weird and I am sure he will let you off with a warning.
5. Read and Listen To Poetry In The National Library
Perhaps Trinity College’s ‘Book Of Kells’ library is more impressive but do not fail to give the National Library a chance. The reading room is very beautiful and when you enter the room it feels like you have stepped back in time. There is also an exposition about Irish poetry where you can lose yourself in the inspiring world of words.
6. Visit The vintage National History Museum
Now this is what I call a museum. It perfectly fits the image I have when I hear the word museum. It is dusty, it has an old vintage vibe and it is just simple. No touch screens, no high-tech tricks, just plain and honest displays. To be honest, I have no clue why it is called the history museum because there are only stuffed animals and skeletons of animals but it is educational and the atmosphere is great.
7. Walk in The Biggest Urban Park of Europe
The Phoenix Park is the biggest urban park in Europe and is located at the edge of Dublin. It is super huge and you can walk around here for hours and hours. It was originally used as the royal hunting park and it is still home to a herd of deer nowadays. Next to nature you will find some monuments, the Magazine Fort and Áras an Uachtaráin, the residence of the president. So if you have had enough of the dark pubs in the city center, this is a great place to catch some fresh air.
8. Visit The Chester Beatty Library
Another library but it is actually more like a museum. It is close to Dublin Castle and has a grassy garden in front of it in a Celtic motive. The museum is divided into a Western, an Islamic and an Asian collection and you will find beautifully illustrated books and manuscripts about culture and religion.
9. Visit The Museum of Modern Arts
I rarely understand modern art. Most of the time I think: Why is there one lamp standing in the middle of the room? But in some weird way I like it. It is refreshing compared to the dark and dusty paintings of the old masters. Dublin has a wonderful museum of modern arts and is housed in the old royal hospital. A strange contrast because you would expect a modern building. It is a bit outside the city center but do not let that be a reason to miss it.
* At the time I am writing this they are doing refurbishment works in the main building so it is closed until autumn 2013. Until that time the museum is divided into two locations. One part is in the smaller building close to the main building and one part is in the National Concert Hall building.
10. Get Invited At Google For Lunch
Google is a big company in Dublin and that is why many expats live here. I had the pleasure to be invited for lunch at Google so I could peak behind the curtains. It is like candy land! Really, it is something I have never seen before in a company. Everywhere are corners where you can take candy, lemonade, chips and it is all for free. So is lunch and I must say that Google takes really good care of its employees. The building itself and the interior design is very inspiring and you can feel the very creative workflow. It almost made me want to work there.
Now, you cannot just enter the Google building and you need to be invited to get in so you have to play it smart. You have to make a Google friend! You might have to invest some time in building a friendship but keep in mind that in the end, chances are that you will get a free lunch, a lemonade and some candy!
Have you ever been in Dublin and do you know other great things you can do for free?