The Irish score 10 out of 10 in social skills in my opinion. I don’t think I’ve been to a friendlier country, with the possible exception of Iran. The friendly comments and ensuing chit-chat started already at Dublin Airport, and by the time I had reached the dessert of my first Irish restaurant experience (a “deconstructed” Eton mess – below), the waiter had already asked me 4-5 times “Is there anything else you would like to know about Ireland?”
But it’s not just the friendly attitude and the helpfulness I’m talking about. The Irish seem to just start chatting to you as if they’ve known you for a long time, even though they haven’t, and kind of draw you into this circle of positive and healthy social interaction. This is VERY different from many places I know in the world where the clique is the norm, and people talking to strangers are considered weird.
Anyway, down to business. With two days in Dublin, I had 18 things on my want-to-see list, and I managed to cover most of them. I stayed at the Trinity College (recommended!) so everything was within (reasonable) walking distance. Here are my top five sights for Dublin.
1. The Chester Beatty Library
I really wish I’d known more about The Chester Beatty Library was before I went there so I could have set aside more time. It had some unique ancient biblical manuscripts, and the top-floor exhibition dedicated to the main world religions was just stunning. It had that perfect balance between interesting artefacts, well-thought through background information, and a visually impressive display. Similar to the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar. Or the Byzantine Museum in Athens, Greece. Or the restored and modernised section of Sulaymaniyah Museum in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq.
The Silk Road Cafe was also cool, and the current A to Z (Amulet to Zodiac) exhibition was creative and imaginative.
2. The Book of Kells & the Long Room Library
This 8th century book containing the four Gospels is a real gem and definitely worth the wait. There’s a lot of background information as well. The large number of noisy school groups (where no-one seems interested in the exhibition) is annoying, but it’s possible to enjoy the exhibition in the silent periods in-between groups.
The Long Room Library upstairs is also fascinating. This is a real library if I ever saw one.
Right now, the library is also hosting this poster exhibition commemorating the 1014 Battle of Clontarf.
3. Old Jameson Distillery
Definitely worth the visit. The intro movie is a bit corny, but the tour guide gives you an excellent overview of all the steps involved in making whiskey, and you also learn about the differences between Irish, Scottish and American whiskey. Especially if you are selected as one of the eight “whiskey testers” at the end. Which I was.
4. Dublin Writers Museum
This museum has concise and informative summaries for each and every Irish writer, poet and playwright worth the name. I had no idea there were so many of them! There are also plenty of books written by these authors on display (no photos permitted in this part of the museum). In addition, there are also paintings of many of these writers in the hallways and upstairs (photos permitted). Here’s in interesting painting of James Joyce.
5. St Patrick’s Cathedral
This cathedral is very beautiful.
And the statue of St Patrick is rather intriguing.
Close runners-up are:
– Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane
This is the home of Renoir’s The Umbrellas for the next five years. No photos allowed anywhere, but I bought a postcard of the Renoir in the museum shop and took a photo of it.
Just that one painting makes this museum worth the visit. But there is plenty more, of course. Great art museum with both classical works of art and cutting-edge contemporary stuff. The current exhibition with Eva Rothschild’s work was eye-catching and creative but I think I enjoyed the permanent exhibition more. It was very varied.
– St Stephen’s Green
A real oasis in the heart of the city. The perfect stopover between other sights. Or a fabulous place to read a book, or just sit and think and watch the world go by.
– Temple Bar
Get your camera ready when walking through this funky part of Dublin. Maybe at several different times of day to get the light just right. For info on the nightlife, you have to ask a party animal.
The Viking floor is very interesting and really well done, too.
Also, the Black Death room on the second floor has a very vivid display, along with audio tracks with coughing running continuously in the background (at first I thought it was a museum visitor who was unwell). The Black Monday wall painting in the Black Death room was also eye-catching.
There’s more to see in Dublin, of course, and I might have had a different Top Five list if I’d had more time. Next time!