World ? Europe ? Republic of Ireland ? Dublin

Dublin: Introduction

Low-slung, gray, and solid, Ireland's premier city can look surprisingly dark and gloomy at first glance. Its appearance -- the result of its 19th-century architecture of Irish stone and granite -- is deceptive. The town itself is anything but gloomy, and it's not the stodgy, old-fashioned city of the late 20th century. Behind all those sturdy columns and beneath all that gray is the real, modern, Euro-Dublin -- an affluent place filled with trendy coffee shops, organic juice bars, pricey five-star restaurants, and expensive designer boutiques. The European money that has flooded in over the last decade changed many things in Ireland, but it altered Dublin most of all, catapulting this historic town from the early 20th century, where it had lingered too long, into the 21st, where it now revels in its own success.

Gone are the days when many visitors to Ireland chose to skip Dublin altogether. Nowadays, a weekend in Dublin is one of the hottest city breaks in Europe, as people pile into its old pubs and modern bars, shop in its thriving markets and malls, and relax in its trendy cafes. Because of all of this, Dublin's population has swollen to 1.5 million; more than a third of the Irish population lives in this city, which, while good news for the economy, has residual side effects of overcrowding, high property prices, and gridlocked traffic. It has also helped make Dublin one of the world's most youthful cities, with an estimated 50% of the population under 25 years old.

It is a contrary, amusing, complex small city, and my advice to those who haven't been here in a while, or who have never been here is this: The first thing you should do is leave your preconceptions behind. Then you can see this historic, modern, flawed, charming, and entertaining city for what it really is.

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