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Dublin - Capital of the Republic of Ireland

The name Dublin is derived from the Viking name Dubh Linn, meaning "black pool" which refers to the colour of the pond which sat in front of the original castle.

The city is fairly extensive in terms of land size but has a population of just over 500,000 with many preferring to live in the surrounding suburbs, commuting into the centre daily.

Today's Dublin boasts one of the youngest populations in Europe, who frequent its funky bars, sophisticated restaurants and revamped city streets as they try to defy the effects of global recession that has hit Ireland badly.

Amid Dublin's contemporary city scape, however, it is still possible to find traditional pubs, nostalgic museums and even horse-drawn carts clip-clopping along cobbled streets. 

One of the best ways to get your Dublin city visit off to a great start is by taking a free walking tour. The guides are local and work for tips, so they do try their hardest to make the experience informative and fun.

And no visit to Dublin would be complete without going to the Guiness Storehouse at St. James Gate brewery. The story of the Guiness family is told over 5 floors, ending up at the Gravity Bar with your free pint of Guiness and the best views over the city below.

There's even an official Visit Dublin iPhone Appthat you can download providing a handy pocket guide when you're out and about in the city.

Top 5 things to do in Dublin

Dublin Castle

There has been a castle on this site since the 12th century and Viking excavations put the area in use even further back than that.

The current castle buildings mostly date back to the 18th century except for the Record Tower - the oldest surviving structure from the 13th century.

Dublin Castle was the seat of British rule in Ireland until 1922 and is now used mainly for hosting official State visits as well as more informal foreign affairs engagements, State banquets, and Government policy launches.

Every President of Ireland, since the inauguration of the first in 1938, takes place at the castle.

Tours run every 30-ish minutes (you have to get used to "Irish time") and guide you through several of the state rooms and down to the Viking excavations at the bottom of the castle, giving a brief historical overview on the way.

Open daily from 10am until 4.45pm Mon-Sat, 12 noon until 4.45 on Sundays.

Occasionally the castle may close at short notice for government business, so please do check with the website before planning a visit.

National Museum

There are four branches of the National Museum of Ireland, three in Dublin city; Archeology, Decorative Arts & History and Natural History. The Country Life museum is out in County Mayo on the NW coast of Ireland.

The collections cover a wide range of topics, artefacts and dates all relating to the history and culture of Ireland

The Archaeology section on Kildare Street has displays on prehistoric Ireland, including early work in gold, church treasures and the Viking and medieval periods.

Decorative Arts and History, including the Great Seal of the Irish Free State, is the part of the collection kept at the Collins Barracks site.

The Natural History Museum on Merrion Street houses specimens of animals from around the world. Its collection and Victorian appearance have not changed significantly since the early 20th century.

Country Life is the most recent part of the museum to be opened in 2001 and is located just outside Turlough Village, in County Mayo. The museum is focused on ordinary life from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century, with much of the material coming from rural Ireland in the 1930s.

Grafton and Henry Street

The north-south divide in Dublin also extends to shopping with Henry Street to the north and Grafton Street to the south of the city.

Henry streetis the principal shopping area on the northside of Dublin running from the Spire of Dublin on the main O'Connell Street and extending to the west..

The street was developed by and named by Henry Moore, Earl of Drogheda around 1675.

Today the street is mostly pedestrianised and here you can find the large department stores as well as a couple of small shopping malls; the Jervis Shopping Centre and the Ilac Shopping Centre.

There are over 200 shops on the street as well as buskers, including musicians, poets and mime artists, performing to the shopping crowds.

Grafton Street is the principal shopping area on the southside of Dublin running from St. Stephen's Green in the south to College Green.

The street was named after 17th century Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Grafton, who owned land in the area.

After O'Connell Bridge was built in 1794 to span the River Liffey, Grafton Street turned from a fashionable residential street into a busy cross-city route.

Since the 1980s, the street has been mostly pedestrianised and this short stretch contains two notable Dublin landmarks, the 18th century Trinity College Provost's House, home to the head of the college, and the late 20th century statue of Molly Malone (inset picture), which has become a popular Dublin meeting place.

Grafton Street is where you'll find the more expensive designer brand shops and also has its own set of buskers and street performers entertaining the shoppers.

St Stephen's Green

The St Stephen's Green public park is located on the southside of the city and can be reached via Grafton Street.

Until 1663 St Stephen’s Green was a marshy common on the edge of Dublin, used for grazing. After development of the square and the surrounding Georgian buildings access to it remained restricted for the public until 1877.

It's the largest of the parks in Dublin's main Georgian squares and extensively used by locals and tourists as an escape from the bustle of the city streets.

The square park contains a large lake filled with ducks and swans, a fountain, many historical busts and statues, flower beds and a band-stand which often gets used on those sunny weekends by professional groups and wannabe amateurs.

The most unusual aspects of the park is a garden for the blind with scented plants, which can withstand handling, and are labelled in Braille.

There's a virtual tour of St Stephen's Green on flickr which is well worth a look.

Temple Bar

The southside Temple Bar area is one of the most popular tourist spots in Dublin city and the centre of lively Irish city night life.

Unlike the areas surrounding it, Temple Bar has preserved its medieval street pattern, with many narrow cobbled streets and is promoted as "Dublin's cultural quarter".

During the day, a wealth of small cafes and local craft shops open their doors to passers by and a small food, designer and book market can be found here on Saturday.

The area transforms after the sun has set with a wide range of restaurants offering all types of cuisine and more "traditional" bars than you can shake a shillelagh at.

All of the the bars will happily serve you a pint of cold Guiness and most have live local bands playing through the early evening into the late hours.

Saturday and Friday nights can be a noisy affair at Temple Bar with the usual collision of stag and hen crowds, especially during the summer, however, nothing quite beats sampling the toe-tapping live music over a cold one, or two.

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Other Places To Visit

If you have some extra time in the city, some other worthwhile places to visit are:

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