I went to Dublin not that long ago. All together now, ‘WHEEY!’. Whether it was my naivety, lack of research or belief in the typically Irish image we’re so often fed, Dublin was not what I expected. When you think of Dublin, you think of pubs, fiddles, dancing, leprechaun costumes, the cliches, the stereotypes. They’re all there, but there were a lot of other things there that a simple Google probably wouldn’t have prepared me for.
We often like to keep our rose-tinted glasses on when we’re describing the places we’ve visited. This is why I thought I’d be met with a quaint little city with more of a town-like feel, rolling hills surrounding it and a few welcoming Irish families, preferably with a Gerard Butler looking son, purely based on what people had told me. It wasn’t unlike this scene, but the place is more metropolis than verdant countryside.
If you had gone 14 years ago, on a cold weekend in November, the following vignette would be very different I’m sure. No, really, I’m sure. My mum went 14 years ago and said it sounds nothing like what she experienced. So please, take what I’m saying with a pinch, or ten, of the seas finest seasoning. If you do end up in the city and don’t discover any of the below, please refrain from pillaging me, despite how inspired you may be from the city’s rich Viking history.
So, if you’re going to Dublin, here are some things no one tells you about it:
1) The Irish pubs are just pubs
You know the Irish pubs you see dotted around the slightly scuzzier streets of blighty? The ones where you can’t quite tell if they’re franchises but frequent for the 6 nations or to pretend it’s someone’s birthday for a free pint? You can picture the Celtic typeface, the rustic wooden decor and the tavern feel. Well, all of that is based on actual Irish pubs. They look exactly the same as that and not even in an ironic way. Well, you’d hope anyway.
2) It’s actually massive
One cobbled street does not Dublin make. It is the same size as Manchester in km. Mind…blown. It is not a tall city (the tallest building is a mere 220ft, compared to London’s Shard at 306ft), so the scape is more of an expanse than a cluster of neck-breaking glass monstrosities.
3) And there are some dodgy areas
Like any big city, you have to keep your wits about you, but I just didn’t know to expect this in Dublin. I’m not saying the streets are lined with ruffians and thugs, but they’re also not caked in grandmas, babies and church folk. There were times when we’d turn a corner and be in the middle of what felt like Stabsville. Or times when you’d get that sudden butt clench that only comes when you see a few shifty looking fellas.
4) Temple bar isn’t just a bar
It’s a whole little area named after a bar, with more bars.
5) And it feels a bit like the Magaluf strip
Everyone is pissed as newts. There are men with stripper boards. There’s music pumping out of every doorway. People are drinking in the streets and everyone is young and a bit horny looking. The authentic Irish charm gets a bit dampened at the sight of this, but one jig in a local public house will see you right.
6) It looks a bit like Amsterdam
The River Liffey runs through the city (this is not the start of a limerick) with curved bridges running over its moving waters and brick buildings fringing its sides. Add some clogs, tulips and bicycles and the two could be sisters. I’ve never been to Amsterdam, so this could be a lie.
7) And London
As the pubs spill out onto the pedestrianized cobbled streets in Temple bar and the surrounding area, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re wandering around Covent Garden. The buzz and the atmosphere feel the same. Not to mention the men in suits, the girls about to start their B.N.O and the flirtatious chatter filling the air.
8) And the 90s
There were some areas that could’ve been a snapshot from 1998. From certain high street shops and nostalgic-looking houses to the fashion sense, there was an air of days gone by. Drawstring sports bags, trackies, skinheads and flip phones were seen on more than one occasion.
9) It’s full of Americans
Apparently, they like to visit to reconnect with their ancestral background.
10) Guinness tastes quite nice
This is subjective, obviously, but as someone who doesn’t like a regular beer, I found the land’s famous drink – with its thick texture and metallic taste – quite pleasant. They do however say that it tastes much better on Irish soil.
11) Live music isn’t hard to find
Depending on the time of night, you’ll have a hard job trying to find a pub that doesn’t have live music playing.
12) They like their coffee as much as their beer
Dublin got to the coffee culture trend a bit late (might explain the 90s thing) and are now fully immersed in it. Cafes have popped up all over the shop in recent years and you can barely walk 100 metres without sniffing a freshly ground espresso.
13) It’s quite hard to find an Irish person
As part of a monocultural country for many years, it’s refreshing to see the diversity of cultures on the streets of Dublin. For instance, we stayed in an Airbnb with Brazilian hosts, having to walk past Chinatown to get there as well as traditional Turkish restaurants and a myriad of faces on our way into the centre. With Dublin now boasting Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian, Nigerian, Romanian, Indian, Philippine, German, Chinese, Slovakian, French, Brazilian, Hungarian, Italian, Pakistani, Spanish and Czech residents, it’s actually quite difficult to find an Irish person. I say difficult, it took us about half an hour.
14) It’s not really like P.S. I love you
And apparently Hillary Swank can run across Dublin in a matter of seconds based on the pub she fleed from and the corner she stopped at.
15) Grafton street looks nothing like the Ed Sheeran song
Do not expect Saoirse Ronan to be dancing around in it.
16) It’s easy to feel at ease
Despite its width, packed streets and bustle, it’s the type of city you can wander through and feel familiar with.
17) Everyone has at least 3-5 pub recommendations
Trying to choose which one to go to is part of the fun.
Would I go back? Probably not. I rarely return to the same place twice. However, Dublin has given me a flavour of Ireland, just on a larger scale. So I’ll see you soon again, Ireland.