James Joyce famously said, "When I die Dublin will be written in my heart." Indeed, the city, dissected by the River Liffey and filled with noble Georgian architecture and squares, deeply impacts visitors. Joyce's "Dubliners" is the oeuvre to read in preparation. Pick up copies at Books Upstairs in Dublin.
A walking tour of the city should encompass such architectural sights as the Bank of Ireland, Christ Church Cathedral, Custom House and The Four Courts, General Post Office (site of the Easter Uprising) and Merrion and Fitzwilliam Squares. Must-see museums include the Hugh Lane (which features Francis Bacon's fully reconstructed studio), National Gallery of Ireland, National Museum of Ireland-Decorative Arts and History, Little Museum of Dublin, National Museum of Archaeology and the kid-friendly Dublinia and Number 29, a restored Georgian house. The Kilmainham Gaol portrays the history of the Irish penal system.
Founded in 1592, Trinity College has educated authors such as Jonathan Swift and Oscar Wilde, so it comes as no surprise that it is home to one of the world's most famous libraries, the Old Library, which houses the Book of Kells and more than five million other books.
Both traditional and contemporary Irish art has seen a recent surge in popularity, due in no small part to Dublin's well-curated galleries. Contemporary works can be found at Green on Red, Kerlin Gallery and Sebastian Guinness Gallery; paintings from the 18th through 20th centuries are the specialty at The Oriel Gallery. Visitors and locals take afternoon breaks at Butler's Chocolate Café and Queen of Tarts. Two other fun stops are the Guinness Factory and Old Jameson Distillery; to buy some whiskey to bring home, stop into Celtic Whiskey Shop & Wines.
Dublin's impressive culinary scene is constantly one-upping itself and its pubs are arguably Europe's liveliest. Restaurants to check out include Michelin-starred Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, L'Ecrivain or Chapter One for a "big night out", the contemporary Irish Thornton's Restaurant or Greenhouse Restaurant and The Winding Stair, a cozy spot on the river. It is said that Guinness tastes better in Dublin, and some choice pubs include the authentically Victorian Long Hall, the traditional McDaid's, John Kehoe's, which has excellent view of the city from its top floor, the quiet Palace Bar or Gravity Bar and Dublin's oldest pub, Brazen Head.
Oral tradition and story telling has always been highly revered in the Irish culture. Visitors should plan to try to get tickets for a show at Project, The Abbey Theatre or The Gate Theatre.