Student cities: studying in Dublin
Dublin is a small capital city with a big feel. To adapt a familiar analogy it’s like several gallons of Guinness poured into a pint glass. Not that life in the capital of the Republic of Ireland is all about chatting with friends over a carefully poured dark beer – although that’s part of its reputation and it does have 1,000 pubs. No, Dublin has something for all tastes. It boasts good walks, nice places to picnic, plenty of history, culture and cool shopping. It’s chic but down to earth; proudly individual yet welcoming of others.
Free and cheap stuff to do in Dublin
Dublin is a patchwork of fine Georgian buildings dotted with Viking and medieval history. Anyone who’s interested in monks, marauders and merchants will find there’s plenty to visit. Tourist highlights include Dublin Castle, St Patrick’s Cathedral and the huge, unoccupied former centre of incarceration that is Kilmainham Gaol, where many leaders of the Irish nationalist movement were imprisoned. Now a museum, it is a memorial to the struggle for Irish independence, which is a strong theme in the city’s history. Another of Dublin’s themes is its literary heritage – so if that’s your thing you might want to head for the Dublin Writers Museum or the James Joyce Centre.
The city offers a packed itinerary for students on the hunt for culture. Places to explore include the National Museum, the Dublin Civic Museum, the Heraldic Museum, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the Irish Jewish Museum and the Museum of Natural History. The Little Museum is a little gem whose archives feature the quirkier side of Dublin’s history, for instance a car hand painted in a psychedelic pattern for a U2 concert.
You’ll find art on the walls of Dublin’s streets as well as hanging in its galleries. There are some wild and wonderful murals in and around the Italian Quarter and Temple Bar.
Dublin is a fine city for walkers. You can stroll around the beautiful city centre or explore the area just outside the city around Dublin Bay. Climbing Killiney Hill is an easy ascent, with views of the city to the northwest, the Irish Sea and the Wicklow Mountains to the south. You get there by Dart train from the city.
Closer to the centre, but still on the coast, are Dun Laoghaire pier, which is 1.3 km long, and the 5km long stretch of light-coloured sandy beach at Dollymount Strand. Dollyer – as it’s otherwise known – is a great place to chill out and picnic, as are Phoenix Park (with its fallow deer) and St Stephens Green, both of which are near the city centre. If you like wandering around tombstones – and some people do – Glasnevin cemetery has bags of character and in terms of history rivals Highgate cemetery in London.
There are really good bookstores to browse. Chapters, Books Upstairs and The Winding Stair are favourites. Murder Ink is a must if you like thrillers and American novels.
These days expect quite a few pop-up, open-air cinemas in the warmer months. In terms of bricks and mortar picture houses, Light House Cinema is a stylish looking art-house venue, the Irish Film Institute has lots of prestige and Savoy Cinema has classic decor and a reputation for being the cheapest cinema in the city, although most of Dublin’s picture houses do student deals.
Dublin hosts festivals the year round. It kicks off with Tradfest (trad jazz in the lively Temple Bar area) in January, and the Audi Dublin International Film Festival is in February. A big literature festival takes place in May; the Tiger Dublin Fringe in September is all about new theatre, comedy and performance while October’s Dublin Theatre Festival includes modern adaptations of classics. Live Collision in May celebrates live art, which is where art forms are created in real time in front of an audience.
Music plays a large part in the festivities for Dublin Pride – Ireland’s biggest LGBT event. The city has a couple of big music festivals in the form of Forbidden Fruit, where recent artists have included Tame Impala, Underworld and Dizzee Rascal, and MusicTown, which showcases the city’s musical talents covering all genres. Some of MusicTown’s shows are free.
Admission to Laya City Spectacular in July is entirely free. It is a very family-friendly event, complete with a custard pie throwing championship, but has attractions for all ages. It all takes place in Dublin’s streets which are invaded by street food sellers, contortionists, beat boxers and mysterious magicians.
If you seek a land of organic milk chocolate and honey, trinkets, pies and scrumptious pastries, then Dublin’s farmers markets are for you. The best known is in Temple Bar but other good markets include Marlay Park, Dun Laoghaire and Leopardstown.
Should you want to shimmy in a psychedelic fish print dress, own a long-handled handbag or shake your stuff in a double-breasted gangster’s suit, head to Dublin’s vintage clothes shops. Temple Bar has quite a few of them.
The main city centre shopping areas are Grafton Street and Henry Street, which are about 15 minutes on foot from one another. Both have well-known stores but Grafton Street is a little more upmarket with boutiques in the surrounding area. St. Stephen's Green Shopping Centre is a very large indoor shopping centre constructed of glass and steel and located at the top of Grafton Street. It has 93 shops serving pretty much all of your typical needs.
There are many other shopping centres dotted throughout the city.
As a rule of thumb, rarely does a hipster enter the doors of Harcourt Street’s mainstream nightclubs, which offer a popular menu of drinks deals, pop, techno and old-school dancefloor hits.
But for an alternative venue in that area try The Sugar Club. Its decor is like an old cinema’s, with wood-panelled walls, drapes and plush red banquette seating – and it’s very cool and trendy. Its music policy is eclectic to say the least, varying from Abba or 80s club evenings to live acts that span genres, from hollering out 1930s prison songs from the American deep south to modern, electronic minimalism. The club also screens cult films.
The Workman’s Club on the Quays is another favourite with fans of live indie music and has live comedy under the same roof. It gets some classy acts: Anna Calvi and Imelda May have played there.
Dublin has its big venues such as 3Arena, but the gems are medium-sized and smaller ones. Whelans on Camden Street gets great write-ups along with The Mercantile on Dame Street. Traditional fiddle music bars such as The Auld Dubliner rely on a combination of the 4 C’s to woo the customers – that’s convivial atmosphere, craic (or conversation) and ceol (music), with an optional side order of coddle (sausage, potato and onion broth).
Theatregoers will love Dublin. It has lots of venues and all manner of performances. Do you want big-budget musical theatre? Head to Bord Gais Energy Theatre… How about modern international playwrights? Their works are staged at the Pike Theatre… Hanker for a cast of marionettes and actors made of fabric? It’s the only ensemble you’ll find at the Lambert Puppet Theatre.
If you’re looking for work experience
The Dublin region is the economic centre of Ireland. As you’d expect, you can find all industries and professions here, but the following are particularly well represented: financial services, law, media, healthcare, construction, pharmaceuticals, IT, food processing, brewing, education, government, retail, leisure and tourism.