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Dublin History

Dublin’s earliest years are the subject of debate among historians but what is certain that by 988AD, the Norman Vikings had established a settlement at Wood Quay. Many invasions followed, most notably by the Danes, who remained until 1171 when they were forced out by Henry II of England.

Until the 17th century, Dublin was still a small, walled medieval town and a backwater in an English empire. That would all change following the English Civil War, when Oliver Cromwell paid a visit in 1649.

By the end of the 17th century, Protestant refugees from the Europe had poured into Dublin, boosting its size and filling its coffers. The rise of the British Empire brought further prosperity, although at a price: as the aristocracy grew rich, Roman Catholic peasants were oppressed and remained poor with many choosing to immigrate to the New World.

The seeds of rebellion were sown and in 1916, the Easter Rising, staged while British eyes were turned towards WWI, paved the way for independence. In 1921, following heavy fighting, the Irish Free State was declared and Dublin became its capital.

Much of the 1940s and 50s were spent building institutions and repairing damage left from the Easter Rising. But when the Troubles in Northern Ireland rose in the 1960s, it caused problems for Dublin too, most notably through bomb attacks.

Deprived inner city areas became notorious over the same period for drug-taking, organised crime, unemployment and poverty, with the result that many more citizens fled to the US.

Much of that came to an end during the boom years of the 2000s when Dublin, enjoying an unexpected surge of prosperity, became wealthy and attracted immigrants from all over Europe.

But the 2009 global meltdown brought the end of the party, with Ireland hit particularly hard by the recession and leaving the capital littered with empty construction sites. Although still not fully recovered, life and prosperity are gradually returning to Dublin.

Did you know?
• The city got its name from the original settlement’s site beside a ‘dubh linn’ – Gaelic for ‘black pool’.
• Modernist author James Joyce was born in Dublin, where he set his influential novel Ulysses. 
• Ireland’s oldest pub is in Dublin. There has been a pub on the site of the Brazen Head since 1198.

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Featured Hotels


Central Hotel

This cheap, city centre hotel harks back almost 200 years. It is very old school Dublin and as such boasts some impressive period features in its façade and public areas. The rooms have been recently refurbished, with free Wi-Fi available in most of them, though snuggle up in the Library Bar and the years still drift away.

Number 31

Overlooking elegant Fitzwilliam Place, Number 31 is the former home of Ireland's leading architect, Sam Stephenson. It has since been converted into a highly sophisticated, award-winning guesthouse with an emphasis on detail, luxury and simplicity. This stylish property offers a variety of en-suite accommodation, as well as secure car parking, but it's the intimate beauty that wins guests over.

The Shelbourne

A veritable Dublin institution immortalised in James Joyce's epic Ulysses, and now something of a hub for the Ireland rugby team, the 5-star Shelbourne Hotel has been home to the rich and famous (and even royalty) since its opening in the 18th century. Centrally located beside St Stephen's Green, with 265 opulent rooms, celebrated bars and restaurants, and a smart health club, it remains one of Dublin's most distinguished hotels.

The Merrion Hotel

Dublin's most sumptuous 142-room hotel looks like a standard Georgian block of houses, but behind its modest façade, it has been sensitively restored to combine period elegance with 5-star modern facilities. There's a classy restaurant, sizeable pool, gym and spa, but also magnificent formal, landscaped gardens, forming a serene haven far removed from the frenetic city centre.

The Fitzwilliam Hotel

Luxurious and ultra-modern, The Fitzwilliam commands a striking central location with the calm and tranquillity of St Stephen's Green to one side and Grafton Street to the other. Theirs is a stark, minimalist interpretation of typical country house features, using chrome, frosted glass, large leather sofas and dramatic down lighting. Its large roof garden is great for summer sunshine.

The Dylan

Located in the western canal belt, this small boutique hotel is the epitome of style and sophistication. It's housed in a former 17th-century theatre, which in its heyday staged concerts conducted by Antonio Vivaldi. Today, the minimalist east-meets-west designer décor of the 40 individually designed guest rooms, combined with an intimate courtyard garden, spectacular canal views, efficient staff and an excellent restaurant, ensures a luxurious stay.