Dublin, known in Gaelic as Baile Atha Cliath meaning “town of the hurdled ford,” is the capital of Ireland with a population of almost 1.3 million. The English name for the city is derived from the Irish Name Dubhlinn, meaning “black pool”. Dublin is situated in the province of Leinster near the midpoint of Ireland’s east coast, spread over the broad valley of the River Liffey, with the Wicklow Hills sheltering it.
Founded as a Viking settlement, it evolved into the Kingdom of Dublin and became the island’s principal city following the Norman invasion. The city expanded rapidly from the 17th century; it was briefly the second largest city in the British Empire and the fifth largest in Europe. Dublin entered a period of stagnation following the Act of Union of 1800, but it remained the economic centre for most of the island. Following the partition of Ireland in 1922, the new parliament, the Oireachtas, was located in Leinster House. Dublin became the capital of the Irish Free State and later the Republic of Ireland.
As a historical and contemporay cultural centre for the country, Dublin is home to a number of centuries-old landmarks and monuments including the Dublin Castle, founded as a major defensive work on the orders of King John of England in 1204; the Ha’penny Bridge, an old iron footbridge over the River Liffey; the Mansion House; Christ Church Cathedral; St Patrick’s Cathedral; the Custom House; and Aras an Uachtarain (the resident of the President of Ireland).
Dublin has more green spaces per square kilometre than any other European capital city, with 97% of city residents living within 300 metres of a park area. The Phoenix Park is located about 3 km west of the city centre, north of the River Liffey and its 16km perimeter wall encloses 707 hectares, making it one of the largest walled city parks in Europe. The park includes large areas of grassland and tree-lined avenues and since the 17th century has been home to a herd of wild Fallow deer. The residence of the President of Ireland is located in the park as is the official residence of the United States Ambassador. It is also home to Dublin Zoo. St. Stephen’s Green is adjacent to one of Dublin’s main shopping streets, Grafton Street, and on its surrounding streets are the offices of a number of public bodies and the city terminus of one of Dublin’s Luas tram lines.
Dublin has a world famous literary history, having produced many prominent literary figures, including Nobel laureates William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett. Other influential writers and playwrights include Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift and the creator of Dracula, Bram Stoker. It is arguably most famous as the location of the greatest works of James Joyce, including Ulysses, wich is set in Dublin and full of topical detail. Dubliners is a collection of short stories by Joyce about incidents and typical characters of the city during the early 20th century. Other renowened writers include J. M. Synge, Sean O’Casey, Brendan Behan, Maeve Binchy and Roddy Doyle. In July 2010, Dublin was named as a UNESCO City of Literature.
There are several theatres within the city centre, and various world famous actors have emerged from the Dublin theatrical scene, including Noel Purcell, Sir Michael Gambon, Brendan Gleeson, Stephen Rea, Colin Farrell, Colm Meaney and Gabriel Byrne. The best known theatres include the Gaiety Theatre which specialises in musical and operatic production and is popular for opening its doors after the evening theatre production to host a variety of live music, dancing and films. The Abbey Theatre was founded in 1904 by a group that included William Butler Yeats with the aim of promoting indigenous literary talent. It went on to provide a breakthrough for some of the city’s most famous writers, such as Synge, Yeats himself and George Bernard Shaw. The Gate Theatre was founded in 1928 to promote European and American Avant Garde works. The Bord Gais Energy Theatre (formerly the Grand Canal Theatre) is a new, 2,111 capacity theatre which opened in March 2010 in the Grand Canal Dock.
Apart from being the focus of the country’s literature and theatre, Dublin is also the focal point for much of Irish Art and the Irish artistic scene. The Book of Kells, a world-famous manuscript produced by Celtic Monks in AD 800 is on display in Trinity College. The Chester Beatty Library houses the famous collection of manuscripts, miniature paintings, prints, drawings, rare books and decorative arts assembled by American mining millionaire Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (1875 – 1968). The collection dates from 2700 BC onward and is drawn from Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. Work by local artists is often put on public display around St. Stephen’s Green and Merrion Square. The Irish Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery, the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery, The City Arts Centre, The Douglas Hyde Gallery and the Royal Hibernian Academy are also located in Dublin.