Earlier this month, America was in full Irish fever, anticipating St Patrick’s Day. Sadly though, now that the stores have sold out of the green cookies and shamrock shaped candy, the bars have taken down their green decorations and will definitely not serve you a green colored beer, it seems like, Americas obsession with Ireland has died down again for another year.
But it doesn’t have to! Sure you can keep the St Paddy’s day party going if you wish, just be heading down to your nearest Irish pub any night of the week, but wouldn’t it be great to venture past the local bar, and experience the real Ireland for a day, rather than just a lame Irish pub?
Research tells me that we, as Americans only go on short 1-2 week vacations, because of work and family commitments and so on. So what if you could experience two major Irish cities in 1 day each? Now you can’t really claim to not have enough time to travel anymore can you? Sounds like a win to me!
With incredibly riveting history and some of the hottest bars in Ireland, Belfast has something to please everyone. And you can experience it all in 24 hours. To party like it’s St Patrick’s day every day, Belfast is the place to be. From super cheap bars such as the Eglantine Inn which offers six shots for 6 pound (aprox. $9.75), or the Botanic Inn, a Belfast institution and quintessential Irish pub experience, to the more upmarket bars and restaurants of the Titanic Quarter, there is something for everyone. And even the uber-hyped New Jersey St Patrick’s day parades cannot possible compare to experiencing a night of drunken revelry with the ever friendly Belfast locals.
During the day, before the party starts, you can’t miss the Black Taxi Tours. Sit in a traditional black taxi and drive past the iconic IRA murals, the Peaceline dividing the Nationalists and Loyalists, the scene of the infamous bombing and the Harland and Wolfe Shipyard where Titanic was built. Listening to the cab driver, a local who has lived through the turmoil describe his personal experience and point out the bullet holes in the painted wall murals, shows you a side of Belfast you can’t get from guidebooks.
The capital city of the Republic of Ireland, has a totally different atmosphere to Belfast, yet, at the same time, it is completely similar. The friendly attitude of the Belfast locals is here in Dublin too, but the beat of the city is different. Dublin seems more relaxed and less steeped in political history (which, I suppose, is because it is). Home to W.B Yeats and James Joyce, the city of Dublin has been immortalized in text forever, and everyone already has a defined expectation of what Dublin is, but there is a lot more to contemporary Dublin than just Riverdance and Oscar Wilde.
If you only have a day, you need to fit in a couple of hours to watch a Gaelic Football match. Croke Park, hosts the Gaelic Football league, a sport, which although played by amateurs, is a national obsession- and something which every visitor has to experience. The atmosphere is electric, the beer flows freely and the bizarre game is oddly intriguing.
To get your history fix, visit Trinity College and see the ancient Book of Kells, while you stroll through the lush gardens and buildings that make you want to study there. College Green, just outside the College, has some magnificent architecture, namely the Bank of Ireland building, formerly used for houses of parliament, is an astonishing building, with no windows, only bricks where the windows ought to be (in an attempt to bypass the tax on windows brought in in the 1730′s). It is also worth a visit for the fact that Washington’s Capitol building was modeled on the architecture here!
You will need to snap a tourist pic of the Monument of Light, otherwise known as the Spire of Dublin, a giant sphere in the center of town, which although is an ugly distraction from a beautiful city, is useful for getting your bearings (and as a tourist, you just have to get a photo).
The Temple Bar district is the place to be once the sun goes down. The area knows as the ‘Bohemian Quarter’ is full of street artists selling their wares and tourists and locals alike dining in a number of international restaurants, before heading out for a night on the town. While the Temple Bar can get overrun and hectic on weekends late at night, it is a virtual one stop shop of Irish nightlife, and should not be missed!