One of the first real conversations I had with the (middle-aged, male) college professor who accompanied my student group to Ireland concerned the Molly Malone statue at the end of Grafton St. in Dublin, a feature of our daily walk to class. My professor was the one who brought it up:
“I mean, it’s borderline pornographic! Those breasts! It’s a fetishization of poverty!” he said.
I decided the academic route was the best approach to the professorial situation at hand, and so we had a conversation including the words: “fetishization,” “socioeconomic status,” and “sexualized persona.” Probably better than a conversation about the statue’s breasts.
(Hi, Professor! Had a great time with you in Dublin!)
So, the Molly Malone statue is overrated - at least for the heterosexual female. But what else to see in Dublin? We tried many of the tourist traps, and decided which were worth seeing and which weren’t. Particular favourites are italicized.
Another tip - don’t just go to Ireland to see Dublin. Take day trips, or longer trips, to find the most beautiful countryside I, at least, have ever seen (also listed here). And finally, if you want to really learn about Ireland, find some friendly people (perhaps at a pub)and strike up a conversation.
Temple Bar -
Everyone will ask if you’ve been here. This is a district of expensive pubs that cater to tourists, and older men who want to meet tourists. If you feel like a visit, try the eponymous Temple Bar pub itself.
Dublin Castle -
The best part of the Dublin Castle tour is seeing the foundations of the city wall from the Norman period. That said, I didn’t go on the tour until over halfway through my stay in Dublin; it’s not essential to getting a feel for the place.
Walk around off the beaten path. Literally, walk through the fields. Also it plays host to Dublin’s excellent zoo, with playful orangutans.
If you’re short on time, you can live without the tours and just sample some of the good stuff in any pub. But the tours are classic features of a Dublin visit.
National Museum of Ireland (Archaeology) -
Go see the Iron Age bog bodies.
If you’re a literature buff, check out the WB Yeats exhibit.
Trinity College - Old Library and Book of Kells -
To our disappointment, students can’t study in the Old Library, but it’s still one of the most beautiful rooms I’ve ever seen. If you make friends with a Trinity student, they can take you in for free.
Once you’ve done that, take some time to wander around campus. The buildings are lovely - except for the Arts bloc and the Berkeley-Lecky-Ussher library, which look like a Stalinist prison. It’s difficult to find photos of the Arts bloc, probably because no one wants to look at it for too long.
General Post Office -
Look for bullet marks at the GPO (O’Connell St), left over from the 1916 Easter Rising.
Read up on your history before you go.
Abbey Theatre, Gate Theatre, Gaiety Theatre -
Go see a play at one of these historic theatres. If you visit in the Fall, take advantage of the Dublin Theatre Festival, during which I saw two of the best plays I’ve ever seen.