An American in Dublin: 5 surprises in Ireland’s capital

A man standing in front of a mural of angel wings.

It was about this time last year that I was getting ready for my first ever trip to Dublin. As an American with Irish roots, I anticipated that the trip would be unlike anything I had ever experienced. Of course, it was a dream! I even found that the city surprised me in some interesting ways. Here are five aspects to Dublin that I hadn’t expected on my way in:

It’s international.

Shop Street in Galway. Photo by Ruby Doan/Unsplash.

I arrived in Dublin on the tail of a fantastic week in London. I knew before I ever took off that London would have a strong international flair — I’d been told, for example, that the best Indian food outside of India can be found in London. (Regretfully, I have not investigated this claim — yet.) I must admit that I did not expect the same to be true in Dublin. Being a white person with Irish roots, I expected Dublin to be a city full of white people.

Boy, was I wrong! I was blown away by just how diverse Dublin was. In just one week, I spent time with folks from Nigeria, the Philippines, India, and the States, alongside plenty of native Irish. Bringing together students and professionals from around the world, and opening its arms wide to anyone and everyone, Dublin is a diverse city indeed.

It’s tasty.

Sláinte! Photo by Fábio Alves/Unsplash

Talk about international — imagine how I felt as an American sitting in a Brazilian grill in Dublin, sitting across from a newly-befriended Indian graduate student!

That spot is called Fusion Grill, and it can be found on N Lotts in Dublin, a stone’s throw from the Ha’penny Bridge. And man, was it good. I’d never really tried Brazilian fare before, so it was an eye-opening experience. The buffet format was dangerous; I never wanted to leave!

I also had a delicious box of fried chicken and chips at a take-away place in Cabra called Rocca’s. How lucky that my Airbnb was in the same neighborhood! Now, some people might argue that a box of chicken and chips from a takeaway place in Cabra is hardly noteworthy; I would advise those people to fill up on some fried chicken and reconsider.

If anything, I’ll need to get a better taste for Irish food next time I’m there!

It’s walkable.

Temple Bar in Dublin. Photo by Ricardo Marques Gabriel

I stayed only a few minutes from the Luas station, but I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to get in and around downtown Dublin on foot. I pride myself on not just being an American but a Bostonian — a city which is reputed for being walkable — so it was a real pleasure to be able to see Dublin on foot as well. Knowing that I could get down to the EPIC Museum, up to Croke Park, or out to any of a plethora of excellent eateries by trolley as well as on foot is a plus for Dublin in my book.

It’s artsy.

Outside Dalymount Park. Photo by Nicholas Boonstra/Babylon

This excellent mural speaks for itself — as do Dublin’s statues, sculptures, and other public pieces of art. Speaking of art, it was actually a concert that got this American to Dublin in the first place. An indie group called Beirut was playing at Vicar Street… before the lead singer came down with laryngitis and the tour was cancelled. Nevertheless, I’m ecstatic that I got to see Dublin — and hopefully I’ll be able to catch Beirut one of these days.

It’s pet-friendly.

Cats on a roof! Photo by Nicholas Boonstra/Babylon

I took that picture my first morning in Dublin, gazing out the bedroom window of my Airbnb. I don’t often see cats outside of the house in the U.S., so I wasn’t expecting to see anything like in Dublin. 

For one, the owner of my Airbnb had a cat himself and would let him freely wander the neighborhood. I thought it the strangest thing when he would casually poke his head out the back door, calling for the pet; I was even more surprised when the cat made his way back home all on his own!

Walks through the neighborhood seemed to demonstrate that other pet owners adopted similar attitudes. I can’t forget going for a walk one evening and encountering this poor three-legged dog, collar and all, happily wandering through the neighborhood all by himself. He was more than friendly, and I was a special moment stopping to say hi to the dog without another soul around.

Perhaps this sort of lax attitude with one’s pets isn’t as common as all that. If my experience really is any indicator, though, then it would seem that Dubliners are comfortable leaving their pets to their freedom.

Until next time…

Hopefully, the ongoing pandemic situation is resolved soon, and I’ll be able to once again visit Emerald Isle. These experiences of mine in Dublin don’t even scratch the surface of that wonderful week — seeing the country in Castlepollard, taking a day trip to Galway, beholding the beautiful Cliffs of Moher. I just can’t wait to get back. When I do, I’ll know a few more things about Ireland and its people than I did coming in; I’m excited to find out how much more is in store.

Thinking of visiting Dublin yourself? Babylon has some helpful tips on how you can make your way over!

About the author

Nicholas Boonstra

Nicholas is a freelance writer based out of the Greater Boston, Massachusetts area. He avidly loves all things Irish, and also keeps himself involved with music, faith, and West Ham United. He is ecstatic to be part of the Babylon team, and is proud to bring his own American flair to it!

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