Ranked as one of the top 10 Best Cities to Study Abroad in Europe 2020 by GoOverseas, Dublin is praised for the warmth of its residents, stunning architecture, fascinating history, endless entertainment, ease of navigation, and cozy places to tuck away for an afternoon with delicious food and hot drinks. The city is a favorite of CAPA students too, who study abroad with the diverse student body at Griffith College.
So, why study abroad in Dublin? Let’s dive in.
Study abroad in Dublin because:
1. DUBLIN HAS A LIVELY CALENDAR OF CULTURAL EVENTS.
If you study abroad in the spring, be prepared to don your green clothes and experience the excitement of St. Patrick’s Day in the streets of Dublin. This global celebration of Irish culture—remembering St Patrick who was one of Ireland’s patron saints—is one of the most popular cultural events in Ireland.
Dublin is a city that loves a celebration, and so there are many others. Keep an eye on what’s on with this calendar, and plan ahead for some of the highlights. There’s Dublin’s International Film Festival and the Six Nations Rugby in February; the Irish Grand National horse races in April; Bloom in the Park and International Literature Festival Dublin in May; the Forbidden Fruit alternative music festival on the grounds of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Taste of Dublin, and Bloomsday (think Edwardian dress and a celebration of James Joyce’s Ulysses as well as a retracing of Leopold Bloom’s steps) in June; Longitude music festival and the Street Performance World Championships in July; Dublin City Liffey Swim in August; the All-Ireland Finals (for fans of Gaelic games), Culture Night, and the Dublin Fringe Festival in September; Dublin Theater Festival, the Hard Working Class Heroes (a 3-day music festival for unsigned Irish acts), and Hallowe’en in October; and Christmas-related festivities in December.
2. DUBLIN IS A CREATIVE CITY WITH A THRIVING ARTS SCENE.
A recent Frieze article about Dublin’s thriving art spaces noted that, “Despite its recent rapid expansion, Dublin's art scene retains a village-like quality…” While the city has its share of large, state-of-the-art exhibition spaces, there are also many smaller galleries, often artist-run, set inside of Georgian houses or other innovative or quirky locations. The visual arts scene is thriving, and Culture Trip has a round up of some of Dublin's best contemporary art galleries to visit while you’re studying abroad.
If it’s live performance you’re interested in, What’s On Stage has the latest listings for theater, opera, dance, concerts, stand-up comedy, and more.
Student budgets can be limiting, but there’s art to appreciate everywhere in Dublin. Just take a walk through some of the areas well known for their colorful street art and popular murals, like the stunning swan that takes up the full side of a building on Richmond Row in Portobello. Nearby, there’s also a huge David Attenborough mural. Other places to admire the best street art include The Liberties, The Bernard Shaw, Smithfield, Peter’s Place, Camden Street, Phibsborough, and Love Lane in Temple Bar.
3. DUBLIN HAS A RICH HISTORY TO EXPLORE.
Some of the biggest technology companies in the world have their European headquarters in Dublin, but Dubliners are proud of their history and these new developments sit alongside the richness of the old in this constantly changing global city that still places value on preserving its past.
Dublin was first referenced as far back as AD 140 when it was called Eblana. The Celts were believed to arrive around 700 BC, and it was around 841 that the Vikings showed up. While the exact dates of Dublin’s foundation are unknown, it has a long and rich history and has gone through many transformative periods over the centuries.
When you study abroad with CAPA, sign up for the “Irish History and Culture” course where you’ll explore how the Irish Question (up to and including recent troubles and the peace process in the North, and the collapse of the Celtic Tiger economy in the South) has found artistic expression in film, theatre, visual arts, and music.
Some of the historic sites you’ll want to visit include Dublin Castle, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the National Museum of Ireland, Trinity College Library, Christchurch Cathedral, the Georgian Merrion Square with its colorful doors, The Little Museum of Dublin with its collection of everyday items from the 20th century, and the Dublin Writer’s Museum. For a fun yet historical place to eat or listen to live music, head over to The Church which was founded in 1699 and converted into a restaurant, pub, and cultural space in 2005.
4. DUBLIN HAS LOTS OF GREEN SPACE.
About 26% of Dublin is made up of public parks and gardens.
The most well-known of the city’s green spaces is St. Stephen’s Green with its central location and manicured lawns. It’s hard to believe it was once used for public whippings, burnings, and hangings. Stop for a walk through the tiny Huguenot cemetery, enjoy the ponds, and keep an eye open for some of the sculptures dotted throughout.
The biggest park is Phoenix Park, which is actually one of the largest city parks in the world. It’s home to the Irish president and the US ambassador as well as 300 fallow deer, cricket and polo grounds, lakes, gardens, and Dublin’s zoo.
A much smaller green space is the elegant Merrion Square where you can wander along the flower-lined pathways in this famous Georgian Square with its ornate details. Head to the northwestern corner of the square if you’re itching for an Oscar Wilde statue selfie.
Iveagh Gardens, which is a bit wilder and less perfectly groomed than some of the others, is one of the best hidden gems in Dublin with its shrub maze and mini waterfall. The War Memorial Gardens in the west of the city are also worth a visit, as is Herbert Park which runs along the River Dodder.
5. DUBLIN HAS TRADITIONAL AND INNOVATIVE FOOD.
Dubliners have developed a taste for more innovative food trends in recent years, which has seen the city embrace street food and food truck culture and host several foodie festivals throughout the year.
Most days of the week, there are food markets running around lunchtime. Tuesdays or Thursdays, you can enjoy a meal from The Station Buildings market at Hatch Street Upper. On Wednesdays, try the Spencer Dock Food Market. There’s another market on Mespil near the Grand Canal on Thursdays. Fridays, head over to Ravens Rock Road or Smithfield Outdoor Food Market. Temple Bar is the place to go on Saturdays, and on Sundays, make your way down to the sea, to Dun Laoghaire and the People’s Park Market. Thursday through Sunday, a stop at Eatyard should be on the agenda.
If you’re looking for the good old-fashioned traditional comfort food staples, don’t worry; they remain firm favorites. Don’t miss a full Irish breakfast fry-up, a warming Irish stew with tasty lamb and herbs, colcannon (potatoes mashed with cabbage or kale) as a side dish, seafood delights like cockles and mussels of Molly Malone fame, soda bread and Brambrack, boxty (pancakes that put those famous Irish potatoes to use again), and coddle (which appears in literature by James Joyce and was a favorite meal of Gulliver’s Travels author Jonathan Swift!). World of Food and Drink has a few suggestions for the best places to experience traditional Dublin foods.
A few of our favorite cafes include Fumbally, Kaph, and Little Bird.
6. DUBLIN IS A CITY FAMOUS FOR ITS LITERATURE.
Dublin is an UNESCO City of Literature (one of 28 worldwide) and is home to four Nobel prize winners for literature (George Bernard Shaw, W. B. Years, Samuel Beckett, and Seamus Heaney), around 50 publishing houses, the Dublin Writer’s Museum, more than a handful of book festivals, and the Dublin Literary Award which has gained international prestige.
A few of the very famous literary names from Ireland—apart from those we already mentioned—include James Joyce, Patrick Kavanagh, Maeve Binchy, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, Roddy Doyle, Bram Stoker, Maeve Binchy, CS Lewis, and John Banville.
Beginning with your arrival at Dublin Airport, which has a huge glass mural dedicated to writers, you'll notice a nod to literature in many places around the city. The last three bridges connecting the north and south sides are named after Joyce, O’Casey, and Beckett. You’ll spot statues and monuments dedicated to the lives and work of many different writers. One of the most famous tourist destinations in Dublin is the Trinity College Library where the historic Book of Kells is housed, and which holds 200,000 of the library’s oldest books in its main chamber alone. Marsh’s Library is also worth a visit when you study abroad, a hidden gem founded in 1701, that sits next to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. For more, Ireland.com recommends nine literary attractions to visit in Dublin, and Visit Dublin shares a few favorite Dublin writer haunts.
7. DUBLIN IS A WELCOMING CITY.
Dublin is famed and loved for the friendliness of its locals. In fact, it has been named the 6th friendliest city in the world (and third in Europe) by Big 7 Travel this past year.
"For such a small city, Dublin packs a serious punch when it comes to friendliness,” Big 7 wrote. "People here are good-natured, with a good sense of humor. Whether you're lost or just looking for a chat in a pub, Dubliners will be on hand to help out. Locals even thank the bus driver—the perfect example of classic Irish warmth.”
The Little Museum of Dublin started an award-winning initiative called “City of a Thousand Welcomes” which connects local volunteers with visitors and sends them off for a chat and a free cup of tea. It’s a fun way to get to know a Dubliner beyond other students you’ll meet in your classes at Griffith College and the equally friendly CAPA staff.
Travel blogger Selena wrote: “I still can't get over Ireland. I had the most amazing time and absolutely fell in love with the place. The people of Dublin were so welcoming and engaging. Everyone wanted to connect. Everyone was a storyteller. I didn't realize how much I'd been missing that human touch. In Ireland, I soaked up those little daily connections like water. The people of Dublin look into your eyes and they see you. From taxi drivers to shopkeepers to waiters to tour guides, they connect and it's wonderful.”
8. DUBLIN HAS A YOUNG POPULATION AND VIBRANT YOUTH CULTURE.
With around 49% of its population under the age of 30, Dublin is one of Europe’s most youthful capital cities. It has a strong history of flourishing youth culture which stretches back to the 1950s, passing through different movements and eras of popularity throughout the decades: punks, teddy boys, skinheads, mods, rockers, goths, new romantics, ravers, urban cowboys, and hipsters.
Some of the neighborhoods most loved by Dublin’s youth include Stoneybatter, Portobello, Rathmines, Smithfield, and Phibsborough.
In fact, following some exciting new openings over the last year, Stoneybatter—with its red-brick terraces and village vibes—was recently named on Time Out’s list of 50 Coolest Neighborhoods in the World. They’ve called it “a quirky little fortress of cool in the heart of the city”. In this area alone, you can spend some time in nearby Phoenix Park, wander the cute boutiques which feature local designers and artists on Manor Street, pop into bookshop Lilliput Press which has a focus on Irish writers, eat at the family run Italian restaurant Grano, sample the goods in local bakery Slice, devour a shakshuka for brunch at Social Fabric Cafe, sip on a flat white at Love Supreme, or play vintage arcade games and eat vegan junk food at Token.
9. DUBLIN IS A DIVERSE GLOBAL CITY.
As of 2018, 21% of Dublin’s residents were non-nationals with the largest minority groups representing the United Kingdom, Poland, China, Philippines, and Lithuania, followed by several other Eastern European countries.The Irish travelling community is also a significant community. About 80% of residents are Catholic, but other religious groups represented include Muslims, Christian Orthodox, Protestant, Presbyterian, Evangelical, Hindu, and Sikh.
Dublin has committed to a “One City One People” campaign, which states “Dublin is an open city, which respects and embraces difference, is accessible, safe, and equal, and does not accept racism and discrimination.”
Also a city that embraces its LGBTQIA population, Professor Andrew Reynolds (who founded the University of North Carolina’s LGBTQ Representation and Rights Research Initiative) said in a Guardian article about the world’s most LGBT-friendly cities: “Dublin is like gay Disneyland now, and that wasn’t the case 20 or 30 years ago. With the last couple of referendums, Ireland and Dublin have embraced their new presentation as an inclusive, progressive, and loving place.”
Stoneybatter, which we mentioned above, was named Dublin’s largest gay-friendly neighborhood. Dubliners throw a fantastic Pride celebration each June. The city hosts the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival in May, which shows features plays by gay writers or that have a gay-related theme. In July, there’s also the GAZE Film Festival which has been celebrating LGBT storytelling for 25 years. Bookmark Lonely Planet’s guide to LGBT Dublin for more.
10. DUBLIN HAS A CONVENIENT GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION.
If you’re interested in exploring more of Ireland, and other countries in Europe, Dublin is a fantastic base.
The Irish countryside is beautiful, so take a few train journeys outside of the city. Kiss the famous Blarney Stone; hike in the Wicklow Mountains; marvel at Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland, a UNESCO world heritage site; visit the Titanic Museum in Belfast; and head for the Aran Islands, three remote islands on the West coast. From here, you can visit the Cliffs of Moher which stretch for five miles along the Atlantic Ocean. Stand there and contemplate your study abroad journey while feeling like you're at the very edge of the world. CAPA students are invited to take part in an organized excursion or two outside of the city each term, so be sure to sign up for these. Also, check out Culture Trip’s Best Day Trips from Dublin article for a few more ideas.
You might also plan to hop on a plane for a short trip on a weekend or during break week to experience nearby places outside of Ireland’s borders; the UK, France, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, and the Scandinavian countries are excellent choices.
Why study abroad in Dublin, you ask? Why not, we answer!