Dublin is a warm and welcoming city, known for the friendliness of its people and famous for its craic (“crack”)—that mixture of repartee, humour, intelligence, and acerbic and deflating insight that has attracted writers, intellectuals, and visitors for centuries. It has faded grandeur and a comfortably worn sense. Some one-fourth of the residents of the Republic of Ireland live in the Greater Dublin urban area, providing a good deal of bustle. The city’s heart is divided north-south by the River Liffey, with O’Connell’s Bridge connecting the two parts. Pubs (where much of the city’s social life is conducted), cafés, and restaurants abound, and Irish musicality rarely allows silence. On the north side, near the General Post Office, stand most of the remaining Georgian houses, built in the 18th century around squares, now side by side with glass and concrete offices and apartment blocks. Some of the finest monumental buildings stand on the north riverbank, as do the city’s poorest parts, maintaining a curious juxtaposition between the echoes of the politics and economic life of the past—aristocratic and impoverished—and the manifestations of the prosperous city of the present. Ireland’s national theatre, the Abbey, is just east of O’Connell Street, marked since 2002 by the Spire of Dublin, a 394-foot (120-metre) stainless steel landmark that proclaimed the street’s transformation with a pedestrian plaza and tree-lined boulevard. Together with a rash of new high-rise buildings, the spire has changed the character of the city and of the north side. Though Dublin has undergone modernization, and some areas—such as the narrow and winding streets of the Temple Bar district west of Trinity College—regularly play host to rowdy and raucous crowds, a strong sense of history and of a centuries-old capital pervades.
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