Skip to content
Oct 7, 2022

A Brief History of Dublin

View of the city by the water

Dublin is the capital of the Republic of Ireland. This city has always played a key role in the history of the country, and it continues to be an important economic center in today's modern world. The city, which hosts a population of approximately 1.4 million people, is home to a large number of tourist attractions. 

Here we tell the story of how this fascinating city has been shaped and formed over the centuries.

Firstly, let’s discuss its location

The capital city is located in Leinster Province on the east coast of Ireland, at the mouth of the river Liffey. If you are traveling west from England, it’s the first city you’ll see as you cross the Irish Sea.

Founded by the Vikings

Dublin town was founded by the Vikings in the 9th century. They called it Dubh Linn, which means ‘black pool’ (not to be confused with Blackpool in England). The living conditions of the Vikings were far from ideal, being in fairly primitive order. Their houses were simply made, being wooden huts with roofs of thatch.

 Dublin began to prosper in the 11th century, as a result of close trading links with various English towns, specifically Chester and Bristol. During this time it quickly became the most important town in all of Ireland, which had a population of approximately 4,000 people.

The Middle Ages

In 1166, Ireland was invaded by the King of Leister, MacMurrough, with the help of The Earl of Pembroke, Norman (also known as Strongbow). As Norman approached Dublin, they sent out the archbishop to negotiate. While this was taking place, Norman soldiers broke rank and attacked the town. This forced the Viking king and his followers to flee the town by sea.

After the Norman conquest of Ireland, Dublin town became the center of English power in the country. 

Strongbow declared himself the King of Leinster after MacMurrough died, winning control of Dublin and its people. The King of England however was concerned with the power that Strongbow had garnered and pronounced himself as the Lord of Dublin. He then gave Dublin to the merchants of Bristol and it became their colony.

Got excited?

Catch a flight to Dublin

Search flights


Tragedy struck in 1190 when a large fire engulfed the city in flames. The residents escaped to the surrounding hills where they constructed temporary dwellings for themselves.

As most buildings were made of wood and thatch, the fire spread quickly and created significant damage. Dublin required a fairly large rebuild. During the 13th century, it was rebuilt with stone, including a fortress, with the surrounding walls being strengthened by the English king to provide further protection from attacks. 

Dublin’s first mayor was appointed in 1220. At the end of the 13th century, the population was over 8,000. During this time the city was benefitting as a result of it being a prominent trade center. Items such as pottery, wine, and iron were being imported into Dublin, while exports included pulses, grain, and hides. Markets were popular and in 1204 a fair was held. 

Another fire

In 1317, the Scottish army invaded Dublin, under Robert the Bruce and his brother Edward. The result of the invasion was a fire even larger than the one seen in 1190. In an attempt to prevent the Scots from using the suburbs as part of their siege, the citizens set them on fire. This fire destroyed most of the city, which again was rebuilt. 

Jumping forward to the 17th century, the population had grown to over 20,000. This growth in population did not last long though, with the black plague of 1650 killing nearly half of the city’s residents. 

Dublin in the 18th century

The city soon bounced back from the black plague, reaching a population of 60,000 in 1700. This was driven primarily as a result of the linen and wool trade with England. The conditions of the city improved as it became more refined and respectable. While the middle and upper classes were doing well, there was still much poverty. There was a lot of growth during the 18th century, with hospitals being built, as well as squares, parks, and the botanical gardens. In 1735, Parliament House was built. This is where the Irish Parliament would meet. 

Soon, transport lines improved with stagecoaches traveling from Dublin to various towns, such as Belfast, Cork, and Kilkenny. This resulted in a thriving industry for coach-makers.

Lighting things up in the 19th century

The 19th century brought about the introduction of street lighting as a result of the development of the gasworks. It wasn’t all positive though. With the seat of government transferring to Westminster, there was a rapid economic and political decline. Added to this, there was the potato famine which led to many people leaving to avoid starvation. 

Moving into the 20th century, things changed dramatically. The Easter Rising took place in 1916 followed by the War for Independence in 1919. The Civil War then followed in 1922, leading to Ireland’s independence in 1937.

Dublin has experienced a wonderful boom since the 1990s, with the city growing into Ireland’s largest conurbation.

Dublin today

Today, Dublin is an incredibly popular tourist destination. It is rich in culture, with friendly people and an excellent social life attracting people from all over the world. Here are just a few of the things that you can do in this thriving city.

  • Visit Trinity College and College Green
  • Head to Grafton Street
  • Take a look at the Little Museum of Dublin
  • Have a dram at Jameson Distillery Bow St
  • See a piece of history in Dublin Castle
  • Last, but certainly not least, have a cold one at the Guinness Storehouse
  • Listen to live Irish music in the many pubs scattered throughout the city

If you are looking to visit Dublin and not spend a fortune getting there, we’ve probably got the flight ticket you’re looking for.


Got excited?

Catch a flight to Dublin

Search flights

A Brief History of Boston