Dublin is renowned for its world-class cultural credentials, which include several Nobel prize-winning authors, its designation as a UNESCO City of Literature, and a non-stop celebration of the arts.
And it’s officially Europe’s friendliest city, so no surprise that a trip there at any time of year is sure to put a smile on your face.
Come September, though, the city ratchets up its output to celebrate an abundant cultural harvest that’s written in the very stones of its streets and buildings and that will keep even the most demanding culture vulture entertained and enthralled.
Forget hushed museums and hallowed halls, this autumn jump into the explosion of vitality that is Dublin’s Festival Season.
From the beginning of September through to late October, Dublin bursts with colour and creativity.
Indoors and out, it presents the very best of contemporary arts, celebrates its local heroes, enacts some of the world’s finest drama and quite literally throws open its doors to welcome visitors into its stunning and diverse triumphs of architecture.
Combing the ABSOLUT Fringe
First up in this superb programme of festivals is the eclectic ABSOLUT Fringe. It’s Ireland´s biggest multi-disciplinary arts festival encompassing theatre, dance, music, comedy, street and international arts and will take charge of the city from 8 to 23 September.
Taking over more than 40 venues in Dublin, the festival is an exposé of great creative talent from around the globe and a citywide celebration of the new and the next.
2012 sees ABSOLUT Fringe Festival celebrate its 18th year and highlights include Danish indie rock group Efterklang and the major lift orchestra.
For one night only...
A night to remember is 21 September when the annual Dublin Culture Night invites locals and visitors to boldly go where they may not have gone before, by taking advantage of the extended opening times and free entry into more than 150 art galleries, museums, studios, churches, historic houses and cultural centres across the city.
Described by locals as one of the best nights of the year in Dublin, Culture Night sees upwards of 160,000 people thronging venues across the city to explore and discover culture in its myriad forms, whether in small photographic galleries and school halls, or in famous landmarks such as the James Joyce Centre or Trinity College, home of the iconic Book of Kells.
Special events include literary readings, cinema screenings, talks and even a bit of dancing in the street.
And there certainly will be a bit more dancing in the street a week later on Arthur´s Day, 27 September.
Here is an opportunity to enjoy two things that the Irish love – a pint of Guinness and a good party.
With concerts and music sessions, planned and unplanned, in pubs, clubs and streets across the city, the only decision required is where to be at 17.59 (one minute to six o’clock) when the toast is made to the man who invented the ‘black stuff’ way back in 1759, the legendary Arthur Guinness.
The Irish are natural storytellers and have an innate love of drama and so it is unsurprising that one of the biggest events in Dublin’s Festival Season is the acclaimed Dublin Theatre Festival.
Running from 27 September – 14 October, it is Europe’s oldest specialist theatre festival.
This autumn the festival will stage an amazing array of Irish and international theatre productions.
Works by literary giants will rub shoulders with new plays, and large-scale extravaganzas will be complemented by one-man gems as Dublin´s stages and plays host to more than 500 performances over two weeks.
Programme highlights include the quintessentially Irish DruidMurphy by Tom Murphy, one of Ireland’s most respected living dramatists, which will play at the famous Gaiety Theatre.
DruidMurphy is the story of Irish emigration told through three of Murphy’s greatest plays, Conversations on a Homecoming, A Whistle in the Dark and Famine.
The plays can be seen individually over three evenings or together in a single day for total immersion in these poignant tales of the leaving of Ireland.
Dublin Theatre Festival also presents a multitude of special events including masterclasses from the world´s top practitioners, artist development programmes, film screenings, symposiums, schools workshops and panel discussions.
The full festival programme will be announced on 25 July.
A visit to Dublin should always include some exploration of the fine architecture of this city whose history stretches back some 1,000 years.
Medieval lanes give way to Georgian squares and historic buildings stand beside quirky contemporary edifices. And each one has a story to tell.
The annual Open House weekend (5-7 October), delivered by the Irish Architecture Foundation, is an exploration of the vitality of Dublin through its architecture, and the people who live, work and play in it.
This year the theme is Architecture Alive! which focuses on the impact buildings have on people’s lives and how they shape the environment.
All over the city important historical and contemporary buildings will open their doors to allow visitors free access to them and their stories.
These will include the magnificent Mansion House built in 1821, 400-year-old Trinity College and a number of the city’s famous Georgian houses.
Kathryn Meghen, Assistant Director of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland, says: “Dublin ranks amongst Europe’s most beautiful capitals due to its superb architecture, and between the historic and the contemporary it can really boast a number of iconic landmarks.”
Tours are available for those who want to find out a little bit more about Dublin’s impressive built heritage.
Books, beer and Indie beats
Dublin’s Festival Season also features a number of excellent smaller but highly popular events.
The Mountains to Sea Book Festival (30 August – 9 September) takes place in Dun Laoghaire south of Dublin City and this year will be opened by British literary giant, Howard Jacobson, who won the 2010 Man Booker Prize for The Finkler Question.
Dedicated followers of fashion will enjoy the host of fabulous events that will take place right across Dublin in hundreds of shops, bars, restaurants, hotels and other locations during the stylish Dublin Fashion Festival (September 6 – 9).
Fans of new music will enjoy the Hard Working Class Heroes music festival (4 – 6 October,) a showcase for 100 Irish bands and musicians, which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary.
Dublin’s Docklands will also host the Oktoberfest beer festival (20 September – 7 October) – a great excuse to eat, drink and enjoy some German beer mixed with Irish craic.
The Bram Stoker Festival (27-28 October) is a new addition to Dublin Festival Season this year and the festival is marking a very special occasion for 2012 with the centenary of Dublin’s Abraham ‘Bram’ Stoker’s death, the literary genius who defined the modern image of the monster in Dracula, his masterpiece novel. The festival combines a playful contemporary celebration of Halloween with all things vampire.
So from drama to dance, art to architecture, books to beats and dancing in the streets, it’s all on offer in Dublin this autumn.
Take a peek at what last year served up (www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrwQcDvTQYs) and come immerse yourself in culture - irish style!
Dublin Festival Season: what´s on in 2012
The major events in Dublin Festival Season are:
ABSOLUT Fringe: 8th-23rd of September, www.fringefest.com
Mixed Arts; The Fringe Festival takes over more than 40 venues and celebrates the new and the next, particularly in Theatre and Music.
Arthur´s Day: 27th September, www.guinness.com/en-row/arthurs-day
Music and craic; Big concerts and intimate gigs all over the city, along with a couple of pints of the black stuff.
Dublin Culture Night: 21st September, www.culturenight.ie
A night of discovery as galleries, museums and cultural venues open their doors for free.
Dublin Theatre Festival: 27th September – 14th October, www.dublintheatrefestival.com
Dublin loves Drama! An amazing array of Irish and international theatre productions.
Open House: 5th-7th October, www.architecturefoundation.ie/openhouse
Dublin buildings of all types open their doors allowing all to explore the city´s architecture for free.
Smaller events include:
Mountains to Sea Book Festival (4th – 9th September) www.mountainstosea.ie
Dublin Fashion Festival, 6th – 9th September www.dff.ie
Oktoberfest (beer festival), 20th September – 7th October www.oktoberfest-dublin.de
Hard Working Class Heroes (Indie music festival), 4th – 6th October www.hwch.net
The Bram Stoker Festival (halloween festival), 27-28 October