|Discovering Irish Culture|
Ireland has a thriving cultural scene, with attractions ranging from the traditional to the decidedly progressive. These five sites are essential viewing for anybody who wants to get beyond the tourism brochures and see what really makes the country tick.
1. Grafton Street: If you're keen to immerse yourself in Irish culture, then your first stop should be Dublin. The country's capital boasts dozens of museums, art centres and historical buildings, as well as some great music venues. Visit Grafton Street in the city centre to see a collection of talented Irish musicians performing to passersby.
2. The Irish Film Institute: Another Dublin-based cultural centre, the Film Institute provides a platform for local film makers. It's located in the Temple Bar area, and boasts a great bar and restaurant which tends to attract a vibrant young crowd.
3. The National Museum of Ireland: It describes itself as 'Ireland's premier cultural institution' - and the National Museum is undoubtedly an essential stopping-off point for anybody looking to understand the country's cultural history. It houses objects of national artistic value, as well as folk life, natural history and antiquity exhibitions. Various events take place at the museum throughout the year, so check out their calendar before making your visit.
4. The National Gallery of Ireland: Housing the country's collection of Irish and international art, the National Gallery of Ireland is a culture vulture's paradise. It has pieces by Titian, Reni, Gainsborough and Monet, not to mention paintings by famous Irish artists such as James Barry, Sean Keating, Francis Danby and Paul Henry. The architecture of the gallery, particularly the new Millennium Wing is also immensely impressive.
5. Blarney Castle: Situated in a stunning rural setting, Blarney Castle has an important place in Irish mythology. The Blarney Stone, which sits at the top of the castle's tallest turret, is said to give anybody who kisses it the gift of the gab. Even if you're not convinced by the legend, Blarney Castle is still an important historical site and well worth a visit.
Many of Ireland's cultural attractions are located in Dublin, so the capital is a great place to base yourself during your stay. The city is served by budget airlines, and it's possible to find great deals on and accommodation using a specialist site such as Octopus Travel. With plenty of free things to see and do, you can immerse yourself in Irish culture without worrying too much about your wallet.
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