As capital city and largest urban centre on the island, Dublin has always attracted gay men and women looking for both the anonymity, and exposure, that a big city provides. In fact, Dublin has more gay men and women per capita than San Francisco. With one of the highest youth populations in the European Union, coupled with the (now diminishing) "Tiger" economy, the city seems to be ever-expanding both physically and culturally.
Leaving the George on a Saturday night, wandering down South William Street or through Temple Bar, it might seem that the entire city is queer (or at least queer-friendly). But don't be too fooled by this feeling: keep in mind Dublin's potential intolerance and bigotry (and name-calling!), and remember that under the veneer of the cosmopolitan tiger society lies the old and often dangerous city that Dublin, and Ireland as a whole, has always been for gay men and women.
What Ireland lacks in classical arts it makes up for in nineteenth and twentieth century literature and theatre, with some of the world's most prominent playwrights, authors and poets, and in a rich cultural heritage of music and song. Early Christian civilisation is strongly represented with treasures such as the Book of Kells. More recently, it has come to the fore in modern art, graphic design, photography, music and cinema.
Most of Dublin's museums and galleries are centrally located, are free to the public, and have the extra advantage of being compact and focussed, being easily manageable in a single visit.
And don't forget to take in some Guinness and traditional pub music for a blast of everyday culture.
There has been a huge change in the make-up of the city's (and Ireland's) population in the last decade. Refugees, foreign workers and students, returning emigrees and tourists have all contributed to a new diversity and vibrancy on the streets. Unfortunately, this change has also exposed the potential hypocrisy, intolerance and even bigotry of the native Irish population. So it's worth bearing this in mind when considering attitudes towards the gay community.
That said, there has been a great amount of change in recent years, notably the decriminalisation of homosexuality and the introduction of equality legislation in 1993, the lowering of the age of consent to match that of heterosexuals and the wider availability of condoms.
Dublin is easily and cheaply accessible from most British airports and from an increasing number of European cities. An alternative, especially if you intend to travel beyond Dublin, is to take one of the many high-speed car ferries that shuttle across the Irish Sea from Liverpool and Holyhead. There are long-haul direct flights from the USA and Canada, but no direct flights from Australia or the Far East; instead travellers from these countries should fly to London and make a connection there.
Public transport around Dublin is slow but reliable. Buses cover the city and its suburbs, while the DART and suburban rail network provide a good service to outlying towns. Avoid trying to drive around the city by car, and if you’re brave enough to cycle, be aware that you may have a problem securing your bike when you’re not using it. Fortunately, one of Dublin’s best features is its small size, and walking is often the quickest and most enjoyable way to reach your destination. Guided walking tours of the city are an excellent way of getting to know Dublin’s history and layout.