Following Viking traces in Dublin
  • Ireland /
  • Dublin

An itinerary that rediscovers the Viking history of Dublin

The origins in Dublinia
Heritage place of interest.
(by Ralf Houven, CC BY 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)
(by Shadowgate CC BY 2.0, Flickr)
(by Shadowgate CC BY 2.0, Flickr)
(by Shadowgate CC BY 2.0, Flickr)
(by Stipa Jennifer, CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons)

Humans have inhabited the area of Dublin Bay since prehistoric times. As evidence of this past, fish traps were discovered from excavations during the construction of the Convention Centre Dublin. These findings indicate human habitation as far back as 6,000 years ago.

However, the earliest record of the existence of organised settlements on the East coast of Ireland comes to us from the world’s first mathematician and geographer Claudius Ptolemy (CE 140), who refers to a town called “Eblana”. Nevertheless, the dates of the foundation remain uncertain, and for the first centuries (CE), reports are sporadic and interwoven with myths and legends.

What is secure, however, is that some settlements were established in this area by the Gaels, Ireland’s original population. This was around 450 CE, while St Patrick was probably engaged in his work of spreading Christianity all over Ireland.

From here began a period of relative tranquillity, where Christianity, thanks to the faith-spreading work of the monks, expanded throughout the island and established itself as a religion. Monasteries, abbeys and spiritual centres were built all over Ireland. However, this period soon saw the advent of a destructive and implacable force from the North: the Vikings.

The notorious Vikings were skilled navigators and warriors from the lonely and cold northern lands, including Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Seeking fertile lands for farming and new treasures and riches to seize, they sailed into the green lands of Ireland around the 7-8th centuries CE.

The Vikings began to settle permanently on the coast and built walled cities, usually at river estuaries, where they spent the winter months; the main settlements were the present-day cities of Limerick, Waterford, Wexford, Cork, Arklow and especially Dublin. 

They initially settled in what is now County Dublin, using it as an access port for mooring during the winter months. The region’s name in the Viking language was Dyflin, then became Dubh Linn and Dublin in modern Irish over time.

From the coast, the invaders went inland, following the banks of the rivers, to raid and pillage. The Vikings amalgamated with the local population giving rise to a mixed ethnic group called Gall-Gaels, (Gall was the term by which foreigners were called – meaning Vikings).

From here, it followed substantial invasions, especially of the Viking Danes. Only from 832 CE do we have clear evidence of this with the coronation of the Norman ruler Thorkel I, but certainly, the Danes had already been present in Ireland for a long time. 

In the 10th century, there was a merger between Ath Cliath and Dubh Linn, one settlement being Celtic, the other Viking. Viking pirates, in fact, used the outpost as a base for their raids on the Irish coast and harbours.

Here in Dublinia, one can relive this history, explore the Viking culture, and discover many private, political and religious aspects of these conquerors. 

The historical museum of the Viking and medieval era, also known as Synod Hall, shows the medieval life of Dublin. It manages with extreme precision to connect the present with the Viking reality of the city.

The exhibition can transport visitors aboard a Viking ship, learn their warrior skills, discover their customs and enter their smoky, cramped homes. From the top of the medieval tower, after 96 steps, one can admire a spectacular view of the city and imagine it still in Viking times.


1. The origins in Dublinia

2. Wood Quay

3. The Steine

4. Curious rests

5. Christ Church Cathedral