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Dublin Castle symbolized English rule for 700 years, ever since the Anglo-Normans built their fortress on this site. Later, the castle was to serve as the headquarters of the English-appointed Viceroy of Ireland. It was not until 1922 that it was finally handed over to the Irish Free State. The castle's apartments boast of opulent, wonderfully-decorated rooms, while carpets of rolling, formal gardens lend it an alluring aura. Sheltered within the castle's fabric are insignia and collectibles of historical interest. The Castle is in use even today as a venue for state functions as well as home to multiple government agencies. The castle grounds are also home to the magnificent Chapel Royal and the splendid Chester Beatty Library. A window into the country's monumental, medieval past, this mighty castle is indeed one of the most priceless possessions of Dublin.
Built in 1701, Marsh's Library is the oldest public library in Ireland. The architect, Sir William Robinson, also designed much of Dublin Castle. Commissioned by Archbishop Narcissus Marsh, Archbishop of Dublin, it was opened in 1707. The library, housed in a splendid Queen Anne mansion, is tucked behind St Patrick's Cathedral and set amid very fine formal gardens. The interior of the library is very decorative, with gilded gables adorning the bookcases and a miter towering over the shelves. Visitors can see the cage-like alcoves in which readers were locked when they wished to study rare books. The collection of books from previous centuries is of great interest.
Founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I, Trinity is the only constituent of the University of Dublin, Ireland's oldest and most prestigious center of higher education. The college curriculum is split into three main faculties, with 25 schools offering both undergraduate and postgraduate degree and diploma programs. Known in the academic realm for its rigorous admissions process, Trinity College is also rated one of the world's top 150 universities, attracting ambitious students from across the globe. Despite its location in the heart of Dublin, the campus retains a tranquil air, its delightful melange of old and new buildings overlooking a series of quadrangles or courtyards. Of these, the iconic Campanile and the Chapel are the most well-known, alongside the Library with its voluminous cache of antiquarian books and rare manuscripts; the most revered of these is the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript that dates back to 800 CE and contains 340 folios that illustrate the four gospels of the New Testament. Today, the Trinity College, or the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin as it is officially known, is one of Dublin's most popular tourist attractions and its top educational institution.
Designed by Francis Johnston in 1818, the General Post Office (GPO) on O'Connell Street is known as the site of the 1916 Easter Rising. Irish Volunteers seized the building on Easter Monday and for six days held out against the British until the GPO was set on fire. The building was completely restored in 1929. Inside, stands a bronze statue depicting the death of the mythical Irish warrior Cuchulainn, dedicated to those who died in the uprising. The GPO has acquired iconic status; demonstrations and protests are often held outside.
Founded in 1904 by W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory, the Abbey is Ireland's national theater and remains a crucial promoter of established and emerging Irish playwrights. The theater's early years saw much controversy: the 1926 premiere of O'Casey's 'The Plough and the Stars' upset nationalist sensibilities and provoked Yeats to personally rebuke the audience, who felt offended by the depiction of the 1916 nationalist movement. Although generally less controversial these days, new Irish plays are still staged in the basement theater, the Peacock. The theater's Abbey Street premises has been open since 1961, but changes are afoot. The management is currently considering a move south of the river.
An insightful window into Ireland's rich and nuanced history, art and culture, the National Museum of Ireland houses artifacts which date all the way from 7,000 BCE to the 20th century. Home to pieces from the time of the Vikings, gilded artifacts, religious relics and archaeological remnants alongside Celtic masterpieces, the museum dutifully harbors one of the largest collections of Bronze Age gold in the world. Perhaps the centerpiece of the collection is the Ardagh Chalice, an ornate tracery of metal work which dates as far back as the 800 CE. Sheltering a clout of decorative works of art such as glassware, aged porcelain artifacts, ceramics and folk costumes, the museum also includes an exhibition dealing with Ireland's struggle for independence. There is also a pleasant café and bookstore on-site.
This weird and fascinating museum remains almost untouched since it was opened in 1857. Upon entering, one is met with three skeletons of the extinct Irish elk that lived 10,000 years ago. A variety of creatures are displayed in pickling jars, including an octopus, leeches and worms. Check out the world collection upstairs which features stuffed rhinos, pandas and two whales. Also worth seeing is the Blaschka collection of marine plants. In all, this museum provides a marvelous insight into the world of the Victorian museum-as-mausoleum.
At the National Gallery of Ireland, you will find the largest collection of art in the country. They have a permanent collection containing great works from all over Europe, including works by Caravaggio, Monet, and Picasso. Not only does the gallery cover all the major schools of art but the gallery stocks artworks from the 14th to the 20th century. Besides displaying fine works of art, the gallery also works towards conservation of artworks, conducts research as well as organizes events and programs for children and adults alike. Admission to the permanent collection is free.
This Georgian townhouse is beautifully restored thanks to the efforts of David Norris, a Joycean enthusiast, Irish Senator and human rights activist who saved the house from demolition. Once the home of Dennis Maginni and his dance school, the James Joyce Center hosts an extensive program of events, including films, lectures and walking tours of Joycean Dublin haunts. The center also organizes Bloomsday, an annual celebration of Joyce's "Ulysses," which takes place on June 16th.
In 1991, the restored site of the Royal Hospital was officially opened as the Irish Museum of Modern Art. This splendid 17th-century building is now the venue for some superb exhibitions and conducts a number of educational and community-oriented projects. Free guided tours are available and these include visits to the chapel, banqueting hall, and the beautifully restored baroque garden. Admission is free.
A visit to a graveyard may not be your idea of a jolly day out, but Glasnevin Cemetery is one of the most fascinating places in Dublin. It is the final resting place of some of the most famous figures in Irish history, including former Irish presidents Eamon de Valera and Sean T. O'Reilly. Other political heroes buried in its atmospheric grounds include Michael Collins, Daniel O'Connell, Charles Stewart Parnell and Roger Casement. The graves of literary figures such as Gerard Manley Hopkins and Brendan Behan can also be found. Buy a heritage map to find the key graves. Admission is free.