Sheathed in acres of rolling green expanses, Phoenix Park is one of the largest city parks in Europe. This massive verdant swathe lies nestled in the west of the city, and is a mixture of wilderness and formal landscape gardens. Dotted with tree-cloaked boulevards, pristine tracts of grassland and open recreational spaces, the park is also home to some monumental, nationally significant edifices, too. The Ashtown Castle calls the park home, in addition to the towering Papal Cross which marks the visit of Pope John Paul II back in 1979, the stately Áras an Uachtaráin, the Wellington Monument which is a soaring tribute to the Duke of Wellington, and the teeming Dublin Zoo, are all nestled in its scenic, idyllic expanse. Among the many recreational activities offered here are Gaelic football, polo and cricket. Also enclosed within its viridescent fabric is a vibrant burst of plant life, while a bird sanctuary and a herd of fallow deer coexist in peaceful harmony. Playing host to an array of events, festivals as well as racing events, Phoenix Park is a massive window into the unbridled natural beauty and strategic finesse of Ireland.
A short bus ride from the city center, the splendid Botanic Gardens and its many floral wonders are a stunning treat to the senses. Accentuated all the more by the glimmering waters of River Tolka, these Irish gardens uphold an assemblage of hundreds of thousands of plants, and a smattering of botanical specimens. In all their floral glory, the gardens are a wonderland for naturalists and botany aficionados, its verdant course dotted by a string of splendid greenhouses, like the impressive, structural and glass-clad Curvilinear Range and the Palm House. The great glasshouses full of exotica were constructed in the mid 19th century and designed by Richard Turner, who was also the man behind the glasshouses at Kew Gardens. The gardens are divided into distinct areas of interest, featuring long herbaceous beds, a rose garden, alpine houses, a vegetable garden, orchid beds, an arboretum, a yew-clad walkway along the river, and a wonderful area exhibiting the various natural habitats of Ireland. Also sheltering willows plunging gracefully over gleaming waters, the National Botanic Gardens are a luxuriant canvas of natural glory and luminescence.
This private house and one-time fortress is located on acres of lush parkland in Malahide. The interiors are done up beautifully with plush drawing rooms and portrait paintings of the Talbot family, while the facade is flanked by beguiling Gothic Revival turrets. Standing strong for about 800 years, this old home has seen it all; wars, good times and memories of the family it sheltered. One of the country's oldest castles, the magnificent Malahide Castle not only chronicles the legacy of the Talbots, but it has also been a catalyst in framing the course of Ireland's medieval history. Now a major attraction, the main hall plays host to private celebrations and banquets, while guided tours in French, Spanish and Dutch are available for tourists. The restaurant is quite popular with the locals, who drop in for a hot traditional breakfast of baked scones, with homemade jam and cream.
This former prison is one of Dublin's most historic buildings. Dating back to 1796, the Kilmainham Gaol is a massive building that housed men, women and even child prisoners. Most notably, the Gaol is known for incarcerating famous rebels and prisoners of war. Today the building serves as a museum with exhibits, artifacts and docent-led tours.
Located at Stephen's Green, this little non-profit museum revives 20th Century Dublin for visitors. The little museum focuses, among other things, on the cultural transition that took place during the entire existence of the nation. There's a surprising amount of things to discover here, such as the Golden Age of Dublin, contribution of women in significant socio-economic movements, and a special exhibit dedicated to U2, Ireland's biggest rock band. Overall, it is a great way to acquaint yourself with how far the great city has come, and it is highly recommended to join one of their super engaging tours.
More than 235 species of wild animals and birds inhabit Dublin Zoo, a vast expanse within Phoenix Park. Created in 1830 and later restored and extended, this zoo is one of the oldest in the world. The thirty acres (12.1 hectares) provide lots of treats for the family, including a pet's corner and new attractions such as City Farm, Monkey Island and Fringes of the Arctic. The train ride around the zoo is also fun and a welcome rest for weary legs! Refreshments are available in the restaurant and coffee shop, while a variety of cuddly toys can be found in the gift shop.
Completed in 1779, the City Hall designed by Thomas Cooley housed the Royal Exchange. It is an elegant reminder of the wealth and opulence of Dublin in the city's 18th-century heyday. Today, City Hall is managed by the Dublin Corporation, which has restored the building beautifully. The great central atrium, complete with gold-leafed dome and mosaic floor, is one of the most impressive public spaces around. The history of Dublin is told in a vivid, computer-aided series of exhibitions.
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.
Situated in the heart of the city center, the Chester Beatty Library is an art museum and library which houses the great collection of manuscripts, miniature paintings, prints, drawings, rare books and some decorative arts assembled by Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (1875-1968). His collection is now housed in Dublin Castle in a restored 18th century building with a modern purpose-built block attached. The Library was named Irish Museum of the Year and was recently awarded the title European Museum of the Year, a coveted international accolade in the museum world. The Library's exhibitions open a window on the artistic treasures of the great cultures and religions of the world. The rich collection from countries across Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe offers visitors a visual feast. Egyptian papyrus texts, beautifully illuminated copies of the Qur'an, the Bible, European medieval and renaissance manuscripts are among the highlights of the collection. Turkish and Persian miniatures and striking Buddhist paintings are also on display, as are Chinese dragon robes and Japanese woodblock prints. In its diversity, the collection captures much of the richness of human creative expression from about 2700 BC to the present day. Admission is free.
Established in 1881, George's Street Arcade is one of the oldest of its kind in Europe. This enclosed shopping arcade, in the heart of Dublin, is iconic for its Victorian architecture. It is home to over 50 boutiques and stores retailing an array of merchandise – from clothing, jewelry and accessories, to art, antiques and memorabilia. Explore the charming passageways for a special souvenir, and stop by at a cafe for an Irish treat.
This building was previously owned by the Church of Ireland and was the Synod Hall right up until 1983. The Medieval Trust now supports the Dublinia exhibition, which aims to cover Dublin's early history, starting with the arrival of the Vikings in 1170 and ending with the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1539. Start the tour in the basement with an audio-tape, taking you through life-size reconstructions, depicting major events, including the Black Death, the rebellion of Silken Thomas, and the United Irishmen uprising. Upstairs features a huge model of Dublin in about 1500. Also of note, in the Great Hall, is a multi-screen presentation on medieval Dublin.
Located above the peacefully flowing River Liffey, the Ha'penny Bridge, also known as the Liffey Bridge, is an important landmark of the city. During the early 18th Century, ferries operated by a private owner called William Walsh plied across the river. But these ferries were in a deteriorating condition and that forced officials to demand the erection of a bridge or termination of ferries from Walsh. Walsh expressed his desire to build the bridge but he had inadequate funds. On his earnest request, commuters were charged Halfpenny or Ha'penny as a toll for the construction of the bridge. That's how the bridge came to be known as Ha'penny Bridge. Today, it beckons visitors and locals with its angelic white color and promises pristine views of the beautiful river.