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 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.
To many, Guinness is one of the most important features of Ireland. Completed at the cost of EUR30 million, the Guinness Storehouse is a fine addition to Dublin's ever-growing list of purpose-built attractions. Set inside a converted 18th-century fermentation building, it consists of six floors linked by a giant atrium in the shape of a pint glass. Although the actual brewery is not open to the public, the storehouse's new exhibition space outlines the 200-year history of the company and reveals many brewing secrets. The models and displays of the exhibition are followed by a short film and a glass of the famous brew! The storehouse is also home to the stylish Gravity Bar.
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.
Founded in 1908 by art enthusiast Sir Hugh Lane, this elegant gallery houses Sir Hugh's collection of paintings by Dégas, Monet and Courbet; in addition to Rodin sculptures and a fine selection of modern Irish paintings. A magnificent stained glass room includes panels by Evie Hone and Harry Clarke: most notable of late, however, is the Lane's acquisition of Francis Bacon's studio, which is now reproduced in the gallery untouched. Free classical music concerts are held here on winter Sundays, lectures are frequently given: the Hugh Lane is worth a visit all year long. They also have a cafe and a bookshop that are open all the hours of the operation of the museum.
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.
Located on the West End of Temple Bar, the old city area is an interesting mélange of cafes, leisure outlets, fashion stores and salons. Known for its fashion boutiques, the town displays outfits by the crème-de-la crème of the fashion industry. Contemporary designs on exhibit blend well with the locality. So if you're out shopping for upholstery or dressing yourself for an outing, visit the Old City Shopping District to find the best in clothing and shopping. Credit cards may vary from store to store.
This non profit venue is the only gallery in Ireland devoted exclusively to photography. It holds around ten exhibitions a year and hosts work by both Irish and international photographers. The building's glass façade is one of the finest examples of contemporary architecture in the city. It also offers a variety of seminars and workshops. Spread over four floors, the gallery is also an excellent source of photographic gifts, books and cards. The shop has an excellent selection of original prints from Irish and international photographers and the stock changes regularly.
Located in a restored Georgian House in Temple Bar, this non-profit library and archive features the only major specialist collection of manuscript and recorded music by contemporary Irish composers. Included in the collection are some 3000 scores and 5000 recordings, while the centre's comprehensive database can also be accessed by visitors. A wide variety of specialist publications and CDs can be purchased at the reception area.
The development of Temple Bar as a cultural quarter was the inspiration for the creation of this innovative city square. Surrounded on all sides by contemporary architecture, the square is used for outdoor films, concerts and art, check the local press for details of upcoming events. The market on Saturdays showcases the best of Irish home-made and organic food, and musicians will serenade you as you munch. It's a good idea to wander down here on a Saturday afternoon to see what's going on.
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.