Ireland’s capital city lies nestled between Howth in the north and Dalkey to the south. It’s also divided in two by the River Liffey that flows into the harbor, but there are several bridges that span the divide like O’Connell Bridge to name but one. Dublin was once the British Empire’s second city, and its past is tangible in the Georgian architecture and the English parks that are scattered across the city today. Officially dubbed as a UNESCO City of Literature in 2010, Dublin is an all-star just waiting to be uncovered.
Top Attractions in Dublin
What would Dublin be without its castle? The castle was the center administrative building during 700 years of British rule and has been through many phases; it’s been a medieval fortress, a vice0regal court and a function of government, but today it’s mainly used for ceremonial functions. You can explore the state apartments and a few museums inside the complex like the Chester Beatty Library and Gallery.
Just a short stroll away from Trinity College leads you to Grafton Street, Dublin’s best shopping destination. To mark it you’ll see a statue of Molly Malone at the bottom of the street, and once you pass it you’ll find a bustling atmosphere, whether its morning, noon or night. Impromptu performances from greatly popular bands are no rare sight here, but so are the buskers and the fiddle players. Amidst the music there’s an abundance of boutiques, jewelers and department stores like Brown Thomas. Don’t miss Bewley’s Oriental Café, a Dublin favorite since 1927. The Powerscourt Townhouse Centre is where you’ll head to for a more artsy flair of designer shops and trendy eateries.
St Stephen’s Green
After a delectable lunch at Bewley’s Oriental Café, take a leisurely stroll down the street until you get to Fusilier’s Arch, the main entrance to St Stephen’s Green. Locals call it ‘the Green’, but this 22 acre park is a real Dublin gem and a place you’d head to just get away from the buzz of the city after a day of exploring. The flowerbeds that line the green lawns, the ornate fountain in the park’s center, the duck pond with its pretty bridge and the children’s playground make this the perfect place to kick back and relax.
Kildare Street is where you’ll find the Irish Parliament House, a grand Georgian mansion that’s a sight not to be missed. Just across the street you’ll find the National Museum of Ireland, an archeology museum with some amazing permanent exhibitions on Ireland’s Gold, Prehistoric Ireland and the Treasure which houses the splendid Ardagh Chalice. In the vicinity you could also visit the National Library if you’re a bookworm of sorts.
If you’re going to Dublin, Trinity College would be your best base for exploring since it lies at the heart of the capital. Trinity College is Ireland’s oldest university and as such holds great historical importance. The college occupies roughly 40 acres of land comprising of cobbled squares, beautiful gardens and parks. Some of the college’s most prized collections include the 9th century illuminated manuscript, the Book of Kells, the Book of Durrow and Armagh and an ancient Irish harp that are displayed in the Treasury at the 18th century Long Room. As you enter the grounds through the timber-tiled archway, you’ll feel like you’re stepping back in time, and to round up the picture you’ll feast your eyes on the 18th and 19th century buildings the cobbled pathways and the pristine green lawns.
The National Gallery of Ireland
A short right at the end of Kildare Street takes you to the National Gallery of Ireland. On offer here is a glimpse at some of the most impressive fine Irish art and some brilliant European art dating back to the Middle Ages. The gallery was officially opened in 1864 and comprises the Yeats Museum, 7 rooms of Irish Art, Italian Painters, the Shaw Room and the Baroque Room.
Merrion Square has to be one of Dublin’s finest Georgian squares and it’s the typical image you might have seen on a postcard of the city. The park in the center of the square is stunning and boasts a statue of Oscar Wilde. Take a stroll around the square and experience what it would feel like to step back in time.
Take a quick 25 minute trip of the DART (Dublin’s light rail network) from the city center and you’ll reach Dalkey and nearby Killiney. Dalkey Castle has an amazing Visitors Center to give you some background on the area through historical and cultural exhibitions and live theatre performances that scale the heights of the castle ramparts. You can also see the stunning Dalkey Island and Vico Road that boasts some of the most scenic views over Killiney Bay. Killiney Hill is well known for its panoramic vistas within the public park.
Phoenix Park is best known for housing the Dublin Zoo, but measuring in at 1,750 acres, it’s the largest enclosed urban park in Europe. The parklands are home to hundreds of deer, but it’s also the home of the President of Ireland along with Deerfield, the US Ambassador to Ireland. You can pop in at the Visitors Centre near Ashtown Castle if you’re keen on learning more about the park and environments.
This is undeniably a massive attraction, pulling crowds in excess of 1 million annually, the Dublin Zoo dates back as far as 1830, making it Europe’s second oldest zoo. If you’ve got a whole day set aside, the zoo is the place to get to. Some of the rare and exotic animals you’ll be able to see include Asian Lions, Asian Elephants, Sea Lions, Tigers, Hippos and Penguins. There’s also a very cool Orangutan enclosure and a Reptile House, a restaurant, a family farm and a kiddies pay area to keep you well entertained.