I’ve had plenty of time to kill in Dublin lately (can you tell I have an assignment due?), there’ll be folk over from the ASF in a couple of weeks, and this is something I’ve been planning on doing for ages, so here goes with the sequel to my Whistle-Stop Tour of Europe.
(Excuse me. Minor diversion while I go tweak the PHP. This template is pretty, but weirdly put together, full of MSDOS linebreaks, and weird coding decisions.)
Starting in the south city – if you’re lucky, in the summertime, you’ll see a barge navigating the Grand Canal – people often gather on Leeson St Bridge to stand and stare Off Earlsfort Terrace, at the top of Leeson St, lie the secret Iveagh gardens – you’d never believe how close you are to the city centre, in this little haven. It’s somewhat wilder than some of the other parks in Dublin, but as long as you mind the nettles, a very nice place indeed.
Mere minutes away in the other direction, Fitzwilliam Square is one of the newest (built in the 1820s), and smallest, of the city’s Georgian squares. It boasts a beautifully groomed park, tucked away and almost unknown – it’s the only garden of its kind that remains private, exclusively for the use of the square’s residents. At the end of Fitzwilliam St is the imposing facade of Holles St Hospital – the National Maternity Hospital.
Standing outside Holles St, both directions have something to offer – in one direction is St Stephen’s Church. Apparently. Ask anyone where that is, and you’ll almost certainly get blank stares. I’ve never known it as anything other than the Peppercanister. In the other direction lies one of the city’s worst kept secrets when it comes to a summer lunchtime picnic venue – Merrion Square. The National Gallery and Leinster House (where the parliaments sit, and the Government has its offices) are on the west side of the square.
Next up is Trinity College. The Museum Building is well worth a look, although apparently you have to be staff/student to be allowed upstairs in there – oh well, I’ve never seen many porters around it. Then of course, there’s the Book of Kells, and the absolutely fabulous Long Room library. Go. See them. Do check with me first though, because as a student, I can bring in a few guests for free – yay! The 1937 Reading Room is most photogenic, as is, of course, the Campanile. The Chapel isn’t the prettiest building on campus, and the Public Theatre just has too many stressful memories (It contains the Examinations Hall. ’nuff said.) And just so it’s clear – I’m a Buttery girl, and I’ll bring you for a drink there, any day
The National Museum on Kildare St houses many shiny things – it’s the museum of archaeology and history – and entry costs only your time. Well worth a brief nose around, on your way to St Stephen’s Green. There are sometimes interesting concerts on at the bandstand in the Green, but generally only on summer weekends.
Closer to the river, still on the south, is Temple Bar – Dublin’s trendy, urbane quarter, where goth-kids gather by day, and drunken stag parties from across the world congregate with the equally drunken hens at night. Best seen on a late Saturday morning – not too early, after the street cleaners have been through – when both the aforementioned are tucked up in their beds, and the wonderful food market reigns supreme
There are several choices for river crossings – O’Connell Bridge is probably the very centre of the city, and is the only bridge in the world that’s wider than it is long. The Ha’penny Bridge is a more recognisable Dublin icon – but you can take photos from O’Connell Bridge, so I’d still go with crossing that one The Millenium Spire is unmissable, however hard you try, and the only thing really worth seeing on O’Connell St (the GPO, or General Post Office, where the Proclamation of Independence was read in 1916) is currently swathed in scaffolding and sheets
At the top of O’Connell St is the Garden of Remembrance – small, pretty, and a nice place to take a break from the city. The lesser-known but more beautiful War Memorial Gardens are, acccording to our national heritage organisation, one of the most famous memorial gardens in Europe – I’m not sure I agree, but they are very well worth a visit.
Other things to see and do in Dublin include the museum at Collins’ Barracks – which was the oldest working barracks in the world, before it became part of the National Museum of Ireland. Now, it’s the museum for decorative arts and history, and a very shiny place The Four Courts is a very pretty building, but I’m not sure whether it’s still open to the public or not. I understand it is, but with restrictions – but that could be completely off.
Dublin Castle is worth a wander, and has another very pretty garden, outside the new Chester Beatty Library (the original was turned into a hotel). I don’t find the new museum quite as atmospheric as the old one, but if it’s Oriental that floats your junk, it’s the place to see – and as with most of Dublin’s museums & libraries, admission is free
The Guinness brewery at St James’s Gate is so-so – rather touristy, and not as good a tour as it used to be – but worth it if you’re a Guinness drinker, and ends with the fairly spectacular views from the Gravity Bar. I haven’t done the Jameson tour since I was too young to remember, but reports are good.
Phoenix Park isn’t my favourite place on earth, but it does contain the only even-numbered postal code on the north side of the river, Áras an Uachtaráin – the President’s House – which is open to visitors on Saturdays. (Tickets are available on the day only, at the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre.) It’s also home to the Papal Cross, where the Pope said Mass to over a million people, during his 1979 visit to Ireland, as well as the US Ambassador to Ireland.
The Wellington Monument, also in the Park, is the second tallest obelisk in the world (only the Washinton one is taller), and the Park itself is famous for its size – it’s among the largest city/walled parks in the world (it is the largest city park, and the second largest walled park, in Europe, to the best of my knowledge). It’s also home to Dublin Zoo, of which I am a proud supporter.
More things to see and do in Dublin will follow, as I remember them