Dublin: The biggest city of the ‘island’
Yes, not only Ireland but the island as well!
The Island of Ireland contains two countries: the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. And Dublin, the biggest city on the island, attracts tourists from all around the world. It doesn't only attracts tourists, but also big tech companies like Microsoft, HP, LinkedIn and Facebook thanks to the country's 12.5% corporate tax rate...
As I’m doing my voluntary service in Belfast -which is only 2 hours away from Dublin- I decided to go on a trip there and discover this lovely city. After reading this, maybe you decide to visit too!
Parks & Nature
The island is known for its natural beauty, and Dublin doesn’t lack anything in terms of nature… Amazing tones of green, big parks, parks that will help you run away from the big city, or just to listen to the birds singing while having lunch. If you want to relax like that, Dublin is the right city. Some of them are:
St. Stephen's Green
Near Grafton Street, St. Stephen’s Green is the most famous park in Ireland. It is accessible for everyone, and it was quite crowded during the day. There is also a large lake full of ducks and other birds. Plus many sculptures for your eyes!
Merrion Square Park
Merrion Square once was a private park for the wealthy living around. Later many famous people lived in this area, including Oscar Wilde! In front of the National Gallery of Ireland, this park is unforgettable for me. I was already amazed by the amazing paintings in the gallery and then we jumped in the park, I loved the Oscar Wilde(monument) with that cheeky smile on his face!
St. Anne’s Park
Assembled by members of the Guinness family, the park is the second-largest park in Dublin. It’s all for public usage with rose gardens, golf fields and lovely playgrounds for kids. What I like the most about this park was small games for kids (like a treasure hunt with smartphones) I wanted to be a kid again! Not only modern treasure hunts but also old school games like hide and seek is perfect for this park with old buildings and big old trees!
This scenic island, located in Dublin Bay with a sandy beach and a lot of beautiful birds, which are protected by the EU Habitats Directive, is actually a human intervention.
You can access the island by a bridge, which I highly recommend going there by bike since it’s around 30-minute walk. By bike, you can still see the beauty of the surroundings and have this sweet feeling of freedom. Car is not an option because it’s a car-free zone. I highly recommend you see this beautiful small island.
The National Botanic Gardens of Ireland
‘An Oasis of Calm in the City’ I only visited the one in Glasnevin (there is another Botanic Garden in Kilmacurragh), it seemed like a big tourist attraction. Yet the glasshouses were closed due to Covid, the gardens were worth seeing.
Museums and Galleries
Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA)
This bold museum put me under its spell for the whole day. Brave pieces of art, different exhibitions like GHOSTS FROM THE RECENT PAST, which is about the key political events of the last 40 years. I have visited some museums about politics around the ‘island’ but this one is my favourite so far.
National Gallery of Ireland
Established in 1854, the gallery houses the national collection of Irish and European pieces of art. It is also located in Merrion Square (right in front of the Merrion Square Park) Oh such an elegant place to be in! The gallery has a wide collection of Irish paintings and is also notable for its Italian Baroque and Dutch paintings too. 1
This overwhelmingly big gallery has 14.000 artworks, which was quite incredible for me because I had never seen such a big gallery before. Some of the most famous paintings in the collection: Titian, Ecce Homo, 1558–60, Rembrandt, Interior with Figures, Caravaggio (1571–1610) The Taking of Christ 1602… and some ‘others’ you’ll see in the European Art Gallery, but let’s not ruin the surprises you will come across there.
There were also a couple of drawings of Ottoman Sultans.
After visiting the gallery, have some coffee and snacks in Merrion Square Park and imagine living there in the 18th century! :D
Hugh Lane Gallery
The Hugh Lane Gallery, officially Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane and originally the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, is an art museum operated by Dublin City Council and its subsidiary the Hugh Lane Gallery Trust. It is located in Charlemont House (built 1763) on Parnell Square. 5
It is right beside the Dublin Writer's Museum so you can just spend an afternoon full of art! :)
Dublin Castle was unexpectedly hidden for me. My understanding of castle was basically ‘located in an empty place, surrounded by nothing but green grass’ After seeing Dublin Castle, my thoughts have changed forever. It is located off Dame Street in central Dublin, and its entrance was quite grey until I saw the sand sculpture exhibition in the courtyard. If you are lucky enough you can see the artists working on them.
Now let’s dive into its history a bit. Dublin Castle was first founded as a major defensive work by Meiler Fitzhenry on the orders of King John of England in 1204. *( Fitzhenry, Meiler" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.) Until 1922, the castle was the seat of the British Government’s administration in Ireland. It was built by the dark pool ("Dubh Linn") which gave Dublin its name. 2
Today, it is a big tourist attraction and houses the Irish nation’s most important ceremonies. There are also exhibitions and precious collections for visitors to see.
*Until the end of 2021, entry to Dublin Castle is free for all visitors. So don’t you miss the chance of seeing this excellent castle.
There are a couple of museums I couldn’t visit, so I will just leave them here in case I go to Dublin again, or maybe you want to visit them.
National Museums of Ireland:
-National Museum of Decorative Arts & History
Famous Streets and Quarters
Located between St. Stephen’s Green and College Green, the street is one of the biggest shopping streets in Dublin. It used to be a fashionable residential street until it was connected to Carlisle Bridge (I believe this is the destiny of old fancy streets in general). In the last century, it became known for the coffee house Bewley’s and a popular spot for buskers (street performers). Before visiting this city, I didn’t know about how it was famous for buskers. Later when I visited Galway, I saw that it is actually a thing and the street performers LOVE what they are doing! * (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grafton_Street)
The street was named after Charles FitzRoy, 2nd Duke of Grafton, the illegitimate grandson of King Charles II who owned land in the area. 3
If you turn left from the Spire of Dublin, you will see Henry Street. Just like Grafton Street, buskers and the other street artists perform there. You can basically find anything you need on this street. What surprised me the most as I was wondering on this street, is that big chain shops like ‘Primark’ (Penneys) or ‘Poundland’ (Dealz) has different names in Ireland. Poundlands’ name change is quite normal considering the pound is not used in the Republic contrary to the UK.
O’Connell Street houses numerous sculptures and monuments, including one of the world’s tallest sculptures called The Spire (120 metres high), the Statue of Daniel O’Connell the Liberator, Sir John Gray…
The General Post Office building, designed in 1818 is also one of the attractions you might want to see. Also, some old iconic buildings like Gresham Hotel (stayed there for a few days, cool place).
Once you are on O’Connell Street, there is always something to do around. You can easily reach the other tourist attractions by walking, plus there is a visitor information office in case you are out of ideas.
‘Dublin’s world-famous cultural quarter’
Temple Bar is the historic heart of Dublin and there is something for everyone: markets (food, books, designer), exhibitions, buskers, theatre, galleries, cafés, bars… Well, most importantly bars… You can see locals rushing to bars drink a Guinness or two, get socialised and relax after a day at work or young students of Trinity College (very close) enjoying their time.
You can also see the original city walls of Dublin.
You can find souvenirs of this place, hoodies, t-shirts, cups…
They didn’t let us in due to Covid but I did my research for you:
Queen Elizabeth, I founded the college in 1592 as ‘the mother of a university’ (I’ll add this to my bucket list) it was modelled after the collegiate universities of Oxford and Cambridge.
One Library to rule ‘em all!
Trinity College Library Dublin is a legal deposit library for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and has a similar standing in Irish law. The college is therefore legally entitled to a copy of every book published in Great Britain and Ireland, and consequently receives over 100,000 new items every year. 4
Some famous alumni of the Trinity College: Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, Courtney Love…
Restaurants and Bars
These are the places I enjoyed:
Xi’an Street Food: If you like Chinese food then you will love this place. It’s located very close to Henry Street.
Reyna Turkish Restaurant: As a Turk, I approve this place. Wonderful food, we went there quite a few times during our visit.
Umi: This place will always be my favourite fast-food chain. If I was vegetarian/vegan probably I’d go there quite often.
Beshoff fish and chips: located on Henry Street, this place has very nice F&C. I had smoked haddock and I liked it. If you are looking for a different taste in fish and chips, go for it!
KC Peaches: Another small food chain in Dublin, they serve healthy food and delicious coffee. I really enjoyed the interior design I should add.
Overall, I liked Dublin. It is worth visiting with its history and tourist attractions. How about you? Have you been to Dublin before? Or are you already planning your next trip to this lovely city after reading my spectacular travel journey? Let me know in the comments section.
3) Bennett, Douglas (2005). The Encyclopaedia of Dublin. Gill & Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-717-13684-1