Chester Beatty Library
Dublin Castle, City Center
The Chester Beatty, founded initially to hold the collections of mining magnate Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, has expanded its collections, exhibit schedule, and educational offerings to encourage cultural and religious understanding. Within the labyrinth of Dublin Castle, the museum is one of Dublin’s most serene spaces—quiet, dark, set off with lush tapestries, ancient manuscripts, and small pieces of art. The museum, like most of Dublin’s cultural institutions, seeks to be a living, breathing space for city dwellers and visitors alike. Aside from the 6,000 culturally significant works on display—love poems from 1160 B.C., Egyptian Books of the Dead, the earliest papyrus sources of the Bible—the Chester Beatty hosts regular drop-in-and-draw sessions, interactive art tours for those suffering from dementia, Qigong on the rooftop, and family-friendly film screenings.
Christ Church Cathedral
Christchurch Pl., City Center
A major Dublin Landmark, Christ Church Cathedral has been rooted in the city center since 1028. Originally a Viking church, the cathedral has of course changed hands in line with Ireland's successive waves of invaders. Today it appears fairly Victorian, with a mix of Gothic and Romanesque features, like flying buttresses. Inside you’ll find not only a fully functioning Anglican church with regular services and a stellar choir (stop in for Evensong) but a thousand years' worth of ancient manuscripts and artifacts, including Ireland’s first copy of the Magna Carta. Walk down to the country’s oldest medieval crypt and be sure to stop at the burial tomb of Strongbow, the Welsh warlord who brought the Anglo-Norman invasion to Ireland in the 12th century.
Dame St., City Center
A historic landmark as well as a major government complex, Dublin Castle was built in the 13th century on the site of a Viking settlement (remnants of which can still be seen today). Until 1922, the castle was the British headquarters in Ireland. The structure is a Georgian palace with the requisite grand reception hall and palatial apartments, a Gothic Revival chapel, and several museums. Today it is used to inaugurate presidents and host state dinners, and it has been used to entertain everyone from Nelson Mandela to John F. Kennedy. In addition to the Chester Beatty, there is a second museum that houses paintings, sculpture, and textiles spanning ages.
National Botanic Gardens
Hop on the bus or take a taxi to Glasnevin, just outside the city center, to the tropical oasis—yes, tropical oasis—that is the National Botanic Gardens. The gardens were initially founded in 1795 to promote the scientific study of agriculture and were later used for further botanical studies and research, which led to—luckily, for Dubliners—the arrival of thousands of tropical plants from around the world. While you walk around, take note of the beautifully constructed greenhouses that reflect the rolling clouds (and, less frequently, the sun). Check out the orchid collection, the cactus house, the herbarium, and, of course, the rose garden. The café serves great coffee and baked treats. It’s really a perfect respite for visitors with little kids or anyone who craves the calm and peace of a big garden while in a big city.
Phoenix Park, City Center
The single largest enclosed park in any city in Europe, Phoenix Park is basically a 1,752-acre backyard to Dublin. The grounds were initially used as a royal hunting ground in the 1600s and have evolved to include hundreds of trails, historic monuments (like the Papal Cross and the Wellington Testimonial), Victorian gardens, and the Dublin Zoo, as well as Áras an Uachtaráin, the president's official residence (one he shares with hundreds of deer). Walking, biking, or even driving through the park early in the morning as the sun rises or at dusk is one of Dublin's great pleasures.
The Garden of Remembrance
Parnell Square E., Parnell Square
A small, almost discreet garden at the top of one of Dublin’s most imposing boulevards, the Garden of Remembrance is dedicated to all those who gave their lives in pursuit of Irish freedom. The memorial is nestled into one of the many Georgian squares that dot the city (this one is aptly named for the nationalist statesman Charles Stewart Parnell). A sunken stream cuts through the length of the garden, leading the eye up to a fleet of steps topped with a moving sculpture of the Children of Lir (an Irish mythological tale) and a monument inscribed with a poem commemorating the six uprisings across seven generations that led to Ireland's emancipation. Despite being in the center of the city, the garden has a quiet calm—and gravitas.
The Guinness Storehouse
St. James's Gate, Ushers
The Guinness Storehouse is the most popular tourist attraction in Dublin for good reason. It's so much more than just a place to sample a few pints where it all began: Guinness has created a full interactive experience that immerses you in the world of hops and wheat. Arthur Guinness himself signed a 9,000-year lease on this exact spot in 1759, so we can all rest assured the brewery won’t be moving anytime soon. Fresh water is pumped in directly from the Wicklow Mountains—which is evident in the cascading waterfall held within the structure—and barley is literally growing out of the walls. In the tasting room, futuristic pods pump out the different aromas that make the perfect pint. All of this sensory overload leads you through the building up to the end game: a pint of Guinness enjoyed at the greenhouse-style gravity bar while you take in the panorama of the city.
Trinity College Dublin
College Green, City Center
Smack in the middle of Dublin is the walled campus of Trinity College. Inside the walls: beautifully maintained Georgian buildings built around three squares and playing fields dotted with sculptures by Alexander Calder, Henry Moore, and other artistic heavyweights. Alongside several thousand students, most of Dublin uses the campus (built by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592) to cut across the city, partially because it’s a shortcut but mainly because it’s beautiful. The walkway between the cricket and rugby pitches is lined with cherry trees. The front square, with its campanile and imposing columned buildings, is an architectural feat, and the many manicured green spaces are ideal lunch spots. The Georgian buildings contain historical treasures, like the Book of Kells (a ninth-century illustrated manuscript of the four gospels and life of Jesus), and the old library and long room are filled with an impressive 200,000 books and lined with marble busts of great Western philosophers and writers.
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