Things to Do in Dublin - page 3
Since James Joyce was one of Ireland’s most beloved novelists and poets, it only makes sense that an entire center is dedicated to his life and work. Though Joyce never lived in this Georgian-era house not far from Parnell Square, it’s very similar to the one where he was raised, and was actually the home of Denis Maginni—the dance instructor who is prominently mentioned in Joyce’s famous Ulysses. The center contains pieces of Joyce’s furniture that were moved from his studio in Paris, and also has the door of 7 Eccles Street—the home of Leopold and Molly Bloom that also appears in Ulysses. Though the number of period artifacts is thin, Joyce fans will enjoy the interactive displays that include documentaries and computer programs explaining his life and works. In addition to touring the center itself, the James Joyce Centre also hosts walking tours around the streets of Dublin.
The Georgian Period was a regal time, when many of Dublin’s most well to do residents resided in lavish homes. One of those stunning historical abodes is Number Twenty Nine, a Georgian townhome from the late 18th century that’s now a public museum. Tour every corner of this extravagant home, from a basement that holds an authentic collection of Georgian era furniture, to an attic that has carpets, curtains, and artifacts that have been preserved for hundreds of years. In addition to the intriguing period pieces, informative storyboards help to educate visitors on the life of a wealthy homeowner. Similarly, there’s also info on the daily lives of residents who weren’t so well off—particularly the servants who kept the home in such a reputable and high-class state. Wandering through Number Twenty Nine takes the better part of an hour, and seeing as it’s only a short walk from Grafton Street and the city center, it’s an educational and insightful stop on a walking tour of Dublin.
Dublin residents are passionate about sport, and the Aviva stadium is the pulsing epicenter of Rugby Union and football (soccer). This 51,700-person stadium holds Ireland’s largest sporting events and concerts, and tours are available on days that don’t have a concert or large-scale event. Aside from being a popular venue, Aviva Stadium also holds a bit of Dublin history, as back in 1873, this was the site of one of the world’s first international sporting contests. Rugby matches were held on the grounds between regional teams in Ireland, and the Lansdowne grounds held international contests in 1878. Originally built as a multi-purpose venue for cricket, rugby, and athletics, Aviva Stadium is best known today as the site of Irish football. It’s also the site of superstar concerts, with big name acts such as Rihanna, Neil Diamond, and Michael Jackson having performed at Aviva’s grounds.
Just outside of Dublin, Dalkey Castle entertains and informs with live actors from the Deilg Inis Theatre Company who reenact typical scenes from what life was like in Ireland in the 1500s. You might see an archer shooting a longbow, a barber offering haircuts, or a cook making traditional meals of the day. There is also an interactive time line in the Heritage Center that begins from the early Christian era and works its way through the Viking period, Medieval times, the Victorian era, and finally modern times in Dalkey. The Writers' Gallery features literary and creative connections to Joyce, Beckett, Bono, and Maeve Binchy.
From the castle battlements, visitors can admire panoramic views of the sea and the mountains. You can also explore an early Christian church and graveyard dedicated to St. Begnet on the castle grounds. Historical and literary guided tours of the castle are available, and they will walk you through the fascinating history of Dalkey Castle.
In 1775, the Dutch author Richard Twiss remarked that Castletown House “is the only house in Ireland to which the term palace can be applied.” Though not to detract from the country’s other standouts, it’s indeed true that the Castletown House is a piece of architectural wonder. Situated in County Kildare about 30 minutes west of Dublin, this palatial, Palladian-style mansion was constructed during the 1720s for William Connolly—who, in addition to being the Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, was also the wealthiest Irish commoner of the time. It was Ireland’s first and largest Palladian-style home—an architectural style inherited from the grandeur of Renaissance-era Italy. On a guided tour of the historic home, stroll beneath towering Ionic columns that connect the adjacent wings, and peruse the artifacts of one of Ireland’s most political and military families.
The Dublin Writers Museum features unique works and memorabilia from famous writers heralding from this city. Letters and personal items from such icons as Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett allow visitors to connect with their favorite Irish authors on a more personal level while also admiring their works, which are also on display. Over 300 years of historical memorabilia and literature are displayed in this charming Georgian house-turned-museum, complete with a library, gallery and lecture rooms. There are also an adjoining bookshop and cafe as well as a basement restaurant that all follow the literary theme.
Built as a centre to honor past Irish literary figures, the museum has also become a place for young aspiring writers to gain perspective and inspiration for their own works. The headquarters for these authors, the Irish Writers' Centre, is conveniently located next door to the museum, providing them a respite to work and share ideas.
Often erroneously overlooked in favor of more “popular” churches, St. Audoen’s Church is the oldest medieval church still used in Dublin today. Constructed back in the late 12th century, the church is named for St. Audoen (Ouen), a patron saint of Rouen (Normandy) who lived in the 7th century. Though some parts of the church are in literal ruins, others have been restored and now host guided historical tours. When wandering the shadowy and ancient hallows of this stone and wooden compound, hear the tales of what life was like for residents of medieval Dublin. There is a Catholic Church by the same name that was built in the 19th century, so in order to bypass any confusion, be sure to visit the St. Audeon’s that’s nearly 1,000 years old. Next door to the church, a set of stairs leads to the only remaining gate from the original city wall.
More Things to Do in Dublin
The James Joyce Tower is known for being featured at the beginning of James Joyce's Ulysses. Today it is a museum which houses letters, photographs, and other personal possessions from Joyce. The museum also contains rare editions of his work and other interesting items such as the original key to the tower, a plaster bust of Joyce made by Milton Hebald, and two plaster death masks of Joyce made by Paul Speck.
Visitors can also visit the living quarters which still show signs of the tower's original purpose, defense against Napoleon. Though the tower never saw any action, the massive outer door, reinforced against attackers with sheet metal, bolts, and bars, still stands here. You can also see a trap door leading to the artillery storage room below. The only windows are narrow and angled to protect from cannon attacks. A narrow winding staircase leads to the roof where there is a circular gun deck. From the roof, you can enjoy panoramic views across the Dublin Bay.
Even though it’s only an hour from Dublin, Avoca is a town where visitors feel like they’ve traveled back 400 years. Much of that feeling can be attributed to the historic Mill at Avoca Village, which has been weaving rugs, throws and scarves since 1723. Today, Avoca Handweavers is renowned throughout Ireland for their woven women’s clothing, and in addition to being Ireland’s oldest mill, is also considered to be the oldest business still operating in Ireland today. The multi-generational business aside, Avoca village is so visually charming that’s it been chosen as the set for numerous movies and local Irish television. When strolling the pastel-cottage lined streets—which themselves are backed by rolling green hills that define the Irish landscape—you truly feel that you’ve left the city for an authentic Irish village. It’s little wonder, given its beauty, that Avoca is a popular weekend getaway or long day trip from Dublin.
If you forgot your favorite rain jacket at home, or need to pick up some gloves or a windbreaker for a trip to Western Ireland, Kildare Village is Dublin’s most popular outlet shopping experience. Over 60 different big name brands are found in the shopping village, with stores often offering a 60% discount off of the retail price. What makes Kildare such an experience, however, is that visitors don’t feel like their rummaging through the leftovers that brands just wanted to discard. Everything about the village—from the clean, modern, and comfortable facilities to the trendy cafés and free Wi-Fi—has the feel of a luxurious shopping outing at prices that thankfully don’t match. Once you’re finished with the shopping experience, explore the museums, restaurants, and shops in the surrounding Kildare area, which is located 35 minutes from Dublin when conveniently arriving by train.
Ireland’s most popular cruise destination, Dublin sees nearly two million cruise and ferry passengers come through its port each year. A UNESCO City of Literature since 2010, it is also a very green city, boasting more green space per square kilometer than any other European capital. With a thousand years of history behind it, Dublin truly has something to offer everyone, from historic churches and theatrers to trendy boutiques and lively pubs.
A terrifying Irish jail for over two centuries, Wicklow Gaol opened in 1702 as a place of imprisonment for Catholics repressed under the Penal Laws. Over 400 prisoners — old people, women, children, it didn't matter — could be locked up here for as petty a crime as stealing two shillings. And the barbaric keepers, along with the constant threat of disease, floggings, torture, and capital punishment made Wicklow Gaol a truly fearsome place. The jail finally closed down during the Irish Revolution in 1924, and today the old prison is one of Wicklow's most visited places.
On a visit, you’ll meet your first “inmate” in the foyer. He'll give you a few dark facts and tales about the prison, then, as you make your way past the hanging beam, you can go round at your own pace with an audio guide (and you could easily spend hours doing so), or you can join a tour with an inmate as a guide. Either way, you’ll learn the history of Ireland through the eyes of the prisoners.
If the constant buzz of Dublin’s streets leaves you seeking a moment of solace, escape to sprawling St. Anne’s Park in the city’s northern suburbs. In this area formerly owned by the Guinness family, the rose gardens, playgrounds, soccer fields, and walking paths form a green and spacious urban retreat that’s popular with locals and visitors. On Saturday mornings, peruse the local farmers market that’s held in stables once belonging to Lord Ardilaun, aka Arthur Guinness. Though the Guinness mansion was destroyed back in 1943, the extravagant garden surroundings they created are what form the park today. 18 tennis courts and a par-3 golf course are included in the park’s 450 acres, as is the forested Millennium Arboretum that’s planted with 1,000 different trees. St. Anne’s Park makes a convenient stop when traveling between Dublin and Howth, and is arguably one of the most popular green spaces in Ireland’s happening capital.
With its windswept coastlines and bucolic landscapes, Ireland abounds with hiking routes and the Wicklow Way remains one of the most popular. Boasting notoriety as Ireland’s first waymarked trail, the Wicklow Way opened back in 1980 and attracts nearly 24,000 walkers each year, making it the busiest National Trail in the country.
If you’re looking for a long-distance trail that offers some spectacular views along with constantly varying terrain, the Wicklow Way offers up an array of Irish countryside. This is storybook Ireland at its best: gently undulating foothills and trickling brooks; lush farmlands dotted with sheep and separated by rickety wooden stiles; mist-covered bogs and heather-carpeted moorlands. The Way starts in the southern suburbs of Dublin and runs to County Wicklow – aptly nicknamed the ‘Garden of Ireland’ - through the scenic Wicklow Mountain range.
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