After a first day touring the southern parts of Dublin (click here to read the first part of “A two-day adventure in Dublin”), we will spend the second day exploring the northern area. Our first stop will be the Ha’penny Bridge.
Check out the first part of this article to get answers to the most common question about Dublin and Ireland in general, such as “Is Dublin worth visiting?”, “What is the best month to visit Dublin?”, “Is Dublin expensive to visit?”, “What is Dublin famous for?”, “What are the most important things to know before visiting Ireland?, and many others.
1. Ha'penny Bridge
The Ha’penny Bridge (“Droichead na Leathphingine”), also known as the Penny Ha’penny Bridge and officially the Liffey Bridge, is a 19-century cast-iron pedestrian bridge that spans the River Liffey.
Before the construction of the Ha’penny Bridge, a William Walsh ran seven ferries across the river. Once their conditions got poor, Walsh was advised to either repair the ferries or build a bridge. He chose the latter option, and for the next 100 years, they gave him the right to charge a ha’penny toll to anyone who crossed it.
The toll was raised to a penny-ha’penny (1½ pence) for a period before the abolition in 1919.
From Ha’penny Bridge walk toward O’Connell Bridge, and on your left, you will find O’Connell Street (a 4-minute walk).
2. O’Connell Street
O’Connell Street is the main thoroughfare and the largest street in the city (but not the longest), the widest urban street in Europe, and the main shopping destination on the Northside of the city (along with its surroundings Henry Street and Parnell Street).
It is home to a few impressive monuments and buildings, including the historic General Post Office, and the “Spire”, the tallest sculpture worldwide.
Walking northwards from O’Connell Bridge you will see the O’Connell Monument, Jim Larkin Statue, the General Post Office (GPO), the Spire, and then Parnell Monument.
Let’ start with the O’Connell Monument standing at the very beginning of this street.
3. O'Connell Monument
Daniel O’Connell, also known as “The Liberator,” was a 19th-century political figure who rose to become one of Europe’s most powerful politicians. He was a strong advocate for Catholic emancipation and also campaigned for tenant rights in Ireland when wealthy landowners dominated the land and ran their estates like mini-fiefdoms (hence the nickname).
As a result of the love Irish people had for him, his bronze statue on granite, unveiled in 1882, is appropriately imposing.
The statue consists of three parts, with O’Connell at the top, looking out across the bridge that bears his name. An allegorical image of “Ireland” in the form of a woman stands in the middle, holding the Act of Emancipation in her hand, and pointing at O’Connell. All around “Ireland”, there are nearly 30 other figures, including artisans and peasants, along with musicians, physicians, and priests. Finally, four-winged victories (courage, loyalty, devotion, and eloquence – qualities for which O’Connell was known) stand at the foundation.
If you look closely at the angels, you will note that two of them have bullet holes, respectable wounds from the 1916 Easter Rising.
A couple of hundreds of meters ahead on O’Connell Street, you will find the statue of Kim Larkin.
4. The statue of Jim Larkin
Jim Larkin, also known as “Big Jim“, was a trade union organizer. This statue shows him urging the working class to rise from their knees or even throwing his hands up in despair.
A couple of meters head, you will find the General Post Office on the left-end side.
5. General Post Office
The General Post Office building, designed in 1818, is rated as one of the most beautiful edifices on O’Connell Street and it was the last of the great Georgian public buildings erected in the capital.
The GPO served as headquarters for 1916’s seven rebel leaders during the Easter Rising, and it was from outside this building on the 24th of April 1916, that Patrick Pearse read out the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. The rebellious group of intellectuals barricaded themselves inside the GPO, but they were under-armed and outnumbered.
For this reason, the British gutted it that Easter week, except for the front colonnade and facade, and not rebuilt until 1929 by the Irish Free State government. It has faithfully served as Dublin’s main post office ever since. If you look at the pillars, though, you can still see the damage done by the fighting.
All seven signatories on the declaration were then tried in secret and executed by the Crown, becoming martyrs to Irish freedom. Their short-lived fight eventually led to Irish independence, and the leaders are revered to this day.
Decades later, you can find their proclamation in many Irish government buildings, including the GPO, and countless memorials. Besides, it is read every year on Easter at the renovated post office by a member of the Irish Defense Forces.
In commemoration of the Rising, they put a stunning bronze statue depicting the death of the mythical hero Cúchulainn at the command post in the centre of the GPO main hall, but it now stands in the front of the building. The statue was featured on the Irish ten shilling coin of 1966, marking the 15th anniversary of the Rising.
The Witness History Museum is an excellent way to learn about the Rising, with an original copy of the Proclamation is on display in it.
Admission fee: 14€/ 17$ (included in your Dublin Pass).
Less than a hundred meter away, you will find the Spire.
6. The Spire
The Spire, or Monument of Light (“An Túr Solais”), is an extensive needle-like monument made from gleaming steel with an illuminated tip. It is one of the tallest sculptures (120 meters/ 390 ft high) in the world and nicknamed “The Stiletto in the Ghetto” or simply “the Needle”.
It was designed in 2003 and placed where Nelson’s Pillar once stood to commemorate Horatio Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. As a symbol of British rule, it was partially destroyed in an explosion orchestrated by the IRA (Irish Republican Army) on the 50th anniversary of the Rising.
At the end of O’Connell Street, a couple of hundred meters away, you will find Parnell Monument.
7. Parnell Monument
Charles Stewart Parnell not only was a nationalist politician and the founder and leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons in London, but he is also considered by many the “Uncrowned King of Ireland”.
His monument is a towering tribute to his life made of a bronze statue of himself standing at the base of a granite pillar that rises 90 metres high.
Behind the monument, the Gate Theatre and Rotunda Hospital, you will find the Garden of Remembrance.
8. Garden of Remembrance
The Garden of Remembrance (“An Gairdín Cuimhneacháin”) is a memorial garden dedicated to the memory of “all those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish Freedom”. It is a large sunken garden that features a non-denominational-cross-shaped pool designed to be inclusive of all religions, creeds or colours.
The floor of the cross is lined with mosaics of shattered swords and broken shields, echoing the rituals of ancient clans who would shutter their weapons at the end of the battle and throw them into the rivers or large bodies of water to symbolize the end of a conflict.
It also features a vast statue of the Children of Lir that signifies rebirth and resurrection, based on a famous Irish myth regarding the transformation of the daughters of the king into swans by a jealous stepmother, their subsequent exile, and their symbolic return.
Intended as a place of quiet remembrance, the garden was officially opened on the 15th anniversary of the 1916 Rising.
Admission is free.
From there, go back to O’Connell Monument, turn left onto Eden Quay, and, continuing onto Custom House Quay, you will find the Custom House on your left.
9. The Custom House
The Custom House (“Teach an Chustaim”) is a neoclassical 18th-century building that houses the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. It is one of the jewels in the architectural crown of Dublin and a masterpiece of European neoclassicism.
In 1840 the building became the Irish headquarters of the Poor Law Commissioners, in charge of relief during the Great Famine of the 1840s.
The Irish Republican Army burned down the Custom House during the Irish War of Independence in 1921 to destroy the main tax and local government documents as part of their plan to dismantle British administration in Ireland. The fire burned for five days, wrecking the original interior and the central dome. They rebuilt it in 1928.
Statues of Neptune, Plenty, Industry, and Mercury adorn the pillars, while figures of England and Ireland adorn the pediment, with Neptune driving away famine and despair. Two-story arcaded wings with alternating windows and blind niches on the upper floor, connect this to the projecting corner pavilions which echo the architecture of the central block. The north entrance is a four-columned portico with no pediment, but statues of Europe, Asia, Africa, and America decorating the walls. Sculptures of the rivers Bann, Barrow, Blackwater, Boyne, Erne, Foyle, Lagan, Lee, Liffey, Nore, Shannon, Slaney, and Suir, as well as the Kingdom of Ireland’s coats of arms and the figure of Commerce leaning on her anchor on top of the dome, embellish the building.
From there, continue onto Custom House Quay and you will find the Famine Memorial on your right.
10. Famine Memorial
The Famine Memorial is a series of statues given to the City of Dublin in 1997 to commemorate the Great Famine (“An Gorta Mór“) of the mid-19th century when Ireland lost more than one million people to starvation and a million more emigrated from Ireland.
Potato blight, also known as potato drought, is believed to have been the cause of the famine. While blight ravaged potato crops across Europe in the 1840s, the effect and human cost in Ireland, where one-third of the population relied solely on the potato for sustenance, were compounded by a slew of political, social, and economic factors that are still debated.
The bronze sculptures represent starving Irish citizens walking towards ships to take them overseas to escape hunger and poverty; the women, men, and children are depicted as skeletal figures wearing nothing but rags.
This location is particularly fitting and historic because the “Perseverance,” which sailed from Custom House Quay on St. Patrick’s Day 1846, was one of the first voyages of the Famine period.
The captain was a 74-year-old man who had given up his office job to transport the hungry people from Dublin to America. The Perseverance was one of the first of thousands of ships to make the epic journey, and all passengers arrived safely. According to statistics, there are now more Irish citizens living outside of Ireland than within its borders, and this eerie piece serves as a stark reminder of when and why the emigration started.
“In memory of the victims of the Great Famine and for their descendants who have done so much to build Canada,” reads a plaque at the Memorial bearing the sentiments of Canada’s 20th Prime Minister, Jeán Chrétien.
Just a few steps away from the sculpture stand the Irish Emigration Museum and a tall ship moored in the water, a replica of the Jeanie Johnston and the famine museum: a perfect fitting backdrop to the memorial statues.
From there, a hundred meters ahead on your left, you will find the Irish Emigration Museum.
11. EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum
EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, opened in 2016, chronicles Irish diaspora and emigration to other countries. It was voted as “Europe’s Leading Tourist Attraction” at the 2019 and 2020 World Travel Awards.
The exhibition is divided into twenty galleries, each with its theme.
The “Migration” galleries focus on trends of migration from Ireland after 500AD. Religious missionary work, the Irish famine, religious and social repression, criminal transportation, and the consequences of Irish participation in international wars are all covered in the “Motivation” galleries. A series of video testimonies from six Irish emigrants are among the exhibits. The “Influence” segment includes prominent Irish immigrants in commerce, sports, science, and inventors, political leaders and thinkers, music, dance, and entertainment, art and fashion, writing and storytelling, and eating and drinking. An immersive rogues gallery of troublemakers of Irish ancestry, as well as worldwide festivals and celebrations of Irish history, are among the cultural influences featured.
Admission fee: 16.5€/ 20$ (included in your Dublin Pass).
A couple of hundred meters ahead onto Custom House Quay, you will find the Jeanie Johnston.
12. The Jeanie Johnston: An Irish Famine Story
The Jeanie Johnston is an authentic replica of the original ship. One of the most ambitious maritime heritage ventures ever undertaken in Ireland was the re-creation of the ship. The project took six years to be completed in 2002.
The original Jeanie Johnston was designed in 1847 in Quebec, Canada, by a Scottish-born shipbuilder and master craftsman, and later purchased as a cargo ship by Kerry-based merchants. However, it ended up transporting desperate emigrants to Canada and bringing lumber back. It sailed to Canada for the first time in 1848 with 193 passengers on board, and between 1848 and 1855, it transported 2,500 Irish emigrants on 16 transatlantic voyages to North America without losing a single life.
The captain and doctor team on the Jeanie Johnston indeed stood out from the many other famine ships of the time because they prioritized the health, dignity, and well-being of the ship’s poor passengers. And, while these may sound like fundamental rights in today’s western society, they were genuinely caring virtues for people in positions of authority and education to demonstrate during the famine.
From 2002 to 2008, the replica had an illustrious sailing career, retracing the Famine-era voyages from Blennerville to Quebec. Since 2008, it has been moored at Custom House Quay, acting as a living history museum for visitors and Irish nationals interested in learning more about Ireland’s little-known history.
The 50-minute tour takes place entirely on the ship, beginning with a brief overview of the main deck before proceeding to the dimly lit passenger quarters below the deck.
The passenger quarters, which serves as an interactive museum room with replica bunk beds and wildly realistic poverty-stricken life-size models, is the main attraction of the tour.
An engaging and well-informed tour guide provides an insightful and impartial account of the Irish famine, contributing factors, and effects on Irish cultural identity before visitors are encouraged to explore the gallery. The tour’s appeal is that it is not all talk; visitors can examine bunks and life-like passengers, as well as their clothing and model luggage.
Admission fee: 11€/ 13$ (included in your Dublin Pass).
From there, looking north, you can admire the Samuel Beckett Bridge.
13. Samuel Beckett Bridge
The Samuel Beckett Bridge is a cable-stayed steel bridge designed by architect Santiago Calatrava and dedicated in 2009 to Irish writer and Nobel Laureate Samuel Beckett.
This was the second bridge in the area designed by Calatrava, the first being the James Joyce Bridge (completed in 2003), which is further upriver.
The main span is protected by 31 cable stays from a single forward arc tubular tapered spar that is doubly back-stayed, with decking for four traffic lanes and two pedestrian lanes. It also can open at a 90-degree angle, allowing ships to move through.
The form of the spar and cables resemble a harp lying on its edge, with the harp serving as the Irish national emblem since the 13th century. That makes it a connection between the past and present of this country.
Fun fact: Does Samuel Beckett Bridge look familiar to you?
Then you should know that the Samuel Beckett Bridge in Dublin is not the only harp-shaped bridge built by Calavatrava all over the world. The Puente de la Mujer in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay in California, the Puente de la Unidad in Monterrey, Mexico, the Puente del Alamillo in Seville, Spain, and the Assut de l’Or Bridge in Valencia, Spain, are in fact all harp-shaped bridges by Calatrava.
From there, if you do not feel like having a 30-minute stroll to the next stop, you can catch a taxi and be there in a 15-minute ride.
14. St. Michan's Church Mummies
The foundation of St. Michan Church was laid in 1095 to serve the remaining ostracized Vikings in Ireland after the rest had been killed or driven out by Wolf the Quarrelsome and other Irish forces in 1014. Before the Reformation, the church was a Catholic church.
Restored in 1686, in 1724 they constructed a massive pipe organ, on which allegedly Handel performed the Messiah for the first time. But, as the church evolved, the crypt remained the same, slowly mummifying everything inside it.
There are a few hypotheses as to whether the bodies in the basement have survived the passage of time. The first is that the basement contains limestone, which makes it exceptionally dry and therefore suitable for mummification. Another theory is that the church was constructed on former swampland, and the bodies are preserved by methane gas. Other hypotheses include the presence of oak wood in the soil or the construction materials.
Whatever is preserving the mummies, though, is also disintegrating their coffins, regardless of the cause. The wood falls away after a certain period, revealing a well-preserved mummy.
There are many mummified bodies in the vaults of St. Michan’s. The real star here, though, is a coffin that stands out from the rest and belongs to an 800-year-old mummy known as “the crusader.” Though this may be apocryphal, he was allegedly a crusader who died in battle or returned and died soon after. This implies that these were the fourth crusades, which are the only ones that correspond to an 800-year-old date.
The crypt was broken into and desecrated in 2019. The head of the 800-year-old Crusader was taken, and other mummies were damaged. Police arrested a man and managed to find the skull and other bones, but due to the water damage during the crime, they had to send them to the National Museum of Ireland for safekeeping.
After proper restoration at the National Museum of Ireland, the skull returned to the church, and St. Michan’s will be open for tours once more.
From there, continue north onto Church Street, and, at the end of it, you will find King’s Inns Park.
15. The Hungry Tree At King’s Inns Park
The Hungry Tree is a tree on the grounds of the King’s Inns Park that has become known for having in part consumed a nearby park bench. It has grown in popularity as a tourist attraction and is regularly photographed.
It is a London Plane (Platanus x Hispanica) of the kind that was commonly planted in Dublin in the 19th century, and it is between 80 and 120 years old.
The tree has expanded to surround the bench over the years. It is said to be “eating” the bench, which is how its name originated.
It is not the first time a tree has eaten anything that got in the way. When confronted with an impediment to their growth, other trees around the world have behaved similarly. Despite this, the Tree Council of Ireland has designated the Hungry Tree as one of Ireland’s Heritage Trees.
From there, go back onto Church Street but then turn right onto King Street North. Finally, turn left onto Smithfield, and you will find the next stop on your left.
16. Jameson Distillery Bow St.
From 1780 to 1971, Jameson Irish Whiskey was distilled at the Jameson Distillery on Bow Street. It now serves as a visitors centre with guided tours, whiskey tastings, JJs lounge, and a gift shop.
Bow Street Experience (regular tour): you will be guided and served heritage and history. In JJ’s Bar, you will enjoy tales, craic, a comparative whiskey tasting, and a complimentary Jameson cocktail. (Duration: 40 minutes).
Whiskey Makers Experience: in this whiskey tasting you will be able to compare Jameson Original to three of their premium blends from the unique “Whiskey Makers Series”. Besides, you will make your whiskey mix to take home, as well as visit the Live Maturation Warehouse, where you will taste whiskey straight from the cask. (Duration: 90 minutes. Regular tour not included.)
The Whiskey Shakers: a 60-minute masterclass where you can try your hand at three different drinks in the Shakers’ Bar: a Jameson Whiskey Sour, a Jameson Old Fashioned, and a Jameson Punch. There is a little history thrown in for good measure, and you will end up at JJ’s Bar for a punch and to soak up the atmosphere. (Regular tour not included).
Secret Whiskey Tasting: Jameson Original, Jameson Crested, Jameson Distillery Edition, and Jameson Black Barrel Cask Strength are among the four whiskeys included in the Secret Whiskey Tasting. Two of them are exclusive to the Distillery. (Duration: 40 minutes. Regular tour not included.)
Whether you are a whiskey expert or a novice, a tour can be enjoyed by anyone interested in Irish culture, as whiskey plays a prominent role in Irish heritage.
Admission fee: from 25€/ 30$ (included in your Dublin Pass).
From there, you can either have a 20-minute stroll or grab a taxi to Phoenix Park entrance, and maybe rent a bike there to explore the park.
17. Phoenix Park
Phoenix Park is the largest enclosed public park in any capital European city.
It was established in the 1660s as a royal hunting park and opened to the public in 1747. Even today, there is still a large herd of fallow deer.
The Park is also home to the Magazine Fort, the Phoenix Monument, a prehistoric burial chamber, the Wellington Testimonial, the Papal Cross, the Victorian People’s Flower Gardens, Ashtown Castle, Áras an Uachtaráin (the official residence of the President of Ireland), Farmleigh House, the US Ambassador’s residence, and the Dublin Zoo.
Sir Edward Fisher founded Phoenix Lodge in 1611 on the site of the Magazine Fort in the Park’s south-east corner. When the Duke of Dorset ordered that a powder magazine be built for Dublin in 1734, the house was demolished. In 1801 the fort was expanded to include a new wing for soldiers.
In the heart of the Park, at the centre of a massive roundabout on the lovely tree-lined Chesterfield Avenue stands the Phoenix Monument. It was erected in 1747 by the fourth Earl of Chesterfield. They used Portland stone to carve the Corinthian column, with a Phoenix bird emerging from the ashes at the end.
On the hill of Knockmary, west of St. Mary’s Hospital, there is a prehistoric burial chamber dating back over 5,500 years. All the bones, pottery, and other artefacts they found in 1838 when they opened the tumulus covering it and are on display in the National Museum.
The Wellington Testimonial is a memorial to Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, an Anglo-Dubliner soldier who defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, bringing the Napoleonic Wars to an end. It was built in 1861 and rises over 62 m/ 203 ft, making it the tallest obelisk in Europe. There are four bronze plaques at the base of the obelisk, all cast from cannons captured at Waterloo. Three of the plaques depict his career, while the fourth has an inscription.
The Papal Cross is a massive 116-feet-tall steel-girders-made white cross built at the edge of the Fifteen Acres for Pope John Paul II’s papal visit in 1979. On that occasion, Pope John Paul II gave an open-air sermon to over 1.25 million people.
The Victorian People’s Flower Gardens, covering a total of 22 acres, provide an opportunity to showcase the best of Victorian horticulture.
Ashtown Castle is a tower-house from the Middle Ages. Until 1978, the Georgian mansion of the Under Secretary for Ireland (called Ashtown Lodge) concealed it within its walls. The manor was indeed found inside the Georgian house when demolished in the late 1970s. It has since been restored and is again available to the general public.
The residence of the President of Ireland, Áras an Uachtaráin, was built in 1754. It served as the Viceregal Lodge, the official mansion of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland until the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922.
All taoisigh (prime ministers and heads of the Irish government), and government ministers, receive their seal of office from the president at Áras an Uachtaráin as do judges, the attorney general, the comptroller and auditor general, and senior commissioned officers of the Defence Forces. It is also the venue for the meetings of the Presidential Commission and the Council of State.
Farmleigh House is the official Irish state Georgian guest house, located north-west of Phoenix Park on an elevated site above the River Liffey.
This 78-acre (32-hectare) estate includes extensive private gardens with mature cypress, pine, and oak trees, as well as a boating pond, walled garden, sunken garden, out offices, and a herd of rare native Kerry cattle.
The Dublin Zoo, established in 1831, covers 70 acres, is home to over 400 animals. The admission fee is covered by your Dublin Pass (otherwise it is 20€/ 24$).
In Phoenix Park, you can also find polo, football, and hurling fields, along with cycling and walking paths.
When I think of Dublin, as already said, I can see the challenges the city has still to face, it is not the first thought that comes to my mind, though.
When I think of it, I see a capital proudly steep in struggling to maintain its identity and be free from the foreign yoke. I see a city with a great history of self-preservation, suffering and immigration with many great characters who had the fate of their country at heart. I see a history of pride and rebellion.
Besides that, Dublin has a lot of beauty and many fascinating things to do and see.
I hope you can more clearly see what I mean now, and maybe share my enthusiasm about this beautiful city sadly so often unappreciated.
Want to see more about Ireland? Check out my post about Kilkenny, the Ring of Kerry, Donegal, or our road trip through Ireland and Northern Ireland.
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