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Dublin Attractions

The Custom House
The Custom House is one of Dublin’s most magnificent neoclassical buildings. It was designed by James Gandon in 1781 to act as the new custom house for Dublin Port. Completed in 1791, it was designed to be looked at from all angles and is rich in structural detail. The four facades of the building are decorated with coats-of-arms and ornamental sculptures representing Ireland’s 13 rivers and the Atlantic Ocean, the cornerstone of Irish trade. As the port of Dublin moved further downriver, the building’s original use for collecting custom duties became obsolete and it was established as the local government headquarters. The original interior was completely destroyed in 1921 during the Anglo-Irish War in an attempt to disrupt British rule in Ireland. Restored by the Irish Free State government, it now houses the Department of the Environment.

The General Post Office (GPO) is one of the last great Georgian buildings erected in Dublin and is the home to An Post, the Irish postal service. It was built in 1818 and it has since gained significance as the headquarters of the 1916 Easter Rising. It was from its steps that Patrick Pearse read aloud The Proclamation of the Irish Republic. The GPO itself was mostly destroyed from shelling (shrapnel scars can still be seen on the columns), but reopened in 1929 after reconstruction. Today the GPO is open daily as a post office, and its history is remembered with commemorative paintings, a plaque recording the Proclamation, and a sculpture of the legendary Celtic warrior Cuchulainn (a symbol of Irish heroism).

Dublin Castle
Built between 1208 and 1220, this complex represents some of the oldest surviving architecture in the city, and was the center of English power in Ireland for over seven centuries until it was taken of by the Irish Free State in 1922. Highlights include the 13th-century record tower, the largest visible fragment of the original Norman castle and the State Apartments, once the residence of English viceroys and now the focal point for government ceremonial functions, including the inauguration of Ireland’s presidents. The newest developments for visitors are the Undercroft, and excavates site on the grounds where an early Viking fortress stood, and the treasury, built between 1712 and 1715, believed to be the oldest surviving purpose-built office building in Ireland. It houses a new visitor center in its vaulted basement.

St. Patricks Cathedral
The National Church of the Church of Ireland, it was originally built as a church in 1192. It was built on the site that it was believed that St. Patrick performed his first baptism in Ireland in a well on the grounds, which is still there. It was upgraded to a cathedral status in 1213. Most of the present building dates back to the 13th and 14th centuries. It did fall into poor condition however, up until the 19th century but was restored then by Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness. The author Jonathon Swift was dean here from 1713 to 1745.

Christ Church Cathedral
Christ Church Cathedral is the cathedral church of the archdiocese of Dublin and Glendalough, which it has been since 1038ad. The building that now stands on the site was, however, was built in 1234 by the Anglo-Normans. The cathedral did have further additions after this and was extensively restored in the 1870’s. The cathedral, as the main church of the English empire in Ireland, was a very important building in the city. Here King Edward VI was crowned, and also the lord deputies took their oaths of office. Now Christ Church Cathedral is one of the most beautiful building in the city where it stands on the hill overlooking wood quay. Dublinia is also located on its grounds which is a Viking museum. The Dublinia exhibition covers the formative period of Dublin’s history from the arrival of the Anglo-Normans in 1170 to the closure of the monasteries in the 1540’s.There are many exhibits here which include video’s, model’s and reconstruction’s. The ground floor houses a large-scale model of Dublin around 1500, a display of artifacts from Wood Quay, and reconstructions.

Temple Bar
Some of Dublin’s best night spots, restaurants and unusual shops line these narrow, cobbled streets running between the Bank of Ireland and Christ Church Cathedral. In the 18th century the area was home to many insalubrious characters-Fownes Street was noted for its brothels. It was also the birthplace of parliamentarian Henry Grattan. Skilled craftsmen and artisans, such as clockmakers and printers, lived and worked around Temple Bar until post-Emergency (post-war) industrialization led to a decline in the area’s fortunes. In the 1970s, the CIE (national transport authority) bought up parcels of land in this area to build a major bus depot. While waiting to acquire the land in this area to buildings needed, the CIE rented out, on cheap leases, some of the old retail and warehouse premises to young artists and to record, clothing and book shops. The area developed an “alternative” identity and a successful lobby by local residents persuaded CIE to drop their plans. As more cynical Dubliners put it, the area became the city’s “officially designated arts zone”. But while the new investment and planning may have added a slight air of contrivance, it’s still an exciting, atmospheric and essentially very young place. Organizations based here include the Irish Film Centre (IFC), the experimental Projects Arts Centre and around a dozen galleries. There are also centers for music, multi-media and photography as well as a Children’s Cultural Centre-an arts center offering theatre, workshops and other entertainment for children.

Kilmainham Gaol
Built in 1796, Kilmainham Gaol was considered a model prison, intended as a replacement to the noisome dungeon that had been in use prior to that time. It played an important part in Irish history, as many leaders of the Irish rebellions were imprisoned – and executed – in the jail. Children were sometimes arrested for petty theft, while many of the adult prisoners were deported to Australia. During the 1840s and 1850s the jail became overcrowded with victims of the famine who had committed petty crimes in the hope of gaining a meager prison fare. The government of the Irish Free State closed the prison in 1924, and following a lengthy restoration it now houses a museum on the history of Irish nationalism, offering guided tours to the public.

National Museum of Ireland
The National Museum of Ireland encompasses four museums, three in Dublin and one in County Mayo, but for many visitors the name is synonymous with the central Dublin branch, which houses the main historical collections. Officially the Museum of Archaeology and History, it reserves the historic heart and spirit of Ireland. This superb collection includes Europe’s finest ancient gold items; richly ornamented early Christian crosses and cups; and Viking bows.

Saint Stephens Green
St Stephens Green is a beautiful Georgian park in the center of the city. It is surrounded by St Stephens Sq which is a square of old Georgian houses which overlook the park. The park was built as a present to the people of the city by the Guinness family in the 19th Century. It is still to this day the main park in the city. On a sunny day hundreds of people flock to the park to enjoy the sun.

Trinity College Dublin
Trinity College, Dublin was the first university established in Ireland. Although it was widely agreed that a university was required in the city, shortage of funds meant it was only founded in 1592, by both Dublin Corporation and the Archbishop. Although it was meant to provide education to the whole country, it really only provided it to the protestant community. This was mainly because it was a protestant college and was modeled on Cambridge university. It wasn’t until 1793 that the university was opened to Catholics. During the 1700’s and 1800’s most of the buildings that are now seen were completed. The university was also the first in Great Britain and Ireland to admit in 1904. Although the college was open to Catholics, even after independence, the college remained very protestant. This was due to a ban on Catholics attending the college by the catholic church. It wasn’t until 1970 when the ban was rescinded and state funds were given to the college did the Catholic, and indeed general, numbers soar. The university is now the main university in the country and now houses such treasures as the ‘Book of Kells’, the ancient Celtic manuscript. You can just walk into Trinity at any time, although going inside and seeing the Book of Kells is only aloud at certain times.

The Dublin Spire
The Dublin Spire, or the ‘Spike’ as it now more commonly know, is the newest addition to the Dublin skyline. It was commissioned to mark the millennium celebrations in the city, but it in reality it was not completed until early 2003. It stands on the old site of Nelsons Pillar which was famously blown up by the IRA. It has however become a major argument amongst Dubliners as to whether it is a worthy addition to the cityscape. The Spire stands 120 meters tall and is the largest sculpture in the world. It is to be the center of the new O’Connell Street redevelopment, which aims at reshaping the famous street, and making it into more of a boulevard style, a la Champs Elysees. The new boulevard is set to be unveiled during the 2004 May Day celebrations in the city, which also coincides with Ireland’s presidency of the E.U. and the entrance of the 10 new member countries into the E.U.

Guinness Storehouse
Guinness Storehouse is Ireland’s number one visitor attraction. A visit to the home of Guinness is the high point of any trip to Dublin. At the Guinness Storehouse you’ll discover all there is to know about the world famous beer. It’s a dramatic story that begins over 250 years ago and ends in Gravity, the sky bar, with a complimentary pint of Guinness and an astonishing view of Dublin City. A fermentation plant at St. James’s Gate Brewery has been transformed into a place where you can experience one of the world’s best known brands in a totally unexpected way. It’s the Home, Heart & Soul of Guinness.