A salute to Oscar Wilde
We’ll start with a salute to our of Ireland’s most famous and, in his time, controversial sons – Oscar Wilde.
National Gallery of Ireland
Next, we’ll pop into the National Gallery to learn about Irish history through some fascinating works of art: the Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife which signalled the end of the old Gaelic order in Ireland; beautiful stained glass windows and a hugely symbolic painting about the Irish Civil War.
National Museum of History and Archaeology
Then we’ll go to arguably Dublin’s best museum – the National Museum of Archaeology & History. We’ll visit The Treasury which hosts the greatest treasures that Ireland has produced including the Tara Brooch and Ardagh Chalice.
A crucially important site for the history of Ireland, especially since 1204 when the castle was built. From 1204 until 1922, it was the centre of British rule in Ireland and had therefore a reputation of oppression and violence. Since the keys of the castle were metaphorically AND literally handed off to the Irish in 1922, it has experienced a complete change in the minds of the Irish people. The Irish President is inaugurated here, dignitaries are welcomed and referendum results are announced here, making it into a place where, although history is still being made, the changes are positive and are creating a better Ireland.
We will not be venturing inside, but thankfully we are free to explore the grounds – the lower and upper courtyards and the Dubh Linn gardens – which is fully satisfying.
Although a wooden church was built here in ca. 1030, and there was likely a pagan shrine before that, Christchurch as a stone structure began in the 1180s and has been restored and changed numerous times since. The neo-gothic architecture makes Christchurch, arguably, Dublin’s most beautiful complex. The vast crypt underneath the cathedral deserves particular attention for its size, interesting curious and the fact that it hosted a pub, distillery and… brothel (!) in the 18th century.
Started in 1592 as a university only for Protestants, Trinity remained an institution of resentment for Ireland’s Catholic majority up until at least 1970. Throughout the centuries, this fine university nurtured such aspiring students as Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, Bram Stoker and Samuel Beckett, the greatest playwright of the 20th century.
A remarkable building that really gives you a sense of how wealthy Dublin was at the end of the 18th century. Often there are events taking place inside, which would preclude us from entering, but if there are not we can explore the fantastic frescoes and gold-leaf design on the rotunda.
The Ha’Penny Bridge
Built in 1816, the beautiful white cast iron bridge straddles the River Liffey. It serves as the gateway to the charming Temple Bar quarter with its narrow cobbled streets. We’ll cross over it to look up and down the river. On the north side, there’s a great opportunity for a photo.
General Post Office (G.P.O.) (O’Connell St)
It was outside this impressive building on Easter Monday when Padraig Pearse read the Declaration of Irish Independence and he, together with his 1600 comrades, led a rebellion that shook an empire. The most under-rated site in Dublin for tourists, the GPO retains all its historical potency for Dubliners and Irish people, but most tourists never learn why this should be on their top 5 list of sites to visit.
We’ll be able to stand at what was the front entrance where the proclamation was read and, possibly, venture inside to admire it’s reconstructed antique interior as well as soak up the significance of what happened on this spot and what it means to Irish people today.
Daniel O’Connell Statue (O’Connell St)
Daniel O’Connell was arguably the first man to prove to the masses that civil disobedience and peaceful resistance could be effective. A huge hero for Irish people, having secured Catholic Emancipation, he’s nick-named ‘The Liberator’ and the main street of our capital city is justifiably named after him.
We’ll explore the intricate notes of symbolism on this brilliant monument.
Old Parliament Building
Dublin was the 2nd city of the British Empire in the 18th century, and we have the subtle patriotism of the Irish-born politicians of the institution to thank. Today, Dublin’s architectural landscape is ornamented by an abundance of buildings from this period, making it look much older than Paris and London. What is now known as ‘The Bank of Ireland building’ was grand enough to serve as the architectural inspiration for the monumental British Museum in London.
This building is located in College Green, which could be regarded as the centre of the city. The entrance to Trinity College is adjacent as is famous Grafton Street.
Leinster House – Dáil Eireann – Irish Parliament
What was once the town house of the Fitzgerald family from the 1740s has, since 1922, hosted the Irish Parliament (Dáil Eireann). Much like the Old Parliament building, this parliament building also became an architectural inspiration. Its facade, as well as the floor plan for its 1st and 2nd floors, were used as blueprints for the design of the White House.
Naturally, we’ll only be able to view it from the gate, which, thankfully, gives us a more-or-less unobstructed view of the front facade.
Dublin’s heyday was from 1729 to 1800, which roughly coincides with the reign of Kings George I to III. In the subsequent 19th century, however, money and influence abandoned Dublin. As a result, instead of constructing new buildings, the cash-strapped populace resorted to maintaining many of the fine Georgian buildings. Thanks to these circumstances, Dublin today is architecturally older than London.
Georgian architecture is characterised by symmetry, elegance and restraint (in contrast to Baroque or Rococo). The state buildings normally have neoclassical elements such as columns whereas the residential buildings have red-brick facades with famously colourful doors to distinguish them from each other.
Don’t let the brands and blatant consumerism fool you, Grafton still has its charm. In fact, Grafton street is one of the last bastions of old Dublin left. Admire the flower ladies, enjoy the buskers (street musicians) as you head towards Bewleys Café, Ireland’s oldest and biggest café, built in 1927.
Saint Stephen’s Green
Gifted to the city in 1880 by a member of the Guinness family, Stephen’s Green remains much-appreciated by Dubliners today – it’s probably their favourite piece of the city. We’ll stroll through the lush verdure along the curved Victorian walkways and keep our eyes peeled for that most-rare of animals – an Irish person sunbathing!
Wolfe Tone Statue (St. Stephen’s Green)
Wolfe Tone led the rebel of 1798, which sought to free Ireland of its political, cultural and martial chains to Britain as well as introduce equal rights for Catholics, Protestants and Dissenters. Although the rebellion failed, it, and he, would become the inspiration for generations of Irish men and women to stand up against oppression, to this very day.
Find out how it came into existence and discuss the potential for it to dissolve and result in a united Ireland. We’ll be chatting about this when we’re inside siting down during one of our breaks.
The Irish Language
If the English language is a language of prose, then the Irish language is a language of poetry. An incredibly fascinating language – you’ll learn how to say ‘cheers’ in Irish. And hopefully get to properly practice it too, should we stop by a pub. Regardless, we’ll be chatting about this when we’re inside sitting down during one of our breaks.
A pint in conclusion of our day
To celebrate our successful exploration of Dublin, we’ll have a pint in a local pub. We’ll actually pair our cheese with some quality Irish beers.