The Phoenix Park is the perfect escape to greenery whenever Dublin receives a rare burst of sun. Located in the western part of the city, it is the largest enclosed urban park in any European capital. Admittedly this is a very specific claim to fame but the park truly is a wonderful part of Dublin. Here are just some the landmarks you may stumble across on a visit.
The Wellington Monument is one of the first sights to greet visitors to the park and in fact can be seen from several spots outside of the park due to its impressive height of 62 metres. That height makes the Wellington Monument the tallest obelisk in all of Europe, although it was originally supposed to be even taller but funds for its construction ran dry and builders had to settle for the monument that can be seen today. It was built to honour the Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, who was born in Dublin in the 18th century and whose military innovation helped Britain defeat Napoleon, after which he would go on to become Prime Minster of the UK. The copper plates around the base of the obelisk detail the man’s career however most Dubliner’s now utilise the monument as climbing exercise for the kids.
The Phoenix Park is home to Dublin’s zoological gardens which first opened its doors to the Dublin public in 1831 showcasing animals donated by London Zoo. Impressively only London, Paris and Vienna had public Zoos before Dublin. The zoo would go to become famous for its lion with nearly 100 being born between in the zoo in the 1850s, 60s, and 70s. It has also been said that the famous lion mascot for MGM films was born in Dublin Zoo, although some dispute this claim. Today the zoo is home to not only lions, but tigers, gorillas, hippos, giraffes and many more. In recent winters the zoo has also hosted the Wild Lights festival which showcases Chinese foods and silk lanterns alongside performers and acrobats.
The zoo is not the only place in the Phoenix Park to spot wild animals though. A herd of fallow deer numbering in the hundreds roam the grounds and no trip to Phoenix Park would be complete with spotting them. The herd is one of the parks oldest features as the current deer are the descendants of original deer that were introduced for to be hunted in the 17th century. The deer can be quite friendly if approached calmly but all guests are discouraged from feeding them, so leave your deer treats at home!
Áras an Uachtaráin
The other notable resident of the park is the President of Ireland whose residence is known as Áras an Uachtaráin, or House of the President. It formerly housed the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whose was the representative of the British monarch in Ireland back when Britain still ruled Ireland. Since its construction in the mid-18th century it has hosted not only royal representatives and the Irish heads of state but also U.S. presidents J.F.K., Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama plus the great Nelson Mandela and Popes Frances and John Paul II.
The Papal Cross
Indeed the visit of the Pope John Paul II saw the erection the Papal Cross in 1979. It was again visited by Pope Francis in 2018, with both Popes celebrating mass in the park. Pope John Paul II attracted around 1 million for his mass while the crowd was for Pope was closer to a tenth of this size.
Originally this intimidating looking structure was built as a lodge by Sir Edward Fisher back in 1611. It was later than turned into a fortress house soldiers and gun power. However it has not been used it for military purposes since the 1980s and is currently derelict. Nonetheless it is an impressive looking building if caught in the right light is sure to be an amateur photographers dream.
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