What Are The 7 Most Historical Parts Of Dublin?

Dublin is a modern, energetic city in Ireland and you already went to Temple Bar, the Phoenix Park and seen The Spire. But as you wander through the streets of the capital, you will notice the numerous castles, cathedrals or monuments created to the memory of famous Irish historical figures. Here are the 7 most historical parts of Dublin.

1. Dublin CASTLE

The State Apartments, Dublin Castle. Image by Marylou Prévost.

Dublin Castle is one of the most important buildings in Irish history and is located on Castle Street, in Dublin City Centre. It was occupied by Vikings and later became a mediaeval fortress under King John of England. It was the seat of English and later British rule in Ireland for 700 years, from 1204 until The Irish Free State was formally established in 1922. At that time, it was used as a residence for the Viceroy of Ireland, the British monarch’s Irish representative. 

Since 1922, national events, like state dinners and commemorations have been held in Dublin Castle. Famous figures were invited in the magnificent Saint Patrick’s Hall, such as John F. Kennedy, Princess Grace of Monaco or Queen Elizabeth II. Since 1938, this grandest room of the State Apartments has been the setting for the inauguration of the President of Ireland.

2. Trinity College and the Old Library

The Long Room of the Old Library. Image by Marylou Prévost.
The Long Room of the Old Library. Image by Marylou Prévost.

Trinity College is Ireland’s oldest university, founded by Queen Elisabeth I in 1592. As you enter the Great Court, you will mingle with the undergraduate and postgraduate students and face the beautiful Campanile. The legend says that the students must avoid walking under it or they will fail the year’s exams. 

Trinity College has forged the greatest minds in Ireland’s history. Poet, playwright, novelist, essayist, short-story writer Oscar Wilde attended this school from 1871 to 1874. Playwright and poet Samuel Beckett loved reading Italian and English Literature during his years at Trinity College.

If you’re coming to Trinity College, the Old Library is a “must see”. It will bring you back to the 18th century with its bid wood shelves. An entire room is dedicated to the Book of Kells, a 9th-century gospel manuscript whose illuminations are still very well preserved.

3. Christ Church Cathedral

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Christ Church Cathedral. Image by Marcelo Leite.

You may not notice it at first glance but Christ Church Cathedral holds a strong Viking past. Located in the heart of Medieval Dublin, Christ Church was originally a Viking church. It was founded in 1030 by Sitric, King of the Dublin Norsemen. In 1552, it was assimilated into the Irish Church and administered by Archbishop Laurence O’Toole. The 12th century crypt is one of the oldest and largest in Britain and Ireland. You can climb into the belfry to see the bells. You will also find Strongbow’s final resting place, the heart of St. Laurence O’Toole and a rare copy of the Magna Carta.

4. Saint Patrick’s Cathedral

Saint Patrick's Cathedral. Image by K. Mitch Hodge.
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. Image by K. Mitch Hodge.

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral is the perfect place to understand the religious history of Dublin and even Ireland. It was built from 1220 to 1259, on the site of an ancient well. A well Saint Patrick himself could have used. Visiting the cathedral will help you understand the story of Saint Patrick, who brought christianity to Ireland and is probably responsible for the Christianization of the Picts and Anglo-Saxons. 

After the English Reformation, Saint Patrick’s became an Anglican Cathedral and was demoted to the status of a parish church and was used as a courthouse and even as a university. It won back its cathedral status in 1555. Between 1860 and 1865, the brewer Benjamin Lee Guinness spent approximately 150,000 pounds to restore Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. 

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral is a great place to visit in Dublin as you can take audio guides in your own language and learn about its history at your own pace.

5. Kilmainham Gaol

Image via Kilmainham Gaol
Kilmainham Gaol. © National Monuments Service. Dept. of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

Discover the stories of people held in Kilmainham Gaol. Opened in 1796, this prison mostly detained common criminals but also political prisoners involved in the Easter Rising. Included amongst those held there were Robert Emmet, Anne Devlin, the Fenians, Charles Stewart Parnell, Countess Markievicz and the leaders of the rising, fourteen of whom were executed by firing squad in the Stonebreaker’s yard. 

You can visit Kilmainham Gaol by guided tours only and discover the prison’s history in one hour. 

6. Malahide Castle

Malahide Castle. Image by Marylou Prévost.
Malahide Castle. Image by Marylou Prévost.

Malahide is a quick train ride (approximately 26 minutes) from Dublin city centre, located in the north, near Portmarnock. In this seaside town, Malahide Castle, set on 250 acres of parkland, was both a fortress and a private home for nearly 800 years. Richard Talbot was gifted the lands and harbour of the city by King Henry II in 1185 to thank him for his services to the crown. The Talbots owned the castle between 1185 and the 1970s with a brief interlude during the Cromwellian Conquest of Ireland. The estate was sold and became a tourist attraction in the 1980s, when the last Lord Talbot died.

7. O’Connell Street

General Post Office Dublin. Image by Mark Lawson.
General Post Office Dublin. Image by Mark Lawson.

O’Connell Street is Dublin’s widest avenue but is also known for its monuments. You can’t miss The Spire, a 120 metre high sculpture. This pin-like monument replaced Nelson’s Pillar in 2003 after it was bombed by former IRA members in 1966. As the street is named after him, you can see the O’Connell Monument, a big statue of this political leader also known as “the Liberator”. O’Connell successfully campaigned for the rights of Irish Catholics and became Members of Parliament.

In the middle of O’Connell street are the headquarters for An Post, the Irish Postal Service: Dublin’s General Post Office. The GPO is known as the main stronghold of the Irish Volunteers in the 1916 Rising.

Marylou Prevost
Marylou Prevost

After a Master's degree in journalism and one year as a journalist in France, I landed in Dublin to write for Babylon Radio. I mostly love writing about cultural events in Ireland.

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