When people travel to Dublin, one of the last things that might come to mind is the architectural creations that the city has to offer. One could think that the average admirer of these alluring sites usually ends up heading to the historical cities such as Rome or Athens and that Dublin is never on the list. Well, this post is going to change your mind.
What about the likes of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral or Trinity College? These are just two of the many architectural gems that the Irish capital has to offer.
Upon arriving in Dublin, you’re going to be treated to some of the finest forms of architectural creativity that you won’t find anywhere else in Europe. This post is going to give you an insight into 10 exceptional architectural sites in Dublin that you need to make it your mission to see on your visit.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a religious site that’s definitely worth visiting regardless of your beliefs. It was constructed between 1220 and 1260 for St. Patrick, a man who baptized Christian converts in this very cathedral for many years. He is Ireland’s Patron Saint. You may have heard of St. Patrick’s Day. That’s the guy that this was built in honor of.
Dublin is a city that’s well known for its medieval past, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral is one of the last remaining buildings from that era and the country’s largest cathedral at 120 meters high.
The cathedral was built in an early English Gothic style. The presence of stout walls is a clear indication, but it wasn’t always like this. During the 1800s, it was in bits and had to be completely reconstructed. Thankfully, the Church of Ireland has done a great job of preserving it. Take a walk inside and have a look at the colorful stained glass windows and shiny forms of marble.
You must purchase a ticket to enter St. Patrick’s Cathedral. They cost 8 euros and can be booked through the cathedral’s website.
Trinity College Of Dublin
Trinity College is Ireland’s oldest college and is easily one of Dublin’s most sought-after architectural tourist attractions. The college itself dates back to the year 1592, as it was set up by a royal charter that aimed to follow a similar setup to the Oxford and Cambridge universities in the United Kingdom.
While the university itself is still up and running today with students traveling from all over the world to get the best form of education, architectural enthusiasts can still enter the grounds to catch a glimpse of the college’s main highlights, such as the world-renowned Book of Kells, the bell tower, and the old library.
Throughout these areas, you can educate yourself on Dublin’s medieval past through handcrafted manuscripts that date back over 1000 years.
Trinity College is free to enter unless you’re planning on purchasing a ticket for 18.50 euros to see the Book of Kells.
The General Post Office (GPO)
Known as the headquarters of the Irish Post Office, the GPO is a massive structure that sits on the popular O’Connell Street.
The general post office opened in 1818, and throughout its life, it has witnessed some of the darkest periods of Irish history, including the 1916 Easter Rising, where a group of Irish republicans claimed Ireland was a republic and used the building to defend the country from British forces, which was a stepping stone for Ireland’s independence. After the altercation, the building was completely destroyed by fire and bullet holes, but thankfully not brought to the ground.
After a handful of years of renovations, the GPO was brought back to life with a Greek style of revival. The influence is clear at the front of the structure, with large pillars resembling those found at the famous Greek site of Acropolis.
Today, the General Post Office still operates like any other post office in the country and is a significant emblem of Irish history and represents the country’s independence, and can be accessed freely by anybody.
The Georgian Doors Of Dublin
Ahh. The Georgian doors of Dublin. They’ve been a symbol of the city for decades, and they’re only getting more and more attention since the development of Instagram.
The Georgian period in Dublin was an era in the 18th and 19th centuries of architectural developments that popped up all over the city. Every house that was built had to follow certain rules in order for it to be approved for building. After a handful of the developments were completed, the citizens of Dublin had to paint their doors different colors since many people were getting confused as the buildings all looked the same. Imagine your neighbor showing up uninvited in the middle of the night.
Today, the colored doors are brighter than ever and scattered throughout the city, waiting to be admired. Some of the best places where you can find them include Merrion Square, Ballsbridge, St. Stephens Green, and many more. Getting inside these settlements might be a little tricky because they’re still homes of residents today and some are even embassies of foreign countries.
Áras an Uachtaráin
Áras an Uachtaráin is the home of the President of Ireland and sits in the Phoenix Park, which is one of the largest city parks in the whole of Europe. The dwelling was built in 1751 by the park ranger at the time, Nathaniel Clements. Just one year later, in 1752, the Viceroys, who were a group of people who were sent to Ireland to enforce British rule, took over the residence and gave Clements 25,000 pounds to leave. The house then became the home of the Crown’s representatives in Ireland until 1938, when it officially became the property of the President of Ireland.
What was once a humble home soon became a replica of the White House in the USA. While it’s nowhere near as big, the white color and simple design at the front of the building have some resemblance, according to plenty of American tourists who’ve visited Dublin over the years.
You’ll catch a lovely view of Áras an Uachtaráin as you stroll through Phoenix Park, but be warned, there’s a ditch that separates the public and the residence. Tours of the house are offered at random times of the year and can be obtained at the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre for free.
Built in the 13th century, Dublin Castle was originally a medieval citadel that was under the control of the United Kingdom. Eventually, it was given over to the Irish government in 1922, where they decided to revamp the construction and make it another one of the city’s leading tourist attractions.
While the castle was frequently visited for its history, its beguiling design could not be seen without some sort of admiration. From the stunning state apartments where the lord lieutenants took refuge, to the upper yard with an arched facade where you must take the cobblestone streets to see it, there will be a surprise around the corner.
Some artifacts to keep an eye out for include the likes of the canvas paintings on the ceiling of St.Patrick’s Hall, the Brass Chandelier, the Throne, the Wine Cooler, and much more.
A full day can easily be spent exploring the grounds especially if you’re a fan of some sort of historical architecture. To get the most out of your experience, purchase a ticket to enter the castle for a self-guided tour.
Dublin’s Convention Centre
For those who are into a bit more of a contemporary style of architecture, Dublin’s Convention Centre will without a doubt have you in awe.
Dublin’s convention centre was designed by Kevin Roche, who had the goal of creating a premier conference venue. Roche is a well-known architect in the industry in Ireland. When you catch a glimpse of the building, you’ll see how his rumored attention to detail was used in the construction.
The Dublin Convention Centre building has a 55-meter glass atrium that slants backward in a certain way that creates some sort of illusion. Its odd shape certainly sets it apart from the others along the river Liffey. Once you’re there, make it your mission to get to the top floor so you can have a spectacular view of the great city and its suburbs.
Inside the premises are 22 multifunctional rooms that are used for various purposes, including national events, college graduations, and public speaker shows. Since its opening, the Dublin Convention Centre has held over 2,000 events.
Samuel Beckett Bridge
The Samuel Beckett Bridge is the latest bridge to be developed in Dublin. It’s located only a stone’s throw away from the Convention Centre, so seeing the two in one go is pretty easy. We recommend you hire one of the Dublin City Bikes as it’s a little bit outside of the main city center.
Located in the east of the city, the Samuel Beckett Bridge is one of the many that provide people with a crossing from the north of the Liffey to the south. From forms of public transport to cyclists, whatever it may be, can get across the bridge as it’s not just for pedestrians.
In terms of the bridge’s architectural style, it’s designed in Calatrava style with a steel box girder structure that rolls out across the river Liffey. If you were to see the bridge from above, it’s meant to replicate the shape of a harp, which is an important symbol in Irish culture.
Custom House Quay
Another one of Dublin’s fine architectural structures is Custom House Quay. It was one of the first crucial public buildings to pop up in the city center.
Spotting the structural delights that the Custom House exhibits is one thing that’s on many fans’ lists when visiting the capital. The outlying 2-story development comprises four alluring facades that catch the eye of dozens of bystanders each day. The whole building is built from Portland Stone, which is a form of limestone.
The Custom House Quay is a Palladian-style building that was designed by the great architect James Gandon, who first arrived in Dublin in 1781 and was the mastermind behind some of the other great masterpieces in the city, including the Four Courts. The building you see there today is not the one that was there all those years ago. Sadly, the original one was decimated during the Irish War of Independence. Reconstructing the premises took many years, between sorting out the interior and then freshening up the outside. It was an ordeal.
These days, Custom House Quay is the home of the Department of the Environment. Visitors are able to take a tour if they wish. Booking can be done through its website.
Leinster House has been the home of the government of Ireland since 1922. It was built during the Georgian era on Leinster Street, where a lot of the Georgian houses are situated, and has seen a total revamp since its construction in 1745.
A man named Richard Cassels was hired to design and create a building that would display Ireland’s senior peer, James Fitzgerald, prominence in Ireland. The plan was to build the house on the less attractive south side of the city in the hope that it would stand out among the less developed settlements. Little did they know, they would soon kickstart what would become one of the city’s most affluent areas in years to come.
Leinster House is now serving Ireland’s Parliament and is the focal point of Irish politics. Tours of the house can be taken on days when there is nothing really going on. They occur at 10:30 am, 11:30 am, 14:30 pm, and 15:30 pm. At the moment, tours for the public have been put on hold until further notice due to COVID-19. Only those given permission by a TD are allowed to take one.
The list does not end here. In fact there are many other structures and buildings worth a visit in Dublin and its surroundings.
Why not paying a visit to Forty Foot before leaving the city? This famed place along Dublin Bay features year-round swimming in the Irish Sea. Awesomeness!
Adam is an Irish travel writer and photographer. He also runs Where in Dublin. Follow his adventures on Instagram.