While people outside the capitol call Dublin ‘the Big Smoke’, the fair city does have some beautiful spots to get some fresh air. Heck, you can even hug the trees.
Dublin city is a major European capitol. It’s a densely packed urban area with narrow streets with bumper to bumper traffic spewing fumes where people burn turf, coal and even a lot of garbage all winter long. Despite being on the coast with its fresh breezes, Dublin is not exactly renowned for its air quality. But dear, dirty Dublin does offer a few spots where visitors and locals alike flock to escape and feast their eyes on the greenery while getting some reasonably fresh air.
The Phoenix Park was originally set up as a deer sanctuary in 1662, and if you are in the right part of the park at the right time, you can see the herd of fallow deer that live there. You can also visit the Dublin Zoo, Áras an Uachtaráin (the presidential residence), a playground, tea rooms and much more. The Phoenix Park is a great place to go for a long walk or bike ride. At 1,752 acres, it is one of the largest fenced urban parks in the world – and it is very urban, sitting at the edge of the city center just across the River Liffey from Heuston Station.
On the south side, Marlay Park in Rathfarnham, Dublin offers 300 very busy acres to enjoy. This park hosts concerts and other events, and includes a golf course, various sports fields, a playground, hiking and biking trails, and even a dog park. And yes, there are trees. There’s even a charming walled garden. Despite the many events and the park’s popularity, you can still find serene spots where you feel miles away from the bustle of the city.
Two Oases in the City Center
Even the very center of Dublin offers two beautiful gems to escape the frantic pace of the city streets and commune with nature, two beautifully manicured bits of green. St. Stephens Green and Merrion Square are only a short distance apart on the inner south side of Dublin, just south of Trinity College. Both feature wonderful play areas where the little ones can let off some steam before overloading on grown up shopping and sightseeing.
St. Stephens Green is at the top of Grafton Street, a popular, pedestrian road lined with trendy shops, and across the street from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. The duck pond is a highlight, and the ancestors of today’s ducks played a special role in the 1916 Easter Rising. The park’s warden made clear to both sides that the ducks needed to be fed daily, and the troops agreed to a daily ceasefire to accommodate the duck’s dinner. Merrion Square is known as the heart of Georgian Dublin, and in keeping with that cultural theme hosts many events including an art exhibit and sale every Sunday. Oscar Wilde grew up here, and the square includes a colorful statue of him. Many must-see spots are also in the same area including the Book of Kells at Trinity College, the National Museum of Natural History (aka the Dead Zoo), and the National Museum of Archeology.