Dodging large groups of tourists is part of a Trinity student’s life. Sometimes, however, it’s vital to get past the Book of Kells, Costa, and St. Stephen’s Green and see more of what Dublin has to offer. The museums, shops and oddities of this city are endless, but many are little-known, close to campus, free, and endlessly interesting. This short list of Dublin’s lesser-known corners and landmarks will provide you with plenty to see and do on your next wander through the city.
Quirky Instagram bait
The Honorable Society of King’s Inns has more than just notions and barristers; it has a huge, old tree which is in the process of consuming an iron bench, with the back of the bench almost entirely covered by living bark. The Hungry Tree, as it is known, is one of Ireland’s National Heritage Trees. The King’s Inns is open to the public and accessible from Henrietta Street.
The buildings and grounds of The Honorable Society of King’s Inns themselves are also worth a look. Ireland’s oldest law school, founded by King Henry VIII, moved to this Constitution Hill location in the late 1700s. As well as educating legal minds for generations, it has served as a beautiful setting for many films and period dramas. Stroll through the grounds, sit on the half-eaten bench and try to absorb any legal knowledge you can from the atmosphere of this centuries-old law school. Access to the grounds is also free, so a visit is always budget-friendly.
A secret garden
After a €5 student lunch at Dicey’s carvery, pop across the street to the Iveagh Gardens. This walled sanctuary is a tourist-free alternative to St. Stephen’s Green. Gravel paths wind through the gardens, pass serene statues hidden in the trees, and circle from a rose garden to a rushing waterfall in secluded corners of the park. Wander introspectively through the yew maze, and pause at the centre of the maze to appreciate the irony of a sundial in this well-shaded part of rainy Dublin.
For a cheap date, bring your lunch and sit by one of the fountains with whomever you met on Harcourt Street last night. With College only a few minutes away, this venue offers the option of returning to campus in time for your maths tutorial, or not!
The Iveagh Gardens are free to the public year-round, open from 8am Monday through Saturday and 10am on Sunday and bank holidays. You can access the gardens on Clonmel Street, Hatch Street, or behind the National Concert Hall.
Hidey holes for book fanatics
The Library Bar is located on the first floor of the Central Hotel, on Exchequer Street. It’s open all day, serving coffee, drinks, and meals in a coys venue with comfortable chairs and couches. It is perfect for solitary reading, a book club meeting, or a few quiet pints with a friend. If you time your visit well, you may be lucky enough to spot the Philosophy department discussing the meaning of life over a warm meal.
The Cake Café on Camden Street is likewise a delightful place to stop and snack with friends who love cake, books, or both! The entrance to The Cake Café is through The Last Bookshop, a secondhand book store. The tasteful patio behind the shop is a sweet-treat haven to read or chat. Best of all, The Cake Café serves all-day brunch!
For the history buff
Once inconspicuously nestled on St. Stephen’s Green, Newman House is soon to be the National Museum of Literature. Renovations on the building began in October 2017 and it will open this spring. The museum will feature technologically advanced exhibits on major Irish writers and literature. As a partner of UCD and the National Library, its aim will be to increase interest in reading and writing. MoLI will promote a focus on literary education through seminars, outreach programs, and other initiatives.
A hidden gem of architectural beauty, Newman University Church recently reopened next to Newman House. Historically, this was the chapel of University College Dublin (UCD), and would also have served as a lecture venue and graduation hall. Both Newman House and Newman University Church were established by John Henry Newman when he founded UCD itself. The small porch of the church opens to an antechamber, decorated with historic plaques and information on the history of the building. Beyond it sprawls the impressive, Roman baroque-inspired Church of Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom. Irish marble from several counties adorn the walls and alter, and a large, elaborately painted dome over the alter evokes a reminder of the architecture of continental Europe.
Poke your head into the church and see the site of the new museum when you walk by St. Stephen’s Green. Newman University Church is open 8am to 5pm on weekdays.
The Christmas shopper’s paradise
The halls are decked and merry in Powerscourt Centre, a high-end shopping centre that can be found on South William Street. Powerscourt Centre was originally the townhouse of Richard Wingfield, the Third Viscount Powerscourt. While it is home to an inordinate number of wedding-themed shops – so maybe not the best spot for a first date – the centre has eccentric art galleries, antiques, and jewellers across several floors and is the perfect place to pass a lazy afternoon. All of the shops look out into a food court, where a light display mingles with the faint Christmas scents from Bark & Berry to create a cosy atmosphere. Powerscourt Centre is attached to Pygmalion Bar, where you can chill after window shopping and get two for one “pygtails” any day of the week.