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Signature Buildings of Dublin

Architecture Forever Connected to Ireland's Capital

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Signature buildings are, in short, buildings that you forever connect to one (and only one) place in the world. Think Akropolis and Athens, think Tower Bridge and London, think Empire State Building and New York. So what are the buildings that scream "Dublin!" at you? here is a short list ...

Customs House

Customs House on the River Liffey
© 2008 Bernd Biege licensed to About.com, Inc.

Magnificently restored after being nothing but a burnt-out hulk for decades, the Customs House again dominates the Liffeyside. Unfortunately not quite visible from the city centre, as some bright spark decided to build a railway bridge right next of it.

The best views are from Matt Talbot Bridge in the early morning. After that traffic kicks in ...

The Campanile of Trinity College

The Campanile of Trinity College
© 2008 Bernd Biege licensed to About.com, Inc.

The view that spawned a million postcards - the solitary campanile (bell tower) dominates the inner courtyard of Trinity College. Cue hundreds of tourists and the odd student obscuring your view.

Try a different angle - the campanile is rarely photographed (but no less photogenic) from the direction of the Rubrics. If you need the classic view, try any platform in front of the other buildings.

The Four Courts

The Four Courts
© 2008 Bernd Biege licensed to About.com, Inc.

Another of Dublin's official buildings and nearly destroyed during the Easter Rising, the Four Courts have been restored and are best viewed from the Liffey quays. Up close details of modern life will emerge, like security barriers and less salubrious "visitors".

Note that you may enter the visitor's gallery (if there is room) and have a look at the interior - but photography is forbidden here.

The Spire

The Spire of Dublin
© 2008 Bernd Biege licensed to About.com, Inc.

Ooooookay ... the world's highest free-standing monument resembles a needle and is about as popular with locals as the sewers below O'Connell Street and the Spire. You know they're there, but you don’t stop and admire them. Only artists, architects an non-Dubliners spare this steel column more than a passing glance. Yet it has become a significant part of Dublin's skyline.

Popular nicknames are "The Spike", "The Needle" or "The Stiletto in the Ghetto".

The Guinness Brewery

The Guinness Brewery
© 2008 Bernd Biege licensed to About.com, Inc.

On calm days you may smell the Guinness brewery before you actually see it - and depending on you the thick yeasty smell might make you sick or smile. The classic view for most visitors is the entrance area to the Guinness Hopstore museum. If you want a better view, try the front lawn of the National Museum in Collins Barracks.

And if you want to experience the sheer size of Guinness, simply walk around the parameter. You’ll need a pint afterwards.

Ringsend Power Station

Ringsend Power Station
© 2008 Bernd Biege licensed to About.com, Inc.

It is neither a thing of beauty nor is it old - but the Ringsend Power Station with its twin stacks has achieved iconic status. And it spells "Dublin" to many people - if only because it is the first Dublin building you can make out when arriving by sea.

It is visible from almost anywhere in Dublin Bay, but the best view is from the sun deck of the "Ulysses" ferry ...

Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle
© 2008 Bernd Biege licensed to About.com, Inc.

Best described as a wild medley of styles, Dublin Castle is far from your typical castle. It has grown almost organically over the centuries and, due to its sprawling, yet hemmed-in city centre location can only be properly viewed from the air.

So it's parts of Dublin Castle that have achieved iconic status as Dublin landmarks. Mainly the courtyard, the neo-gothic chapel and the adjacent Record Tower ... soooo, like, medieval! And of course the view of the colourful facades from the Dubh Linn Gardens.

The Papal Cross in Phoenix Park

The Papal Cross in Phoenix Park
© 2008 Bernd Biege licensed to About.com, Inc.

If you are not religious, these are just girders painted white ... but the massive Papal Cross in Dublin's Phoenix Park still is a focal point for many Catholics in Ireland. It marks the spot where John Paul II held the largest mass ever on these shores.

The memorial to the Pope's visit, as it is today, is a staple of bus tours through Dublin. Often just because it makes a great elevated viewing platform.

The General Post Office

The General Post Office
© 2008 Bernd Biege licensed to About.com, Inc.

Heavily restored after the heavy shelling of 1916, the General Post Office is just about the only remarkable building on O'Connell Street - but it is far more important for its historical significance. Here Patrick Pearse declared the Irish Republic (and war on the British Empire) at the start of the Easter Rising. A few days later the building was a burnt-out hulk and Pearse stood in front of an execution squad.

A major regeneration of what will be "Dublin's North Quarter" is being prepared, this will see major structural impact on the GPO.

Ha'penny Bridge

Ha'penny Bridge, Dublin
© 2008 Bernd Biege licensed to About.com, Inc.

I am always in two minds about Ha'penny Bridge, spanning the Liffey between Temple Bar and "de Nordsoide" - on a good day it is a quaint Victorian construction worth a photo. On a bad day it is a crowded haunt of beggars and tourists best avoided. But no other Liffey bridge is "more Dublin" than the Ha'penny Bridge.

And visiting Dublin without crossing it would be like going into a pub without drinking Guinness. Meaning you won’t be struck dead by a bolt of lightning if you don’t, but every other Dublin tourist will ask you how you could miss out ...

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