Dublin's huge Phoenix Park is just outside the city proper - but a short walk will bring you there.
In a Nutshell:
One of the largest parks in the world and one of Dublin's main sights, the Phoenix Park contains a large number of attractions and is one of the favourite destinations for Dubliners wanting to get out of "the big smoke".
Where Will I Find the Phoenix Park?
Take a map of Dublin - it is the big green area to the west of the city centre, just north of the Liffey. You cannot miss it.
How do I get to the Phoenix Park?
All roads may lead to Rome, but in Dublin a large number make a detour via (or due to) the Phoenix Park.
You will be able to reach the park by Dublin Bus, head for Castleknock, the Cabra and Navan Road or Chapelizod (get off at Parkgate Street or Chapelizod Road near Islandbridge Gate). Many tour buses are routed through the park as well.
The LUAS will go as far as Heuston Station or Museum, both between five and ten minutes walk from the park.
You can also take a local train to Ashtown Station, again a few minutes walk away. Take note that the "Phoenix Park" station is far less convenient!
If you are using your car you will have no problem getting to the park, though finding a convenient parking space may prove challenging on weekends.
When is the Phoenix Park Open?
Many guidebooks still show "opening times" for the Phoenix Park, apparently not aware that the iron gates in the south-eastern corner (Park Gate) were temporarily removed some decades ago to facilitate a major event - and then misplaced and never reinstalled.
Thus the park is open 24/7/365, all the time.
A Short History of the Park:
When King Charles II needed hunting grounds near Dublin, the Duke of Ormonde landscaped the area north of the Liffey, stocking it with deer. To prevent these from escaping (and presumably discourage the Dublin rabble from poaching), the whole park was surrounded by a substantial wall.
In 1745 the park was presented to the City of Dublin - with the provision to make it accessible to the citizens.
Today it is still surrounded by more than seven miles of solid stone walls, access is via the eight major gates and six smaller (pedestrian) gates. And despite the toll both hunting and vehicle traffic took, around 500 deer are still roaming the extensive grounds.
What can I Expect in the Phoenix Park?
Europe's largest urban park - five times the size of London's Hyde Park, double the size of New York's Central Park, 707 hectares in all. The extensive grounds are frequented by walkers, families on an outing, joggers, skaters and cyclists - on summer weekends room on the paved ways may be scarce.
Main Attractions in the Phoenix Park:
Aras an Uachtaráin
- the residence of the Irish president, open for visitors on weekends;
Ashtown Castle and Phoenix Park Visitor Centre
- a medieval tower house and an informative display on the Phoenix Park's history;
- host to all creatures great and small, from apes to zebras;
- dubbed "the most expensive B&B in Ireland", the official guesthouse of the Republic;
- a still imposing military installation where the first action of the Easter Rising took place;
- a massive steel cross erected to facilitate Pope John Paul II saying mass to millions;
- a landscaped pleasure garden;
- a monument topped by a Phoenix;
- offering glimpses of cricket and polo players;
- one of the first monuments to the victor of Waterloo, born in Dublin.
Is the Phoenix Park Secure?
Yes and no - during daytime the park is very safe, the only risk being the car left in an area that will be locked by the wardens at dusk (check before leaving your car). After dark the park should not be considered safe for pedestrians and cyclists alone on their own. Phoenix Park should not be considered a hotbed of violent criminal activity when the sun is down, you might encounter strange or even dangerous people.
Food and Drink in the Phoenix Park:
There are several ways to recover your strength - apart from the restaurants in the zoo (which are only open to those who paid the entry fee).
Near the zoo's entrance you will find the Phoenix Park Tea House, small but busy (and with erratic opening hours at times). Then there is the café in the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre. And an ice-cream van is usually parked near the Papal Cross.
Nearby (leave the park through Ashtown Gate) is the Halfway House. Another pub well worth a visit is "The Hole in the Wall", Ireland's longest pub and nestling along the park wall (a pedestrian gate is conveniently located next to the pub entrance).