By Isabella Gentleman
Visiting Student Blogger, St. Olaf College
As a visiting student at Trinity, it has been important to me to learn as much about the city of Dublin and its people while I’m here, in addition to everything I’m learning at Trinity. Being from America, Dublin’s centuries-old architecture and history is remarkable. Its city centre alone offers an abundance of things to explore – I have never been bored.
In my first six weeks I have enjoyed acclimating to the city and culture of Dublin. From Trinity’s campus or elsewhere, the rest of the city centre and beyond is incredibly accessible, by foot, bicycle, or bus. I have particularly enjoyed taking walks around Dublin, which is not only great exercise, but also has been important in really getting to know the city. If I am ever lost, someone will be there to guide me in the right direction, and I often get asked for directions as well, which is a great way to get to know more about the people of Dublin, whether Irish or not. Dublin is filled with tourists and residents from all around the world, which creates a rich, diverse community filling the streets with interesting people, food, and history. Walking also does not require any spending money, but can lead you to some excellent pubs, restaurants, or sightseeing locations if you so choose. And, because as a visiting student you are living in the city for at least 4/5 months, if not more, there is no reason to feel the need to do all of Dublin in one or two days. I have broken it up, with fun goals, like going to 101 Irish Pubs before term ends, or seeing all the churches, and enjoy having a few months to really get to know the city.
I have also physically broken up the city into a few different walks that I try to do at least 4 times a week. Each of these is centered around something different, or a different part of the city, and each has their own beautiful highlights. Here I thought I would introduce 3 different walking tours with pictures and maps to accompany, so that you can enjoy these walks and get a taste of where things lie within the city before arriving. I used guide books to help me find things I wanted to see and learn more about, and then used maps to locate them and get a general idea of the path I would take. Even though I do have a keen sense of direction I too always make sure I have my map with me, especially if it is a new route I have never taken before. Each time I walk the paths I try to switch up the small lanes I might walk down, or maybe go a longer or shorter route depending on time. But I always see something different and learn something new, even if I am walking the exact same path I walk every day.
The first route walks through two lovely parks on the south side – St. Stephen’s Green and Merrion Square. It also goes right down by the Grand Canal, one of two canals in Dublin that run parallel to the River. I enjoy this walk particularly because of the swans which seem to always be swimming in St. Stephen’s pond and occasionally will be found along the canal. As it is Spring time, each time I walk along this path the flowers seem to be more and more abundant – the daffodils are my favorite. This walk is also meant to cover a large Georgian section of the city, which means the doors along most of the roads on this walk are quintessential Dublin Doors. Colors vary from Tiffany Blue to baby yellow… and the arches above the doors are just as unique and beautiful. The walk circles around from Trinity to Merrion Square down to the Canal, and back up Harcourt Street to St. Stephen’s Green and finally back down Grafton Street or vice versa. You will inevitably be up and down Grafton Street many times a week, but it is always exciting with different street performers and bustling with shoppers. Along the walk there are also all different pubs to stop in for a snack if it’s around lunch time, and even the light posts are pretty.
The second journey walks west out of Trinity’s front gate and stops at the big cathedrals in the city before making its way back to the cute neighbourhood beside Grafton Street. These tiny lanes are cobbled and lined with all different boutiques and pubs just calling your name to go in. I always enjoy windowing shopping and walking in to talk to the shop clerk if I have the time. Along Dame Street on your way to Christchurch, there is also a street called Cow’s Lane which has equally nice boutiques and cafes – I would definitely suggest exploring here as well. At the top of Dame Street is Christchurch, which has just as beautiful grounds as its architecture. There are lots of flowers blooming just now, and quite excellent sculptures. The cathedral does have a visiting fee, but it is free for anyone who comes for a service, and there are services all throughout the week. However for both Christians and non-Christians alike, the history and architecture of this amazing structure is worth seeing, even if just from the outside. Same goes for St. Patrick’s Cathedral just south of Christchurch. St. Patrick’s has an even larger green area where there are always kids running around and people enjoying the paper or their lunch on the benches. It offers unique architecture as well, very different from that of Christchurch but just as beautiful. The walk then takes you through some industrial space before dropping you right down onto George’s Street which has a nice indoor market area, and leads on to the cute shops and lanes just off of Grafton Street, and then back to Trinity. Sometimes I enjoy just sitting in St. Patrick’s green on this walk or just walking through the area off Grafton Street without going up Dame Street – there are lots of modifications.
Finally, the third walk goes north and across the river on some the famous bridges, like the H’apenny! Walking across the O’Connell Bridge leads you directly to the Spire, a monument built in 2003, which Dubliners have mixed feelings about. You will see why. However, the bottom of the Spire is engraved with a map and it is very cool to stand next to such a tall monument. Taking a right at the Spire leads down Henry Street, taking a left leads to the Famine memorial, which is made up of very striking sculptures and has the story of famine to go with it. Something everyone who visits Dublin should see. Henry Street is similar to Grafton Street with different shops and pubs of course. From here you can walk through the Jervis Shopping center, where I also go to grocery shop at Tesco’s occasionally, or just next to it on Capel Street. Then walk along the river and cross back over at the Ha’penny, which is covered with Love Locks and is seen in all the pictures. It also leads right to a cute lane through a building that comes out in Temple Bar. This is a great time to explore the cobbled streets here before heading the 2 minutes back to Trinity. Temple Bar has some amazing restaurants and of course pubs, and it is always fun to take pictures of The Temple Bar itself, especially if visiting at night.
Each of these walks offers something different. I feel safe and comfortable walking each of these routes in the Day time and most of them at night. As with any city, it is always important to be aware of your surroundings, and definitely have a map to help find your own way home, if no one is around. But more importantly enjoy exploring Dublin. Use these as a guide or take a map and make up your own adventures. The city has so much to offer, from the beautiful Architecture, to the lively Pub life, to the art and history… you are studying at one of the most beautiful, renowned universities in the world – take advantage of all it and its city has to offer you.