The Phoenix Park in Dublin is the largest enclosed park in Western Europe

The Phoenix Park, embracing 1,760 acres, is reputed to be the largest municipal park within a city’s limits in the world. While it is popularly assumed that it was named after the mythical bird, most Irish experts believe the name may be derived from “Fion Uisce which means “clear water”.
This is Dublin’s playground – the largest urban enclosed park in Europe, with a Circumference of 11km (7m) and a total area of 712 hectares (1,760 acres). Situated 3km (2m) west of the city centre. Ornamental gardens, nature trails, and broad expanses of grassland, separated by avenues of trees, including oak, beech, pine, chestnut, and lime. Livestock graze peacefully on pasturelands, deer roam the forested areas, and horses romp on polo fields.

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The Phoenix Park in Dublin is the largest enclosed park in Western Europe. It has many items of interest, from the American Ambassador’s residence to the zoo. The main entrance is about 2 miles from Dublin’s city centre, at Parkgate Street. Dublin 7, near Castleknock. There is no charge to enter the Phoenix Park. It is about 7 miles in circumference, so it takes a bit of effort to get around the whole park.

So what’s to see? Well, quite a lot actually. Here’s a quick summary of the main sights.

Dublin Zoo

Dublin’s zoo is one of the oldest in the world. It is well known for assisting in the breeding of rare species. They are also particularly proud of their modern polar bear enclosure. The zoo is constantly being changed and a visit is always a rewarding experience for young and old alike.

Wellington Monument

The Wellington monument is the second tallest obelisk in the world, after the one in Washington. It is an impressive structure which depicts some of the great battles and conquests of the Duke of Wellington, including the famous victory at Waterloo in 1815.

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Aras an Uachtaráin

This is Ireland’s White House, the home and office of the President of Ireland. It can be seen from the main road which runs through the park, and you might just catch a glimpse of the President being whisked away to official duties in the presidential rolls royce escorted by a large motorbike cavalcade. By the way, the name is Gaelic. It is pronounced “orras un ookhtarawn” which means “the president’s building”.

Aras an Uachtaráin phoenix park dublin

Papal cross

In 1979, Pope John Paul II became the first pope ever to visit Ireland. Over 1.3 million people attended the mass in the Phoenix Park. This was the largest gathering of Irish people ever. The large alter and cross used for the mass were left in place as a reminder of the occasion. You can climb the steps and get a panoramic view of the spot where this massive crown of people gathered.

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American Ambassador’s residence

Ireland has a long association with the United States, and the Ambassador has been provided with this magnificent building right in the heart of the Phoenix Park. Naturally it’s well guarded, but you can catch glimpses of it through the trees.

American Ambassador’s residence phoenix park in dublin

Ashtown Castle

This has been turned into a visitor’s centre since the mid 1990’s. You can watch a video of the history of the Phoenix Park and see the excellent photographs of Irish life over the last 100 years.

ashtown castle phoenix park

Furry Glen

The South-Western corner of the Park has a beautiful series of walks centred around a lake. It’s a really peaceful oasis with lots of birds, plants and wildlife.

Furry_Glen_phoenix park in dublin

That’s enough to keep anyone occupied for a day or more. But there’s lots more in the park. There’s a hospital, several quaint old houses, the Ordinance Survey building, the People’s Garden at the east end, the trees, the squirrels, and of course the deer. In fact, the deer have right of way on the roads through the park. Seeing the herd of fallow deer is an integral part of any visit to the park. You can usually find them near the open space in front of the Papal Cross.

The park is used for picnics, jogging, football (gaelic and soccer) and loads of other activities (but not camping, which would be very dangerous, especially after dark). The cricket and polo grounds provide a hint of empire dating back to the days of British rule. There’s also some lovely views across the city from some parts of the park.

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