Phoenix Park. Urban Park in Dublin, Ireland

Phoenix Park

Urban Park in Dublin, Ireland

Phoenix Park Photo © Roberto Taddeo

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Phoenix Park

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	in bloom - Phoenix Park
Trees in bloom - Phoenix Park. Photo by Simon
Phoenix Park is a large urban park in the west of Dublin, Ireland. The entire park is walled off – the surrounding wall is no less than 11 kilometers long – and as it covers more than 700 hectares, it is the largest enclosed park in any European capital city. Phoenix Park is made up of huge lawns, stately tree-lined boulevards and woodlands – approximately 30% of the park is covered by trees. It is also home to a wild herd of fallow deer. Besides greenery and wildlife, there are also several monuments, memorial, and historic buildings.

This enormous urban park lies only about 2.4 kilometers from busy O’Connell Street in the city center and is a massively popular place among residents and tourists alike. The park invites people to play all kinds of sports, from running, walking, and cycling to polo, cricket, football, and hurling.


The area’s history of human occupation begins as early as 3,500 BC, when Neolithic and Bronze Age people visited this area that commanded expansive views of the River Liffey (Wikipedia Article) and the Dublin Mountains.

Phoenix Park’s more recent history is complicated and involves a lot of alternating ownership. The lands that now make up the park have been owned by Richard Strongbow, the Kings Templar, the Knights Hospitaller, and the British Crown, among a few others. Ownership of the lands changed many times from the 12th until the beginning of the 17th century. In the 1660s, the lands officially belonged to Charles II of England (Wikipedia Article), but in practice they were the Duke of Ormonde’s, who was Viceroy in Dublin. He was the one to establish a royal hunting park there in 1662. To be able to hunt wildlife, such as pheasants and deer, the lands were enclosed by a wall. At first, the park also included Kilmainham Priory, located south of the River Liffey (Wikipedia Article). The park was reduced to its present size in 1680 when the Royal Hospital of Kilmainham was constructed.

The fourth Earl of Chesterfield is credited with starting a series of landscaping works in the park in 1745, which included lots of replanting, the erection of Phoenix Column, and the planting of trees along the main avenue. He also opened the park to the people of Dublin.

Wildlife - Phoenix Park
Wildlife - Phoenix Park. Photo by Colin Whittaker
Between the 1830s and 1860s, sporting activities and leisure became more important. Dublin Zoo was opened as early as 1831, the People’s Garden in 1840 and a rock garden, promenades, horticultural facilities for growing and planting, and the Head Gardeners House were added in the following decades.

The 20th century was characterized by maintenance and the planting of some 10,000 extra trees. The Papal Cross was erected in 1979, Phoenix Column relocated, and the rebuilding of the entrance gates. In the course of the century, Phoenix Park has been the site for many small and large events and happenings. The Papal visit of Pope John Paul II in 1979 was probably the biggest event ever to take place in the park, attracting more than a million visitors. Bob Geldof did his Live Aid walk there in 1986 and it was the finish of the first stage of the 1997 Tour de France. Smaller events include annual and day-to-day sporting events, concerts, and other recreational activities.

Visiting Phoenix Park

Phoenix Park is one of the largest designed landscapes in any European city and is open 24 hours per day, seven days a week. The park’s main gates, located at Parkgate Street, as well as Castlenock Gate are open 24 hours. The smaller side gates are open from 7AM until 11PM. The park is free to visit and there are several visitor facilities, such as a visitor center with exhibitions on the park’s history, a café, tea rooms, bicycle rentals, Segway tours, and a zoo.

That zoo, Dublin Zoo, is in fact one of the city’s main attractions. It is home to more than 700 animals. Having been opened in 1831, Dublin Zoo is the oldest zoo in the world. Other major landmarks and attractions in Phoenix Park are the Papal Cross, erected for the visit of Pope John Paul II; Áras an Uachtaráin (Wikipedia Article), the residence of the President of Ireland; the People’s Gardens, including ornamental lakes, playgrounds, Victorian horticulture,and flowerbeds; Ashtown Castle, a 15th-century towerhouse; the Magazine Fort; and the impressive Wellington Monument (Wikipedia Article), the largest obelisk in Europe.

Late afternoon in Phoenix Park - Phoenix
Late afternoon in Phoenix Park. Photo by Tobias Abel

Popular activities are walking, running, cycling, barbecuing, picnicking, and just relaxing.

Similar Landmarks

Dublin is home to several other parks and gardens. Examples are the National Botanic Gardens Dublin, St Stephen’s Green, Merrion Square, Fitzwilliam Square (Wikipedia Article), and the Iveagh Gardens.

Other great urban parks elsewhere in the world are Central Park in New York City, the Tuileries Garden in Paris, Retiro Park in Madrid, the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney in Sydney, and Boston Common in Boston.

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Author: bramreusen. Last updated: Dec 27, 2014

Pictures of Phoenix Park

Phoenix Park
Phoenix Park. Photo by unknown


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