Imagine yourself now, enjoying a long morning and afternoon, strolling through a busy O’Connell Street, over O’Connell Bridge, past Trinity College and on into a bustling Grafton Street.
Having begun your Dublin holiday with a tiring flight or ferry journey, for example from the UK to Dublin, you will be longing for some of the peace and tranquillity that Dublin and Ireland is so famous for.
When you get to the end of the long row of shops that make up Grafton Street you see the beginnings of a long black fence, behind which lies tall trees. You follow this fence until you come across a stone arch that divides the fence and provides an entrance to somewhere that seems more peaceful. You walk through the arch and you have arrived in St Stephen’s Green. Immediately you become aware that you have arrived in a sea of tranquillity; a source of rest and shade from the bright lights and commercial glare that is modern Dublin.
You walk further and the tall trees that line the boundaries of Saint Stephen’s Green block out all of the noise that central Dublin is so famous for. Ahead you see more tall trees, luscious lawns, beautiful fountains and modest yet fascinating monuments. You are about to embark on a leg of your Dublin tour that you will remember forever…
History of St Stephen’s Green
St Stephen’s Green is an area of around 9 hectares that has been providing rest, tranquillity and peace for visitors and the residents of Dublin for 350 years. Whilst the gardens began to take shape in the 1600s, the general outline and potential of this area began to really take shape during the 1700s. Whilst there is plenty of competition in Dublin for the title ‘best Georgian park’ – nearby Merrion Square is another top contender – in terms of history and size St Stephens Green is unrivalled.
During the British occupation of Ireland many parks were designed and developed to furnish what was, at this time, considered by many to be the ‘second city of the Empire’. Because the site on which St Stephen’s Green lies already had a park dating from the 1600s, this area was a natural choice to develop into a beautiful tree-line Georgian park that would serve the residents of Dublin (as long as they had money, a title, or the right religious beliefs), and visiting dignitaries from across the Empire. During the 19th Century the streets surrounding St Stephen’s Green came to be dominated by big Georgian buildings which were often used as hotels. Adjoining streets such as St Stephen’s Green North, St Stephen’s Green South, St Stephen’s Green East, St Stephen’s Green West, Grafton Street, and Harcourt Street, became a magnet for the wealthy from all over the UK, Ireland, and further afield. Many spectacularly grand hotels sprang up in the 18th Century. The Shelbourne is the last survivor of the great Georgian hotels – a stay there during your holiday will give you a taste of the grandeur on offer during that century.
For most of the 18th and 19th Centuries the park was surrounded by high stone walls and access was only allowed to students from the nearby Trinity College, the wealthy Irish, the British ruling class, and any British citizens visiting Dublin on holiday or on business. However, in 1863 the park began to open up to the general public – walls were torn down and replaced by the iron fences that remain to this day. This move was welcomed by the more enlightened wealthy Irish such as AE Guinness (grandson of the inventor of the drink), who funded a renovation of the park. This new design would see the introduction of the famous wide pathways, fountains, water features, green lawns and lake, that make the park so attractive to tourists and locals today.
In 1916 Dublin experienced a bloody uprising, which is popularly known as the ‘Easter Rising’. During the Spring of 1916 this tranquil park would be the scene of a bloody stand against British rule. Like many of today’s tourist attractions, including the General Post Office and Kilmainham Gaol, St Stephen’s Green will be forever synonymous with the year of 1916. The Irish Volunteers chose it as a strategic stronghold due its iconic reputation; whilst the British fought back from their base in the Shelbourne Hotel which overlooks the park to this day. Ultimately St Stephen’s Green would prove to be too exposed to withstand a long siege and this stand, like all the others during the Spring of that year, was doomed to failure. However, the genie had been let out of the bottle and the battle for St Stephen’s Green and all the other battles that swept that city during that year would inspire the nation’s drive towards the independence that was finally achieved in 1922.
Layout of St Stephen’s Green
Situated right in the heart of Dublin, St Stephens Green it is a great place to relax after a long day of shopping in the nearby busy Grafton Street. Many Dubliners and visitors to Dublin use the park to re-charge their batteries after a long day of shopping in Grafton Street or in St Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre.
St Stephen’s Green is rectangular, and is roughly 550 metres from East to West and 450 metres from North to South.
With its fences backed up by tall trees, the park is quite well hidden from surrounding streets. This means that some tourists, especially those who have not done their research, struggle to find it. However, once inside, the effect is reversed and you will find the hustle and bustle of Dublin is no longer in view and is even hard to hear.
The park has many long and wide walkways which intersect around beautiful fountains, lawns and statues. The quietness of these surroundings will bring great rest and a sense of peace to anyone suffering from the intense stress of national or international travels.
On the north side of the park the visitor will find a beautiful lake, which during the Spring and Summer boasts ducks, geese and swans. To the west of this lake is a garden for the blind – replete with scented plants whose leaves are marked in braille. The south of the park is dominated by rolling lawns that are ideal for picnics and relaxing.
St Stephen’s Green is not just a magnet for those on holiday in Dublin – it also attracts visitors who are on their lunch hour, or students from Trinity College and shoppers looking to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Grafton Street. The centre of the park is busy with intersecting paths and beautiful fountains.
There are four entrances to St Stephen’s Green, the most famous of which is the Fusiliers Arch. This can be accessed easily from the south side of Grafton Street.
Where is St Stephen’s Green located?
- St Stephen’s Green is south of the River Liffey.
- It is to the south west of Temple Bar.
- It is pretty much directly south of O’Connell Street, as the crow flies.
Getting to St Stephen’s Green
St Stephen’s Green is quite central and can be easily accessed whether you are based on the Northside, or in Temple Bar for the duration of your stay. It is also not far from the Connolly and Heuston train stations.
The nearest Luas tram stop in Northside Dublin is on Abbey Street. From there you can cross O’Connell Bridge. When you have crossed over the Liffey, over the road you will see two intersecting streets directly ahead of you. Cross the road and choose the road on the right and you will pass the Central Bank on your right, and then Trinity College on your left – keep on heading straight and you will pass the statue of Molly Malone (the tart with a heart). Eventually you will find yourself on Grafton Street. Continue to the end of Grafton Street and you will eventually see the Fusiliers Arch. If you have not had a holiday in Dublin before then we recommend you set off on this walk early, as you will pass some of Dublin and Ireland’s most famous landmarks, not least Trinity College – home of the Book of Kells.
A morning spent in Trinity College, an afternoon in St Stephen’s Green, followed by evening snacks and coffee at Bewley’s, will combine to create a day of light touring & sightseeing that you will find hard to beat.