Phoenix Park Review
Europe's largest public park, which extends about 5 km (3 miles) along the Liffey's north bank, encompasses 1,752 acres and holds a lot of verdant green lawns, woods, lakes, and playing fields. Sunday is the best time to visit: games of cricket, football (soccer), polo, baseball, hurling (a traditional Irish sport the resembles a combination of lacrosse, baseball, and field hockey), and Irish football are likely to be in progress. Old-fashioned gas lamps line both sides of Chesterfield Avenue, the main road that bisects the park for 4 km (2½ miles), which was named for Lord Chesterfield, a lord lieutenant of Ireland, who laid out the road in the 1740s. To the right as you enter the park is the People's Garden, a colorful flower garden designed in 1864. Rent bikes (including tandems) at the main gate to get the most from the park's hidden corners.
Phoenix Park Visitor Centre. Within Phoenix Park is a visitor center, in the 17th-century fortified Ashtown Castle; it has information about the park's history, flora, and fauna. Admission to the center is free, and it runs guided tours of the park throughout the year. Hours are Apr.–Dec., daily 10–6; Jan.–Mar., Wed.–Sun. 9:30–5:30. Dublin West, Dublin, Co. Dublin. 01/677–0095. www.phoenixpark.ie.. Free.
Dublin Zoo. Founded in 1830, Dublin Zoo may be the third-oldest public zoo in the world but a major renovation completed in 2007 gave new life and luster to the old place. Animals from tropical climes are kept in unbarred enclosures, and Arctic species swim in the lakes close to the reptile house. Some 700 lions have been bred here since the 1850s, one of whom became familiar to movie fans the world over when MGM used him for its trademark. (As they will tell you at the zoo, he is in fact yawning in that familiar shot: an American lion had to be hired to roar and the "voice" was dubbed.) The African Plains section houses the zoo's larger species; the Nakuru Safari is a 25-minute tour of this area. World of Primates is a gathering of the usual suspects from tiny colobus monkeys to big gorillas. In summer the Lakeside Café serves ice cream and drinks. Dublin West, Dublin, Co. Dublin, Dublin 8. 01/474-8900. www.dublinzoo.ie. €16.50. Daily Mar.–Sept. 9:30–5, Jan. 9:30–3:30, Feb 9:30–4, Oct. 9:30–4:30, Nov.–Dec. 9:30–3.
Farmleigh House. This 78-acre Edwardian estate, situated to the northwest of the park, includes a working farm, walled and sunken gardens, wonderful picnic-friendly grounds, a regular organic food market, and a house full of antique furnishings and historic art. Admission is free. Phoenix Park, Dublin West, Dublin, Co. Dublin, Dublin 8. 01/815-5914. www.farmleigh.ie. Wed.–Sun. 10–5.