With its original construction dating between 1204 and 1220, Dublin Castle encompasses some of the city’s oldest surviving structures, although today much of its façade dates back to 18th century restorations. The dramatic fortress boasts a varied history, built on the site of an earlier Viking fortress and serving as the seat of British for over 700 years. Since the 1922 establishment of the Irish Free State, the castle has become a major conference centre for the Irish Government, as well as topping the list of Dublin tourist attractions.
An intriguing blend of architectural styles and historic remnants, Dublin Castle’s most impressive features include the 13th-century record tower, the last standing remains of the original Norman design, and the Treasury, Dublin’s first purpose-built office building. Most notable are the State Apartments, rooms formerly used by the Lord Lieutenant and now employed for official engagements including policy launches, State Visit ceremonies and the inauguration of the President. The lavishly decorated rooms, including the grand Saint Patrick’s Hall, with its elaborately painted ceiling and the Throne Room where King George IV’s 19th century throne is still on display, are open to the public via organized tours.
It’s not only the castle itself that’s worth exploring – the landscaped Dubh Linn Gardens (set on the ‘Dubh Linn’ or ‘Black pool’ after which the city was named) lie in the castle grounds, offering a free way to admire the castle’s striking façade. Next door to the castle, the Chester Beatty Library, home to one of the most impressive book collections in Europe, also offers free admission, with highlights including an ancient copy of the Acts of the Apostles, a series of 17th century hand-painted Japanese scrolls and a vast collection of illuminated Islamic manuscripts.