There are more amazing castles in Ireland than I can count. They are so photogenic and many have a fascinating history dating back centuries. I wish I had enough time to visit all of them. When I realized there was a castle in the center of Dublin, I knew we had to fit it in the itinerary.
With all there is to see in Dublin, you may be wondering if Dublin Castle is worth seeing? Let me tell you about the history of the castle, what you can see when you go inside, and why we decided to take a Dublin Castle tour.
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Dublin Castle History
I had no idea the fascinating history I was about to learn. Dublin Castle may not be the only castle in Dublin but it is definitely the most significant. The first castle on this site was built around 1200, although most of the current buildings date back to the 18th century. Dublin Castle was the seat of the United Kingdom Government’s administration in Ireland until 1922 and is now a major Irish government complex.
While under UK rule, the castle was the residential and ceremonial quarters for the Viceroys (deputies of the British Monarch) and the Viceregal Court. Now that Ireland is an independent country, the castle is used for inaugurations and other prestigious functions. Over the years it was also as a prison and the seat of parliament. You will get the full rundown when you take one of the tours of Dublin Castle.
The castle is made up of several buildings of different architectural styles since they were built at different times. The state apartments, medieval tour (also known as the Record Tower), medieval undercroft, the Chapel Royal, and an administrative building are all part of the castle. Dublin Castle also has a conference center called the Printworks.
Our Tour of Dublin Castle
Our tour started with the medieval undercroft and a mini Dublin history lesson. The Medieval Undercroft is the ruins of the original castle that are under the administration building. They created a nice stairway and walkways so you can get close to the history without damaging it. You can even see a bit of the Dublin city walls and the River Poddle that flows under the city.
Next, on our Dublin Castle tour, we visited the Chapel Royal, which opened in 1814 replacing an earlier church on this site. The woodwork inside the chapel was elaborate. Since the Chapel Royal was built on soft ground, even the parts that look like stone are actually wood to minimize the building weight. This optical illusion is amazing, you have to feel the columns to really tell the difference! It was also interesting to see the coat of arms for the viceroys.
In the crypt of the Chapel Royal, there is the Revenue Museum which offers insights into the history of taxes in Ireland. Unfortunately, the Revenue Museum was not part of the guided tour, and we didn’t have time to go back and visit it. Admission to the Revenue Museum is free.
Dublin Castle State Apartments
Last, we saw the State Apartments. The State Apartments were opulent and what you would expect a castle to look like. The Dublin Castle interior rooms were filled with plenty of gold and impressive chandeliers. The grand staircase and artwork we saw were also impressive.
The most poignant part of the tour inside Dublin Castle was when we entered the Connelly room. It gets its name from James Connelly who led the Easter Rising in 1916 (a rebellion against British rule) and was one of the signers of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. James Connelly was held here as a wounded prisoner.
The Easter Rising was unsuccessful and Connelly was executed. However, the fact that Connelly was executed when he was wounded did not sit well with the Irish people and increased the appetite for Irish independence. It was moving to be in the same room where Connolly had been.
We ended the tour in St. Patrick’s Hall, the largest room in the state apartments. Parliament used to meet in this room, but now it is used for inaugurations and other stately functions. You can sense the importance of the room when you enter, plus there are some magnificent paintings.
Dublin Castle Tour Review
We enjoyed our tour of Dublin Castle. It lasted a little more than an hour. While we saw a good portion of the castle, it would have been nice if it would have included the gardens too. Our tour guide was entertaining and shared many interesting facts about Dublin Castle.
Dublin Castle Gardens
Just south of the Chapel Royal and the State Apartment behind a stone wall, you can find the Dublin Castle Gardens. These gardens were probably established early in the seventeenth century. At the heart of the gardens is the Dubh Linn Garden, where patterns representing sea serpents are cut into the grass. You should also visit the Garda Memorial Garden which honors members of Irish police who have been killed in the line of duty.
Dublin Castle Restaurant
The Terrace Café is located on the ground floor of the State Apartments in Dublin Castle. You can enjoy a relaxed coffee break or a healthy breakfast or lunch overlooking the Dublin Castle Gardens. They have great options for vegetarians and those that are gluten-free too.
If you are looking for restaurants near Dublin Castle, check out the Winding Stair or Fallon & Bryne. For those looking for something a little fancier, the Michelin starred restaurant, Chapter One, is about .75 miles away.
Dublin Castle Accessibility
For the most part, Dublin Castle is accessible. There is an elevator in the State Apartments. Unfortunately, the Medieval Undercroft is only accessible by stairs.
Dublin Castle Opening Hours and Admission Prices
It’s nice that Dublin Castle is open seven days a week from 9:45 am to 5:45 pm (with the last admission being 5:15 pm). If possible, it’s best to take public transportation (or walk) to Dublin Castle. If you are looking for parking near Dublin Castle, you could try the public parking garages – either Q-Park Christchurch car park and Park Rite Drury Street.
You can choose from either a self-guided (€7) or guided tour (€10). However, you can only see the medieval undercroft and the Chapel Royal by guided tour. For us, it was an easy decision. For only just a few Euro more, we felt the Dublin Castle guided tour was the best option. (Prices are correct as of 10/16/2018)
You need to purchase tickets from the Dublin Castle apartments (not the state apartments) in the Upper Castle Yard. They do not sell the Dublin Castle tickets online. We arrived right when the castle opened so the line to get tickets was pretty short.
The Dublin Castle self-guided tour is included as part of the Dublin Pass. The guided tour is just €3 with the Dublin Pass. If you are planning to visit a few attractions during your time in Dublin, the pass may save you money. It includes over 30 attractions like Christ Church Cathedral and Dublinia which are located very close to Dublin Castle. If you love castles, as I do, there are a few castles near Dublin (Malahide Castle and Dalkey Castle) that are also part of the pass. Get more information about the Dublin Pass here.
Hotels Near Dublin Castle
Dublin Castle is conveniently located on Dame Street, a short walk from the Temple Bar Area. It’s an ideal area to base yourself during your visit to Dublin. You will be able to walk to lots of attractions, bars, and restaurants. The only downside is that hotels in the Dublin city centre can be expensive.
Here are some hotels near Dublin Castle that you might like:
- The Morrison: A Doubletree By Hilton Hotel that’s only a 7-minute walk from Dublin Castle. The decor is modern and they offer free wifi and a fitness center. Plus, you earn Hilton points for your stay. (Read Tripadvisor reviews here and check current price and availability here)
- Brooks Hotel: A small luxury hotel located only a 9-minute walk away from Dublin Castle. They also offer free wifi and a fitness center with a sauna. (Read Tripadvisor reviews here and check current price and availability here)
Find other Dublin hotel options here.
I just love visiting castles and when they have so much history it is even more fascinating. I’m glad I took the guided tour of Dublin Castle. The state apartments were beautiful and our tour guide gave an excellent lesson on the history of Dublin Castle. What castles have you really enjoyed?
Expert Tips for Visiting Dublin Castle
- Take the guided tour so you can also see the Medieval Undercroft and the Chapel Royal.
- You may also want to download the app to learn even more about Dublin Castle.
- If you have time, check out the Revenue Museum and the Dublin Castle gardens.
- While you are in Dublin, you might also enjoy visiting the Book of Kells exhibit at Trinity College.
- If you plan on visiting other top attractions in Dublin, consider getting the Dublin Pass to save money.
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