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Urban parks and history define beautiful Dublin

October 5, 2011 - 2:25am
Urban parks and history define beautiful Dublin
Sitting on the east coast of Ireland, Dublin has the distinction of being one of the most historic cities in Europe. From its beginnings as a Viking settlement to its 17th century expansion to playing a central role in modern Ireland, the city holds a special place in the country's culture - which may explain why it's a preferred stop on escorted Ireland vacations.

With such a lengthy history, it's no surprise that Dublin is a sightseer's dream. One of the most well-known landmarks within its boundaries is Dublin Castle. While most of the structure tourists see today was built in the 18th century, there has been a castle of some kind on the grounds as far back as the rule of King John in the 1100s.

There are still some remnants of the castle's medieval past including the massive Record Tower. The structure is the only surviving piece of the Great Hall that was built around 1228, and it stands almost exactly as it was back then except for battlements added in the early 1800s.

The more modern parts of Dublin Castle are no less impressive. The State Apartments are the most well-known and regularly used areas of the castle and often house important dignitaries and Irish government officials. Among the highlights is St. Patrick's Hall, which is currently used for presidential inaugurations.

In addition to historic landmarks, Dublin is also home to more green area per square kilometer than any other European capital. While there are certainly no lack of parks, Phoenix Park may stand out among the rest. Not far from the center of the city, the park covers an expansive 1,750 acres and houses a number of landmarks in its own right.

The Dublin Zoo is located within the park, and has been a large tourist draw since it opened in 1830. The third-oldest zoo in the world, it is currently home to more than 700 animals.

There are also a number of monuments within the confines of Phoenix Park including the 203-foot Wellington Monument. The tallest obelisk in Europe, the monument was constructed as a way to honor the victories of Arthur Wellesley, the First Duke of Wellington.