Phoenix Park - History and Facts | History Hit

Phoenix Park

Dublin, Ireland

Image Credit: Bartkowski / Shutterstock

About Phoenix Park

Phoenix Park is the largest green space in any European city at 709 hectares. Located in North Dublin, it remains a great spot to while away a sunny afternoon as well as an important part of the city’s history and political life today.

History of Phoenix Park

Following the Norman conquest of Ireland, a large amount of land (including what is now Phoenix Park) was granted to the Knights Hospitaller. It remained in their care until 1537, when the dissolution of the monasteries ordered by Henry VIII meant the land reverted to the control of the King’s representatives in Ireland.

In 1662, the Duke of Ormond (the Viceroy in Ireland at the time) established a royal hunting park, which was enclosed as it contained pheasants and deer: the original park would have been slightly bigger in size as it included land south of the river). The parkland was opened to the people of Dublin in 1745.
Áras an Uachtaráin, which is now Ireland’s presidential residence, was originally bought in 1780 as a summer residence for the viceroy. It remains the presidential residence today, and is used for official visits and the reception of guests as well as the president’s private residence.
In the 19th century, the landscape architect Decimus Burton redesigned large amounts of the park, including new paths, landscaping, gate lodges and extensive tree planting programmes.

The notorious 1882 Phoenix Park murders took place on the site, when the Chief Secretary and Under-Secretary for Ireland were stabbed to death by a group of Irish nationalists.
The park also houses Dublin Zoo, the Wellington Monument and the Papal Cross (erected as a backdrop for the mass celebrated in the park by Pope John Paul II in 1979, which over one million people attended).

Phoenix Park today

The park is open to the public today, and Phoenix Park’s fallow deer are synonymous with the location today: they are relatively tame but should not be fed!

Many Dubliners use the park to run or cycle around, and on summer days what feels like large swathes of the city decamp here to enjoy the green space and soak up some rays. Various events and festivals are held on the site throughout the year so it’s worth checking the calendar before arriving.

Guided tours of Áras an Uachtaráin are normally run every Saturday by the Office of Public Works (OPW): these are free and tickets are on a first-come first-served basis.

Getting to Phoenix Park

Phoenix park is a pleasant 40 minute walk along the Liffey from the centre of Dublin. Otherwise, it’s easily accessible via several bus routes: look for buses heading up the Navan Road and get off at the Baggot Road stop, or the 46A to Phoenix Park itself.

Heuston station is just the other side of the Liffey should you wish to get the Luas or mainline train from another city. There’s ample parking within the park itself should you wish to drive: Phoenix Park is easily accessible from the M50.