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Often overlooked in Dublin is one of Europe's finest parkland areas - The Phoenix Park. Easily the largest fully enclosed city park in Europe with a circumference of 11kms. It is home to Dublin Zoo, 2 herds of 'wild' deer, Polo and Cricket grounds Soccer and G.A.A. pitches, walking paths riding paths and acres (about 1,700) of grass.
The papal cross marks the spot where the late Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass in 1979 for 250,000 people.
The official residence of the President Of Ireland, Aras An Uachtarain (Irish for "Home of The President") is situated in the Park, but is not open to visitors. The American Ambassador's official residence is in the Park. One of Dublin's landmarks, the Wellington Monument, is also in Phoenix Park, close to the Zoo. This is where to come if you want some peace and quiet in one of the busiest cities in Europe. And it is only 3km from O'Connell bridge! The park authorities allow access to cars but no local buses go through the Park.
Buses: 10/a to the North Circular Rd. Gate (Zoo) 25/a26 66/a67/a 68 69 to the Parkgate St. Entrance
Another hidden gem is the South Wall pier in Ringsend. You need a bike or car to get there, or can take the No 1 bus from Parnell Square, which leaves about twice a day! No buses on Sundays. If you are driving, walking, or cycling from the city centre, you go through Ringsend village and follow the signpost for the East Link Bridge. At the roundabout for the bridge, take the Pigeon House Road. The wall stretches for about one mile out to the sea. On a clear day, there is a magnificent view of Dublin bay, with the Sugarloaf mountain to the south (on your right as you're walking out to the end of the pier). The Half Moon Swimming Club is about half way out, where you can see people swimming year round, even on the coldest days.
The National Botanic Gardens encompasses 19.5 hectares. It was founded in 1795. It is open until 6p.m. in the summer (4.30p.m winter) and it's free to get in. The garden contains over 20,000 plant species including many exceptional specimens, some of the Victorian glasshouses (Turner's curvilinear range) have recently been refurbished. There are some magnificent trees and many outstanding displays of shrubs and perennials.
Buses: 13/a 19 134 from the city centre.