St. Stephen’s Green is the most beloved park in central Dublin. Though it was once a private park for the area’s well-off residents, the square is now a public space with easy walking paths that fill up in sunny weather. It is the largest of Dublin’s five Georgian garden squares (with the others being Merrion Square, Fitzwilliam Square, Parnell Square and Mountjoy Square).
Whether you want to find the duck pond or discover all the monuments and statues inside the park, here is a complete guide to exploring St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin:
History of St. Stephen's Green
Now in the heart of Dublin, St. Stephen’s Green was once a marsh on the edge of the city. The area was used as common land where people could bring their sheep and other animals to graze for free. In 1663, the city government enclosed the center and sold off the surrounding land for development. As homes began to spring up along the edges, the green space was saved as a kind of private park for the wealthy residents who moved to the area.
There were several earlier attempts to open the park to public but it remained private until 1887, when the city passed a new act at the urging of A.E. Guinness (a member of the famous Irish brewing family) to open the park to all. Guinness paid for the redesign of the park, which formally opened to the people of Dublin in 1880.
During the 1916 Rising, the park became a battleground when rebel forces dug trenches and blocked off the roads in an attempt to form a stronghold against British troops. However, both sides called a short ceasefire to allow groundskeeper to come and feed the ducks in the St. Stephen’s Green lake.
The green is named after a church (and a leprosy hospital) also called St. Stephen's which were found in the area in the 13th century.
What to Do on St. Stephen’s Green
St. Stephen’s Green is the ideal place to take a break on a shady bench between sightseeing or shopping along Grafton Street. The Victorian park has a popular playground for younger visitors, as well as benches and a bandstand that are filled with Dubliners enjoying picnic style lunches to go when the weather is sunny.
The 22-acre park has manicured paths (over two miles in total) for easy outdoor walks as well as a small lake filled with ducks and a garden for the visually impaired.
There are also several famous statues and memorials inside the park, including:
- a Henry Moore sculpture that is part of the Yeats' memorial garden
- a bust of James Joyce which can be found facing his former university at Newman House
- a memorial to the Great Famine of 1845–1850
- a bronze bust of Countess Markievicz in the center of the park, wearing the Irish Citizen Army uniform
- a fountain which was a gift from the German people in thanks for the five hundred children who were sheltered in Ireland in a project named Operation Shamrock.
- a seated statue of (Arthur Edward Guinness), also known as Lord Ardilaun (the man who gave the park to the city as a gift)
- a bronze statue of Theobald Wolfe Tone, the leader of the 1798 rebellion, as well as a statue of later rebel leader of Robert Emmet which faces the house where he was born
In the summer, the park also sometimes hosts free outdoor concerts in the afternoon and evenings. Keep in mind that St. Stephen’s Green is only open during daylight hours (usually 7 a.m.–7 p.m. in summer, and 10 a.m.–7 p.m. in winter).
Facilities in St. Stephen’s Green
If you do stop in to explore St. Stephen’s Green, there are well-maintained facilities on the grounds, including public restrooms inside the park. When the Irish weather truly lets loose, there is a Victorian lakeside shelter and Victorian Swiss shelters near the center St. Stephen’s Green. Otherwise, the space is open and outdoors.
What Else to Do Nearby
The green is a popular meeting spot, and a good place to take a break after a bit of retail therapy. There are two major shopping areas nearby: Stephen’s Green Shopping Center and Grafton Street. Stephen’s Green Shopping Center is a small covered retail center with upscale shops, antique jewelry stores and cafes, while Grafton Street is a bustling pedestrianized area with major brand stores and restaurants.
The nearby Little Museum of Dublin has a collection of more than 5,000 items that help to tell the history of life in Dublin, as well as a fun short video presentation. For even more serious collections, the National Museums of Ireland are a short walk away.
The Gaiety Theatre is around the corner on South King Street. The Victorian-style theater is well known for its musical productions, and has a famous Christmas pantomime show.
For more outdoor explorations, head to Iveagh Gardens or Merrion Square—which sit on opposite sides of St. Stephen’s Green.