This Lesser-Known Park In Europe Is A Soothing Destination With Lots Of Hidden Areas To Explore

If you live in a large city, sometimes you need a break from it all. Maybe you can't take a vacation, but you can definitely visit a city park. Even if you're a tourist, a park is a great way to see how the locals relax and give yourself a moment of calm during your frantic desire to pack every bit of sightseeing in that you can. There are major ones that are famous all over the world, like Central Park in New York City or El Retiro Park in Madrid, that are fun to visit. However, there is a lesser-known park right in the center of Dublin, Ireland that has some great features. It's lovely, and if you visit, you won't be far from the heart of the city.

Iveagh Gardens (pronounced "ivy") is a short walk from the more well-known St. Stephen's Green, and a bit quieter. It's wheelchair accessible and you can even bring your dog with you. There is a maze, a waterfall, some statues covered in plant life that make it feel like you're discovering ruins, and some beautiful fountains. Here's what you need to know about Iveagh Gardens, the history of the place, and what you should see while you're there.

The history of Iveagh Gardens

Iveagh Gardens originally belonged to Joseph Leeson, 1st Earl of Milltown, who leased it to a developer, who then sold it to the 1st Earl of Clonmell. His son sold the estate in the early 19th century. A sad part of this park's history is that there was a riot there in 1835 which injured several Orangemen, and then the place became a bit run down. Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness had plans in 1862 to create the Dublin Exhibition Palace and Winter Garden there, which was officially opened by none other than H.R.H. Albert Edward, Prince of Wales in 1865. The park passed through the hands of the Guinness family (one of whom became Lord Iveagh), and later to the Irish state, becoming a public park in 1939. Iveagh Gardens was renovated and reopened in 1992.

The gardens themselves were designed by landscaper, gardener, and former Director of the Botanic Gardens Glasnevin, Ninian Niven (1799-1879), who was influenced by French formal gardens, and English design.

What to do at Iveagh Gardens

The park is always free to enter, so it's the perfect spot for an impromptu picnic. As you walk in, you'll see the impressive waterfall, which is built with rocks from the 32 counties of Ireland. There is a garden maze to walk, but fear not. It isn't going to trap you forever. The shrubs are rather low, and there is a sundial in the middle. The maze is actually a smaller copy of the famous maze at Hampton Court in London. Don't miss the two fountains with angel statues, which is the perfect relaxation spot.

You can walk around the sunken lawn that was at one time used as an archery area as well, but take a moment to pause to honor the elephant from the Dublin Zoo that was buried under the field in the early 20th century. There are some flower gardens here, including a rose garden and an American garden, though the blooms will obviously be seasonal.

If you have a bit of time to wander and search for hidden areas, there are some stone statues scattered around, like a headless woman in a dress, a Greek god holding onto a pot, and a fallen statue that would make a great Instagram post. Take a moment to stop by the Memorial to Human Rights Defenders, which is written in both Irish and English, and has standing stones with Ogham symbols inside. There are sometimes concerts in the park as well.