Insider Tips

While You're Here: Trinity College

17th July 2017

Every tourist is familiar with the institution that is Trinity College, located in the heart of the city and home to the stunning Book of Kells. However, as Totally Dublin editor Michael McDermott explains, if you take a few steps from its gates, you can immerse yourself in a variety of wonderful experiences...

The Pen Corner is a stone’s throw from the front arch of Trinity. Specialising in fountain pens and high-end stationery since 1927, you can consider penning those postcards in style! All their wares are on display in their own showcases, and there’s a suitable air of refinement to the surrounds. The Douglas Hyde Gallery is an occasionally overlooked space on the Nassau Street entrance to the Trinity campus. It’s an empty concrete cube which houses contemporary exhibitions; while music aficionados might be heartened knowing that the likes of Cat Power and Sufjan Stevens have performed in the space too.

We suggest you stop off at the Pavillion Bar or ‘Pav’ as it's known to Trinners (Trinity students). This student sports bar features the welcome vista of the College's cricket grounds, which serve as a peaceful oasis of calm amid the city-centre bustle. The nearby National Gallery reopened its historical wings this spring after a €30m refurbishment, and the results are truly breath-taking. Housing such iconic treasures as stained-glass artist Harry Clarke’s The Mother of Sorrow, this beloved space lives up to its name in stature and appeal.

People with headphones enjoying a musical installation at the Science Gallery

A musical installation at the Science Gallery

Amble a few metres on from the Gallery and you’ll find Sweny's Pharmacy, made famous by its appearance in James Joyce’s Ulysses. It still stocks many of the formulas, bottles and ointments from bygone eras, but is best known for open group readings of the novel and the sale of the storied “sweet lemony wax” soap. Keep an eye out for PJ, who’s just one of the many volunteers keeping this heritage alive. Alternatively, if you head along the Merrion Square side of the National Gallery, you’ll happen upon a part of the National Museum colloquially referred to as the 'Dead Zoo'. This cabinet-style natural history museum is home to some 10,000 exhibits providing a glimpse of the natural world that has thrilled generations of visitors since its doors opened in 1857. The Irish Room on the ground floor is dedicated to animals native to Ireland, featuring a variety of mammals, birds, fish, and insects.

At the Pearse Street side of Trinity lies the much vaunted Science Gallery. Innately curious, it’s constantly examining and probing the intersection of art and science, resulting in fascinating exhibitions and experimentations. Such is the calibre of its exhibitions, it’s travelled internationally, collaborated with organisations like MOMA in New York and is setting up satellite galleries across the globe. Walk from the Gallery along the college walls and you’ll see Mattress Mick’s shop across the road. He’s somewhat of a cult hero with his colourful personality and whacky advertising stunts. He’s even been the subject of a wonderful documentary – bonus bragging points if you get snapped with him. You’ll have truly transitioned from tourist to ‘local’!

That’s some of the hidden gems dotted around Trinity College. Keep the adventure going, with Michael’s recommendations of things to do near the Jameson Distillery and Guinness Storehouse.