The spacious intersection stretching from the gates of Trinity College was once the very heart of Irish culture, learning, and politics. Conveniently located just below O’Connell Bridge and just down the street from Dublin Castle, it was the perfect location for Trinity College, and later for the Irish General Post Office, Parliament, and primary financial institution.The large, rounded building on the north side of the square is home to the Bank of Ireland, but it was originally built to house the Irish Parliament. Until 1800, Ireland’s representative government worked out of this building. When Ireland became part of the United Kingdom, the representatives were sent to Westminster in London, but not all were satisfied with this arrangement. Dissident Irish Members of Parliament rebelled by refusing to take their seats in London and formed an illegal Parliament here in this building. After the rogue Parliament was forcefully shut down (with cannons fired from across the street), the British established the Bank of Ireland in the building to keep the pesky Irish from using it for further trouble.
The bank reportedly has underground vaults full of priceless unclaimed treasure dating back hundreds of years to families whose lineage is unknown or has died out. Legal limbo is preventing these artifacts from seeing the light of day any time soon, so when you visit, you may be standing just a few feet above a Gringotts-style subterranean treasure trove.
Just across the street from the bank, note the building with the half eighteenth-century, half 1970s concrete façade. Ireland’s General Post Office was once housed here, before being moved across the river to O’Connell Street.
College Green is regularly home to large gatherings. The annual St. Patrick’s Day parade comes down from O’Connell Street through this busy corner. This intersection also becomes Dublin’s answer to Times Square on New Year’s Eve when the streets are blocked off, a stage is built, and a countdown clock is projected onto the front wall of Trinity College.
Until (at least) 2017, you aren’t likely to get a good look at a healthy College Green. The sounds of jackhammers will mix with the honking of car horns as a crush of locals and tourists struggle to navigate the narrow footpaths. These works are part of a massive project expanding Dublin’s Luas tram line from St. Stephen’s Green across the river to O’Connell Street and the Northside. What they will do if they discover any forgotten underground bank vaults is unknown.
Dublin in Detail: College Green is an excerpt from The Frugal Guide: Dublin, a totally free eBook guide to the great Irish capital by Cory Hanson. Find out more about the book, and download your free copy in your choice of multiple formats, on the Frugal Guide page here on Five Suitcases.