Glasnevin Cemetery: Dublin’s Oldest “New” Attraction
Creating a visitor center in a graveyard is tricky business. One must respect the permanent residents yet hold the interest of potential future tenants… the living.
Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery has opened the Glasnevin Trust Museum, a modern interpretive centre that enhances the visitor experience to the already a picture-perfect old cemetery. For non-Irish visitors, the cemetery now becomes more than rows upon rows of tilting headstones overgrown with vines and giant underground vaults with heavy iron doors. For the Irish, it offers an extensive look at its residents who make up the fabric of Ireland’s history including a roster of the country’s who’s who in the arts and politics.
The City of the Dead
Although the most valuable content of the museum is housed on the upper level in its research areas and the interactive displays, the most intriguing section is The City of the Dead exhibit located on the lower level. As guests descend the stairs, they enter a subterranean vault that explores the vocation of grave digging, the dark trend of grave robbing, the history of the cemetery and offers a look at the types of people buried at Glasnevin… not just the famous ones.
The café offers a surprisingly peaceful getaway that serves full meals as well as snacks and desserts. The food scored way above my expectations, and if it was closer to city centre, I imagine it would be a regular stop for Dubliners. Meanwhile, the gift shop keeps its focus on Irish history and people with a few fine crafts added in for good measure.
To best experience the cemetery, a guided tour is in order. The guides will charm you with their wit and enlighten you with their knowledge. And for those coming from outside Ireland, a tour will provide wonderful insight into Ireland’s history through the cemeteries permanent residents.
Getting to Glasnevin Cemetery will likely require bus or taxi transport. April through August there is shuttle service from city centre to both Glasnevin and the GAA Museum at Croke Park Stadium. It should be noted that Glasnevin is located about one block from the National Botanic Gardens, so the two combine for a great day’s outing. Adventurous visitors could walk… it takes about an hour from Trinity College through what some might consider “questionable” neighborhoods… I would only recommend this for those somewhat familiar with Dublin and have GPS (the route requires a lot of zigzagging).
The museum is handicap accessible, the tour requires the ability to traverse some uneven terrain (for a close look at some of the tombs, visitors will need to walk over several graves). The cafe serves a diverse menu and will likely have items to suit any dietary requirements.
Visit www.glasnevinmuseum.ie for more information.
Photos from Glasnevin and the National Botanic Gardens