An imposing and surprisingly extensive architectural set-piece right at the heart of the city, Trinity College was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I to prevent the Irish from being “infected with popery and other ill qualities” at French, Spanish and Italian universities. Catholics were duly admitted until 1637, when restrictions were imposed that lasted until the Catholic Relief Act of 1793; the Catholic Church, however, banned its flock from studying here until 1970 because of the college’s Anglican orientation. Famous alumni range from politicians Edward Carson and Douglas Hyde, through philosopher George Berkeley and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ernest Walton, to writers such as Swift, Wilde and Beckett. Today seventy percent of the students are Catholic, and Trinity, though it also calls itself Dublin University, is actually just one of three universities in the capital: its main rival, University College Dublin (UCD), part of the National University of Ireland, is based at Belfield in the southern suburbs; while Dublin City University is in Glasnevin.

The main gates give onto eighteenth-century Front Square, flanked, with appealing symmetry, by the Chapel and the Examination Hall, which is the elegant, stuccoed setting for occasional concerts. On the east side of adjoining Library Square is the college’s oldest surviving building, the Rubrics, a red-brick student dormitory dating from around 1701, though much altered in the nineteenth century. In New Square beyond, the School of Engineering occupies the old Museum Building (1852), designed in extravagant Venetian Gothic style by Benjamin Woodward under the influence of his friend, John Ruskin, and awash with decorative stone-carving of animals and floral patterns. Further on, in the northeastern corner of the college at the Pearse Street entrance, is the excellent, new Science Gallery. Both thoughtful and thought-provoking, it hosts high-tech and interactive temporary exhibitions on all aspects of science, as well as an Italian café and interesting one-off events.

Other useful entrances to the college are at Lincoln Place (handy for the National Gallery) and Nassau Street. By the latter, in Fellows’ Square, on the south side of Library Square, the modern Arts Block is home to the Douglas Hyde Gallery, one of Ireland’s most important galleries of modern art, hosting top-notch temporary shows by Irish and international artists.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Ireland features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

6 of the best road trips in Ireland

6 of the best road trips in Ireland

The Republic of Ireland’s phenomenally popular Wild Atlantic Way takes in a dizzying 2500km coastal route from Cork to Donegal, but not all of us have three w…

02 Jan 2018 • Rachel Mills insert_drive_file Article
20 picturesque Christmas destinations

20 picturesque Christmas destinations

Dreaming of a trip this Christmas? We're here to help. From glittering cities to a few snowy escapes, here are 20 classic destinations for a festive break. …

12 Dec 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

There's nothing like an amazing view to inspire you to book your next trip, whether you're drawn by rolling countryside, isolated islands or soaring mountain …

30 Aug 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right