Dublin’s parks have undergone a renaissance in recent years.

Once a location for a quiet game of frisbee or a poetic wander amongst the flowerbeds, they have of late been injected with a new vitality. Food stalls, open-air cinema, yoga, and family events are now a given and in the summer months, Dublin’s parks host free lively festivals and original evening events that give the city’s pubs and clubs a run for their money.

Every Saturday, in parks all over Dublin, early birds can enjoy a free 5k timed parkrun courtesy of parkrun.ie. Operating since 2012, Ardgillan Park, Bushy Park, Corkagh Park and Brickfields Park are only a few of the many Dublin parks involved. You’ll be working on your personal best in no time. Many of the parks also run a 2k junior parkrun for Dublin’s aspiring athletes.

Fancy something a bit madder? There’s the Colour Dash on Sunday, June 17th in Phoenix Park, where runners are pelted with powdered paint as they pass by, all in the name of raising funds for the Cancer Society.

Sloping down towards the harbour, the park has been hosting picnics and frolics since 1890

Darkness into Light is not a run but a meditative walk that has grown in popularity in the last ten years and become a movement in itself. Taking place on Saturday, May 12th in Phoenix Park, Marley Park, Tymon Park in Tallaght -amongst others – and in 180 other venues around Ireland and worldwide, thousands walk into the dawn in the yellow t-shirts to spread hope and promote suicide prevention.

After all that walking and running, you’re gonna need to eat.

Where a burger van might once have been your only option, many parks are now replete with artisan food stalls. Irish Village Markets work with a select group of Dublin street vendors and chefs to bring international cuisine to your sunny Dublin lunchtime in Fitzwilliam Square every Thursday in the ‘warmer’ months, as well as catering many outdoor park events like the open air cinema nights run by Happenings.

Spillane World Food Markets set up their mouth-watering food stalls on Sundays in Herbert Park and Thursdays in Merrion Square. There, even the greyer park days will be brightened by the most glorious toasted cheese sandwich you will ever taste courtesy of Dublin company Nice n Cheesy.

You can also find regular weekend farmers’ markets in Marlay Park and St Anne’s Park.

Grab a pitcher of mead and make like a medieval banquet-goer

For those who wish to bring their own picnic basket, you can’t beat the People’s Park in Dún Laoghaire. Sloping down towards the harbour, the park has been hosting picnics and frolics since 1890. There’s also a well-equipped, if busy, playground.

For something a little more substantial, Herbert Park will host the royal meat feast that is The Big Grill from the 16th to 19th of August. Here, all the meat you can dream of will be grilled, barbecued, smoked and covered in a delicious sauce for your delectation. Fire pits are the order of the day with no gas or electricity allowed. Grab a pitcher of mead and make like a medieval banquet-goer. They even promise to cater for misplaced vegetarians.

The Big Grill Festival.
In North County Dublin, the children’s playground in Ardgillan Park is set in a spectacular elevated location overlooking the Irish Sea, and while this vista might be lost on a child, it will be something for you to cast your eye over as you push that swing. The blues and browns of the playground echo the castle and sea motifs of the stunning coastal surroundings, and the area is well kitted out for a long day of play with baby-changing stations and toilets nearby. There’s also a beautiful walled rose garden if you need to steal a moment of quiet.

Marlay Park is a 300-acre park in Rathfarnham. It has another spectacular state-of-the-art playground. But it also boasts a miniature railway that runs around the centre of the park each Saturday from May to September – with free rides for children.

The City Spectacular takes place in Merrion Square from July 6th to 8th, turning the gated park into a colourful wonderland of magicians, jugglers, trapeze artists and musicians. With plenty of good food stalls, and pet-friendly activities, this free event promises a day of fun for the whole family.

Food and drink stalls line the perimeter and if you come early enough, be sure to grab one of the inflatable sofas provided

Many will have heard of the world-renowned Bloom garden festival which takes place annually at the Phoenix Park, but why not try out another annual festival in St Anne’s Park where they do in fact promise you a rose garden! The Rose Festival takes place in July each year in Dublin’s second biggest park and children can enjoy horse and carriage rides, workshops and falconry exhibitions.
City Spectacular 2017.

The sun doesn’t always shine in Dublin but when it does you need to know where to go for a lazy lunchtime. St Stephen’s Green is the obvious one with its ducks and bridges, a bandstand and many a historic bust, but you risk running into your barefoot boss and everyone else from your office. So grab a coffee in the Chester Beatty Library café instead and sneak into the landscaped Dubhlinn Gardens, tucked in behind Dublin Castle. A site cleared originally for helicopter landings; the immaculate circular lawn is now the perfect private-public place.

For a peaceful hour, the only sound is birdsong, the wind in the trees and the amplified soothing tones of your instructor

On a blue sky day, there is nothing quite as serene as the Yoga in the Park events which take place in Dartmouth Square in Ranelagh in the summer months. Surrounded by salubrious red brick homes, the park is remarkably silent, even when the crowd is large. For a peaceful hour, the only sound is birdsong, the wind in the trees and the amplified soothing tones of your instructor. Try not to doze off!

If yoga is a little too tame for your tastes, bootcampireland.com run weekly military boot camps in a host of parks around Dublin, Ten-HUT! There are even ‘mummy boot camps’ for new mothers; baby and buggy are welcome.

Founded in 2009, Happenings are the event planning group responsible for many of the cultural events now held in Dublin’s parks, but the most successful of all have been the outdoor cinema nights. Taking place in Merrion Square, Fitzwilliam Square, St Anne’s and Sandymount Green, there is nothing quite like the giddiness of an Irish crowd enjoying open-air movie thrills after dark.

Food and drink stalls line the perimeter and if you come early enough, be sure to grab one of the inflatable sofas provided. It’s often a little chilly so bring jumpers and blankets and warm drinks and settle in to watch a cult classic with a few hundred others, together reciting every line of Withnail & I, singing along to Grease and Dirty Dancing, and collectively swooning at Jeff Goldblum’s golden torso in Jurassic Park.

Catherine Conroy is a Dublin writer, regularly contributing to The Irish Times, and dabbling in fiction in The Dublin Review. Her novel continues to wait patiently in a drawer.


an angelic statue stands in the centre of a circular fountain


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landscape view of tress and flowers in harold's cross park


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