Ordinarily, it might be thought a little unusual to recommend to any visitor to the Republic of Ireland a sightseeing tour of a branch of the Bank of Ireland. However, this is Dublin, where the rest of the world’s rules clearly do not apply.
Situated on a three-sided “square” in the heart of the city, the breathtaking Bank of Ireland on College Green was originally built as the Irish Parliament House in the 18th Century. The monumental stone façade features rows of gigantic columns seemingly designed to leave ordinary citizens feeling awestruck. It’s one of Dublin’s must-see landmarks that you can actually go inside and visit.
While the building is a working bank, with counters in what was once the House of Commons, there are also guided tours that helpfully point out the glories of the ceilings, huge tapestries, crystal chandeliers and rich oak panelling.
It’s incredible to think that the modern-day Bank of Ireland was the world’s first parliament building that was built for the purpose of national government. That means the House of Lords and House of Commons here in Dublin predate those of the Houses of Parliament in London.
The design of the building was also influential in that its façade instantly recalls that of the British Museum, which was later based on its colonnaded look. In America, its design was copied for the original House of Representatives in Washington DC.
After learning about the building’s role in Ireland’s economic history, there’s nowhere more fitting to have a drink and a meal than at the nearby Bank on College Green restaurant.