if memory serves me correctly, Kilmainham Gaol is the second old jail (gaol = jail) that i’ve visited after the Eastern State Penitentiary near Philadelphia. it’s a smidge out of the way from Dublin’s city center, but it’s worth the trip. i took Luas there — it’s about a 5 minute quick walk north from the Suir Road stop (€4.60 round trip from the Docklands). admission is €6 for adults, and they take credit cards (including swipe).
Kilmainham played a central role in the quest for Irish independence with many key figures of the movement over the years being locked up there (and many even executed). yes, you know i love old buildings, and there’s plenty of that here, but the highlight came at the start of the (mandatory, but informative) tour, a mini-lecture on Irish history (not as boring as that sounds — there are pictures!). it helped a lot of disparate pieces to fall into place, so if i could redo my stay here, i would have gone to Kilmainham first so i could better appreciate the General Post Office, the Proclamation of the Irish Republic in the Long Room, and Éamon de Valera who i had previously heard about in several places.
sidebar: while you wait a half block away from the gaol is an entrance to the Irish Museum of Modern Art — a big fortified gate; you can’t miss it — that takes you past some historic cemeteries and a big field where parents with strollers and retirees with dogs soak up the sun. the gaol opens at 9:30 AM but if you’re early like i was, it’s a really pleasant way to while away the minutes.