The best time to visit is often at night, when the illuminated bridge can be seen reflected in the river, especially on a still evening.
2016 marks the 200th anniversary of the opening of the pretty Ha’penny bridge, which is arguably Dublin’s most photographed structure. Without doubt it is the most popular of the River Liffey’s 20 bridges, with an average of 30,000 pairs of feet crossing it each day – compared with just 450 when it first opened.
From Boats to Bridges
In the early 1800s the only way to cross the river was by using one of seven ferries, which were dilapidated and often dangerous. The city gave the ferry operator, William Walsh, an ultimatum: either fix the ferries, or build a bridge. He chose the latter option, and was given the right to charge a halfpenny toll to each person who crossed it, from which the bridge takes its name. Officially called the Liffey bridge, it was the only pedestrian bridge to span the river until the opening of the Millenium Bridge in 1999.
These days, the bridge has come a long way from its businesslike origins. The toll was scrapped in 1919, and in its place has grown an irresistible romanticism that has won the affection of an entire city. Buskers strum hopefully for the passersby, young couples stroll along hand in hand and pretty period lanterns gently illuminate the scene as dusk falls. In fact, the bridge’s romantic air became rather too much for it in 2013, when the city council was forced to remove over 300kg of “love locks” – padlocks bearing a couple’s names and attached to the bridge – citing a risk of structural failure.
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