Dublin, also known as the Big Smoke is one of my favorite place on Earth for several reasons: live music, cobblestone streets, pubs and Irish people with their lovely Irish accent. I have lived in Dublin for a year while I was studying for my final year of Bachelor’s degree at University College Dublin and if I had to choose a place to settle, it would probably be there. This city is unique. Even though the place is the capital of the Republic of Ireland, it feels like a small city. In this article, I would like to introduce you to my three favorite districts.
Grafton Street (the South Side)
- During the day
More than a street, Grafton Street is one of the busiest neighborhood in Dublin. Night and day, there is something going on there. During the day, you can shop around in numerous stores: clothes, shoes, decoration supplies, music instruments… anything you need will be in the Grafton Street area. Don’t miss the Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre whose architecture is impressive (there are also plenty of shops in there!). Outside Stephen’s Green and on Grafton Street itself, you might enjoy a show from street performers. If you’re around on Christmas Eve, you can even spot Bono singing a few songs!
While you’re there, you might want to take a stroll in Saint Stephen’s Green, the central park of Dublin. The layout of the park is very nice and there are nice features to check out: a bust of James Joyce, the Yeats memorial garden, a lake which is home to ducks and swans… In a nutshell, Saint Stephen’s Green is quite a nice break from the busy Grafton Street area!
If you want to have a bite, there are many restaurants in the area for all budgets. My favorite is the Porterhouse Central on Nassau street. This is an Irish pub where you’ll be able to eat typical Irish dishes such as Irish stew or fish and chips. Porterhouse is also a brewing company, which means that they serve hand crafted beers: stouts, ales, lagers… anything you want… they have!
- During the night
Grafton Street by night is also a must-see. There are many pubs and many clubs to go to.
Hartcourt and Camden Streets would be the direction you want to take for some party animal action. I like Dicey’s because of the giant beer garden. The place is always packed but it’s cheap! If you really want to experience an Irish party though, I suggest you enter the marvelous world of Copper Face Jacks. The craic is mighty there (craic = fun). Dubliners would tell you this nightclub is full of culchies (Irish slang for rural people) who become insane as soon as « Galway girl » is playing. I won’t lie to you, this club is packed with drunk people so it might not be your cup of tea. But I really recommend to go there once, you’ll have a blast. Copper Face Jacks is the only place where you’ll see guys Irish dancing on a Rihanna song (true story).
Another cool place to go would be Whelans. This is a typical Irish pub as well as a music venue. The atmosphere is very nice. You’ll be able to listen to live music some days of the week.
Temple bar is probably the most famous part of Dublin. This means that you’ll meet a lot of tourists there. This also means that eating and drinking in this area is not cheap. Nevertheless, this lively area is one of my favorite. Narrow cobblestone streets, live music in every pubs and heart-warming atmosphere are just a few things that you can enjoy in Temple bar. On Saturdays, the area hosts a farmers market with an organic and eco friendly vibe. There are also many art galleries and second hand clothes stores in Temple Bar.
If you’re there to listen to some live music, you obviously have many choices. You might want to enter the renowned The Temple Bar pub, which is probably the most famous of all but I suggest you snap your picture before the façade and keep on walking because this place is full of tourists. I’d rather recommend you to go to The Porterhouse, which is the sister pub of the Porterhouse Central on Nassau Street. On this Porterhouse, you’ll hear live music everyday and you’ll find the hand-crafted beers as well. If you’re more into live rock music, The Mezz would definitely be the place you want to go. The other place I used to hang out a lot is Fitzsimons. The place is a hotel, a pub and a nightclub. This is not the place I like the most in Temple Bar but I really enjoy the roof garden.
O’Connell Street (the North Side)
The North Side of Dublin used to be very poor and dodgy. It’s not the case anymore since it has been restored. Now it’s a busy part of Dublin because of it extended shopping area and pedestrian streets. The North Side has also a historical importance: the independence has been proclaimed in front of the General Post Office on O’Connell Street in 1916. It was the starting point of the Easter Rising, the armed insurrection to end British rule in Ireland and to establish a republic. This post office used to be the headquarters of the insurgents.
Since 2003, O’Connell Street is also home of a renowned landmark: the Spire, a 120 meter needle which is the symbol of the restoration of the district. Many Dubliners don’t like it because it is not really useful.
There are plenty of spots to visit on the North Side. First, the Custom House, which is a very nice building that you can visit. Not far from it, there is the Potato Famine Memorial which commemorates the victims of the Great Famine of the 19th century.
There are also many churches in this area. For example, you can have a look at St Mary’s Church in which Arthur Guinness got married in 1761. There’s also Saint Michan’s Church which was built by Danish people. Inside, there is a massive organ on which Handel is said to have composed the Messiah. There is also a legend which says that Bram Stoker was inspired by the mummies in the crypt which led him to write Dracula. Creepy, huh?
As stated above, the North side is great for shopping. Henry Street is the busiest street with several shopping centers such as Ilac or Jervis. There is also Penney’s, the famous clothing retailer, which is known as Primark in other European countries.
If you get hungry, O’Connell street is where you want to go. There are many fast food restaurants where you can make a quick stop. There’s Supermac’s, the Irish McDonalds. It’s said to be better than McDonalds but I don’t really agree, junk food is junk food… There’s also Beshoff on upper O’Connell street where you can have fish and chips. However, my favorite place to have a quick lunch would be Eddie Rocket’s, the Irish cousin of Johnny Rockets. So it’s an 1950s American diner-style restaurant. The place serves burgers, shakes and fries. The food is really good and it is quite cheap, around 11 euros for a burger and a soft drink.
The last tip about the North Side is that hostels and B&B are cheaper in this part of town. I would recommend you to stay there because it’s still very central. Irish breakfast is also better and cheaper there!
I hoped you enjoyed my recommendations on these three districts of Dublin. Obviously, there are some more things to do in these areas but there are yours to discover!