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Ireland’s capital city has history, culture, and of course, no fewer than 666 licensed pubs. From the prestigious graduates of Trinity College—like Oscar Wilde and Jonathan Swift—to the city’s ninth-century Viking roots, Dublin has a story in every nook and cranny of the city. Whether or not you’re new to Dublin, you’ll of course want to spend time in the city centre (or “town” as Dubliners affectionately call it). But Dublin has too much to offer to restrict yourself to one neighborhood, especially because much of the city is walkable and easy to navigate. From the neighborhoods bordering city centre to the farther-out suburbs, these are the best neighborhoods in Dublin to explore:
The Liberties is quintessentially Old Dublin. There have been many iterations of the Liberties—the neighborhood was born in the 12th century around the Abbey of St. Thomas. The 15th century brought mercantile culture to the area, which continued into the 16th and 17th century, when a large Hugenot population moved into the area, bringing trades such as wool and silk weaving and tanning. The working-class neighborhood saw an influx of brewers and distillers in the 18th and 19th century. Jameson was housed in the Liberties, and of course the Guinness family set up their famous brewery at St. James’ Gate. Recently, the former distilling and brewing glory has returned to the Liberties, and the neighborhood is very much worth visiting for a distillery tour. Follow the Liberties Distillery Trail, starting at Teeling Whiskey. When Teeling opened in 2015 it was the first new Dublin distillery in 125 years, paving the way for other distilleries to flock to the area.
Adjacent to Smithfield, which is often regarded as the coolest neighborhood in Dublin, Stoneybatter has charm, residential calm, and hip accents. Real estate is climbing in Stoneybatter as cute cafes and new businesses continually open. Stone houses line the still-quiet streets of Stoneybatter, and it’s just a short walk from the city centre, where most of Dublin’s five-star hotels are. Stoneybatter is also close to Phoenix Park, a lovely venue for an afternoon stroll.
As mentioned, Smithfield is in serious contention for the title of Dublin’s hippest neighborhood. On the city’s northside, Smithfield exudes artistic and alternative culture, but also has classic Irish charm, which sets this enclave apart from its hipster counterparts in Brooklyn or Shoreditch. Smithfield has a highly reputable indie movie theatre and some of the city’s most authentic pubs. And while the nightlife in Smithfield is buzzing, it still has an off-the-beaten-path feel.
Dublin locals call their city centre “town,” which is perhaps the most charming—and frankly, tame—nickname ever given to a tourist hub. Of course, city centre is not just a gathering place for tourists. A large part of the Dublin population spends time in their city centre. Trinity College falls in the city centre, as does Dublin Castle, the National Museum of Ireland, St. Patrick's Cathedral, and Christchurch Cathedral. Dublin’s two most famous parks fall in the city centre—St. Stephen's Green and Merrion Square—as do luxury hotels like The Westbury Hotel, right on Grafton Street, and The Shelbourne Dublin.
Temple Bar and Grafton Street
Technically Temple Bar and Grafton Street are part of Dublin’s city centre. However, if you’re new to Dublin, there’s so much to see that you may want to dedicate one day to the cathedrals and Dublin’s gorgeous parks, and take a separate adventure to Grafton Street and Temple Bar. Walk from the south end of St. Stephen’s Green to Trinity College on Grafton Street. It’s a pedestrian street, popular amongst locals and visitors, and is one of two main shopping drags in Dublin (the other being Henry Street). Temple Bar is a five-minute walk from Trinity College and is known for its slew of pubs and bustling nightlife. To avoid the overly rowdy or tourist-packed bars, step into the Auld Dubliner for the live Irish music upstairs.
Parallel to the Dublin canal on the southside of Dublin, Portobello is equal parts residential and hip. And it has the advantage of being walking distance from Dublin’s city centre, so you can get a dose of day-to-day Irish culture without schlepping too far. Portobello is a distinctly livable neighborhood, and holds its own as a ‘hood that needn’t rely on the city centre’s amenities. For a delectable meal, reserve at Delahunt, and be sure to see live music at Whelan’s, which hosted U2 before they found mainstream fame.
Ranelagh is on the southside of Dublin and brings some serious Park Slope vibes. It's where young professionals make their homes and often stay to build their families. Much like Portobello, Ranelagh is self-sufficient in its bar and restaurant scene, and doesn't need to rely on surrounding neighborhoods or Dublin's city center. However, the Ranelagh crowd will often slip over to Rathmines, their sister neighborhood, especially for brunch on the weekends at Two Fifty Square.