The smell hits me as the door shuts closed behind me. It’s a mix of spilt beer, stale cigarette smoke, and the damp scent of rain. It’s just past 7:30 am but the streets are quiet; the lingering smell of a night out the only reminder that only five hours ago, this same road was bursting with noise and life. Giggling girls, singing men, and couples kissing passionately against doorways. Many of which had, no doubt, met mere hours before.
Within the din and raucous noise of last night’s crowds, there was also a dark-haired man with his fiddle. He spent hours playing outside the Museum of Rock, moving quickly from one melody to the next. His feet tapping to the rhythm as he played. The fiddler’s songs snuck into my room in the building adjacent to him. I ended up keeping my window open throughout the night, despite the chill. Letting his music lull me to sleep in the early hours of the morning. Now, a few hours later, the upbeat melody still dances around my head.
A quick glance at the sky shows a promise of rain, so I zip up my bright pink rain jacket and start to walk. Aside from myself, the only life I see this early in the morning are the beer trucks. A couple of workmen unload kegs of Guinness from their truck to the sidewalk, passing them carefully through the open doors of the pub cellars. A sure promise that tonight will be just as loud and wild as the last. It always is in Dublin’s Temple Bar district.
If you had asked me before this trip where to go in Dublin, I’d give you a hundred recommendations before I suggested Temple Bar. I’m no stranger to Ireland, I’m convinced that after living in Galway in 2011, I left behind a piece of my heart in the emerald isle that has called me back several times since. While I won’t claim to be an expert in the same way a local is, I think it’s safe to say that I know my way around much of the country, including Dublin. At least enough that I was encouraged to start a second Ireland-specific blog earlier this year. (If you haven’t checked it out yet please do! It’s called Ireland Stole My Heart)
But, having just spent three days exploring the cobblestoned alleys, restaurants, pubs, galleries, and boutiques of this part of the city, I realized I was wrong. Yes, Temple Bar is touristic. Yes, it is loud, busy, and teeming with party-goers, pub-crawlers, and numerous obnoxious stag and hen parties. But, it was also full of surprises. Surprises that not only changed my opinion about this part of Dublin but somehow actually made me fall in love with it too.
This latest trip was my 7thtime to Ireland. During my previous visits I’d stayed in various accommodation options around the city but this time I wanted to do something different, so I partnered with Barnacles Hostel in Temple Bar. It’s a big Dublin hostel with clean, and sizable rooms, friendly staff, and a great location. Great location meaning it is literally right beside Temple Bar Pub. Yes, it was loud. Yes, it was busy and the streets were packed. But my initial scepticism about staying in what is probably the most touristic part of the city quickly faded. I loved strolling through those streets, among the crowds, day and night. Ducking into alleyways where I found cute cafes, boutique shops, and more. I felt safe, comfortable, and on my second day, when four different people asked me for directions, I kind of felt like I belonged.
So if you too want to explore Dublin’s Temple Bar district beyond the pubs, then here is what I recommend.
My Favourite Things to do in Dublin’s Temple Bar District
Browse the Temple Bar Markets
If you are in Dublin over a weekend, then browsing the goods in Temple Bar’s markets is a must! The Temple Bar Food Marker takes place every Saturday between 10am-4:30 pm at Meeting House Square and you can find just about everything here from Irish cheese and chocolate to paella. The food is freshly made with local ingredients and portions are served in all sizes. There is also a Designer Market on Saturdays between 10am-5pm at Cow’s lane where Irish designers and artisans can show and sell their work. Or, if you are a bibliophile, pop by the book market which runs Saturdays and Sundays from 11am-6pm where you can find some great second-hand books for adults and children alike.
Also, during the summer, there is a Temple Bar Night Market every Thursday from 2-8pm where you can find a little bit of everything. The Temple Bar Night Market for 2018 runs weekly from May to September.
Take a creative stroll through Temple Bar with the Icon Walk & Icon Factory
I stumbled across the Icon Walk and the Icon Factory by accident when I saw a big plaque on one of the walls of a small alleyway off of Fleet Street. Curious I went over to read it and discovered it was part of something called the ‘Icon Walk’. A quick google search told me that the Icon Walk is a public art project with a variety of photos of Irish icons and figures. There are ten sections and finding them makes for a unique and creative way to explore the area and learn a bit more about Ireland. The Icon Walk leads to the Icon Factory which is an artist’s cooperative where you can purchase some of the images you saw on the Icon Walk reproduced on a variety of items including t-shirts or posters.
Eat Cake at Queen of Tarts
Everybody loves tea and cake and I’m convinced that I found the best place in Dublin to enjoy them after stumbling across the adorable Queen of Tarts café on Cow’s Lane in Temple Bar. They actually have quite a good menu of breakfast and lunch items as well, but this homey café is best known for their delicious homemade cakes and pastries. It’s the perfect place to stop for an afternoon treat.
Be a Bookworm at The Gutter Bookshop
I’m a total book nerd so when I see a cute bookshop, I’m there. The Gutter Bookshop on Cow’s Lane was no exception and I happily dodged the rain by browsing the titles on these shelves. This independent bookshop opened in 2009 and was the Independent Bookshop of the Year for 2017 as awarded by The British Book Awards.
Try Irish Boxty with a Twist at Boxty House
Boxty is a traditional Irish food. It’s essentially a potato pancake which may sound pretty basic, but the chef behind the Boxty House restaurant has managed to transform this old staple into something new and delicious with their creative menus. I tried the chicken wrapped in a boxty pancake and it was one of the best things I’ve eaten in Ireland. A meal at the Boxty House is a must for someone looking to try delicious Irish cuisine.
Insider tip: go before 6:30 pm and take advantage of the early bird menu!
Grab a Pint (or a Whisky) at the Palace Bar
Temple Bar district has no shortage of pubs (including the iconic Temple Bar Pub) but it does have a reputation for being one of the most expensive areas for a pint. However, on the outskirts of Temple Bar district is the Palace Bar; a gorgeous old Victorian pub that dates back to 1823, that offers authentic Irish pub charm without a hefty price tag. The Palace Bar has been a favourite of mine since I first landed in Ireland in 2011.
Temple Bar district has a reputation for being a party spot, and while this is true, it’s so much more. I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to finally give this neighbourhood a proper chance because, in the end, it totally won me over. And, I’d bet it will do the same for you.
*Disclaimer: I was a guest of Barnacles Hostel during my stay in Dublin. However, all opinions are, as always, my own.