Dublin: A City Of Villages
Once located on the very outskirts of the city, Ranelagh is Dublin’s original village. Over the last century, as the city grew larger and its borders grew, Ranelagh was adopted into the fabric of city. Currently a haven for foodies and coffee connoisseurs, the original small-town feeling of this village has not been lost. Craft butchers and traditional bakeries still lie nestled amongst European-style coffee houses and an array of restaurants that offer the best of world cuisines. Especially worth investigating are Dillinger’s restaurant and its sister venture The Butcher Grill, Cinnamon Food Emporium and best-kept coffee secret, Nick’s Cafe.
Ranelagh’s locals are some of the most culture-conscious around, as the antiques and bookshops go to show. The village’s mix of youth and tradition creates a unique, effortlessly cool atmosphere that’s just a couple of tram stops from the city centre.
Photography: Ben McDonald
Centred around the newly developed market square on the North side of the River Liffey, Smithfield is where old Dublin tradition meets post-Celtic Tiger creativity. Bars like Frank Ryan’s and Dice tiptoe between the traditional and the hip, making Smithfield perfect for drinking in the culture, whilst urban art project the Smithfield Art Tunnel and Block T provide gallery, studio and community spaces for locals and visitors alike. Take a walk across the central market square from the Old Jameson Distillery and you’ll find the Lighthouse Cinema – voted by ArtInfo as one of the coolest cinemas in the world - that specialises in showcasing the best Irish and international films. The Cobblestone Pub stands as the authentic face of Irish trad sessions.
This heady mix of Old Dublin charm and New Dublin cool makes Smithfield the perfect place to go if you want to see what a city’s creative revival looks like.
And if you like the sound of Smithfield you could decide to rest your head at Dublin’s largest hostel Generator. This is situated on the square itself and provides much more than a bed with a lively bar, nightly events and a variety of tasty food options.
Located just next to Smithfield, Stoneybatter is Dublin’s original inner-city urban village. Situated in the midst of a city that was heavily reshaped by the Celtic Tiger, Stoneybatter stands as one of the last bastions of Old Dublin meaning long cherished traditions and customs and a strong community spirit are central to life here. Stoneybatter is currently home to screen-printers, gallery spaces, an internationally-renowned independent publishing house and bookshop and a recording studio.
This tradition of local craftsmanship and creativity is fostered in this area with spaces like The Joinery and the Stoneybatter Guild providing places for independent artists and crafters to sell their wares and pass on their skills. L Mulligan Grocers is its culinary hub, spinning traditional Irish cuisine into something wholly modern and matching it up with one of the most impressive selections of craft beers and spirits going.
Centered around the picturesque harbour, Howth is arguably one of Dublin’s most scenic villages. Even though it is just 10 miles north of the city centre (that’s 30 minutes on Dublin’s light rail service) Howth feels like another world entirely. Historically a fishing village, Howth is a haven for foodies as fresh seafood and traditional fish and chips are available in abundance with Wrights of Howth and Beshoffs serving up the best of local seafood – you’ll need to refuel after walking to the peak of Howth Head.
Howth is the perfect spot for those looking to do something completely different during a city-break. Here you can take a hike, scuba dive and go sailing, follow it up with eating in award-winning restaurants or relaxing in tea rooms and finish up looking out across the Irish Sea with a pint in hand.
Built in homage to more Mediterranean climes, Dalkey is Dublin’s original seaside resort village. With gorgeous architecture built into the sheer landscape, stunning views and a cosy little village at its core, it’s no wonder stars both local and foreign make their homes along this south coast stretch.
For those looking for a bit of adventure Dalkey offers a wide range of outdoor activities for the brave-at-heart. You can take a boat from Bullock Harbour to Dalkey Island, go abseiling in Dalkey Quarry or even take a quick dip in the nip at The Vico outdoor swimming spot. It may take a bit of exploration to find it, but Whiterock Beach’s secluded sands are worth the climb: keep an eye out for a school of dolphins who’ve been known to stick their bottle-noses out of these waters on occasion.
In the Village proper, check out The Club is a 19th Century traditional tavern that started life as a morgue, and Obama’s favourite pub, Finnegan’s. At the weekend Dalkey also plays host to The Tramyard Artisan Market a multicultural food market that has become a hotspot for foodies in recent years, while the annual Dalkey Book Festival turns the town into a cultural hub.
Centred around Francis St, this area is one of the oldest in Dublin, and many of the shops and galleries here are family-run institutions that have been thriving in the area for generations. Although traditional in its appearance, this area is in no way stagnant as it attracts a steady stream of young artists, designers and makers from the nearby National College of Art and Design. This mix of influences and aesthetics is played out on the myriad shop fronts and art spaces that line the street. Contemporary art galleries and spaces like Pallas Studios, South Studios and the NCAD Gallery rub shoulders with the likes of the Iveagh Gallery, which houses a collection of 19th and 20th Century paintings and sculptures. Just around the corner from South Studios you’ll find the Dublin Food Co-Op, which hosts an array of Sunday markets including the city’s monthly answer to Mauerpark.
Elsewhere the Thomas House has stood the test of time as one of the city’s most enduring rock bars, hosting punk, goth and garage weeks in true dive bar style. Vicar Street hosts some of the world’s leading bands and comedians, and Fallon’s Capstan Bar is the perfect quiet watering hole.
Photography: Ben McDonald / William Murphy (Informatique)
Portobello runs along the edge of Dublin’s picturesque Grand Canal bridging the gap between Rathmines and the popular Camden Street area. When the sun is out the waterside plays host to many relaxing lunches and post work drinks with crowds stretching from The Barge to The Portobello and beyond.
The old Jewish Quarter is café territory, with top tea experts Wall & Keogh, the beautiful BiBi’s (attached to an equally special boutique, Dolls), the wholesome Nelly’s, traditional bagel-makers the Bretzel and sweet-tooth ticklers the Cake Café all finding their homes in its maze of streets.
Its restaurant scene is equally as busy. Locks Brasserie is one of the most highly-regarded fine dining restaurants in the city. Rotana Café serves some of the best falafel in town and also offer flavoured Shisha pipes for those who want to try something a little different. Right next door is Seagrass which uses the finest Irish produce to create simple but imaginative dishes.
Portobello’s most famous son is the playwright George Bernard Shaw, born on Synge Street in 1856. Just around the corner from here is one of Dublin’s best bars named in the gentleman’s honour: The Bernard Shaw is the perfect chill-out spot with a vast outdoor garden, house, soul and disco nights, a bus that serves pizza and some excellent cocktails and beers.
Rathmines is Dublin’s cosmopolitan village. The multicultural population of the area has turned Rathmines into a veritable melting pot that is reflected in the variety of bars, restaurants and shops in the area. For those looking for a bit of culture outside the hustle and bustle of the city there is The MART, home to contemporary art galleries, shop, and studios house in an old fire station.
Dublin’s original burger shack, JoBurger, still has its home in the heart of Rathmines despite opening successful sister restaurants closer to town. Pizza-lovers will find a slice (or six) to their taste in Manifesto, while shoppers will be found diving headfirst into The 3rd Policeman, a vintage and ephemera wonderland stocked with treasures from across Europe.
Photography: William Murphy (Informatique) / Kieran Lynam
Dollymount is a Dublin coastal village located within the wider suburban area of Clontarf. Dollymount is home to a 5km long sandy beach that serves as the perfect location for watersports and swimming with activities such as kitesurfing and paddle boarding being offered locally. For those looking for a more gentle excursion St Anne’s Park and Clontarf Promenade offer spectacular views and beautiful scenery to those content with walking and cycling.
Dollymount is also home to Bull Island, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve that is home to over 180 different species of birds as well a the endangered Irish Hare. Those wishing to explore the island in a different way can take a regularly scheduled kayak tour and partake in a bit of dolphin spotting along the way, the perfect way to get in touch with nature during a city break.
Photography: Adventure Ireland / Ben McDonald / William Murphy (Informatique)
Just 3km South East of Dublin city centre lies Sandymount, a mainly suburban village with a few hidden gems. The main draw of the area is Sandymount Strand, arguably the most famous beach in Irish fiction, being featured in two episodes of James Joyce’s Ulysses. It is easy to see why this beach has been so inspirational, as when the tide is out the sand stretches out towards the horizon as far as the eye can see. Sandymount is a perfect place for a languid stroll, with the 19th Century Baths and Martello Tower offering interesting viewpoints along the way. The Great South Wall walk is one of the most severe and beautiful close to town, and the old village itself is brimming with cafes, pubs and shops to wind down in.
Photography: Ben McDonald / Sean & Yvette / LeinsterLad