Temple Bar is virtually synonymous with having a good time in Dublin.
Since the mid-90s this cobbled district hugging the southern banks of the Liffey has attracted visitors looking for old-school pubs, live music and bit of craic. But there’s more to Temple Bar than its nightlife. In among the trad sessions and gigs there are museums, independent shops and art installations.
If you want to explore the many sides of Temple Bar, here are some ideas to get you started.
1. Browse the vintage shops
Dublin’s fashionistas looking for old school pieces will likely find what they’re looking for in Temple Bar’s collection of vintage shops. Some, like Lucy’s Lounge, have been trading here for decades, the exterior wall thick with layers of bright pink paint, the shelves inside piled high with retro blouses, cardigans and scarves. Around the corner, Nine Crows looks like a set piece from Saved by the Bell, and is the go-to spot for nineties style tracksuits and oversized tie dye T-shirts. There’s more of a grab-and-go approach in Tola Vintage, where rails are tightly packed with clothes that are sold by the weight, not the label.
2. Stroll the Icon Walk
Set on a couple of quiet lanes behind Fleet Street, the Icon Walk is a community-led art project that tells the story of some of Ireland’s most famous characters. The panels and plaques are interspersed between graffiti and fire escapes that line side streets and alleys, so you’ll have to keep an eye out as they can be easy to miss. The walk is divided into 10 themes – there’s a laneway dedicated to Ireland’s female writers, another celebrating infamous musicians and one on Adair Lane simply titled ‘Oddballs, Crackpots and Assorted Genius’.
3. Admire the rainbow walls of Love Lane
Christened Love Lane, the walls of Crampton Court make for a colourful visual treat for those passing through. Originally the brainchild of the Dublin City Council and the Temple Bar Company as a way to brighten up the narrow alleyway, Love Lane showcases the imagination of artist Anna Doran. Since its creation in 2014, it has become a popular spot for couples to snap the perfect selfie, with its deconstructed heart mosaic featuring romantic quotes, famous song lyrics and quips that showcase Dublin's strong wit.
Perhaps the best-known (and certainly the most photographed) pub of Temple Bar’s collection of watering holes is the Temple Bar, easily recognised by its exterior draped in fairy lights and hanging baskets. Inside, people gather around the small stage to hear live music (which starts at 10.30am), or at the tables in the beer garden, which has a fully retractable roof for sunny days. Whiskey lovers should head next door to the tiny whiskey shop, where rare bottles are displayed in amber lit cabinets and drams are served at the bar.
4. Visit Photo Museum Ireland
On a quiet square in the middle of Temple Bar, Photo Museum Ireland is a gallery dedicated to the art of photography, but is also a calming space to escape the busyness of the city outside. Exhibitions tend to rotate every couple of months, with modern and historical photography displayed over two floors – you can also get a cool bird’s eye view of the exhibits below from the top floor balcony. Downstairs, you can browse the photographic postcards and thick coffee table books by noted photographers, including signed copies and limited editions. Afterwards, pop over the square and into the National Photographic Archive, which houses the photographic collection of the National Library of Ireland. A selection of these images is displayed in themed exhibitions, which change every three months or so.
Every Saturday, Meeting House Square is taken over by the stalls of the Temple Bar Food Market, where you’ll find everything from tubs of goat yoghurt to giant wheels of farmhouse cheeses. There’s a good variety of stalls, like rotisserie stands with slowly roasted free range pork for sandwiches, or food trucks selling Dehli-style vegetarian curries. Dublin’s popular Bretzel Bakery has a table of freshly made baguettes and sourdough and there’s a vendor making fresh smoothies and juices to order. One of the most popular choices is the fresh oyster stand, where native Irish oysters are served on a platter of seaweed, with a glass of cold white wine on the side.
It’s one of only two arthouse cinemas in Dublin, but the Irish Film Institute (IFI) is so much more than simply a place to watch the latest indie releases. The IFI plays host to loads of film festivals throughout the year and it’s also home to the Irish Film Archive – lunchtime visitors can catch one of the free screenings from the collection. A meal in the IFI Café Bar is also one of the best bargains in town – their meal deal tickets include a pre-movie main course, like crispy chicken parmesan or a veggie packed lentil lasagne. Their courtyard beer garden is a suntrap on a fine day, making it one of the nicer places for an alfresco drink in Temple Bar.
7. Mooch around Cow’s Lane
A far cry from the livelier parts of Temple Bar, this laneway at the Christchurch end of the district feels like its own little world, with indie shops and cafés lining the quiet, sloping street. The outdoor tables at Piglet Wine Bar are a good spot for a glass of wine and a side of people watching, while the nearby Queen of Tarts serves up a wide range of homemade cakes, including a chocolate pecan tart and many different cheesecakes. On Saturdays, the Designer Mart takes over the street, with vendors selling homemade jewellery and art prints.
8. Catch a gig
As well as the trad music in pubs, Temple Bar is home to two of the city’s most popular music venues. There are nightly gigs in the Workman’s Club, where the Main Room hosts some pretty big name performers. Lesser known artists play in the Vintage Room, which looks just like a living room from the seventies (even down to the wallpaper). On Dame Street, 3Olympia Theatre hosts headline bands, singers and comedians in a venue that dates back to 1879, with ornate stalls, antique chandeliers and red velvet seats with well-worn armrests.
9. Go for brunch
At the weekend, brunch at Elephant and Castle is an institution, with tables of bleary eyed revellers catching up over giant bowls of chicken wings. They’re a Dublin favourite for a reason, with perfectly crisp skin, pots of blue cheese dip for dunking and just the right amount of lip smacking hot sauce. Around the corner the Seafood Café serves up a brunch with a nautical twist, with buttery lobster rolls, tuna poke tacos and a spicy Bloody Mary that comes with a whole oyster perched on the rim.
10. Head to a trad session
Walk around Temple Bar from mid-morning on and you’ll likely hear the sounds of traditional music drifting out of pubs. The best-known sessions are upstairs in the Auld Dubliner or across two floors of the Oliver St. John Gogarty, where the music carries on into the wee hours. For a fun lesson on traditional music, head out on the Musical Pub Crawl, which is led by two local musicians who fill you in on the nuts and bolts of the genre while hopping from one session to another.
Want to check out another Dublin neighbourhood? Here’s our guide to what to see and do on the Northside.