Insider Tips

The Liberties: No Longer Dublin’s Best Kept Secret

By Visit Dublin

27th July 2020

If you’re looking for a part of town that reflects the very essence of Dublin, look no further than the Liberties and its surrounds. Along with the neighbouring areas of Smithfield and Stoneybatter, this dyed-in-the-wool area has enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent years.

Its authentic feel and bustling market vibe has been enhanced by an influx of trendy eateries, lively late night venues and quirky independent businesses in recent years.

Here’s why should it be top of your ‘to do’ list if you’re planning to rediscover Dublin.

Exterior view of IMMA

Incredible historical buildings

You’ll stumble across venerable old buildings around every corner and down every street as you explore this part of town. One of the finest examples is Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Ireland’s largest church and one of Dublin’s most impressive architectural attractions. With Christ Church Cathedral a short walk away, there’s no shortage of spectacular buildings to discover.

Next door to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral is Dublin’s oldest library, Marsh’s Library. You’d be forgiven for thinking that you’ve wandered onto a Harry Potter film set as you walk past its ancient oak bookshelves and leather-bound tomes.

The Golden Triangle

Once nicknamed the ‘Golden Triangle’ because of the number of distilleries in the locality, the Liberties is experiencing something of a whiskey revival.

Set up in 2012 by brothers Jack and Stephen Teeling, whose family tradition of whiskey-making dates back to 1782, you’ll find the Teeling Whiskey Distillery. Enjoy one of their celebrated new whiskeys on a tour or at one of the distillery’s special events.

Within a short walking distance, you’ll find the recently-opened Roe & Co Distillery and the Pearse Lyons Whiskey Distillery on James’s Street. Of course, the 240-year-old Jameson Distillery Bow St is 20 minutes’ walk away in Smithfield so whiskey lovers will be spoilt for choice.

Ireland’s number one tourist attraction

The home of the black stuff needs no introduction. Visit the Guinness Storehouse for an amazing tour that covers the history of this iconic drink, finishing up with a pint and a view over Dublin’s rooftops from the newly extended Gravity Bar. Taste experimental brews in the Guinness Open Gate Brewery taproom and beer garden before they are launched to the market.

If you fancy a bit of grub beforehand, the nearby Groundstate café serves up delicious coffee and excellent vegetarian options.  

Plenty of options for culture vultures

The Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham is one of the best places in Ireland to see modern and contemporary art, with regular exhibitions by some of biggest names in art. The grounds are also a great place to relax and enjoy a coffee.

For a deep dive into Irish art, design, culture and history, check out the National Museum of Ireland, Decorative Arts & History. Based in Collins Barracks, a visit to the museum is a great way to get a sense of our shared culture and how Irish life has changed over the years.

Speaking of culture, fans of 90s girl bands can make the pilgrimage to the Stoneybatter street that was the set of the Spice Girl’s ‘Stop’ music video in 1998. Carnew Street has also featured in the Angela’s Ashes and Michael Collins films.

There’ll be plenty to talk about afterwards and there’s no shortage of great places in Smithfield and Stoneybatter to eat and grab a drink. The Fish Shop is a trendy fish and chip place with a difference.

The medieval history

The Liberties is one of the oldest parts of Dublin, earning its nickname because it lay outside the old medieval walls. The surviving old city walls can still be seen at the junction of Cornmarket and Lamb Alley and behind St Audoen’s Church.

A visit to Dublinia will transport you back to medieval times with a tour that takes in the sights, sounds and atmosphere of Viking Dublin. Its exhibition includes artefacts from the famous Wood Quay excavations, and you’ll finish your visit by scaling the 96 steps to the top of the original medieval tower.

For a closer look at medieval Dublin (and a close shave), pop up to 130 Thomas Street to see Ireland’s oldest house. Dating back to 1639, it’s now a new barbershop called Fades and Blades. Preserved features like the wooden ceiling beams and original brickwork can still be seen inside this otherwise modern business premises.

In a way, it’s a useful metaphor for the local area. The past is all around you in this interesting and ancient part of town, but the way this vibrant area continues to reinvent itself ensures that it's always a great place to visit. Plan your day of discovery now and enjoy a trip around this fascinating part of Dublin city.

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