With just over a million people, Dublin is by far Ireland’s largest city. However, the Irish capital is actually fairly compact, and it is easy to explore the city center on foot. Most of Dublin’s main sights are within walking distance of each other, but there is more to be experienced around town.
From the stately Georgian architecture around St. Stephen’s Green, to the all-day party atmosphere of Temple Bar, and out to the foodie haven of Ranelagh and the seaside communities just beyond the central part of the city, Dublin has a different neighborhood to suit every taste.
There is something about the city of Dublin that charms and captivates visitors and locals alike. Author James Joyce (one of the city’s more famous past residents) once said: “When I die, Dublin will be written on my heart.”
Here are the 10 Dublin neighborhoods you must explore, but be ready to fall head over heels and leave a part of your heart behind.
The area around St. Stephen’s Green and Merrion Square is known for its Georgian architecture. The historic brick townhomes here give the central area a timeless air. The addresses are considered to be some of the best in the city because the neighborhood is perfectly positioned to easily reach quiet, manicured parks or the lively Grafton Street shopping area in a few minutes on foot.
This Dublin neighborhood boasts some of the best, classic hotels in the city and is a hop, skip, and a jump away from Trinity College. After admiring the homes south of Butt Bridge, wander back to explore some of Dublin’s best museums, including The Little Museum of Dublin and National Museum of Ireland, which are both found in this Georgian corner of the capital.
With live music every night and a general attitude that more beer is always a good idea, Temple Bar is Dublin’s most famous neighborhood for a good time. Before it became more developed, the area was previously a small artist enclave in the center of the city.
There are still some creative businesses to discover in the storefronts by day, but Temple Bar is best known for being the place to be after dark. Visitors and locals hit these cobblestone streets looking for a bit of craic (Irish for fun), but the pints are also known as being some of the most expensive in the city. However, the price might be worth it for the party-like atmosphere.
One of the most beloved areas of Dublin is the neighborhood around Christchurch and St. Patrick’s Cathedrals. An incredibly central district, this is where to stay to be in the true heart of the city. The location is full of pubs and restaurants but fairly free from any rowdy behavior. Exploring the 1,000-year-old Christchurch Cathedral is almost a requirement, but the neighborhood is also a quick walk to major attractions like the Book of Kells and Trinity College, not to mention Dublin Castle and the Guinness Storehouse. The only drawback is that hotel prices tend to be higher here compared to other parts of the city, but the convenience makes up for any added expense.
Ranelagh and Rathmines
The well-to-do areas of Ranelagh and Rathmines sit next to each other just outside of Dublin’s city center. The neighborhoods are an easy taxi ride from the major sights but feel much quieter and residential compared to the heart of the capital. The neighborhoods are known throughout the city for their gourmet food shops, excellent eateries, and cool bars. Book a table and come out on a Saturday night to dine on some of the best food in Dublin while getting a fix of people-watching outside of the usual Irish pub scene.
Ballsbridge and Donnybrook
Within easy reach of the center of Dublin, the Ballsbridge and Donnybrook area is known for its old family homes, good restaurants, and a historic graveyard. Safe, affluent and residential, the quieter neighborhood is well connected to downtown Dublin by bus, so it is easy to get around without having to deal with the crowds at every hour of the day. This is also where you will find the city’s main Rugby arena and many pubs that are dedicated to watching to the rough-and-tumble sport. After a few pints in a traditional pub, head out for dinner at the popular restaurants that draw Dublin dwellers here from all over the city.
International visitors may be most interested in major attractions like Dublin Castle and the Book of Kells, but many Irish visitors come to Dublin to watch a match at Croke Park. Ireland’s largest stadium is found in the Drumcondra neighborhood of Dublin, north of the River Liffey. The up-and-coming area is popular with Irish sports fans, as well as students and young professionals who are drawn to the suburb by relatively lower rents within easy reach of the city. With plenty of new restaurants and bars, there isn't even a real need to go into central Dublin in order to have a great time.
You can also get a taste of the fresh Irish air by starting at Drumcondra bridge and walking along the canals to Castleknock, or head in the opposite direction to reach the city center in about 20 minutes on foot.
The charming fishing village of Malahide is a Dublin suburb found close to the airport, just outside of the center. The largely residential area is well connected to the city, which lies about 10 miles away. With more of an Irish village feel, the neighborhood is a great break from the buzz of the city and is a popular day trip destination. Home to Malahide Castle, one of the best castles near Dublin, the area has plenty of attractions to explore in its own right. After admiring the castle, explore the park and botanical gardens nearby before hopping back on DART to reach Dublin once more.
The coastal village of Howth is one of the best areas to stay in for a taste of Irish seaside living on the edge of Dublin. The pretty suburb is located on the northern side of the greater Dublin area but is still easily accessible thanks to DART. The true fishing village sits in a harbor framed by two piers, and its seafront is full of restaurants and bars to while away the day. Or pack your walking shoes to undertake the Howth Cliff Path Loop, a two-hour marked trail that skirts the edge of the ocean and offers great views of the town’s Baily Lighthouse. Howth is an ideal day trip from Dublin, but also offers a fantastic option for those who want to stay outside of the main city while remaining within easy reach.
This charming seaside village south of Dublin is one of the prettiest areas around the city. The Norman castles and 10th-century church draw in history lovers, but it is probably the tranquil setting that most appeals to famous residents like Bono and Enya. After exploring the town, you can catch a ferry to Dalkey Island or rent a kayak to paddle through Coliemore Harbour. The district is an easy bus ride from Kildare Street, which means that a trip out to the coast can be as easy as staying in town.
Pronounced “Dunleary,” this Dublin suburb is a mere 20 minutes from the city center. That means that you can be walking along Sandycove beach or jumping off the Forty Foot diving tower like a James Joyce character in no time. The harbor town is a good base just outside of Dublin, or the perfect day trip destination for a bike ride and an ice cream break overlooking the crashing waves. For a spot of shopping, don’t miss George Street and be sure to leave enough time to experience Dun Laoghaire’s Maritime Museum.