Temple Bar is often described as Dublin's "bohemian quarter." It is certainly is full of entertainment, art, and culinary action and often leads the list of top attractions of Dublin and is one of the best places to hear live Irish folk music. While the artistic district still has some creative flair, almost every visitor to Ireland swings by the area for the ceol agus craic – a lot of fun and quite a few pints.
Temple Bar was not always the Dublin destination that it is today. Located on the south bank of the River Liffey, the area was once marshland and has been transformed over the centuries into a wealthy neighborhood, a red-light district and now an artistic enclave filled with tourist-friendly pubs.
Here is your complete guide to Temple Bar:
History of Temple Bar
Due to its location near the Liffey, the Temple Bar area was once shoreline along the river. In the 17th-century, the river was walled and the marshy land was developed into an area filled with wealthy homes. The name “Temple Bar” comes from around this time. Some say that it was named after a family with the last name Temple. However, it is more likely that Temple Bar was named after the Temple district in London. Ireland was under British rule at the time and it makes sense that there was a desire in Dublin to imitate a prestigious London neighborhood.
Even the street names which make up the Irish Temple Bar district (Fleet Street, Dame Street, etc) were copied.
After its heyday in the 17th-century, Temple Bar slowly fell out of style. By the 18th-century, it was filled with brothels and the decline continued from there. Even as recently as 30 years ago, the neighborhood was known for urban decay and little else.
By the 1990s, the Temple Bar area was seedy and run down. A private company stepped in with a proposal to tear down many of the poorly kept historic buildings in order to build a central bus station. While the proposal was under review, the buildings were leased out at low rents which attracted artists and creatives of all type. The Dublin city council decided to scrap the plans for a public transportation hub and revive the area with a combination of cheap rents, business incentives, and pretty cobbled streets.
From (illegal) brothels to bistros, Temple Bar was born and hasn't looked back since.
What to Do and to Expect in Temple Bar
Today, Temple Bar is filled with cobblestone streets, numerous restaurants, cafés, pubs, hostels, and hotels. You will also find shops selling everything from fishing tackle to stuffed leprechauns, plus a few tattoo parlors thrown in for good measure. In addition to the businesses catering to tourists, Temple Bar is also home to art galleries and creative destinations such as the Irish Film Institute, the Project Arts Centre, the National Photographic Archive, and DESIGNyard. All are well worth a visit but most people admittedly come to Temple Bar for the beer.
The combination of artsy businesses and nightlife hotspots means that Temple Bar transforms during the course of the day: mornings are quiet, afternoons start slow, and by the evening the area fills up with the dining crowd and tourists.
Unfortunately, what should be a lighthearted atmosphere can sometimes degenerate into rowdy behavior and pickpockets. Due to its popularity, some people may find Temple Bar to be overpriced, overhyped, and overcrowded. For that reason, Temple Bar is best as a place to start the night, listen to live music and to consider moving on before 11 pm.
To help you plan your time, here are the pros and cons of visiting Temple Bar:
The Pros of Temple Bar
- Interesting artistic businesses by day
- Huge and diverse number of restaurants, pubs, art and entertainment venues.
- Center of Dublin's nightlife.
- Vibrant atmosphere in evenings and at night.
The Cons of Temple Bar
- Can be very crowded with large numbers of loud groups and serious partiers
- High prices compared to other parts of Dublin
- Beware of pickpockets and rowdy behavior late at night
- Sometimes hard to find a taxi at the end of the night
Considering all of the pros and cons of going out in Temple Bar, remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in Dublin, with a mix of locals thrown in. However, those seeking a "real Irish pub experience" might want to look into other opportunities to visit a pub in Dublin.
Best Bars and Pubs in Temple Bar
Above all else, Temple Bar is now known for its nightlife. Many of the people who stop in for a pint are tourists, but that should not necessarily put you off if you want to discover the neighborhood for yourself. The best pubs in Temple Bar are loud and lively, including:
The Porterhouse: This pub is a chain but is one of the few in Temple Bar that serves their own house beers (when it opened in 1996 it was Dublin’s first pub brewery). There is a classic Irish menu, live music seven days a week, and as laid back an atmosphere as you can find in the buzzing neighborhood.
The Oliver St. John Gogarty: A pub popular with a young crowd because it also hosts a hostel upstairs. Live traditional music sessions take place every night, and the vibe is fun until it gets a bit messy late at night.
Quays Bar: A bar and restaurant in the heart of Temple Bar and live music that starts at 3 pm every day. The menu and the performers run the gamut from traditional Irish to modern and international. A good place for an Irish coffee in the afternoon.
The Temple Bar Pub: One of the older pubs in the neighborhood, the Temple Bar Pub dates back to 1840. It has one of the largest whiskey collections in Ireland, fresh oyster platers, and live music daily.
The Auld Dubliner: One of the relatively quieter pubs in Temple Bar, which hosts traditional music sessions upstairs and is more suited for hanging out than for crazy bachelor parties (or Stag Do’s as they are known in Ireland!)
Location of Temple Bar
Temple Bar is found in central Dublin on the south bank of the Liffey. The river marks the northern boundary of the neighborhood, with Dame Street to the south, Fishamble Street to the west and Westmoreland Street to the east completing the outline of the Temple Bar area.
What Else to Do Nearby
Trinity College is five minutes away from Temple Bar on foot. Walk to Dame Street and take a left to continue on to College Green. The beautiful and prestigious university sits just across from the Bank of Ireland.
Dame Street is one of the streets which defines the borders of Temple Bar, and if you walk to the other end (away from Trinity College), you will find yourself at Christ Church Cathedral. The medieval church is actually older than the more famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Dublin Castle is also a short walk from Temple Bar and hosts the free-to-visit Chester Beatty Library.
To go back in the direction of O’Connell Street, cross the popular Ha’Penny Bridge. The historic wrought iron bridge is one of Dublin’s most recognizable landmarks.