Inspired by the slow travel movement, our microguides series encourages travelers to slow down and delve deep into a specific neighborhood of a popular city. Instead of a whirlwind itinerary designed to hit every must-see attraction, these compact, up-close guides encourage you to narrow down, take your time, and truly explore like a local.
Visitors to Dublin used to pass through the Liberties only on their way to the Guinness Storehouse. But in recent years, this neighborhood has earned its reputation as one of the coolest neighborhoods in the city. This is a place where you can walk past what remains of Dublin’s medieval city walls, then turn a corner and find yourself in a tiny shop selling vintage lingerie.
There’s nothing shiny or slick about the Liberties — you can still regularly hear the clatter of a horse-drawn cart down an alley, or actually step into the mess it leaves in its wake. But among the old cathedral spiers and red-brick terraced houses you’ll find some of the city’s hippest restaurants, alongside art-student cafes and up-and-coming whiskey distilleries.
Visit Marsh’s library
The 18thth At the end of the 19th century, Marsh’s Library looks just as it did 300 years ago, the shelves are filled with huge leather-bound tomes and the heady scent of old books fills the air. In the library’s central room, you can even see bullet-holed spines of books that were the result of a misfire during the 1916 uprising.
Tour the distilleries
In its heyday, the Liberties were known as the Golden Triangle and were considered the global epicenter of whiskey distillation. After the decline in the 1970s, the distillery scene is back and experiencing something of a renaissance. There’s something for everyone — wannabe mixologists will love Roe & Co, where tours end in a cocktail workshop, but there’s a more traditional vibe at Pearse Lyons Distillery, housed in a former church.
Go cathedral hopping
Dating nearly 1,000 years, Christchurch Cathedral is one of the city’s most iconic buildings, with its huge vaulted ceilings and medieval floors. But things are a lot more interesting down in the crypt, where you’ll find a rare copy of the Magna Carta and a mummified cat. Just down the road, the park at nearby St Patrick’s Cathedral is the best spot on a sunny day, and there are used book stalls in the gardens every Sunday.
Catch a gig on Vicar Street
As one of the city’s premier music venues, Vicar Street has been drawing Dubliners to the Liberties for years. Alongside local and international musicians, there are regular comedy acts with the likes of Jim Gaffigan and Joanne McNally playing a full 50 nights there this year.
Coffee with two puppies
If you love saying hello to the neighborhood dogs, Two Pups is the place for you. Although not officially a dog café, a hunting dog can often be found under the tables – one even comes by regularly with a bird on its shoulder. But the real draw is the food, with an ever-changing brunch menu featuring things like hearty French toast or thick wedges of sourdough topped with eggs, avocado, and their homemade hot sauce. The Vietnamese iced coffees are also a dream.
You could easily walk past the Michelin-starred Variety Jones without realizing it. But behind the unassuming facade, this tiny restaurant is the stuff dining dreams are made of. The only menu offered is curated by the chef to keep those with election paralysis happy. Dishes for sharing are prepared on the open fire, and dishes like fire-roasted eggplant and smoked halibut come from the kitchen.
During the pandemic, this neighborhood cafe turned into a grocery store, selling bundles of Cavolo Nero and pillowy focaccia to locals looking for a foodie fix. These days the produce has stayed, but the tables are back and people are ordering thick sandwiches filled with smoked chicken and homemade pickles and bottles of their fiery kombucha. On Thursdays and Saturdays, the Scéal Bakery opens on Luke around the corner, so pop in and try a cardamom and honey bun or a giant laminated pain au chocolat.
Located in an old pub on a quiet side street, Spitalfields might trick you into thinking it’s all about old-school pub grub. But inside, the menu is modern yet hearty, with dishes like roast bone marrow or Cais na Tire fondue. Her signature Cock-a-Leekie cake is made for sharing and enters the story with a halo of glossy puff pastry.
With sloping floors and a wood-burning stove in the corner, this tiny pub has been a cornerstone of the neighborhood since 1619. Groups gather around small tables on rickety stools with a rake of beer between them, but the most coveted spot is the semi-private parlor by the front door.
57 The headline
If you like a pub where you can get a table and don’t have to jostle at the bar, The Headline is a winner. There is always a good selection of craft beers on tap and unlike many pubs in Dublin the wine list is first class. They also do a great Sunday roast.
A favorite of local NCAD art students, Lucky’s is a lively bar with a small patio at the back. They have all the local whiskeys behind the bar, and you can also order a wood-fired pizza from the truck – they make an excellent vegan option with cashew ricotta. There is a market every other weekend where you can snag cheap art prints and quirky little things.
Space out sister
If you have always longed for the romantic, floating Maiden Suicides Aesthetically, a quick browse through Space Out Sister will fulfill all your vintage nightgown goals. Antique closets are stocked with silk camisoles and bodices, and chic owner Kiki will always have a root nearby if you’re looking for something in particular. You might even get a glass of Babycham.
Part gallery, part shop, and part café, Hen’s Teeth is an artistic paradise filled with things you didn’t know you needed in your life. There are prints from cool Dublin artists, stacks of vinyl and pastel enamelware, and a pantry stocked with cult favorites like Harry’s Spicy Nut Butters, made just around the corner.
Get ready for the ultimate browse at Betty Bojangles, where thrift store high street pieces mix with 1950s ball gowns and endless shelves of sequined numbers. Their men’s department is great too, with vintage waistcoats and real Irish tweed.
Rooms at the Aloft Hotel are cozy but arty, but the real highlight is the rooftop bar, with stunning views over the city and as far as the Dublin Mountains. To make the most of it, indulge in a sunset cocktail. Doubles from £184, room only. www.aloftdublincity.com
Located right next to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Hyatt Centric is an ideal location from which to explore the Liberties. Rooms are fairly modern in style, but you can get a bit of history by perusing the Viking remains on display in the lobby — they unearthed some interesting specimens during construction. hyatt.com
Are you trying to fly less?
The ferry terminal is right next to the town, with Stena Line and Irish Ferries departing from Holyhead. Look for Rail & Sail packages for cheap train connections.
Good with flies?
You can fly direct from anywhere in the UK with Ryanair, Aer Lingus or British Airways.