Posted: 12/15/22 | December 15th, 2022
Dublin is a city with soul. While the capital of the Republic of Ireland might not have the aesthetics of Prague or Amsterdam, and while it might not have the in-vogue vibe of Paris or the hustle and bustle of London, it has something that many other European cities lack: soul, ambience, and heart.
There are certainly many historical landmarks and attractions to visit in Dublin: Trinity College, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin Castle, Grafton Street, and the Guinness Brewery, among others. But the real attraction is its warm and welcoming people.
And where to find those friendly Irish folk? In a pub, of course.
Dublin’s true heart and soul lies in its many atmospheric pubs. I’m not advocating you spend your days and nights getting sloshed, but pubs there are the equivalent of the neighborhood osteria or trattoria in Rome or the sidewalk café in Paris or the beer garden in Munich. It’s where you’ll experience the true heart of the city.
Home to over 25% of the country’s population, Dublin is dissected by the River Liffey, creating two very distinct parts of town. A common first question that Dubliners ask one another (if they haven’t picked up the accent first) is: Northside or Southside?
Not surprisingly, it’s important to pick the right neighborhood while staying in Dublin, since that will impact your entire trip.
To help you decide where to stay in Dublin, I’ll highlight the best neighborhoods, so you can choose the area that best suits your travel style and budget.
But before I get to the specifics, here are some common questions I get asked about Dublin neighborhoods:
What’s the best neighborhood for food lovers?
If you let your stomach guide you when you travel, Portobello should be on your radar. Located on the Southside, it boasts the city’s most diverse dining scene.
What’s the best neighborhood for families?
The Docklands, offers a mix of old and new. It’s also just a short jaunt to Merrion Square, which is home to a lovely park and several museums.
What’s the best neighborhood for partying?
Temple Bar is a fitting name for this river-hugging neighborhood on the city’s Southside. The streets of this compact district are overflowing with pubs.
What’s the best neighborhood for hipsters?
Located on the Southside and hugging up against Portobello, The Liberties is one of a few up-and-coming neighborhoods in Dublin. If you fancy hanging out with mustached young men, kale-smoothie-swilling locals, and third-wave-coffee-brewing folk, The Liberties is the place for you.
What’s the best neighborhood for feeling like a local?
Stoneybatter, located on the Northside along the river, is not really on the tourist radar but is smack in the center of things at the same time. There are some great neighborhood pubs here, such as the Cobblestone, and excellent gastropubs, such as L. Mulligan Grocer.
What’s the best neighborhood overall?
The neighborhood that incorporates a handful of important historical sites and attractions, as well as great pubs, cool haunts, and excellent eateries is The Liberties, making it the best neighborhood in Dublin, overall.
So, with those questions answered, here’s a breakdown of each neighborhood, with suggested accommodations, so you know exactly where to stay in Dublin:
Where to Stay in Dublin for Foodies: Portobello
Located on the Southside of Dublin, Portobello is the birthplace of writer George Bernard Shaw and is closely associated with the drinking habits of James Joyce. These days, it happens to be one of Dublin’s best neighborhoods for people who like food.
Portobello’s roads are lined with excellent eateries, from Michelin-recommended restaurants to salt-of-the-earth spots to bustling brunch cafés. It’s all here. Come with an empty stomach, and you’ll leave very full.
Portobello is a small swath of the Southside, and accommodations within the boundaries of the neighborhood are hard to come by. But there are several options right on the border of the district.
Best Places to Stay in Portobello
- BUDGET: Harcourt Hotel — Housed in a series of 18th-century, brick Georgian townhouses (including one that Shaw once called home), the 100-room Harcourt has a bar on-site, free Wi-Fi, and both a restaurant and a beer garden.
- MIDRANGE: Maldron Hotel Kevin Street — With a view of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Maldron is a cozy place to stay right on the edge of Portobello. There are various room sizes, and all have the usual amenities that will make your stay comfortable: free Wi-Fi, AC, plus-sized TVs, and luxury bath products.
- LUXURY: The Dean — One of the hippest places in the area to lay one’s Guinness-weary head, the Dean has everything from small pod-size rooms to suites with foosball tables and everything in between. All rooms come with Irish-made snacks, rainfall showers, Nespresso coffee machines, Marshall amp Bluetooth speakers, and Grafton Barber bath products.
Where to Stay in Dublin for Families: The Docklands
The Docklands are set along both sides of the river and offer a mix of old and new. Here you’ll find plenty to see and do for the whole family, including setting foot on the replica famine ship The Jeanie Johnston (over 2 million people fled Ireland during the famine between 1845-55). You can also get out on the water and go paddleboarding or kayaking, and there’s even an escape room on a boat here too.
Nearby, you’ll find Merrion Square, which is awash in museums. The National Gallery, the National Museum, and the National History Museum are all here. Plus, there are plenty of family-friendly diversions in Merrion Square itself, including a large, active playground.
Best Places to Stay in the Docklands
- BUDGET: Jacbos Inn Hostel – Located near Connolly Station, the city’s main bus station, this hostel boasts cozy pods in their dorms that ensure a better, more restful sleep. They also have private rooms for families, lots of common space for hanging out, and the bathrooms are spacious and clean.
- MIDRANGE: The Alex — Just south of the Docklands, the stylish and sleek rooms at the Alex have Irish-made King Koil bedding, 49-inch smart TVs, rainfall showers, and ultra-fast Wi-Fi. The hotel also has a gym and a few excellent in-house eateries.
- LUXURY: The Spencer Hotel – This four-star hotel overlooks the river and boasts an array of amenities, including a swimming pool, fitness center, and Nespresso machines in every room. There’s also a bar and restaurant on-site and high-speed Wi-Fi is available throughout the hotel.
Where to Stay in Dublin for Partying: Temple Bar
There once was a time — several decades ago, actually — when Temple Bar was a decrepit no-go zone. But things have dramatically changed. Today, it’s crammed with pubs. The streets are overflowing with beer-swilling locals and visitors. There are also art galleries, theaters, and museums for daytime activities, but once the sun starts to descend upon the horizon, there’s just one thing to do in this atmospheric neighborhood: hit the pubs.
Best Places to Stay in Temple Bar
- BUDGET: Abigail’s Hostel — Located in the northwestern part of the district, just a cobblestone’s throw from the River Liffey, Abigail’s takes hostel-staying to the next level by offering free walking tours and guided pub crawls through Temple Bar. It also offers free Wi-Fi, free earplugs, and coffee/tea-making facilities.
- MIDRANGE: Clarence Hotel — In 1992, Bono and The Edge from U2 bought this ancient hotel. In 1996, it shut down to undergo a complete renovation. Since then, this 51-room hotel has been one of the coolest places to stay in Dublin. Be sure to have a pint at the famed in-house pub, the Octagon Bar. And keep an eye out for Bono!
- LUXURY: Temple Bar Hotel — It sounds like a generic hotel, but this place is anything but ordinary. It’s a four-star hotel with eight room types (from pods to family quarters), each with its own unique furniture and artwork. There’s a bar and restaurant on-site, and a tasty breakfast buffet is available.
Where to Stay in Dublin for Hipsters: The Liberties
Liquor and the Lord: on the surface, this is what sums up The Liberties. The neighborhood, in the southwest of the historic center, is home to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Christ Church Cathedral, the Teeling Whiskey Distillery, and the Guinness Brewery.
But The Liberties has also become a headquarters for the city’s hipster set as well. If you’re a fan of finely brewed coffee, craft spirits, or funky boutiques, the Liberties is the neighborhood for you.
Best Places to Stay in The Liberties
- BUDGET: Garden Lane Backpackers Hostel — Garden Lane is a cozy, comfy, and clean spot. There’s free Wi-Fi throughout the property, and breakfast is always free. The beds are comfy, and there are privacy curtains to ensure you get a good sleep.
- MIDRANGE: Hyatt Centric The Liberties — Housed in a historic red-brick building, the Liberties outpost of the Hyatt has generous rooms that include blackout curtains, in-room coffee and tea, AC, and luxury bath products. There’s also a 24-hour fitness center.
- LUXURY: Radisson Blu Royal Hotel — Located just to the east of the Liberties, the Radisson Blu is housed in a modern building and is about as comfortable a property you’ll find in the area. There’s a large, modern gym on premises, and the in-house restaurant serves up modern Irish cuisine. The rooms have large rain showers and all the amenities you’d expect from a luxury hotel.
Where to Stay in Dublin for Feeling like a Local: Stoneybatter/Smithfield
Located on the Northside, Stoneybatter and the adjacent Smithfield) have some of the most local vibes in the center of Dublin. Pubs like the Cobblestone, where you can hear “trad music” on a nightly basis, and L. Mulligan Grocer, a favorite foodie spot for high-quality pub grub, are worth going to even if you’re not staying in the neighborhood. Stoneybatter and Smithfield are also great places to while away an afternoon at a third-wave coffeehouse or an intimate pub.
Stoneybatter is, in fact, so “local” that there aren’t really any places to stay here. The best accommodation options are in neighboring Smithfield.
Best Places to Stay in Smithfield
- BUDGET: The Generator — The Dublin outpost of this European hostel chain has a fun, social common rooms as well as an industrial-chic in-house bar. The dorm beds have thick mattresses and lockers, and there is plenty of common space for hanging out and meeting travelers.
- MIDRANGE: The Hendrick — Guest rooms have hardwood floors, plus-sized TVs, fancy bath products, and comfy mattresses, making the Hendrick a great midrange option. Some rooms even have bunk beds, which makes it a nice choice for traveling families. And if you get thirsty, the in-house bar has 14 brews on tap to choose from.
- LUXURY: The Ashling — This luxury property, where the River Liffey meets Stoneybatter, has 226 comfortable and spacious rooms, many of which offer beautiful views over the city. Each room is equipped with USB-port-laden desks, bottled water, coffee and tea, and branded bath products. The elegant in-house eatery serves upscale takes on Irish cuisine.
Dublin is an achingly fun city. While it may be a little pub and party-heavy, the Irish capital is also loaded with world-class museums, Michelin-starred restaurants, and swaths of peaceful green parks. No matter what you’re interested in, Dublin won’t disappoint.
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