St Stephen's Green + Grafton Street Area
Once the most fashionable public hanging spot in the city, St Stephen’s Green has come up in the world thanks to the endless pockets of Lord Ardilaun (Sir Arthur Guinness), who funded the square’s transformation from common land into public park in 1880. Located at the top of Grafton Street close to the city centre, the park is a lush oasis of calm in an otherwise frantic setting.
Drop in for a stroll around lunchtime to see the group of bankers toasting their latest foreclosure on the lawns, the students from nearby Trinity College flirting, the artists muttering about the light.
An added bonus is that from here it’s only minutes to some of the best bars in the city on Baggot Street (east), Great George’s Street (west) and Harcourt Street (south).
The northern border of the Green is probably the most elegant side of the square – containing the swish 188-year-old Shelbourne Hotel, amongst other treasures.
At the northwest corner, site of the Fusiliers’ Arch (commemorating the Irish regiment who fought in the Boer War) you can nab a horse and carriage if you’re in the mood for some open-air sightseeing and fancy spending about €50.
The Arch itself is at the top of pedestrianised Grafton Street – a must for those in need of retail therapy or wanting to hear the local buskers. Though the street reflects the growing dominance of multinational high-street chains, particularly those from the UK, there are stand-out locals like Brown Thomas, the queen of Irish department stores.
From here, make sure to check out the George’s Street Arcade, a much funkier proposition entirely. Want to get your tongue pierced, drink buonissimo cappuccino, or pick up an understated pair of neon pink mesh fingerless gloves? This covered market is a great place to browse – or actually buy those gloves…
Just around the corner is the Powerscourt Centre – a stylish shopping destination incorporating the eighteenth-century Palladian townhouse mansion of…you guessed it…Lord Powerscourt. Deserving of a visit for the architecture alone – it features a mahogany central staircase, Rococo and Neoclassical plasterwork, and elaborately carved balusters – there's a also a theatre and myriad interesting shops and eateries. Even if you’re all shopped out, the café in the atrium – the now-covered former inner courtyard of the mansion – is a great place to sit and drool over your latest purchase while watching the local workers scurrying back to their offices.
Photos, from top to bottom: Fusiliers' Arch (St Stephen's Green); Grafton Street; George's Street Arcade; Powerscourt Centre