Tucked in between Dame Street to the south and the River Liffey to the north, Temple Bar is (rightly so) high on every ‘Top 10’ list of Dublin visitor hotspots. Self-titled ‘Dublin’s Cultural Quarter’, it’s a busy, buzzy warren of streets jam-packed with opportunities to eat, drink and be merry. And there’s no shortage of places to shop either, in case you were worried.
A wander through its cobbled lanes leads past pubs and restaurants both traditional and modern, and there’s plenty of chances to buy lurid leprechaun toys and silly shamrock-themed trinkets. Alongside the old-school souvenir sellers however, there are some unusual and unique boutiques (retro clothing, vinyl records, tattooists, etc) - and there’s an explanation for the evolution of these edgy outlets.
A few decades ago, this rather drab area was earmarked for a major bus depot by CIE (Córas Iompair Éireann, a nationalised public transport authority), who began acquiring buildings and land for the purpose. In the interim, various premises were sublet to a variety of funky fashion shops, specialist music stores, and starving artists searching for studio space, while the unwieldy semi-state behemoth got its ass in gear.
Plans for the initial depot were eventually scrapped after some epic foot-dragging and the neighbourhood retained its newfound ‘alternative’ identity. The Irish government of the day finally got on board in 1991 and the area became the city’s de-facto Cultural Quarter.
As a result, this is a part of town generally more frequented by out-of-towners than Dubs. Temple Bar is home to more than 50 cultural organizations, providing a chance to experience contemporary arts in some innovative venues. The Temple Bar Cultural Trust isn’t complacent, organising events week-in, week-out throughout the year. Every Saturday there’s a Designer Mart from 10am-5pm (on Cow’s Lane, located in the Old City area of Temple Bar). This outdoor market is a showcase for the best of handmade craft and design produced by Irish and Ireland-based artists. There’s also the Temple Bar Food Market, Book Market, and the aforementioned calendar of events - Culture Night, the Chocolate Festival, and much more.
As you’d expect in such a bohemian area, Temple Bar has many galleries hosting a variety of exhibits by Irish and international artists. Represented are printmaking, photography and work in a wide range of media. The Project Arts Centre features theatre, dance, film, comedy and live music in addition to visual and performance art. That’s not all…for art-house cinema buffs (or those who appreciate an attractive bar/restaurant for a bit of relaxation - and who doesn’t?) there’s the Irish Film Institute.
If you’ve got little ones in tow, their cultural needs haven’t been overlooked either. The Ark cultural centre for children (aged 2-12) offers theatres, galleries and a workshop. Located on Eustace Street, it’s on the site of a former Presbyterian Meeting House (1728). Once your kids have worked up a suitably arty (hearty….geddit??) appetite, there are many family-friendly restaurants and cafés close by.
And then there’s the vibrant music scene - from the soaked-in-stately-glam Olympia Theatre (Dame Street) with its relatively traditional line-up, to the Temple Bar Music Centre’s Button Factory (Curved Street) and their distinctly modern, indie approach – there’s something for everyone.
Photos, from top to bottom: the Temple Bar pub (possibly the most photographed boozer in Ireland); Temple Bar Square; Strolling into Temple Bar through Merchant's Arch; Meeting House Square