The Story Behind Dublin’s Temple Bar District (+ The Best Pubs, Restaurants + Hotels)

temple bar district dublin
Photos via Shutterstock

Ah, the Temple Bar district. Yes, it’s busy and full of tourists, but it’s also one of those bits of Dublin you have to take a ramble through.

Well, you don’t have to, but you should. If it’s your first time in the capital then Temple Bar’s a pretty seductive place to go for a stroll as it’s home to Dublin pubs that buzz morning, noon and night.

However, while the Temple Bar district tends to be most associated with pubs and restaurants, the area is home to a fine bit of history, too.

In the guide below, you’ll discover the story behind the area along with the best spots to eat, sleep and drink in Temple Bar in Dublin.

Some quick need-to-knows about Temple Bar in Dublin

temple bar in dublin
Photo by kashifzai (Shutterstock)

Although a visit to Temple Bar in Dublin is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. It’s an area, not just a pub

Everyone knows the Temple Bar pub with its famous bright red exterior, but the name actually refers to the Temple Bar district. Bounded by the Liffey to the north and Dame Street to the south, the Temple Bar neighborhood covers a small but lively patchwork of streets, pubs and restaurants.

2. A tourist trap?! Kinda… but not always

If there’s one thing you can generally associate with areas known to be ‘tourist traps’, it’s that you’ll be paying a steep premium for your drinks. It’s true that Temple Bar does indeed contain a few places that will make you recoil in horror at their price but if you look hard enough, you’ll find some spots that are much more reasonable (more on this below). 

3. Cobbled streets, lively pubs and lots of places to eat

Who doesn’t love a good cobbled street? An immediate indicator of a long history that, while often romanticised (it didn’t always look this pretty), always goes down well with overseas visitors. There’s also lots of great pubs in Temple Bar and there’s a handful of outstanding restaurants in Temple Bar, too.

4. Safety warning

With crowded streets in a compact area, it’s no surprise that the Temple Bar district is fertile ground for pickpockets so always be aware during your time there. Also, Temple Bar can get pretty rowdy in the evenings (especially with so many stag and hen parties) so keep an eye out for trouble. 

The history of Temple Bar

temple bar history
Photos via Shutterstock

We’ll get to the best restaurants and pubs in Temple Bar in Dublin in a minute. First, however, we want to tackle the history of Temple Bar.

The areas past is often overshadowed by its recent history as the go-to spot for tourists visiting Dublin. Which is a shame, as there’s a fine bit of history within its boundaries.

Beginnings

Though it was originally settled by the Vikings, it wasn’t until some 800 years later in the 17th-century that Temple Bar began to experience some real activity. That came in the form of Sir William Temple, whose house and gardens were located there in the early 1600s and from which the area now derives its name. 

The marshy land below the Liffey was then reclaimed by various wealthy English families who began to build houses and streets, beginning the formation of the area we know today. The first mention of the name ‘Temple Bar’ is in Bernard de Gomme’s Map of Dublin from 1673, which shows the reclaimed land and new buildings. 

The 18th and 19th centuries

The arrival of a new customs house in 1707 – on the site where U2’s Clarence Hotel stands today – brought money and a flurry of activity into the once pastoral area. Warehouses shot up at every corner and taverns, theatres and brothels followed suit, bringing all sorts of characters to an area previously occupied by wealthy types!

However, when customs officials decided to move into newer and larger premises on the Northside of the Liffey in 1791, the bubble burst and Temple Bar fell into a rapid decline. Thus began a period of urban decay and degradation that would last almost 200 years 

Regeneration

Unbelievably, the famous regeneration of Temple Bar almost didn’t happen and was close to being turned into a huge bus depot! While waiting for planning permission for that grotesque endeavour in the 1980s, state transport company CIE decided to let out Temple Bar’s derelict premises at cheap rates. 

Attracted by the bargain rent prices, artists, fringe boutiques and alternative bars and cafes started to shoot up all over Temple Bar. The lively, buzzing quarter was well received by locals and resistance against CIE’s plans to raze the area grew. Eventually, everyone saw sense that something great had happened here and it’s been a vibrant home of culture and hedonism ever since. 

Pubs in Temple bar

Although we’ve a guide to the best pubs in Temple Bar (mainly filled with the non-touristy ones), we’ll pop in our favourites below.

Scroll to read about the historic Palace Bar, the lively Auld Dub, the cosy Foggy Dew and… and a pub we’ve popped in as it’s a tourist favourite…

1. The Palace Bar

palace bar dublin
Photos via The Palace on Facebook

Once described by novelist and poet Patrick Kavanagh as the “most wonderful temple of art”, the handsome Palace Bar on Fleet Street is one of Dublin’s prettiest sights. And if you’re in the mood for something stronger, it also doubles as one of the city’s finest whiskey bars. 

2. The Auld Dubliner

the auld dub temple bar
Photos via The Auld Dub on FB

Located in the heart of Temple Bar, The Auld Dubliner is the sort of place you could spend an entire day in. With a cracking menu serving favourites like Irish stew and music on seven-days-a-week, definitely try to stop by here if you can. 

3. The Foggy Dew

foggy dew pub
Photos by The Irish Road Trip

With an evocative name inspired by an old Irish ballad, The Foggy Dew is a cracking old Victorian pub with a penchant for great live music. Also, when you’re inside take a closer look at the walls and check out their impressive collection of rock memorabilia. 

4. The Temple Bar

temple bar history
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

Yes it’s the tourist pub and yes the prices are sky-high, but can you really say you’ve been to Temple Bar if you haven’t had a pint at its namesake pub? Step into the famous red pub, get yourself a Guinness and embrace the atmosphere (don’t feel obliged to buy a t-shirt, however).

Restaurants in Temple Bar

Although we’ve a guide to the best restaurants in Temple Bar in Dublin (mainly, as was the case with the pubs guide, filled with the non-touristy ones), we’ll pop in our favourites.

You’ll find everything from the brilliant Gallagher’s Boxty House that knocks up some of the best Irish food in Dublin to the very popular Montys below.

1. Montys of Kathmandu

Montys restaurant
Photos via Montys Of Kathmandu on Facebook

Showing off the international flavour that Temple Bar has taken on over the years, Monty’s of Kathmandu is a traditional Nepalese restaurant that’s been a staple of Temple Bar since 1997. Their smoky barbecued food is a winner after a few pints. 

2. Gallagher’s Boxty House

Gallagher’s boxty
Photos via Gallaghers Boxty House on Facebook

For something a little closer to home, head to Gallagher’s Boxty House in Temple Bar where you’ll find a small cafe that’s perfected the art of the Irish Boxty. Proper hearty stuff and great if you’re here when it’s cold.

3. KLAW: The Seafood Café by Niall Sabongi

Klaw restaurant dublin
Photo via Klaw’s Facebook

If you want a taste of the sea, then you could do a lot worse than KLAW: The Seafood Café by Niall Sabongi. Check out their oyster Happy Hour between 5-6 pm every day!

4. DiFontaine’s Pizzeria

DiFontaine's temple bar
Photos via DiFontaine’s Pizzeria

Is DiFontaine’s Pizzeria the best pizza in Dublin? There’s only one way to find out, but there’s a good reason why they’re still wildly popular after first opening way back in 2002. 

Hotels in Temple Bar

If you want to stay at the heart of the action, you’re in luck – there are some excellent hotels in Temple Bar, as you’ll discover in this accommodation guide.

Note: if you book a hotel through one of the links below we may make a tiny commission that helps us keep this site going. You won’t pay extra, but we really do appreciate it.

1. The Fleet

Fleet
Photos via Booking.com

Situated conveniently next door to one of Dublin’s best pubs (The Palace), The Fleet is a classy hotel that’s recently undergone a major refurbishment to make your stay even more enjoyable. 

Check prices + see more photos here

2. Temple Bar Inn

Temple Bar Inn
Photos via Booking.com

Just a little further down on Fleet Street is the Temple Bar Inn, a relaxed boutique hotel in a deadly location. Everything feels fresh here and their breakfast selection is great too. 

Check prices + see more photos here

3. Clarence Hotel

the clarence
Photos via Booking.com

Dating back to 1852, the 4-star Clarence Hotel is a Dublin icon that offers great views over the Liffey. It’s also owned by Bono and The Edge of U2, though don’t expect to bump into them. 

Check prices + see more photos here

Places to visit a short walk from Temple Bar in Dublin

One of the beauties of the Temple Bar district is that it’s a short spin away from some of the best things to do in Dublin.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Temple Bar in Dublin (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).

1. Trinity College (10-minute walk)

Trinity college
Photo left: David Soanes. Photo right: JulianBuijzen (Shutterstock)

Home to the breath-taking Book of Kells and the gorgeous Long Room at the Old Library, Trinity College is one of the must-see attractions in Dublin. Even if you don’t see those two particular attractions, feel free to wander around its historic grounds and breathe in that intellectual atmosphere that always makes you feel a little bit more intelligent. 

2. Ha’penny Bridge (5-minute walk)

Ha'penny bridge
Photo by Bernd Meissner (Shutterstock)

Now over 200 years old, the Ha’penny Bridge crossing the Liffey is an elegant pedestrian bridge just to the north of Temple Bar. Made of cast iron and built in 1816, it’s absolutely the classiest way to enter Temple Bar (if there is such a thing!).

3. Cathedrals and castles (10-minute walk)

Cathedrals
Photo by Matej Hudovernik (Shutterstock)

There’s a ton of really old stuff in Dublin and you don’t have to walk too far to see them either. Within 10 minutes you can check out the 800-year-old Christ Church Cathedral or wander over to Dublin Castle with its subterranean excavations revealing 1000 years of Viking history. 

4. Endless other attractions

guinness storehouse
Photo via the Guinness Storehouse

With its handy location on the Liffey being so central, there are loads of other Dublin attractions to check out within a short walk or a tram or taxi ride. Whether you want to learn about the city’s most famous export at the Guinness Storehouse or go for a bucolic stroll through St Stephen’s Green, there’s plenty of ways to pick your poison in Dublin when you’re in the Temple Bar.

FAQs about Dublin’s Temple Bar district

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘How did Temple Bar in Dublin get its name?’ (from the Temple family) to ‘Why is the Temple Bar so famous?’.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

Is Temple Bar a tourist trap?

The Temple Bar district tends to be labelled a tourist trap, as several popular pubs charge outrageous prices for pints. However, that’s just a couple – there are many good pubs here.

Is Temple Bar in Dublin safe?

Yes and no. At night, when the pubs kick out, I’d avoid, personally. During the day, you can get some dodgy characters. Keep your wits about you and you should be fine.

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