The northside was once a fashionable area, but it lost some charm as it decayed in the 20th century. Happily, it is now rebounding with high-profile hotels, plenty of shops, and a few top-rated restaurants.
Starting in south Dublin, stroll down Parliament Street through Temple Bar to the River Liffey, then take a right, and walk along the noisy, vibrant waterfront to the narrow arc of the (1) Ha’penny Bridge. The city’s oldest walking bridge, it’s so charming that people will go half a mile out of their way just to walk across it. Though officially named the Liffey Bridge, it’s far better known by the halfpenny toll once charged to cross it. The fee was dropped in 1919, but the nickname remains.
Once you’ve made it across, you’re on the (2) North Quays, an increasingly trendy area with hotels, bars, and clubs. The quays are a really a series of streets named for the wharves that once stood at the water’s edge.
You can either explore the quays a bit—head right a few blocks to see the moving memorial to the Irish potato famine—or walk straight up busy O’Connell Street. Grafton Street is where the tourists shop; this is where the locals go. It’s lined with workaday department stores and useful boutiques. The center of the wide boulevard is filled with statues and memorials, many commemorating the city’s troubled past and confounding politics. The (3) line-up of statuary starts with an ornate version of the politician Daniel O’Connell surrounded by angels (one of which still has bullet holes left from the Easter Rising), and culminates at the (4) Millennium Spire, a shard of steel thrusting hundreds of feet up into the air.
About half-way up O’Connell, you’ll reach the stern gray edifice of the (5) General Post Office (www.anpost.ie). It’s still an operating post office, but it’s much more than that. This is where the 1916 Easter Rising began. Prolonged, heated battles were fought in and around this building, and the columns out front still have bullet holes. An original copy of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic is still kept inside, in the philatelic office.
After exploring its displays, head farther up to where O’Connell Street ends. Keep walking a block on to leafy (6) Parnell Square. On the far side of the square, the (7) Dublin Writers Museum (18 Parnell Square; www.writersmuseum.com) holds court. If you’re a bookish type, you’ll be drawn to its extensive display of literary memorabilia—the typewriters, playbills, and handwritten letters explore the history of Dublin’s love of letters
A few doors down from the writers museum stands the small but mighty (8) Hugh Lane Gallery (Parnell Square North; www.hughlane.ie). Inside the collection of Impressionists work is excellent. As you wander around you can marvel that such a strong collection of masterpieces was ever owned by just one man.
Backtrack down O’Connell to the (9) Gresham Hotel (23 Upper O’Connell Street; www.gresham-hotels.com), where the vast lobby is a great place for a warming cup of tea.
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