people walking by seafood restaurants in dubln
NurPhoto/Contributor/NurPhoto/Getty Images
NurPhoto/Contributor/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Dublin’s Coolest Neighborhoods Shine with Sea Views, Hip Haunts, and Leafy Strolls

When it comes to the Republic of Ireland’s capital city, Stoneybatter, Howth, and Portobello showcase the best of the best.

Dublin might be a small city, but the broader metropolitan county—which sprawls across the Republic of Ireland’s northeastern shoreline and butts up against Counties Wicklow, Meath, and Kildare—is much bigger than the sum of many parts. Home to some 1.4 million people, the Republic of Ireland capital is stacked with a profusion of picturesque villages and smart urban enclaves that seamlessly merge buzzy dynamism with friendly approachability.

Take achingly cool Stoneybatter (Bóthar na gCloch in Irish), where buzzy new cafes, bars, and yoga studios rub elbows with generations of locals and the mainstays that have been serving them for years. Named one of the world’s top 50 coolest neighborhoods by Time Out in 2022, it’s a must visit. Howth, or Binn Éadair, on the other hand, is a vibrant coastal town peppered with seafood outposts hawking the daily hauls from the fishermen thronging the port, alongside some of the area’s best hiking and swimming opportunities. And back in the city center, Portobello (Cuan Aoibhinn) is a cultural melting pot studded with pubs of every persuasion as well as the unparalleled Jewish Museum of Ireland. It’s jokingly referred to as “Hipsteria Lane” by Dubliners thanks to the creative, cutting-edge spirit that permeates the district.

man reading in front of dublin coffee shop
Derick P. Hudson/Shutterstock

Best things to do in Stoneybatter/Bóthar na gCloch

North of Dublin proper, “the Batter” as it’s known locally follows a tale as old as time. You know how it goes—a downtown-adjacent district gradually gentrifies over a number of years, a university brings a slew of 20-somethings to the area, hyper-cool restaurants and coffeeshops set up shop, and housing prices hit the roof. But what makes this particular hipster hub unique are the generations of local holdouts harmoniously living alongside the newcomers, joining forces to keep the area bursting with edgy personality. Situated half way between the city center and the Phoenix Park (Europe’s largest and home to Dublin Zoo), Stoneybatter also lays claim to the oldest place name in Dublin and remains one of the city’s earliest villages, dating back thousands of years.

The epicenter of the neighborhood is Manor Street, a wide thoroughfare lined with an eclectic mix of cafes and farm-to-table eateries, family homes, grocers, butchers, and bars. The smaller side streets are mostly residential, boasting cottages that date back hundreds of years and colorful hand-painted street art commissioned by the local government. Grangegorman University campus’s recent relocation to the area has only added to the appeal.
 

Food wise, local pub L. Mulligan Grocer serves a vast range of craft beer and Irish produce prepared with a creative twist. Try the black pudding arancini or Connemara moules-frites. Next door, The Glimmer Man offers overstuffed banh mí courtesy street food vendor Vietnom, while across the road, it’s nearly impossible to get a reservation at Roberto Mungo’s Italian standout, Grano—but you should definitely try your luck all the same. The acclaimed chef’s wine bar, A Fianco, might be a safer bet and is the perfect pit stop for savory maritozzi and a glass of natural vino.

Irish people are somewhat brunch obsessed these days, so follow the crowds to Slice for a sausage scramble or Social Fabric Café for pancakes, cheese toasties, and Buffalo chicken hash. For a more zen-like experience between bites, hit the Elbowroom for ceremonial cacao or a yoga class, and on the weekends, wander the stalls at Penders Market for all things weird and wonderful.

hiker on scenic cliff in dublin
Photo courtesy Cahir Davitt/Davitt Photography

Best things to do in Howth/Binn Éadair

Out on the east coast, Howth is a lively fishing village perched on the Howth Peninsula, about a 25-minute train ride from the city. It’s a fantastic day trip destination, complete with lots of outdoorsy fun (plus a few reasons to slip indoors, too).

For walkers and hikers, Howth Cliff Walk is a must do, complete with five different trails to choose from. It can take up to four hours to finish, but if you stick it out, you’ll be rewarded with some spectacular scenery along the way to stunning hilltop views as far as the eye can see. Looking to cool off? Consider a dip in Balscadden Bay. It’ll assuredly be a short, sharp shock to the senses, but sea swimming is big business in these parts no matter the weather, so you won’t be alone. And if all that action seems a little too vigorous for your taste, head to Howth Castle for a wander or, if you time it right, a last minute cooking class.

outdoor market in dublin
Howth Market

When hunger hits, Howth has plenty to offer. It’s a fishing port, so the menus here lean heavily on ocean-fresh seafood. For a casual meal, fish and chips from a local chipper is an Irish seaside tradition, generally enjoyed on a bench by the water while enjoying the salt air. That said, beware of ravenous seagulls with zero manners—they’ve been known to dive down and snatch food from unsuspecting diners. If that’s enough to scare you inside, Margadh on the seafront serves up highly rated modern Irish cuisine while King Sitric stocks a vast inventory of traditional seafood specialties.

After you’ve had your fill, hop a ferry to Ireland’s Eye, a tiny island nature reserve where you can gaze at the local seal colony while gannets swoop overhead and take advantage of first-rate selfie spots as you traverse the waters. Back on dry land, grab a gelato (or a deep fried Hungarian lángos) from Howth Market before catching the train back to Dublin.

view of river with swans in portobello dublin
Lukas Fendek/Shutterstock

Best things to do in Portobello/Cuan Aoibhinn

Just a 10-minute walk from the heart of Dublin, affluent Portobello’s long and rich history more than makes up for its diminutive size. Sandwiched between downtown streets and the leafy Grand Canal, its Georgian buildings have housed countless painters, writers (including George Bernard Shaw), sculptors, and politicians over the years. The area is also known as Little Jerusalem due to the large Jewish population in the area—in fact, Leopold Bloom of James Joyce’s Ulysses fame was born in Portobello, a tidbit which only bolsters the area’s artsy appeal.

Start your day with a visit to the Irish Jewish Museum to check out an impressive collection of artifacts tracing the history of Ireland’s Jewish population, including original documents and other relics unseen elsewhere in the country. Cultural immersion completed, pick up a coffee at the Bretzel Bakery, a Portobello fixture since 1870, before taking a stroll along the beloved Grand Canal. If the weather allows, embark on a canoe or pedal boat trip with local outfit Portobello Adventure and get up close and personal with the swans gracefully cruising the calm waters.

restaurant on river in portobello dublin
Locks 1 Windsor Terrace

Next up, nearby Richmond Street is perfect for antiquing before sitting down for a laid-back brunch at Alma, known for its delectable dulce de leche pancakes among other treats. For a more formal affair, soak up the amazing canal views at Lock’s Restaurant. (Lock’s is also where most of Dublin’s off-duty chefs spend their Sunday’s, so you know it must be good.) After lunch, swing by the Copper House Gallery for pop-up art exhibitions before polishing off your afternoon with an al fresco glass of wine from Brindle Coffee and Wine or Lennox Street Grocer. Whatever course you choose, leave some room for a Persian kebab from Passion 4 Food on Camden Street. At the very least, get one for takeaway and thank us later.

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Ciara McQuillan is a contributor for Thrillist.