Dublin city stretches across 115km², with the county itself covering 921km². While it’s not the biggest area, as Ireland’s capital city, it has a lot going on – which is why it’s split into four local authorities: Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council, South Dublin County Council and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council.
Dublin is a city bisected by the River Liffey. People tend to divide it into two key areas: the north side – traditionally home to a working class resident – and the south side, home to the middle and upper classes. That distinction is being quickly eroded, however, as a number of neighbourhoods in the north, such as Smithfield, Stoneybatter and Clontarf become gentrified.
The core of the inner city is contained within two canals: the Royal to the north and the Grand to the south. Over 550,000 people live in these 115 square kilometres. Certain areas are still referred to by their old postal district numbers (like Dublin 8 and Dublin 4). The following areas are just a sample of popular places to live within the embrace of the canals:
IFSC and Docklands
The Irish Financial Services Centre (IFSC) is the waterfront area established around the Custom House Docks by the government in 1987 in order to centralise a range of internationally traded financial services including banking, fund management and insurance. Over time, the Docklands grew up as an expansion of the IFSC, extending on both north and south sides of the River Liffey and as far east as the 3Arena. Over 500 firms now operate within this area, including more than half the world’s top 50 banks and top 20 insurance companies. Recent development in this area has seen the replacement of the older industrial and dockside facilities with a variety of stylish new apartments blocks, providing highly convenient, if rather pricey, city-centre accommodation.
Back in the 17th century, Smithfield was established as a marketplace. Today, with its own stop on the Luas Red Line, a host of unique and independent establishments like the Light House Cinema, Token (an arcade/bar/restaurant) and the Jameson Distillery, it’s no surprise that accommodation in this area is in high demand by young professionals seeking a vibrant and well-connected place to live.
In Dublin’s north-west inner city, Stoneybatter is an area that has undergone somewhat of a renaissance, rising exponentially in popularity over the last number of years. Built up around Manor Street, it has kept its village vibe with a weekly farmers’ market, while seeing an increase in great restaurants, craft pubs and cafés – making it an attractive place for first-time buyers who are keen to ride a wave of popularity that doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.
Similar to Stoneybatter, Phibsboro has changed over recent decades to an up-and-coming, desirable north-side neighbourhood. Perhaps its biggest claim to fame is its beloved soccer team, Bohemians, which hails Dalymount Park as its home ground; while a short walk to the neighbouring suburb of Glasnevin will bring you to the National Botanic Gardens.
Billed as where old Dublin meets new Dublin, the Liberties is a beloved, historic area at the heart of the city. Home to attractions as diverse as the famous Guinness Storehouse, popular entertainment venue, Vicar Street and the spectacular John’s Lane Church, complete with Harry Clarke stained glass, it’s no wonder that over 23,000 residents also live here.
Living in Portobello will place you right in the thick of the action; it’s a five-minute walk from Camden Street, one of the south side’s main thoroughfares. Endlessly popular, Portobello houses cultural centres like the Irish Jewish Museum and pubs and restaurants like the Bernard Shaw and Brother Hubbard – as well as everything else the city has to offer, thanks to the Luas Green Line stop at Harcourt Street.
Outside of the canal core of the city, there are many popular neighbourhoods, including Ranelagh, Rathmines, Rathgar, Islandbridge, Ballsbridge and Sandymount to the south; and Glasnevin, Drumcondra, Clontarf and Cabra to the north. A little further out in both directions, but also popular, are Dún Laoghaire, Portmarnock and Malahide on the coast and Ashtown and Dundrum inland.
So, where can I live?
That really depends on what you can afford. Dublin property prices across letting and sales are at an all-time high, so you may need to consider the wider county – or possibly adjoining counties. Plenty of people working in Dublin city live outside the capital, commuting by bus, train or car each day from bordering counties of Wicklow, Meath and Kildare. This may make more sense for you if you have children; whereas single people may prefer the hustle and bustle of living in apartments in areas of the city centre like Grand Canal Dock, Smithfield or Ringsend.
Transport routes are also a big factor. It makes the most sense to work out where you can live in relation to your job so that your commute is as easy as possible. For example, there would be no point working in the airport, in north county Dublin, while living in the southern suburb of Carrickmines; however, a direct bus route runs to the airport through both Drumcondra and Phibsboro, which would make them good choices.
There are a number of particularly popular neighbourhoods on either side of the city that sit within the sweet spot: close enough to walk to the centre, while far enough to feel relaxed; connected by numerous public transport routes, but often with ample car parking space; well serviced by schools, shops, restaurants, gyms and healthcare centres, without feeling over-crowded. Accommodation in these areas comes at a price and can be trickier to find – but it’s always worth exploring.
Dublin-born icon, Oscar Wilde wrote, "It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious!" If there's one thing that's central to Dubliners, it's the dry wit you'll find here; the tongue-in-cheek, good-hearted humour that makes teasing just as much a sign of the welcome as it is part of the vernacular. The biggest draw to Dublin has to be its people. They’re the reason the city was recently voted in the top 10 friendliest cities in the world; why it has the greatest nightlife; why its art and culture is some of the most influential and vibrant to be found anywhere.
Dublin’s legacy stretches back over a millennium of history, change and development. The first known settlement here was Áth Cliath, which took its name from a major ford across the tidal River Liffey. Around the sixth century, a monastery named Duiblinn (Irish for ‘blackpool’) was founded here, where Vikings eventually arrived. After the Anglo-Norman invasion in 1170, Dublin became the capital of the English Lordship of Ireland and was populated extensively with settlers from England and Wales. The early 16th century was a turbulent time when King Henry VIII’s split with the church led to the closure of monasteries and the destruction of religious institutions with