A closer look at Dublin’s neighbourhoods.

Wanton quirkiness, perennial liveliness and an endearing touch of shabbiness have always been part of Phibsboro’s appeal. It was where I wanted to live as a DCU student in the late nineties, instead of the gentler, more refined environs of Drumcondra where I was instead. Phibsborough was where the cool kids hung out, with an ice rink, a surfeit of charity shops and good pubs like The Hut, where the Johnny Cash Appreciation Society were in situ on a Sunday night. And then there was McGowan’s, where young love was almost certainly guaranteed to bloom, especially after a few drinks.

Fast forward to now, and Phibsboro (or Phibsborough – both spellings are considered perfectly acceptable) retains much of the charm that made it so attractive back then. So much so, that in 2018 Time Out magazine named it one of the coolest city neighbourhoods in the world. (It was 27th on the list).

Location-wise, it’s pretty much perfect, being a few minutes from the city centre but also close to the perennially walkable likes of Blessington Basin Park, Glasnevin Cemetery and the Botanical Gardens. Strictly speaking, D7 has never been one of the most city’s most fashionable postcodes, but this could change with some significant developments. One of these is the extension of the Luas line, which now runs through Phibsborough and has helped to ease-up traffic congestion, a long-standing problem for residents.

Another is Dublin City Council’s upcoming redevelopment of Dalymount Park, home of Bohemian FC, and Phibsborough Shopping Centre. The exciting plans integrate these two sites and include a new 6,0000 seater stadium and a library. The shopping centre is a 1960s development that some consider an elegant example of 20th-century modernism – but most find a terrible eyesore. Although its concrete tower is not coming down, it’s slated for a radical overhaul. The new centre will have three times more retail space and also provide apartment accommodation for 340 students in a new seven-storey-high student accommodation block. Work is due to finish in 2022.

But this all lies ahead. As it stands, there’s still much to love about Phibsborough, from its splendid canal walks to the somewhat amusing positioning of the Miss Euro sex shop directly in the shadow of ST PETER’S CHURCH, revered for its stained glass windows – especially Harry Clarke’s stunning work The Adoration of the Sacred Heart. The neighbourhood welcomes all sorts.

While it’s never been considered a choice dining destination, you’ll won’t go hungry here. Takeaway joints aside, good pub grub is available at Porterhouse North, and hearty and homemade fare can be found at long-established Phibsborough favourite, The Woodstock Café. Signs of gastro-gentrification can be found via Bang Bang, a deli/grocery, and Two Boys Brew, a cafe with cosmopolitan leanings. The Bodytonic crew (who run happening Dublin taverns MVP and The Bernard Shaw) have a sports-and-quiz bar on the Phibsborough Road called The Back Page, currently serving some of the best pizza north of the Liffey; it joins other hospitable pubs such as The Brian Boru and the Bohemian.

Sadly, it is no longer possible to go ice-skating in Phibsboro. The Silver Skate rink, previously The State Cinema, is now a Des Kelly Carpet outlet. But it’s still worth popping in for a gander, as it retains many of the cinema’s original features, like the balcony and grand staircase.

And just in case Phibsborough’s glittering future means that some of its modern allure undergoes a modification, I’d suggest a tour of its Greatest Hits as soon as you can. This would involve a sticky sweet treat from Thunder’s Bakery, a satisfying rummage through the outstanding book selection in the Irish Cancer Society Charity Shop, a canal-side stroll and a pint in the Hut, to create your perfect Phibsboro experience.

Claire is a Dublin-based journalist who contributes to a wide range of publications including The Irish Independent and Image magazine. She occasionally reviews restaurants, and loves a good crime novel.

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