A closer look at Phibsboro

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 90s, instead of the more refined environs of Drumcondra.

Phibsboro was where the cool kids hung out, with an ice rink, a surfeit of charity shops and good pubs like The Hut. It was where the Johnny Cash Appreciation Society was in situ on a Sunday night. And then there was McGowan’s, where young love often bloomed – especially after a few drinks.

A bright past, an even brighter future

Fast forward to now, and Phibsboro – or Phibsborough – retains much of the charm that made it so attractive back then. So much so, that Time Out magazine named it one of the coolest city neighbourhoods in the world – twice!

Location-wise, it’s pretty much perfect. It’s just a few minutes from the city centre, but also close to the perennially walkable Blessington Basin Park, Glasnevin Cemetery and the Botanic Gardens.

white framed victorian greenhouse at botanic gardens

Botanic Gardens. Photo by Damiano Baschiera

Strictly speaking, Dublin 7 has never been one of the city’s most fashionable postcodes, but this could change with some of the area’s recent developments.

One of these is the extension of the Luas line, which now runs through Phibsboro and has helped ease up traffic congestion, a long-standing problem for residents of the area.

Another is Dublin City Council’s upcoming redevelopment of Dalymount Park, home of Bohemian F.C. and Phibsboro Shopping Centre.

The exciting plans integrate these two sites and include a new 6,000 seater stadium and a library. The shopping centre is a 1960s development that some consider an elegant example of 20th-century modernism. However, most think it’s a terrible eyesore. Although its concrete tower will remain, it’s slated for a radical overhaul.

The new centre will have three times more retail space. It will also provide 300 new units of accommodation in a new seven-storey-high apartment block.

Present day Phibsboro

All this lies ahead but, as it stands, there’s already so much to love about Phibsboro. It’s home to splendid canal walks and an abundance of top-class cafés, bars and restaurants.

The somewhat amusing position of the Miss Euro sex shop neatly sums up the spirit of the area. It is set directly in the shadow of St. Peter’s Church, which is revered for its stained glass windows – especially Harry Clarke’s stunning work The Adoration of the Sacred Heart. Simply put, the neighbourhood welcomes all sorts.

visitors looks at artefacts, including photos, frames and a bohemians jersey

An exhibition at Phizzfest

While it was never considered a choice dining destination, you’ll never go hungry in Phibsboro. Takeaway joints aside, good pub grub is available at The Bald Eagle on Phibsborough Road. Just down the street, hearty, homemade fare can be found at Phibsboro favourite Monck’s Green – formerly called the Woodstock Café.

Signs of gastro-gentrification are found at Bang Bang, a deli-cum-grocery, and Two Boys Brew, a café with cosmopolitan leanings.

stone round tower stands above grave stones at glasnevin cemetery

Round tower at Glasnevin Cemetery

The Bodytonic crew, who run happening Dublin taverns MVP and Wigwam, have a sports-and-quiz bar on the Phibsborough Road called The Back Page. It currently serves some of the best pizza north of the Liffey.

The group also relocated The Bernard Shaw just up the road. It joins the area’s other long-established pubs, like The Brian Boru, The Bohemian and The Gravediggers.

Sadly, it is no longer possible to go ice-skating in Phibsboro. But you can hear nostalgic tales of what took place there at the almost annual community arts festival, Phizzfest, which celebrates the area’s rich history and culture.

Try this perfect Phibsboro day out

And just in case Phibsboro’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 possible.

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.

New to the city? Read our introduction to Dublin’s neighbourhoods for more local insights and lore.

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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