Top Things to Do in Temple Bar, Dublin, That Are Not Tourist Traps

“The smell of horse dung and rotten fish, and the ragged individuals lurking in the shadows of badly lit streets were all indicative that, when darkness fell, this part of Dublin was not for the genteel.” This is Temple Bar in the 18th century in the words of Maurice Curtis, a local historian, in his book Temple Bar – A History. 

Luckily, Temple Bar has redeemed itself since those unruly days. Its cobbled streets and colourful pubs have turned a place once of danger and sins into Dublin’s most visited and photographed district. To a fault, it seems. Although a stroll down its medieval lanes is now firmly on every visitor’s bucket list, Temple Bar has been labelled one of Ireland’s worst tourist traps.

Despite its overpriced pubs, which locals tend to avoid, and the boozy crowd late at night, Temple Bar remains one of my favourite parts of the city. Beyond the pubs and cheap souvenir shops, there are plenty of things to do in Temple Bar, a hub of activities for tourists and Dubliners alike. In fact, Temple Bar has evolved into Dublin’s cultural quarter, with numerous restaurants and shops to browse. Let me guide you through it so you can enjoy the area without falling into the tourist traps.

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Best Things to Do in Temple Bar, Dublin

Explore Temple Bar’s Vintage Clothing Shops

With eye-catching facades, Temple Bar’s vintage clothing shops are literally vying for your attention. As part of Temple Bar’s bohemian character, it would be a shame not to visit them, even for the fun of it. You never know what you’ll find inside, and that is exactly why I love them so much. 

On Fownes Street Upper, you can rummage to your heart’s content in several vintage clothing shops lining the street. They await you with racks and shelves full of old leather, military gear, and uniquely patterned shirts from a different era.

Down the same street on Fownes Street Lower, Tola Vintage specialises in 80s and 90s fashion. On Temple Lane South, you will find hand-picked and rare pieces in Nine Crows, which describes itself as a “90s and 00s vintage heaven.” At the corner of Merchant’s Arch, Dublin Vintage Factory sells clothes by the kilo. Located at the other end of the same narrow alleyway, The Big Smoke Vintage is the latest addition to Temple Bar’s vintage clothing scene.

Dine in One of Temple Bar’s Many Restaurants

Temple Bar has a lot more to offer than just overpriced and not-always-tasty pub food. In fact, you’ll find quite a few delicious restaurants and most of them are affordable. If you want to save a few bucks though and make sure to have a table (especially on a Saturday night), think about eating out early and take advantage of the early bird option when available.

All sorts of cuisine can be found in Temple Bar. But if you’re in Dublin for the full Irish experience, the Boxty House is the place to go to. Located right on Temple Bar Street, this Irish restaurant, in business for more than 25 years, has turned the boxty, a traditional pancake made of potatoes, into its very own speciality.

The Boxty House, restaurant in Temple Bar, Dublin

For more continental options, I stumbled upon Al Vesuvio, an Italian restaurant tucked away on Meeting House Square. Housed in a vaulted brick and stone wine cellar, the atmosphere is romantic and the pasta delicious.

If seafood is your thing, Irish chef Niall Sabongi has opened not one but two award-winning restaurants in Temple Bar: Klaw and the Seafood Café. Their menus feature fresh Irish products ranging from oysters to lobster and more.

More popular restaurants in Temple Bar to try out:
The Mongolian Barbeque – Asian Food – Anglesea Street
Chez Max – French Food – Palace Street, off Dame Street (slightly outside Temple Bar)


Temple Bar is a district of Dublin city centre stretching from the River Liffey to Dame Street and from Westmoreland Street to Fishamble Street. It owes its name to Sir William Temple, provost of Trinity College in the 17th century, who had a house and gardens at the corner of Temple Lane and the street named Temple Bar. The house had some reclaimed land from the riverbank that formed a sandbank to walk on – a ‘barr’, later shortened to ‘bar’. The embankment was then known as Temple’s Barr and simply became Temple Bar.

Browse in Temple Bar’s Unique Bookshops

One thing I love doing when I am abroad is to visit the local bookshops. This is a great opportunity to uncover authors you’ve never heard of before, and to bring home books unavailable in your own country with the satisfaction that you have found something special and rare.

In Essex Street, one of the oldest buildings in Temple Bar (late 17th century) is the latest home of the most controversial bookshop in Dublin: Connolly Books. Founded in the 1930s and named after one of the executed leaders of the 1916 Rising, the bookshop settled in Essex Street in 1977 after being chased all over the city by angry mobs. Communist and left-wing literature didn’t go down very well, it seemed. The shop is full of books about Irish history, political figures and the Easter Rising. Well worth a visit.

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars,” says the sign in the window. In Cow’s Lane, another independent bookshop worth your time has made this quote from Oscar Wilde its motto. The Gutter Bookshop prides itself on stocking on exciting books you won’t find anywhere else, with staff handwritten recommendations to guide you around the shelves. Local literature is well represented here and makes a great souvenir to bring home. Spare some time in the Gutter, you might find what you were not looking for.

Go to the Theatre

2012 was the year of the rebirth for Smock Alley Theatre in Temple Bar. Founded in 1662 under the name Theatre Royal, Smock Alley was the first custom-built theatre in Dublin. Back then it was entertaining crowds with the best actors of the time seven days a week. Falling into disrepair, the theatre closed in 1787 and a Catholic church was built on the site. After renovation, Smock Alley Theatre reopened in 2012. No more going to mass in Exchange Street Lower though.

In Smock Alley, you can now enjoy plays, music performances, stand-up comedy, and dance shows, all taking place behind the former church’s stained-glass windows and under its impressive plasterwork ceiling. Check out their program for a special evening in Temple Bar!

Queuing for a show between shelves of books was a strange experience. At Connolly Books, The New Theatre has its entrance at the back of the bookshop. While waiting to take your seat, you have no choice but to browse the selection of books available until an invisible door finally opens to a tiny, intimate, 66-seat theatre. What is unique and exciting about The New Theatre is its support for new writing, providing the opportunity to see brand-new shows.

You might also be interested in:
The Best Free Museums in Dublin You’ll Want to See

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Attend Live Music Shows

Originally a music hall dating back to the 19th century, the Olympia Theatre on Dame Street saw celebrities like Charlie Chaplin and duo Laurel and Hardy grace its stage. Even though stand-up comedians including drag queens made famous by hit TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race still perform at the Olympia, the calendar of this late Victorian institution (with the most impressive interior) is now mostly filled with music performances from international bands on their European tour. Check out their program for a fun concert right in the heart of the city.

The Button Factory in Curved Street is another pillar of Temple Bar’s live music scene. Formerly known as Temple Bar Music Centre, the Button Factory is a popular live music venue where local and more confidential artists perform. Check what’s on at the Button Factory, you might discover a new artist you like.

The Button Factory, Temple Bar

As for the festivals, Temple Bar TradFest has been putting on a show every January since 2006 showcasing the best of traditional Irish music across various venues (including churches!) around Temple Bar and its vicinity. It’s not all about traditional music though. Folk and even rock music are also represented. I attended the festival a few years back, and I went home blown away by the energy and spirit of the musicians. If you are in Dublin in winter, TradFest is no doubt one of the top things to do in Temple Bar.

Try the Local Burgers

It would be difficult to spend a few days in Dublin and not eat a burger, especially in Temple Bar. Dubliners love their burgers (and so do I!) and burger joints have been popping up all around town these last few years. If you’re on a budget, they make a great option without losing out on the quality and taste of the food.

My preference goes to Bobo’s located right on busy Dame Street and their extensive selection of burgers made of beef, chicken, pork and lamb. They also have the vegetarian option. Their burgers made from fresh, Irish and fully traceable meat are scrumptious. 

Bobos, Place to eat burgers in Temple Bar

Another very popular option for burgers in Temple Bar is Bunsen (you might have to queue a bit). No fancy menu with an endless list of burgers here. As the neon sign above the door simply puts it, Bunsen gives you “straight up burgers”. Made from locally sourced beef, Bunsen’s simple burgers are a hit so much that the Irish business has since opened restaurants in Cork and Belfast.

Bunsen, Burger Place in Temple Bar

Zero provenance information but good value for money at Wowburger with burgers on the lower end of the scale. With its vintage red and yellow American diner decor, Wowburger is another native Irish burger chain that has taken the city by surprise. In Temple Bar, Wowburger can be found inside The Giddy Dolphin, a trendy pub on Wellington Quay. I tasted it, and I came back for more.

More burger places in Temple Bar:
Ray’s Pizza & Burgers – Fownes Street Upper
Gourmet Burger Kitchen – Temple Bar Square

Watch a Film in The Irish Film Institute’s Vintage Decor

Cementing its place as Dublin’s “cultural quarter,” Temple Bar is home to one of Ireland’s most dynamic arts organisations: the Irish Film Institute.

Showing indie and critically acclaimed movies, as well as old classics in a vintage setting, the IFI is one of my favourite cinemas in Dublin. It also has a café if you want to treat yourself before your film starts—a great place to relax after a long day out and about in the city.

Prints, Stationery and Craft: Find Authentic Souvenirs to Bring Home

Shopping for souvenirs is a great thing to do in Temple Bar. As you might imagine, the area is not short of tacky souvenir shops selling cheap mugs and green socks. Beyond that, Temple Bar is home to some unique and independent stores worth your time and money.

Jam Art Factory, Temple Bar

In Temple Bar, Jam Art Factory has opened a tiny shop in Crown Alley dedicated to Irish art and design. The store showcases local artists through original prints, ceramics, and jewellery that will make you forget about any cheap, made-in-China Leprechaun hats. A print from Jam Art Factory that perfectly captures the spirit of the Wild Atlantic Way now hangs proudly in my home, reminding me of the good times on the surfboard. If, like me, you are a self-confessed notebook addict, you will love Jam Art Factory’s beautifully crafted, vintage notebooks made in Ireland.

Design Lane, Craft Shop in Temple Bar, Dublin

If you are interested in more unique gifts, Design Lane in Temple Bar is one of Dublin’s best craft shops to explore. Located on Essex Street West, the shop showcases over 40 Irish artists and designers in one retail space. From prints to clothing, jewellery to knitwear, Design Lane offers a wide range of locally made products to bring home.

Visit Temple Bar’s Art Galleries

Overlooking Meeting House Square can be found Photo Museum Ireland. Self-described as “the national centre for contemporary photography in Ireland”, the gallery houses exhibitions accessible for free (yep, don’t be shy, climb up those stairs) and a bookshop that would delight any modern photography enthusiast.

At the corner of Temple Bar Square is Temple Bar Gallery and Studios. Housed in what used to be a disused shirt factory, Temple Bar Gallery helped establish Temple Bar’s reputation as a cultural hub since its foundation in 1983. The building is the artistic home of 30 artists and holds an exhibition space accessible for free showcasing contemporary art. 

Temple Bar Gallery, Dublin

Treat Yourself With Something Sweet

Another must-do in Temple Bar is to stop by the iconic Queen of Tarts. Truly ‘iconic’? Yes, everybody in Dublin knows Queen of Tarts or has heard about it. This is the comfy place you go with friends to indulge in coffee and delicious treats (while ranting about life at the office). The menu is filled with hard-to-choose, mouth-watering crumbles, tarts and cheesecakes. And the brownies! Did I mention the brownies? You get the picture. The quirky café can be found on Cow’s Lane.

Queen of Tarts, Dublin

Another place that causes my glucose to spike is the weekly Temple Bar Food Market. Every Saturday, local food producers take over Meeting House Square in the heart of Temple Bar. And that’s where things get slightly blurry to me. After numerous attempts to evade homemade brownies (again!), giant strawberry scones, fresh cheesecakes, Nutella crêpes and more, I inevitably surrender to my sugar addiction. 

More treats at:
KC Peaches – Dame Street

Enjoy a Live Art Performance at the Project Arts Centre

Its striking blue facade cannot be ignored. On Essex Street East stands a very modern building, home of one of Ireland’s leading multidisciplinary arts centres: the Project Arts Centre.

The centre is the venue for various festivals including Dublin Dance Festival, Dublin Theatre Festival, Dublin Fringe Festival, and various performances all year long. The Project Arts Centre is at the forefront of creative innovation in Ireland. Its calendar is worth checking out if you want to be surprised and inspired during your trip to Dublin.

As you can see, there are plenty of things to do in Temple Bar that don’t involve overpriced pints of beer or trinkets made in China. Dublin’s cobblestone streets have become the city’s cultural quarter, with galleries, music venues, and theatres to enjoy after a delicious meal or snack in the neighbourhood. Beyond its image as a tourist trap, Temple Bar is a world unto itself, catering to art lovers, vintage aficionados, and foodies.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on a link, I earn a little money at no extra cost to you.

Celtic Wanderlust Travel Blog
About the Author

I’m Chris, a travel blogger – and a history graduate – living the Celtic experience.

I moved to Ireland 15 years ago, and I’ve been wandering Europe’s westernmost lands ever since, from Scotland to Brittany, delving into their exhilarating history and unforgettable traditions.

Join me on this adventure and experience the rich history, unique cultures, and hidden places that the Celtic regions have to offer.

Learn more about me.


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