A History of Dublin’s Grafton Street
Situated close to Merrion Square and the other prestigious areas of the city centre, Grafton Street was traditionally the stomping ground for Dublin’s elite, with luxury department stores such as Brown Thomas and Weir’s Jewellers, first opening in the mid 1800’s. Today both stores still stand as jewels in the crown of Dublin’s wealthy shopping district. The prestigious Brown Thomas department store moved to its current location on Grafton Street in the mid 1990’s, where its iconic window displays have become an integral part of the street’s charm, particularly around Christmas-time.
Once strictly a playground for the rich and noble, the street became a more accessible place of leisure to the city’s less affluent inhabitants with the opening of the renowned Bewley’s Cafe in 1927, by Bewley’s China Tea Company. Since then, Bewley’s became one of Dublin’s most iconic landmarks, retaining much of its original oriental inspired decor, including the impressive stained glass windows by artist Harry Clarke in 1931. The cafe underwent an extensive multi million euro refurbishment in 2015 which led to the closing of the cafe for two years. In 2017, the reopening of the much loved and missed cafe was described as “a gift back to Dublin”. While you can expect a slightly more expensive price tag than your average coffee shop, a trip to Bewley’s cafe is a cultural experience worth paying for.
Today, Grafton Street has somewhat maintained its more elite status over the years, compared with Henry Street, Dublin’s other main shopping district on the north side of the river. On weekends and evenings, the buzzing shopping district regularly attracts a host of buskers and street acts on most weekends and evenings—where the likelihood of earning cash is higher than on Henry Street, given the throngs of tourists and wealthier status of shoppers.
Pedestrianisation of Grafton Street
Up until the mid-1980s, traffic on Grafton Street was just as congested as any other part of the city—a strange concept for the younger generations, who have only known the street since its pedestrianisation.
In 1982, Grafton Street was pedestrianised to create a calmer streetscape, increase shopper footfall and attract more large chain stores capable of paying exclusive rent prices.
Where to Eat Near Grafton Street
Gourmet Burger Kitchen – Situated just beside Grafton Street on the busy South Anne Street, this is a great spot for a casual lunch or dinner at affordable prices. On a sunny day, the outdoor seating provides a great opportunity to watch the hundreds of passers-by, while indulging in a delicious burger.
Carluccio’s Italian Restaurant – This busy Italian restaurant on Dawson Street is a real crowd-pleaser. The food is affordable and very tasty, with great portion sizes so you won’t go hungry!
The Port House Tapas Bar – Located on South William Street, just a few minutes walk from Grafton Street, the Port House is an authentic Spanish tapas restaurant located in an underground cave, with exposed stone walls and a beautiful candlelit atmosphere. The quality of food and wine in the Port House is top notch, but it is very popular, so we would advise booking a table in advance.
The Ivy – Sitting in pride of place on Dawson Street, the Ivy is a trendy brasserie-style restaurant, popular with Dublin’s modern elite who come to enjoy delicious food in stunning modern surroundings. Its esteemed status and beautiful decor also make this a perfect socialising spot for the city’s social media influencers.
WILDE – Located on Grafton Street, Wilde specialises in fine cuisine made from only fresh Irish produce. Decorated in a 1930’s vintage glamour style, the beautiful surroundings accompanied by exquisite food will take you into what feels like a scene from an old Hollywood movie.
Marco Pierre White – One of Marco Pierre White’s two Michelin Star restaurants in Dublin; the location on Dawson street is an up-scale steakhouse serving a varied grill style menu. While the decor is more muted than the other two restaurants mentioned above, it doesn’t take away from the incredible quality of food guaranteed to be served.
Best Bars Near Grafton Street
Peruke & Periwig – This Victorian style cocktail bar and restaurant is elegantly decorated from head to toe in traditional Victorian decor. Everything from the floral carpets to the dimly lit oil burning lamps dotted around the bar will take you back in time. Paired with an incredible selection of mouth-watering drinks, you’ll quickly forget exactly which era you’re in!
Kehoe’s – The place to be for a pint and great atmosphere, Kehoe’s is a homely bar just off Grafton Street, which feels as comforting as sitting in your Granny’s living room. A popular spot almost every night of the week, you won’t be short of people to mingle with.
Cafe en Seine – Situated on the prestigious Dawson Street, Cafe en Seine aims to transport you to the chic streets of Paris. Decorated like a small Parisian street, and serving delicious cocktails and food—an evening in Cafe en Seine is not to be missed.