The areas around St. Stephen’s Green, Fitzwilliam Square and Merrion Square are what’s known as the city’s Georgian Quarter, with buildings retaining much of the original palatial architectural style as when they were originally constructed during the 18th Century rule of King George.
Merrion Square is one of Dublin’s largest and grandest Georgian squares and well worth a visit when you’re in Dublin. You’d be following in the footsteps of famous people like Oscar Wilde and Daniel O’Connell.
Before 1748, when the Duke of Kildare moved to a grand-ducal palace on the south side of the Liffey, the aristocratic population of Dublin was found mainly on the northside of Dublin around Mountjoy and Parnell Square. However, once the Duke’s palace (now the Irish Parliament building) was built, the city’s elite followed, and plans were made to construct three new squares now known as Merrion Square, Fitzwilliam Square and St. Stephen’s Green.
Merrion Square began development in 1762, with the large central lawns now known as Merrion Square Park. Famous residents of Merrion Square include Oscar Wilde – who’s former-home (No. 1) is now a dedicated attraction; Oscar Wilde House, WB Yeats who lived at No. 82 and Daniel O’Connell at No. 58, which is now named the O’Connell House and is home to the Keough Naughton Centre.
Over the years, the move of Dublin’s elite from the north to the south of the river led to the city’s north and south divide, still seen to this day. With the Protestant aristocrats remaining on the south of the river, their former sought after residences on the north of the Liffey became occupied by the predominantly Catholic middle and lower class.
The grandeur of Merrion Square and its surrounding areas has retained its air of sophistication to this day, populated by upscale bars, Michelin star restaurants and five-star hotels—making it a popular area for Dublin’s modern elite, and those looking for a more refined evening out.
Things to See in Merrion Square
Merrion Square Park
Merrion Square Park is one of Dublin’s largest grand parks, these beautiful lawns were formerly private gardens for the residents of the square but were opened to the public in the 1970s, providing a relaxing retreat from city life.
In the park, you will find the famous statue of Oscar Wilde as well as other statues of commemoration such as the statue of Brian Boru, the last High King of Ireland. Given his prominence as a medieval Irish figure, his iconic harp became the national emblem of Ireland—claimed by the Guinness family as the trademark for their brewery in 1862 and adorning Irish euro coins.
National Gallery of Ireland
The National Gallery of Ireland is located in the centre of Merrion Square. Dating back to 1854, this is a must-see for anyone interested in art or history, as the gallery holds some of the most notable Irish and European artworks from the 14th to the 19th Century.
The gallery is free admission and hosts many daily talks and tours.
Best Restaurants and Bars Around Merrion Square
The Davenport Hotel
The Davenport’s recently refurbished restaurant is ideally located, a stone’s throw from Merrion Square. A stunning Georgian building on the outside, and elegant modern decor inside, the Davenport is the perfect place to enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner or even a spot of afternoon tea.
One of Merrion Square’s top award-winning restaurants—if you’re looking for a fine dining experience, this underground gem won’t disappoint. Serving modern French cuisine in an elegant atmosphere, this is a great place for those on the hunt for a less than ordinary meal.
Famous for its tasty Sunday lunch, this quaint bar is located just off Baggot Street, a few minutes walk from Merrion Square—perfect for some cheap and cheerful pub grub. Gracing a host of celebrities over the years, McGrattan’s may be tucked away from the crowd, but it definitely attracts its fair share of people looking for nice food, or a quiet drink with the locals.
The Cellar Bar
Former 18th Century wine vaults, this dimly lit cocktail bar with exposed bricks and oak-lined walls, has endless character and charm. Great for wine, cocktails or a delicious lunch or dinner from their all-day gastropub menu.
The Alex Hotel
Modern, chic and away from the crowd. The Alex’s sophisticated decor and delicious selection of drinks will suit every taste. In keeping with Merrion Square’s relaxed, sophisticated vibe, a few after-dinner cocktails in this trendy spot is the perfect end to any evening.
The Gingerman Pub
One of Dublin’s most famous pubs, especially around Christmas, where their over-the-top decorations attract bustling crowds, the busy Gingerman bar is great for mingling with many a stranger over casual drinks, while also offering a delicious pub grub menu.
Places for Coffee and Brunch
Hansel and Gretel Bakery
Baking some of the most decadent pastries and cakes in the city, the key is certainly in the name. For those of you with a sweet tooth, this little coffee spot is too good to miss!
Located about a ten-minute walk from Merrion Square, at the top of Dawson Street, this place will hit the spot for any foodie. Enjoy a delicious selection of breakfast, lunch and brunch with an amazing combination of flavours and great coffee to boot. Not only is Tang’s food delicious, it’s a top spot for any Instagram food fanatic—each meal looking far too good to eat.