If you’re anything like me and binge-read ‘Normal People’ on an aimless Tuesday just to feel something, here are three hidden locations you should visit in Dublin on your next reading week trip to make you feel like you’re in a Sally Rooney Novel. Amongst the city’s major tourist attractions, such as Temple Bar, Guinness Storehouse, St. Stephen’s Green, Liffey River, or Grafton Street (thanks to Ed Sheeran’s “Galway Girl”), there are a handful of relatively unknown/overlooked locations that make Dublin truly magical.
- Love Lane
Buried in the lively streets in the heart of Dublin, ‘Love Lane’ is a hidden alley behind Temple Bar brimming with book quotes, poetry, lyrics from love songs, and beautiful art murals by local artists. The lane used to be a sketchy back lane in the city’s famous Temple Bar district until, in 2014, the Dublin City Council, in collaboration with Temple Bar Company, devised an idea to clean up the lanes and send in local artists to create an open-air gallery. Artist Anna Doran hand-crafted each tile, engraved hearts with stencils, and called it a “tribute to love.” In terms of finding Love Lane, it’s seriously not as easy to find as you might think. (I walked past the alley a total of 6 times before I found it). The best way to find it is to start in the centre of Temple Bar and at the crossroads between Parliament Street and Essex Gate; walk east on Essex Lane towards Crane Lane. When you get to Crampton Court, Dublin 2, on the right-hand side, look for a dodgy-looking lane (there are a couple of these), but don’t be disheartened if you can’t find it at first–it’s completely worth the pursuit. The first time I visited the lane, I found it by accident when visiting my sister in Dublin last year. It’s so hidden that once you find it, you have it all to yourself, the lit-up alley walls enclosing around you like a warm embrace. Once you’ve carefully read the poems embedded into each tile, cried a little (or a lot), and observed the vibrant paint soaked into the cement walls, you can walk away with a little piece of Dublin fused into your memories.
My favourite quote here is by Salley Rooney in ‘Normal People,’ “I’m not a religious person, but sometimes I think God made you for me.” For those of you who have read this masterpiece of a novel, you’ll know what I mean when you get to the last few pages of the book and cling to them, hoping they’ll fuse into your memories forever. Being in Love Lane brought me back to those last few pages–I never wanted to leave.
- The Rooftop Garden Temple Bar
Located in Fitzsimons Temple Bar, there is a hidden rooftop garden at the very top of the stairs. It’s a bit of a trek up four flights of stairs (especially when you’re a few drinks in), but it’s completely worth the view. It is the perfect area to get fresh air on a night out or to bask in the sun during the day. The string lights and lush garden make it the ideal location for a relaxed evening to enjoy the views of the Temple Bar below while sipping on a rich, creamy glass of Guinness. Given it being Dublin’s only open-air bar that’s heated all year round, you’re sure to spend hours chatting with your friends, enjoying live music and traditional Irish dishes like ‘beer battered fish’ or ‘beef and Guinness stew.’ The rooftop has plenty of painted picnic benches, so you don’t have to worry about searching for seating the whole night. If you’re looking for a romantic spot to talk and drink an evening away, The Rooftop Garden at Temple Bar may be the next hide-away spot in Dublin you fall in love with.
- Psychic Reading at George’s Street Arcade
First opened in 1881, George Street’s Arcade is a marketplace that is the oldest “shopping centre” in Ireland, characterised by its elegant Victorian red-brick exterior. It’s filled with independent vendors selling antique books, dainty jewellery, delicacy foods, original artwork, vintage clothes, and more. Amidst the unique little shops, a cardboard box-looking booth reads, “TAROT READINGS.” If you’re superstitious like me and looking for a sign, this is your pot of gold. I have a terrible habit of looking twice whenever I see the words “psychic” and would, unfortunately, gladly spend 50 euros on a stranger declaring my love life for me without batting an eye. I visited this psychic two years ago on my seventeenth birthday. During this time, I felt completely out of control with the trajectory of my life. Honestly, I probably should have seen a shrink instead of a psychic at the time. Nevertheless, I will remember what he said for the rest of my life. This may sound ridiculous, but my experience with the Irish psychic truly changed the perspective of my life. I won’t get into the details, but it’s safe to say that my thirty-minute session with this strange Irish man curbed my cravings for psychic readings indefinitely. If you’re feeling a little lost or in desperate need of a good story, this hidden gem is the cherry on top of the Dublin experience.
Whether you’re a local Dubliner or planning your next weekend trip, these are my top three locations in Dublin that you may not have heard of before. As a frequent flyer to Dublin, I often visit these special spots and, each time, fall in love with the city even more–it makes sense why Sally Rooney sets most of her novels in Dublin. I hope these hidden cracks in the city imprint onto your soul in ways you never imagined they would.
“Life offers up these moments of joy despite everything.”
― Sally Rooney, Normal People