Rathgar is a sleepy, aspired-to suburb in the south of Dublin, and a great local-feeling spot to base yourself on any trip to the capital. Its wide streets and classy accommodations are reflective of the city’s recent economic success, but also of its long history of south-of-the-river opulence and mellow, memorable corners. There aren’t ‘big draws’ in Rathgar, as such, but there is plenty to uncover if you know where to look. Here are our favourite corners of one of Dublin’s priciest postcodes.
Explore a city wildlife haven in the Dodder Park
This strip of parkland along one of Dublin’s rivers is home to a fishing club (contact Dodder Anglers about any opportunities to fish yourself) but is best known for its surprisingly abundant wildlife. Regulars along the narrow river include herons, sparrowhawk, foxes, kingfishers and plenty of types of fish. Incredibly, a grenade from 1919 was found in the river just a year ago and had to be detonated, but this is usually the most serene of city corners.
This tiny urban square has quite an interesting if sedate history. Dublin’s first bowls club started here, for example (it’s moved to Rathmines now, but retains the name ‘Kenilworth’), and the bookseller Charles Eason, who founded the still-popular national chain that bears his surname, was once a resident. Houses here regularly go for multiple millions of euros, and reflect the decorative Victorian era in which the majority were built. A quiet, atmospheric stop off.
Explore Rathgar Village
Neighbouring Rathmines might be a touch more fashionable, but Rathgar is enviably classy, and has lots of village-like local spots to explore. Kanem (Thai) and Mahek (Indian) are the area’s more international eateries, and both exude flavour. The Flower Bowl is an extravagant local florist worth sticking your head in through the door just for the scent. The Revolution offers family-friendly dining, and Runzone is a haven for athletes. Finish at Comans Pub, which is a local institution.
Check out the cocktails at Beckett and Bull
Beckett and Bull is a laid back and trendy eatery that serves up relatively simple but high-quality food with lots of cocktails on the side. Claiming to blend New York and Ireland (though we suspect only the design is really all that New York-ish), they serve up that millennial favourite avocado toast, as well as blue cheese wings, fish and chips and craft beers. The cocktail menu is vast (including the classic baby Guinness), and the buzz relaxed.
This small local chain is the perfect stop-off for a cake, bread or some spectacular hampers, but it’s their occasional demonstrations to really watch out for. Butler’s Pantry‘s demos might delve into anything from stew to cakes, and serve as a great introduction to cooking with Irish ingredients. They’re a fantastic stop-off for short-term guests in Airbnb-style accommodation, too, as they serve up a ready-to-cook selection of menus that save waste and make your life easy when you get in from a day of exploring. Keep an eye out for their regular recipes on the website.
‘Diner-style’ meals are largely replaced by ‘pub grub’ in Ireland, making this particular Americanised institution an Irish rarity, if a large, chain one. Eddie Rockets is very much like an upmarket McDonald’s meets a top-tier roadside diner, complete with jukeboxes, milkshakes, faux-American outfits for the waiters and waitresses, and prices are substantially higher than you’d get on the other side of the pond. They make an excellent burger, though, and edge close enough to the American mainstay that they might cure a bit of homesickness. That, and it’s good clean fun.
Just outside Rathgar, in neighbouring Rathmines, you’ll find the home of Leinster Cricket, the successful provincial team that played a key role in gaining Ireland the ultimate international recognition recently: test status. Cricket is still very much a minority sport in Ireland, which means getting close to the stars is easy, and high-quality contests can have audiences of no more than a few dozen. At the height of the summer, single-day games (yes, ‘proper’ cricket lasts up to five days) can involve barbeques and beers in the clubhouse, but most of the time this is a relatively lonely glance at a sadly neglected (but fast-growing) elite sport in Ireland. Very much a ‘watch this space’ scenario.