This Budget-Friendly Alternative To A Tourist-Filled Street In Ireland Is Just As Fun

Anyone who's visited Temple Bar in Dublin, Ireland, knows that this bustling promenade is a trending, iconic emblem of Irish culture. Its cobblestone streets have been trodden over by millions of travelers eager to visit the idyllic local attraction. The live music, whiskey reserves, and wealth of history wedged within its historic namesake pub may be your first temptation, but it will cost you a good chunk of your wallet. Instead, consider Capel Street, a charming district on the northern side of Dublin, whose roots date back to the 17th century.

Time Out listed Dublin's Capel Street one of "the coolest streets in the world," comparing it to some of the world's most iconic city centers and plazas, including Gertrude Street in Melbourne, Australia, Newbury Street in Boston, Massachusetts, and Great Western Road in Glasgow, Scotland.

It's not just the vibrant pubs and cultural phenomena permeating this Irish district that make it one of the city's most iconic, underrated attractions. It's every bit of a "locals' spot," housing some of Dublin's best-hidden restaurants, street markets, and trendy cafes. Hidden beyond the red brick walls of its eclectic gift shops and thrift stores is a treasure trove of antique gems teeming with cultural significance.

Unlike Temple Bar, Capel Street is more of a cultural hub than a tourist trap. Visitors to this district can avoid the buzzing crowds of Temple Bar and immerse themselves in an authentic, local perspective of one of Dublin's best-kept secrets

A small street with a rich history

Capel Street wasn't always the vibrant urban promenade it is today. During its earliest days, Capel Street was a residential district, home to some of Dublin's most magnificent 17th-century mansions and manicured gardens. As the city began to evolve, many of the residential homes were renovated into small commerce shops or private trading posts, gradually giving way to the modern-day Capel Street. This historic esplanade was also crafted with intention as part of the expanding city center, linking Ormond Quay in the south to Bolton Street further north. Even its moniker is reminiscent of the country's sacred heritage, as it is named after the first earl of Essex, Arthur Capell.

Capel Street is also the longest traffic-free street in Dublin, dedicating the entire strip to cyclists, wayfarers, and tourists hoping to experience Dublin's greatest asset first-hand. Without the chaos of jumbled traffic overtaking the pavement, Capel Street has transformed into a thriving social hub where locals can enjoy a craft brew on a street corner or attend live performances and street dances right in the heart of this part of town.

Unlike many other parts of the city, money isn't necessarily the primary motive for shop owners on Capel Street. Tucked between the dive bars and vintage boutiques is a selection of nonprofit charity organizations with missions that support the local community. Many secondhand thrift shops and cafes benefit specific demographics and donate a percentage of profits to those with disabilities, for example. 

Best hidden gems on Capel Street

Many of the places on this promenade are up-and-coming establishments with reduced prices and a stronger cultural connection to the locals who own them. Even better, the food served at these exceptional eateries offers guests a unique taste of different local cuisines.

If this Korean eatery wasn't already on your radar, make sure to add it to your Capel Street bucket list. Tucked within the back of an Asian supermarket, White Rabbit is known for its authentic Korean street food. The Korean-style corn dogs are especially popular, each one smothered in melting cheese and crispy breadcrumbs. Of course, their Korean fried rice and cupbaps (Korean street rice bowls) will never fail to satiate your craving for comfort food either.

Like White Rabbit, nearly any local insider's guide will point you to The Black Sheep. Located on the corner of Parnell Street and Capel Street, this trendy pub has it all, from craft beer and bites to stand-up comedy acts. It's one of the Galway Bay Brewery bars, an elite collection of some of Ireland's most esteemed pubs. The Black Sheep has even been named among the "Best Crafty Bars" in Ireland by Best of Ireland Magazine (via Instagram).  

Brother Hubbard sets a new standard for what cozy, Insta-worthy dining should look like. Coated in lush greenery and serving high-end house-baked treats and Middle Eastern-inspired dishes, it's the leading cafe on Capel Street. They cater to eaters of all varieties, including vegans, vegetarians, carnivores, and dairy or gluten intolerants.