One of the more charming characteristics of Dublin’s city centre is how little you have to walk to leave the hustle of Temple Bar for a leafier and calmer experience. As city hopper buses bump into each other through the streets of Dublin’s core, you’d only need to walk 20 minutes in any direction away from the noise to find areas of nature and greenery. As the city balances on the River Liffey, taking a stroll south to another waterway brings a side of Dublin a little less busy and a lot more pretty.
The Grand Canal is one of two canals that connect Dublin to the west of Ireland, stretching 132km to connect to the River Shannon. Of this vast stretch, the quaintest step of the route sits in Ballsbridge, an affluent area of south Dublin, where the canal wraps around the city beautifully, with looming trees and reeds sprouting from the banks.
For folks staying centrally, the Luas over ground train heading south on the green Line will drop you off at Charlemont, right next to the canal. On a sunny day, turning left towards The Barge pub you will see often hundreds of locals, socialising outside and sitting on the concrete walls in conversation, whilst swans watch on from the water. If the time is not quite appropriate for a social drink, then we skip the barge and head straight to Leeson Street, past the wooden boardwalk. The vantage point of walking directly next to the water, whilst somehow heading upwards to the next point is a real treat.
Once we get to the exit at Leeson Street, we reach the ‘Instaworthy’ photo opportunity. The canal goes under many a bridge, but this one is elevated nicely to give you the perfect view of trees that arch either side of the water, looming to give the canal a frame of branches. Tucked away near the bridge down Sussex Road is 3fe, an independent coffee company that operates a small stall out of an old garage. They offer an array of vegan-friendly cakes and treats, as well as the best flat white coffee in the city. I advise to take one to accompany you back to the canal to Baggot Street.
The left side of the canal is away from the road, so you can take in the walk without the traffic noise, but when the crossing of a small wooden footpath invites you back across, we take it to sit next to Patrick Kavanagh. The poet, known for his work on everyday Irishness, is commemorated here in the form of a statue locked to a bench, contemplating the canal. Take a seat with him before you move on.
The pathway leads up and away from the banks to Baggot Street, well-known amongst sport's fans who would crowd here before heading to the Aviva Stadium, home of the national teams of Football and Rugby. Just over the street, we take a short detour away to Percy Place where Angelina’s is waiting. The New York-styled restaurant is the jewel of D4, and although the décor is as impressive as the food, the outside decking area that sits just above the canal is where the real beauty is. Take a blanket, order the steak and relax on the terrace of one of south Dublin’s best-kept secrets.
From Percy Place, we get back to the canal path and head towards the docks. Grand Canal Dock is known as the home of Google’s Headquarters, as well as the Bord Gais Theatre and dozens of great bars and restaurants. As the canal path breaks at Grand Canal Street Upper, there’s a great view of the curve of the Aviva Stadium mentioned earlier. This particular point of view shows the curves and bends of the building, which although not the largest, surely one of the most visually impressive stadiums in Europe.
Walking down the side street of Clanwilliam Terrace, under the tunnel, will then lead us to the docks. The iconic red poles of Grand Canal Square, designed by Martha Schwartz, illuminate the area at night and forms the heart of the docks. From here, the canal has ended to a halt of plenty of options for entertainment. But, as today has been all about the views, the best one in the city is another hidden secret. The Marker Hotel would be a lovely place to stay the night, but we’ll just be sneaking upstairs to the rooftop terrace to enjoy the view of Dublin’s skyline and the hustle of the Grand Canal below.
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