Grafton Street is Dublin's premier and most stylish shopping street. Running from St. Stephen's Green to the front entrance of Trinity College, the pedestrians-only street features Dublin's most exclusive department store, Brown Thomas. In 2008 --- the final year of Ireland's "Celtic Tiger" financial boom period --- Grafton Street was the fifth most expensive shopping street in the world. The street is 200 yards / 180 metres long. Many smaller alleyways and side-streets branch off Grafton and are filled with dozens of independent shops, flower sellers, and some of the south side's favourite pubs, such as Neary's and Bruxelles.
A Street Filled With Music
Throughout the year, buskers and other street performers can be found on Grafton Street, entertaining the passers-by. In spring and summer months, however, the number of street performers gradually increases, and they are dotted along both sides of the street. The exciting beat of drums, and the melodic chorus of whistles, pipes and strings fill the air, as musicians, magicians, poets and mime artists perform their acts for the shopping crowds.
Another famous landmark is Bewley's Oriental Café at No. 78. The Bewley family were Quakers from France, who moved to Ireland in the 18th century and entered the tea trade and in 1835. The Grafton Street cafe was the third in the chain (the first, on Westmoreland Street, is now a Starbucks). The most impressive feature of the Bewley's Grafton Street Cafe are the six large and magnificent stained-glass windows that flank the tables in the main coffee shop area. The windows were designed by Irish artist Harry Clarke, in the final year of his life, 1931.
Bewley's Cafe Theatre
Upstairs, the Bewley Cafe Theatre is an intimate lunchtime and evening venue that offers comedy, jazz, and cabaret in the evening. Doors for lu 12.50pm. Lunchtime shows are typically one-acts, and feature innovative, emerging drama. Evening gigs typically feature comedy, jazz, cabaret or acoustic performances. A popular eating and meeting hotspot, the theatre serves affordable light lunches, a full evening bar, and offers nice views out on Grafton Street.
Molly Malone Statue
Grafton Street is famous for its statue of Molly Malone, the famous street trader, who had a song named after her.
Note: the Molly Malone statue has been temporarily moved to nearby Andrew Street, due to construction of a tram line. The monument is expected to be returned to Grafton Street before the end of 2017.
There is no evidence to suggest that Molly Malone was real. Although the song does not suggest it, many representations depict Molly Malone as being a fish-trader by day, while freelancing as a prostitute by night. This bronze statue keeps with that tradition, as the life-sized, ample-chested Molly wears a noticeably low-cut dress while pushing her wheelbarrow of fish. Created by Cork-based sculptor Jeanne Rynhart, the statue was commissioned to celebrate Dublin's millennium in 1988. Read more about the Molly Malone statue.
The Origin of Grafton Street
The street was named after Henry FitzRoy, the first Duke of Grafton, who was the illegitimate son of Charles II of England. The Duke of Grafton owned land in what was then the countryside near Dublin. His descendants, the Dawsons, went on become one of 18th century Dublin's wealthiest families. In 1708, the Dawsons developed a merchant street on what was were then country laneway on their Dublin land, and named it after the Duke of Grafton. A parallel street was named Dawson street. However, Grafton Street was prone to flooding when the Liffey burst its banks. It wasn't until O'Connell Bridge --- originally called Charleville Bridge --- was built in 1708, Grafton Street really took off, as there was now a direct link from Dublin's main street -- then called Sackville Street.
Grafton Street. Image by Wynnert