The ancient city district known as The Liberties, with its discount stores, street hawkers and antique dealers, has a raw vitality and charm that some describe as "the real Dublin".
Visitor Attractions in the Liberties
Many visitor attractions and important buildings are located in or around the Liberties area. Visitors could explore the area by foot, and a good starting point is Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin's most important church, burial place of Strongbow, with some magnificent underground crypts.
Next to Christ Church is the entertaining Dublinia Viking Museum. About 300 metres south of these buildings is the impressive St. Patrick's Cathedral. Next to St. Patrick's is Marsh's Library, one of the oldest libraries in Europe, which looks much as it did when it opened in 1705.
From there, it is a short walk along The Coombe to Francis Street, which contains over a dozen arts and antiques dealers, and has become known as Dublin's arts and antiques quarter.
Along Francis Street, you will find the Tivoli Theatre, which is one of Dublin's main venues for live theatre and entertainment --- particularly stand-up comedy.
Francis Street emerges onto Thomas Street, where you will find John's Lane Church --- a charming building, mostly overlooked by those who continue past the array of friendly inner city characters on this busy street, to the Guinness Storehouse.
While the Liberties of today strives for urban regeneration, in the middle ages, this was an elite place to live.
Located just outside the ancient city walls (of which little remains), the Liberties is in fact made up of a number of townlands. They got their names because the people who lived in these townlands, being outside the city jurisdiction, gained certain exemptions or privileges --- a tradition that began in the 12th century. For example, the region known as the Liberty of St. Sepulchure had its own court of justice. The other main district that made up what is today known as the Liberties was the Liberty of Thomas Court and Donore.
At certain points in the middle ages, some Liberties districts became wealthy due to export trade and weaving crafts. In particular, The Coombe benefited from a weaving industry that had been founded by French aristocrats who were fleeing the Revolution.
The rights and privileges enjoyed by the Liberties finally ended in 1840. From that point on, the once prosperous homes gradually transitioned into low-cost housing tenements for the unemployed and destitute.
In the mid 20th century, large tracts of this district were cleared for low-cost housing.
In more recent years, a massive urban redevelopment scheme has been met with opposition on the grounds that the character of the city's oldest surviving areas will be destroyed. Despite some development, more ambitious plans were shelved when they failed to get underway before the county's Celtic Tiger economic boom of the early 2000s turned to bust in 2008.
Local butcher in the Liberties talks about the importance of tradition
The Liberties Today
The Liberties is a much-cherished part of Dublin's culture and heritage. As well as the visitor attractions mentioned above, some of the more important places in the Liberties are the National College of Art and Design, the Digital Skills Academy and the Iveagh Market.
People in the Liberties are among the friendliest people in Dublin. If you are walking along the streets in the Liberties, or visiting a pub, be sure to engage a local in a conversation -- you will have an authentic experience. People from the Liberties are interested in visitors, and like to talk!
Note: The Liberties is an inner city area. While it is generally safe, there is not much for tourists to do here at night, (unless you are going to the Tivoli Theatre).
Communion Shop in The Liberties. Image: William Murphy