A Students’ Dublin: Phibsboro
Hester Malin gives his take on living in Phibsboro
Please believe me when I say that dropping the terms “post-truth” or “gentrification” into conversations with your mates over pints will not increase your street (liberal elite) credibility. However, much to my own dismay, extensive time on Thesaurus.com could not provide me with an alternative to the overused “gentrified” – which is, in truth, the only word to describe the area that is my current home district: Phibsboro.
Walking past the copious amounts of cheap take-away places and a suspicious amount of massage parlours, my BESS roommate explains rather defensively that Phibsboro is a really “up and coming area” and “gentrification gentrification gentrification”. It turns out that the phrase “up and coming” can apply to a very, very slow process of many years. How far “up”, and exactly how long it will take to “come”, seems beside the point.
Situated just a stone’s throw away from the entrance to Mountjoy and opposite the entrance to the Mater Hospital’s mortuary, our house is perfectly located close to all the local amenities. Despite my opening negativity, it’s worth emphasising that Phibsboro is, for all intents and purposes, a brilliant place to live as a student. Though I had initial hesitations, it has come to be my home. Being only a 25-minute walk from the city centre and near the other student areas of Glasnevin and Drumcondra, Phibsboro has an ideal location, as well as boasting everything a student could possibly need. Starting with alcohol.
“While it may not be up to the likes of Shoreditch or the Lower East side quite yet, you’ll still want to jump on the bandwagon of students decamping to Phibsboro.”
The Back Page, situated just a small walk from the centre of the district, offers brunch from 10am and craft beer and pizza until late. The prices, although not completely student-friendly, are reasonable for a nice beer and a place to hang out. If you’re out in Phibsboro after the toll of the last-order bell, head down to McGowan’s, open till 3am and known for its grotty underage drinking and “these pints must be watered down they’re so cheap” vibe. Alternatively, both The Hut and Doyle’s lie firmly in the centre of the Phibsboro intersection. Although these locations are a fine place for a casual drink, they’re full of a much older crowd. Still, worth a shot for an “authentic Dublin pint”.
“In 2016, PhizzFest began, paving the way for increased creativity and culture.”
After the ice rink closed in 2000, many residents turned to each other at a loss. There is also the ugly 60s-style concrete shopping centre, which has been there for many years. But fear not – in March last year the property was resold and is scheduled to be developed into a modern, and hopefully more attractive, building.
In 2016, PhizzFest began, paving the way for increased creativity and culture. This local community arts festival holds comedy events, visual arts, theatre and more. For your weekly shop, there’s a large Tesco on the main street, and many small newsagents. Thunders Home Bakery and Cremore bakery both offer that quaint community feel where one can buy a weekly loaf or grab a homemade cake locally.
With the new Luas line planned with a stop at Phibsboro, the other side of Dublin will be in easy reach by the end of this year. And so with everything from dry cleaners, opticians, a local hospital, cobblers and both Ulster Bank and Bank of Ireland, you can’t complain that it doesn’t have the useful stuff.
“A few quirky shops add to the particular allure of the place.”
For a poor-in-funds and rich-in-time student, Phibsboro is genuinely the place to be. With more than five different charity shops, you can kit out your new “vintage” wardrobe for cheap and find interesting garments in the process.
A few quirky shops add to the particular allure of the place. Home’s offers everything from DIY to shower caps to Christmas decorations. Just next to it you find the wittily named Second Hand Store, which I personally like to think is a postmodern gesture towards the middle-class urban renewal of cheap second-hand stores, but in reality the sign was cheap. It’s hard to pin down this shop, which predominantly offers silk rugs for anything from 15 to 200 quid, but you’ll also find genuine 19th-century china, a rogue knock-off oxygen mask and postcards from Thailand for fifty cents a pop.
A cosy arts and crafts shop can also be spotted. Inside, there’s a warehouse piled high with strange old hotel furniture, and a store dedicated primarily to radiators. Pottering around these shops can be the perfect way to spend a Saturday away from the nightmare that is Henry Street. Just remember to bring cash.
“You know that if more than two cafes start to offer almond milk and vegan pizza, the students will come running.”
Phibsboro may not be known for its strip of Prada and Chanel shops, nor is it a hub of cultural museums and galleries. But what it does have, which has won coffee awards and the hearts of new-age yuppies alike, is Two Boys Brew. Always busy and bustling, the Two Boys Brew cafe offers delicious brewed take-away coffee, phenomenal brunches, and the bohemian, starving artist atmosphere which we’re all desperately craving.
Bang Bang, an elderly Dublin gentleman who apparently used a large church key to “shoot” at people, has bequeathed his name to a hip and happening deli and coffee shop. You know that if more than two cafes start to offer almond milk and vegan pizza, the students will come running. Phibsboro isn’t short on easy and familiar eats, either. It’s also home to a Camille, an Eddie Rockets and a McDonalds. With this huge array of different culinary styles and secrets, one must question when the Michelin stars will come rolling into the area.
It may not always be sunny in Phibsboro, but with its grungy atmosphere (read: hipster), eclectic shops (read: vintage stores) and a mixture of people young and old, you’ll find that this is the place to be as a student. While it may not be up to the likes of Shoreditch or the Lower East side quite yet, you’ll still want to jump on the bandwagon of students decamping to Phibsboro, which is cruising its way to gentrification station as we speak.