Portobello developed as a small suburb south of the city of Dublin beginning in the 18th century, with Richmond St. as its epicenter. Over the course of the next couple hundred years, it was completely developed as an area of private estates and open land gave way to solid red-bricked Victorian buildings for the middle class residents (on the larger streets), and terraced housing facing the Grand Canal for the poorer and working classes. Along with a population influx, ushered by a demand for housing and immigrants entering the neighborhood, housing development in Portobello became a necessity. Stout brick buildings could be erected quickly and filled with tenants at a relatively low cost. Today, an abandoned and dilapidated hospital building is closed off to the public, but stands as a remnant of the neighborhood’s more impoverished demographic.
As we adventured through Portobello, we decided to stop in two different bars that are well-known within the area. The first was called The Bernard Shaw: Located on Richmond Street, this pub was directly on our way to Portobello, so we had to stop in. At first, it was difficult to tell what type of audience The Bernard Shaw would attract because it looks rundown and older, but there are also many murals and paintings outside that gave it a younger vibe. In general, we may have judged too quickly. It has kept its older appearance, but inside there were posters for events ranging from rock music to disco dancing, crazily painted walls, a young bar staff, pool tables, and even a blue bus outside that you could drink in. It had so much character. AND they sell pizza, what more could you ask for?
The next place we went to was called the Bello Bar which was more of a mini concert venue than a bar. It’s located under The Lower Deck on Portobello Harbour, and it’s only open two days a week.
First of all, a bar under a bar? How cool is that! When you walk in, there is an area where the bands play and in front of that is an open space that allows people to dance. Behind the dance space, there is “The Sitting Room” where there are multiple tables and chairs that give people a place to listen to music and enjoy a beer. Overall, the setup is great. The interior is also unique; it is dimly lit with plenty of funky decor and comfy couches. This was a fun one to go in and check out. While we did not get to hear a performance, it was obvious that this was a cool and unique venue that everyone must visit.
Portobello boasts a uniquely diverse take on Dublin’s history. As a neighborhood that has always held predominantly immigrant demographics, Portobello has a rich past of cultures meeting. In particular, it is known for a historically thriving Jewish population, which gave Portobello its title of “Little Jerusalem.” Today, the area has also become the center of a growing Muslim demographic, and is home to the Dublin Mosque and Islamic Foundation of Ireland (housed in a former church building). The melding of histories and people shows in Portobello. Among the new wave food carts, farmer’s markets and modernized bars, you’ll still find a kebab shop on nearly every block.
Click here to read about The Bretzel – Portobello’s Jewish bakery