Grafton Street

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Grafton Street
Grafton St, Dublin.jpg
South end of Grafton Street
Grafton Street is located in Central Dublin
Grafton Street
Native name Sráid Grafton  (Irish)
Namesake Charles FitzRoy, 2nd Duke of Grafton
Length 500 m (1,600 ft)
Width 12 metres (39 ft)
Location Dublin, Ireland
Postal code D02
Coordinates 53°20′29″N 6°15′37″W / 53.34139°N 6.26028°W / 53.34139; -6.26028Coordinates: 53°20′29″N 6°15′37″W / 53.34139°N 6.26028°W / 53.34139; -6.26028
north end College Green
south end St. Stephen's Green (northwest corner)
Known for shops, Bewley's Oriental Café, busking

Grafton Street (Irish: Sráid Grafton) is one of the two principal shopping streets in Dublin city centre (the other being Henry Street). It runs from St Stephen's Green in the south (at the highest point of the street) to College Green in the north (the lowest point).

The street was developed from a laneway from the early 1700s, and its line was shaped by the now-culverted River Steyne. Initially a fashionable residential street with some commercial activity, the character of Grafton Street changed after it was connected to the Carlisle Bridge and came to form part of a cross-city route. It suffered from dilapidation and prostitution through the 19th century, with several run-down buildings. During the 20th century, it became known for the coffee house Bewley's, mid- and up-market shopping, and as a popular spot for buskers. It has been assessed as one of the most expensive main retail streets in the world on which to rent.


The street was named after Charles FitzRoy, 2nd Duke of Grafton, the illegitimate grandson of King Charles II, who owned land in the area.[1][2]


Early development[edit]

The street was developed from an existing country lane,[3] connecting College Green to St Stephen's Green, which had been worked on by the Dawson family, after whom the parallel Dawson Street is named. It was developed and widened through the early 1700s, starting in 1708.[4] Its line was shaped by the short culverted River Steyne, which rises on one side of St Stephen's Green and flows towards College Green and the Liffey near O'Connell Bridge.[3] In 1712, Dublin Corporation funded a project for the building of a crown causeway.[1]

From its inception, the street held a mixture of residential and commercial development. Advertisements from the 1750s and 1760s describe first-floor apartments featuring a dining room, bedchamber and closet. The street was largely rebuilt in the late 1700s,[5] following the completion of Carlisle Bridge (now O'Connell Bridge) in 1758, spanning the River Liffey, when Grafton Street came to form part of an important north-south thoroughfare.[1] This was supplemented by the widening and rebuilding which took place as part of the work of the Wide Streets Commission, from 1841. By the latter part of the 19th century, the street was primarily commercial in nature.[5]

19th century[edit]

Grafton Street circa 1870

Throughout the 19th century, Grafton Street became increasingly dilapidated. By 1849 several buildings had broken windows that were patched up with paper.[6] During this time, it became known for prostitution; in the 1870s, 1,500 prostitutes were reputed to work the street.[7] In 1870, there were 3,255 arrests for prostitution, compared to 2,183 in London and 1,617 in Manchester. Despite complaints that the street was "impassable to virtuous women", Dublin tour guides continued to mention it as a fashionable place to visit. By the turn of the 20th century, prostitution had moved to the Montgomery Street ("Monto") area on the other side of the city, somewhat restoring Grafton Street's reputation.[8]

20th and 21st centuries[edit]

As part of a wider set of proposals to rename a number of Dublin streets in 1921, it was proposed that Grafton Street be renamed Grattan Street in a report by the Dublin Corporation street naming committee. This new naming scheme was not implemented.[9] This new name had first been proposed by a columnist in The Irishman newspaper in 1862.[10]

In 1987, a major fire broke out on Grafton Street in premises above two shops. The fire quickly spread through the property, causing significant damage and closing the street. Five people were hospitalised for shock and smoke inhalation.[11]

In 2008, Grafton Street was the fifth most expensive main shopping street in the world, with rental pricing of €5,621/m2/year,[12] and the thirteenth most expensive main shopping street in the world in 2016 at rental pricing of a much lower region of €3,300/m2/year.[13]


By the 1960s, Grafton Street had become congested, with the street full of cars and buses, causing serious pollution.[14] The pedestrianisation of Grafton Street was first trialled in September 1971, for a period of 4 weeks.[15] After prolonged delays, it was made permanent in 1982, and the street was then repaved in 1988, with new street lighting also fitted.[6] Objections to pedestrianisation came from councillors and small business owners, who alleged that it would lead to an increase in petty crime and antisocial behaviour.[16][17] The northern end of the street, between Nassau Street and College Green, one side of which is occupied by the walls of Trinity College, is not pedestrianised.[18]


Grafton Street in the 1940s

Grafton Street has had a number of redevelopments schemes in its history, including in the 1860s, 1880s, early 1900s, and 1990s. On some occasions, the demolition of buildings led to the collapse of some of their neighbours. All this activity in all resulted in a mixture of periods and styles, with few notable interiors or street surfaces extant. Some of the Georgian plot sizes and facades are still visible on some buildings, such as Nos. 31–33 and 63. No. 14 retains the window pattern of an early Dutch Billy house.[19] At the north end of Grafton Street is the Provost's House, Trinity College, home to the head of the college.[1]

The English Grammar School was founded at No. 75 Grafton Street in 1758, by Samuel Whyte, first cousin in law of the actor and impresario Thomas Sheridan. Students included Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Robert Emmet, Thomas Moore and Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. It closed in 1824.[1][14] Hodges Figgis first bookshop was at 104 Grafton Street, opening in 1797. It moved to its current location in Dawson Street in 1920.[14]

Bewley's Oriental Café opened on Grafton Street in 1927, on the site of Whyte's Academy,[14][20] and became a popular place to meet and socialise.[21] In 2004, it was announced that Bewley's Grafton Street and Westmoreland Street cafés would close, putting 243 jobs at risk.[22] Following a campaign, the café on Grafton Street, which had closed, was reopened.[23] Subject to a €1m redevelopment scheme in 2015,[24] the café closed again following a collapse of trade during the COVID-19 pandemic. The then mayor, Tom Brabazon, expressed a hope that it might re-open after the pandemic.[25][26]


The northern end of the street was the former location of the Molly Malone statue, a well-known tourist attraction and meeting-place, which was moved from Grafton Street to nearby Suffolk Street in 2014, to make way for an extension to the Luas tram system.[27]

A life-size bronze statue of Dublin musician and leader of Thin Lizzy, Phil Lynott, was unveiled on Harry Street, off Grafton Street near the Stephen's Green end, in August 2005.[28] In May 2013, the statue was tipped over by two vandals, who were subsequently arrested.[29] In 2017, it was damaged after being hit by a truck, and spent several months in repair. The statue has become a well-known tourist attraction for music fans.[30] In keeping with the tendency for Dubliners to nickname statues, it is known to locals as the "Ace with the Bass".[31]


Buskers on Grafton Street in Teletubbies costumes.

Since the 1980s, Grafton Street has become internationally known for its street entertainment, particularly busking.[32] Musicians, poets and mime artists commonly perform to the shopping crowds.[33][34] This was portrayed in the opening scene of the 2006 film Once, starring Glen Hansard of The Frames, a former Grafton Street busker.[35] As a result of its popularity and reputation, musicians must pay for a licence to busk on Grafton Street (€30 per year as of 2019). Each performance is restricted to a maximum of one hour, and a musician cannot play within a 100-metre (330 ft) distance of that location until the following day.[32]

Grafton Street buskers have included:

Cultural references[edit]

  • Grafton Street is mentioned several times in James Joyce's Dubliners and in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is the scene of the meeting between Stephen and Emma.[46]
  • There is a line in the poem "On Raglan Road" by the poet Patrick Kavanagh: "On Grafton Street in November we tripped lightly along the ledge"'[47]
  • In the song "Before the Worst" performed by The Script, Grafton Street is mentioned in the lyrics; "It was Grafton Street on a rainy night, I was down on one knee and you were mine for life".[48]
  • American singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith wrote and recorded a song called "On Grafton Street".[49] Griffith's song was subsequently covered by Frances Black on her album Talk to Me.[50]
  • Bagatelle, an Irish rock band in the 1970s refer to Grafton Street in their song "Summer in Dublin"; "And young people walking down Grafton Street, everyone looking so well".[51]
  • Noel Purcell made the song "Dublin Saunter" well known; it includes the line "Grafton Street's a wonderland, there's magic in the air".[52]
  • Dido features a track entitled "Grafton Street" on her album Safe Trip Home. This song is a tribute to Dido's deceased father, who was Irish.[53]
  • Grafton Street is mentioned in Ed Sheeran's song "Galway Girl" on his album ÷ (2017).[54]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e Bennett 2005, p. 114.
  2. ^ M'Cready, C. T. (1987). Dublin street names dated and explained. Blackrock, Co. Dublin: Carraig. p. 45. ISBN 1-85068-005-1. OCLC 263974843.
  3. ^ a b ARUP (1 May 2017). "Chapter 10 – Archaeology, Cultural Heritage and Architectural Heritage". College Green Project – Environmental Impact Study (Rev 1 ed.). Dublin, Ireland: Dublin City Council. pp. 1, 34. Grafton Street follows the line of the River Steyne and is an ancient thoroughfare that ran to the common land at St Stephen’s Green.
  4. ^ Bennett 2005, pp. 62, 114.
  5. ^ a b Casey 2005, p. 518-519.
  6. ^ a b Bennett 2005, pp. 114–115.
  7. ^ O'Brien, Joseph V. (1982). Dear, Dirty Dublin: A City in Distress, 1899–1916. p. 190. ISBN 9780520039650.
  8. ^ "Grafton Street 1870: 'The street literally swarmed with women of loose character'". The Journal. 15 October 2017. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  9. ^ Whelan 2003, p. 218–221.
  10. ^ Whelan 2003, p. 100.
  11. ^ "Blaze on Grafton Street". 27 August 1987. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  12. ^ "The most expensive shopping street in the world". Cushman & Wakefield. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 6 September 2010.
  13. ^ "Main Streets Across The World".
  14. ^ a b c d Oram, Hugh (27 May 2019). "Memory lane – An Irishman's Diary on Grafton Street". The Irish Times. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  15. ^ McDonald, Frank (1985). The destruction of Dublin. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan. p. 313. ISBN 0-7171-1386-8. OCLC 60079186.
  16. ^ "Grafton Street can still be a wonderland". The Irish Times. 4 December 1987. ProQuest 530982334.
  17. ^ McDonald, Frank (17 August 1988). "Traders gather to celebrate Grafton Street's new look". The Irish Times. ProQuest 531164630.
  18. ^ "Grafton Street". Google Maps. Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  19. ^ Casey 2005, p. 519.
  20. ^ "Iconic Irish brand remains true to old Quaker values as coffee scene continues to grow". Irish Independent. 12 March 2017. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  21. ^ Campbell, Georgina (2005). Georgina Campbell's Ireland, the Best of the Best. Georgina Campbell's Guides. p. 29. ISBN 978-1-903-16421-1.
  22. ^ "Bewley's Cafe closes". RTE. 30 November 2004. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  23. ^ "On the rocky road..." The Irish Times. 30 January 2009. Retrieved 12 November 2021. Bewleys ... controversially closed in 2004, before re-opening a year later in partnership with Café Bar Deli. Since then, it has seen many menu changes – and price increases. It also survived a protracted but now resolved row with landlords ...
  24. ^ "Bewley's Cafe on Grafton Street shuts its doors for six months this afternoon". Irish Independent. 27 February 2015. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  25. ^ "Bewley's on Grafton Street to close permanently with loss of 110 jobs". Irish Times. 6 May 2020. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  26. ^ "Dublin's mayor says he will lead effort to save Bewley's cafe". Irish Times. 7 May 2020. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  27. ^ "Statue of limitations: what makes a good public monument". The Times. 20 February 2021. Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  28. ^ "Thin Lizzy's Lynott back in town". BBC News. 20 August 2005. Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  29. ^ "Phil Lynott statue is vandalised in Dublin". BBC News. 10 May 2013. Retrieved 4 March 2022.
  30. ^ "Dublin's Phil Lynott statue has disappeared. Again. But we know where he is this time". The Irish Journal. 22 October 2017. Retrieved 4 March 2022.
  31. ^ "Dublin's Treasures - Phil Lynott Statue". Retrieved 4 March 2022.
  32. ^ a b "Meet the Buskers of Dublin's Famous Grafton Street". The Culture Trip. 5 November 2019. Retrieved 4 March 2022.
  33. ^ Greenwood, Margaret; Connolly, Mark (2003). The Rough Guide to Ireland. Rough Guides. p. 88. ISBN 978-1-843-53059-6.
  34. ^ "Meet the Buskers of Dublin's Famous Grafton Street". The Culture Trip. 5 November 2019. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  35. ^ "From busker to Oscar". Irish Independent. 1 March 2008. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  36. ^ "Glen Hansard and famous Irish musicians busk on Grafton Street for Christmas Eve". News 106 Ltd. 24 December 2016. Retrieved 11 December 2019.
  37. ^ "Heyday: We meet the filmmaker who paid tribute to Mic Christopher in new documentary". Hot Press. 23 July 2019. Retrieved 11 December 2019.
  38. ^ "Keywest to make in-store appearances to support their upcoming album". Hot Press. 2 October 2019. Retrieved 11 December 2019.
  39. ^ "Remembering the Diceman who brightened a grey, dull Dublin". Irish Times. 6 April 2015. Retrieved 11 December 2019.
  40. ^ "Casting a Savage Eye on life and death". Irish Examiner. 19 March 2013. Retrieved 11 December 2019.
  41. ^ "RTÉ Archives – Entertaining On Grafton Street – 1983". RTÉ. Retrieved 11 December 2019.
  42. ^ "Glen Hansard, Bono, Damien Rice & Mundy busk on Grafton St". Hot Press. 24 December 2009. Retrieved 11 December 2019.
  43. ^ "Rodrigo y Gabriela: They've come a long way since busking on Grafton Street". Irish Times. 27 June 2015. Retrieved 11 December 2019.
  44. ^ "Hudson Taylor hail Thin Lizzy's lasting influence". RTÉ. 9 October 2019. Retrieved 11 December 2019.
  45. ^ "'Amazing': 12-year-old Irish busker wows The Ellen Show". The Irish Times. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
  46. ^ Joyce, James. Dubliners.
  47. ^ "On Raglan Road".
  48. ^ The Script. "Before the Worst".
  49. ^ Griffith, Nancy. "On Grafton Street".
  50. ^ "Tracks on Talk to Me – Frances Black (April 1994) | SecondHandSongs".
  51. ^ Bagatelle. "Summer in Dublin" Archived 4 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  52. ^ "Dublin Saunter" Archived 2 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
  53. ^ Bowes, Peter (27 October 2008). "Dido chills out in California". BBC News. Retrieved 27 October 2008.
  54. ^ "Which pub on Grafton Street is Ed Sheeran talking about in his new song?". The Daily Edge. 3 March 2017. Retrieved 19 October 2020.


  • Bennett, Douglas (2005). The Encyclopaedia of Dublin. Gill & Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-717-13684-1.
  • Casey, Christine (2005). Dublin: The City Within the Grand and Royal Canals and the Circular Road with the Phoenix Park. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-30010-923-8.
  • Whelan, Yvonne (2003). Reinventing modern Dublin : streetscape, iconography, and the politics of identity. University College Dublin Press. ISBN 1-900621-85-1.

External links[edit]