I first heard about Once when it was a recently-debuted, incredibly successful musical on Broadway when I was in New York the summer of 2012. I had no idea it was adapted from a tiny independent Irish film. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Ireland’s capital city twice: once in March 2016, just after St Patrick’s Day, and again in February 2017. So revisiting the Once filming locations in Dublin is long overdue!
Once (2007) is a musical romance written and directed by John Carney, who is also responsible for that other Dublin music-focused independent film, Sing Street (2016). Once follows two characters simply called Guy and Girl. Guy is a recently-dumped busker living in Dublin who lacks the funds and confidence to perform and record his own songs. Girl is a Czech woman he meets by chance and their mutual love of music quickly blossoms into a friendship. It’s a simple yet touching story and I’m chuffed it found huge success because it really was such a low-budget film.
With buskers lining Grafton Street all day every day, Once is a quintessential Dublin story. You could easily take this map of the Once filming locations and turn it into your own walking tour of the city. I think I’ve just about listed them all, so let’s dive into all the Dublin locations in Once!
Once Filming Locations in Dublin, Ireland
1. Dunnes Stores, 62 Grafton Street, D02 FX0562
The first Once filming location is where Guy is busking on Grafton Street, which is one of the main shopping streets in the city famous for its top-quality buskers. Specifically, he’s outside the Dunnes Stores (which is still there) near the south end of the street away from the River Liffey.
It’s a very unceremonious opening as a drunk guy is nonchalantly taking a piss with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth in the middle of the shot. Welcome to Dublin!
2. St Stephen’s Green Park
The previously mentioned drunk guy decides to grab his guitar case with all his earnings for the day and run off into a nearby HMV. Of course, HMV is a physical media store which went tits up when people stopped buying CDs, so the shop occupying the same space on 65-66 Grafton Street is now a Massimo Dutti.
The dude runs back out again and heads south through the Fusilier’s Arch (a monument in honour of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers) which is the entrance to St Stephen’s Green Park. This is a really lovely park with a huge pond, filled with bronze busts of noted Irish writers, and definitely a nice place to visit if you’re heading to Dublin.
3. The Hoover Centre, 270 Harold’s Cross Rd, Harold’s Cross, Terenure, D6W YD51
The day after Guy meets Girl whilst busking at his spot on Grafton Street, we see him say goodbye to his Da as he leaves the Hoover repair shop that his father owns. The Hoover Centre is a legit place in Dublin that miraculously still exists (don’t people just chuck out things that stop working these days?) in Harold’s Cross. Though I think in real life, they sell more appliances than they repair.
4. Simon’s Place, George’s Street Arcade, 22 South Great George’s Street, D02 XD59
After Girl turns up with her broken hoover (she literally has a hoover that needs fixing, what are the odds, eh?) to Guy’s busking spot, she doesn’t take no for an answer and joins him on his lunch break.
They head to Simon’s Place, a sandwich shop in George’s Street Arcade. Which is very much still there! It’s probably one of the most well known Once filming locations since it’s now commonly referred to as the ‘Once‘ cafe.
Fun fact: George’s Street Arcade was built in 1881 as Europe’s first shopping centre. Today, we’d probably describe it as more of an indoor market. Guy and Girl exit George’s Street Arcade via the Drury Street entrance.
5. Walton’s World of Music, 69 South Great George’s Street, D02 K540
Called ‘Walton’s New School of Music‘ on Google Maps, the pair head to this music shop so that Girl can wow Guy with her musical talents. They sing the hit ballad ‘Falling Slowly’ and instantly warm our cold, cruel hearts.
I’m sorry to say I don’t think the music shop is there anymore. It seems like the bottom shop floor is now a bookshop and the music school just occupies the second floor. What a shame, the shop opened in the 1920s!
Apparently loads of budding musicians used to go into the shop to recreate this scene. And what a beautiful scene it is. Walton’s World of Music was probably the most-visited out of all the Once filming locations in Dublin.
Another fun fact: The stars of the film, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglová, wrote all of the songs on the soundtrack, either separately or together. Their song ‘Falling Slowly’ won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. And Marketa was only 19 years old when the film was released which is amazing!
6. 21 Montjoy Square East, D01 W6R6
After a few scenes back at the hoover shop and on Grafton Street, Guy walks Girl to her apartment which is located at 21 Montjoy Square East in the north of the city. It’s here we learn that Girl lives with her mother and young daughter.
7. Bennys, 8A Emmet Street, Mountjoy, D01 X379
This film really is set in the mid-noughties. Girl’s walkman runs out of battery, so she has to nip out in her jimjams and sheep slippers to buy some more. Literally just around the corner from her apartment is Bennys on Emmet Street, a typical corner shop.
I personally find this scene quite amusing because there are two really young girls hanging outside of the shop who cannot stop looking at the camera. Not only are they too young to be out after dark, but they’re also wearing train conductor-type hats that I wore when I was younger. The early noughties really was a horrific time for fashion, wasn’t it?
8. Samson Films Limited, The Barracks, 76 Irishtown Rd
After deciding that he’s going to go to London and win back his girlfriend and generally be more proactive, Guy decides he’s going to record some of his songs before he goes. Naturally, he asks Girl to play and sing on some of them.
They head to a recording studio, which is actually Samson Films Production Company’s office. The production notes tell me that Samson Films was one of the production companies involved in Once, so it makes sense that their own offices would be utilised as a Once film location to keep costs down.
Once was produced on a budget of around €115,000, after all. Absolute peanuts compared to most films.
9. Bogart’s Menswear, 23 Aungier Street, D02 AH66
After booking a studio (that they can’t afford) for the weekend, Girl and Guy stop at Bogart’s Menswear. For all your cheap menswear needs! Perfect if you need to impress a bank manager in order to acquire a loan for the studio time you just booked but can’t afford.
Unfortunately, this shop has closed down and is now a restaurant.
10. Bank of Ireland, 75 Rathmines Road, Rathmines, D06 TR76
Guy applies for his bank loan at the Bank of Ireland on Rathmines Road. Girl cutely straightens out his hair before they go in. Adorable.
Now, you probably wouldn’t hand over €2,000 to a struggling musician with no assets, would you? If you were a Big Important Bank Person? Well, you might if you were a closeted musician like this dude in Once is. And you might even perform an embarrassingly hideous song to prove it.
11. Phil Lynott Statue, Harry Street
Girl is on board! Studio is booked! The loan is secured! Tick, tick, tick! What’s next on the list in order to become Ireland’s next successful singer/songwriter? You need a backing band.
Guy and Girl head to Harry Street in Dublin’s bustling city centre to try and convince a busking band to perform on his record. They’re playing right next to the Phil Lynott statue. If you don’t know who he is (and you wouldn’t be the only one), he was the Irish frontman of Thin Lizzy and died much too young. The band actually say “we only do Lizzy” to Guy when he asks them to help him out.
Guy actually refers to the recording studio as ‘Samson Studios’ to the busking band, which I guess is technically true…
12. Killiney Hill Park, 18 Mount Auburn, Scalpwilliam, Dalkey, County Dublin, A96 W5C1
The next day, Guy ‘borrows’ his Da’s motorbike and drives Girl out of the city to Killiney Hill Park by the sea. It’s a pretty spectacular view of the coastline. It’s here that Girl tells Guy that she loves him, but in Czech so he can’t understand.
13. Dollymount Strand, Clontarf, Dublin, North Bull Island
After spending all weekend working on their record, the producer suggests they try out the music on the “shitty speakers” in his car to make sure it still sounds good outside of the studio. The gang end up driving out to a beach on North Bull Island called Dollymount Strand. The beach is still technically in the city of Dublin, though it seems miles away!
14. Temple Bar Square, Temple Bar, D02 RT29
Freshly burnt CDs in hand, Guy and Girl walk down Temple Bar before they say their goodbyes.
Temple Bar is the nightlife centre of Dublin and is absolutely rammed every night of the week. There is actually a pub called The Temple Bar but the whole area is also just Temple Bar. It’s a very touristy area so you’ll no doubt visit this part of the city at some point if you’re making a trip there.
Specifically, Guy and Girl walk down the part of the street with Temple Bar Square on one side (which often has bookstalls) and Quays Restaurant on the other.
15. O’Connell Bridge
After making a few desperate attempts to see Girl again in a few of their old stomping grounds including the spot where he used to busk, Guy finally heads to the Airport.
Also, I love how Once has managed to get around the fact the main characters don’t have names because it’s an Irish colloquialism to refer to people as ‘himself’ or ‘herself.’
16. Dublin Airport
And finally, Dublin Airport is one of the last Once filming locations as Guy jets off to London to reunite with his ex-girlfriend.
And those are all the Once filming locations in Dublin, Ireland! Are you planning a trip to Dublin or have you watched the film? Let me know in the comments below!