First Look: Live like a student in new tourist accommodation at Trinity’s Printing House Square

Visitors can indulge their Normal People college-life fantasies as city centre student housing opens for summer bookings at competitive rates – by Dublin standards at least

Tucked away on the Pearse Street side of Trinity College Dublin’s campus – a village within a village – is a hidden nest. The nest is Printing House Square, the new student accommodation operating since last October, and which this week opens as a public nest, for summertime visitors to Dublin city.

Just in to the left past Botany Bay on the 16th century campus, and before the Samuel Beckett Centre, right beside Richard Castle’s 1734 Printing House, is McCullough Mulvin Architects’ stylish and striking Printing House Square. It adds a new contemporary courtyard to Trinity’s series of squares, while its gables were created as moulded planes to complement Castle’s classical temple architecture adjacent to it. The square is surrounded by four new granite buildings, housing 249 new en suite student rooms (plus the college’s student health centre and DisAbility Hub).

Trinity’s student rooms generally are scattered around the 47-acre campus, in the storeys above classrooms and offices, in Botany Bay, New Square, Front Square, Trinity Business School, the Rubrics (the college’s oldest building, which has just been restored) and the GMB (Graduates Memorial Building). School’s out for summer, most undergraduates have left, and post-grads and walking tours populate the campus on a sunny June morning for our sneak look at the newly available accommodation. While education conferences book some of the 900 student rooms on campus, there’s also availability for tourists from June to August, including 249 in Printing House Square.

The location couldn’t be bettered, slap bang in the middle of the city, and within the hallowed and historic oasis within the city. Visitors are also on the spot for the Book of Kells or Trinity Trails walking tour – or to indulge college-life fantasies from Educating Rita to Normal People, hanging out in cobbled Front Square, framed by the bell tower, dining hall, chapel and the Old Library building.


A new gate beside Printing House Square opens on to Pearse Street, intended to link the college directly with the city, effectively making it a public square.

What is the new summer accommodation like? This isn’t a hotel (though there’s daily cleaning and Paul Costelloe toiletries), and these aren’t apartments. We look at some of the doubles: simple, modern, clean lines, with bare white walls and beech finishes. Beds have white bed linen with a bedside table and lamp; across the width of the window, a desk and small window-seat area. There’s a swivel desk chair, and small wardrobe (perfect for a short city stay but it looks pretty skimpy for a year of college gear), blackout blinds, full-length mirror, utilitarian carpet. It’s a clean-contemporary institutional vibe. The compact en suite shower room has grey tiled floor and glass shelves. There are twin rooms too. Single-bedded rooms are identical but smaller. Windows are slightly tinted from outside, for privacy. The building is accessible.

Walls in public areas are concrete, with beech-finish and brightly coloured panels. Rooms on top, the fifth floor, look into the courtyard, across the college and beyond that to the city, the Four Courts’ dome and the old Central Bank is identifiable nearby. From the top floor there’s a good view of award-winning McCullough Mulvin’s smart roof, with swish PV panels (generating electricity while solar tubes boost the domestic hot water), one undulating stone roof inspired by the Dublin Mountains, and another profile reminiscent of the city’s Georgian roofs. From ground-floor rooms the view is less city-scape, more campus-level.

These are (pristine) student rooms, comfortable, simple and snug, neither luxurious nor very spacious. Each corridor has a shared (between six to eight rooms) commonroom-kitchen, with good cooking facilities, comfy seats and a kitchen table. It would make a great central base after a day out and about.

All housing in Dublin is eye-wateringly expensive. It’s a measure of Irish tourist accommodation’s current dysfunctionality and unabashed price-gouging that the rates for Trinity’s summer rooms seem good value by comparison. Printing House Square singles are from €160 and doubles from €220. “Heritage rooms” in the older buildings are from €90 (shared bathrooms) or €110 (en suite). Prices may rise by €20 or €30 when availability is tight. In another country you might consider that dear for student rooms in summer, but it’s not bad compared with comparable Dublin rates. Prices are room-only; full breakfast (hot or continental, with tea/coffee/juice/pastries) can be had in the Buttery off Front Square for €12. Visitors can access the tennis courts, pool and sports centre for an extra €5 a day. Summer rentals are managed by the accommodation team, and the income goes back to the university.

The hoarding around the 18th century Printing House is about to be removed, as it prepares to receive the Book of Kells. That glorious manuscript is moving temporarily, but will remain publicly accessible all the while. The move is part of the Old Library Redevelopment Project, which also involves decanting, cleaning and tagging 200,000 early printed books from the Long Room’s shelves. It’s a painstaking once-in-a-lifetime operation designed to improve fire protection and environmental controls, before the library’s books, and Book of Kells itself, return there in three years’ time.

Visitor summer accommodation bookings can be found here