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Dublin is famous for its pub culture and people visit the city from all over the world to see it. Having explored the best, and worst, of Dublin’s pubs for years myself, I want to give you the benefit of my experiences. Hopefully, it will help you make the most of your stay.
Even if you don’t want to consume any alcohol while you’re in the city, visiting a pub can be a great way to experience Irish culture. If you want to get some traditional food, listen to some music or even just talk to locals, there will be a “public house” in Dublin to suit your needs.
Irish Pub Culture
Almost everyone in Ireland will give you strong opinions on the country’s pub culture. Some people will find it a point of pride, while others see the negative stereotypes about the Irish and alcohol as a source of embarrassment.
Either way, as when visiting any other part of the world, you should approach Irish pub culture from a place of respect. Public houses have a long history in Ireland, dating back to when the local culture and religion was suppressed and even before. This means that they are still an important part of life here.
If you take a respectful and curious approach to the pubs and their culture in all of Ireland, not just Dublin, you will definitely be rewarded. You might find the spot where an important historical event happened or where someone met their partner.
Irish Pub Culture Do’s and Don’ts
I have already spoken about what to expect to pay in Dublin for a drink. However, when visiting Irish pubs, there are a few things you should be aware of first, you don’t want to walk into a pub and offend all of the locals.
|Buy a round when its you turn.||Order an “Irish Car Bomb” or a “Black and Tan”.|
|Try Guinness in an old, traditional pub.||Talk over musicians or singers.|
|Ask the bartender for advice.||Order a complicated drink when the pub is busy.|
|Ask locals for their recommendations/ advice.||Dress too formal.|
The Best Traditional Pubs in Dublin
There are certain things that locals expect to find in a traditional pub, some of the most famous in Dublin have barely changed in generations. If you want to find the quintessential Dublin pub experience, then you will find it in any of these fine establishments.
These pubs are in the first section and color-coded brown in the map above.
O’Donoghue’s on Merrion Row was the birthplace of the famous Irish traditional music group “The Dubliners” in 1962. But this pub has been in operation, in one form or another, since 1789.
The pub itself surrounds an old alleyway. From the entrance to the left, you will find the older side, which has live music throughout the week and the right side will open when the place is busier. The alleyway itself is the most popular part of the pub and most people will be out there especially in summer.
Other Features: This is a historic pub with traditional music and an excellent outdoor section. It is also a great pub for a pint of Guinness.
2) The Palace Bar
The Palace Bar is often regarded as the only “good” pub in the Templebar district of Dublin. It is a traditional Victorian pub with a gorgeous interior and has been open for over 100 years.
If you get a spot in the snug near the front door, you will be doing very well. However, there is normally some seats at the back which are free during the day. If that doesn’t work, the upstairs bar opens in the evenings and should be able to accommodate some groups.
Other Features: This is a historic pub and the upstairs is a cozy area which should be very comfortable. Also, there is now permanent outdoor seating in front of the pub. The Guinness here is excellent.
3) The Stag’s Head
The Stag’s Head is located on Dame Lane, which is a pedestrianized area, between the Templebar and main shopping districts of Dublin. The pub itself is another traditional Victorian era pub.
On a sunny day, one of the best places to hang out in Dublin is just outside the Stag’s Head. There is plenty of seating, but there will also be people milling about the street. Downstairs, there is a bar which does plenty of live comedy shows and the upstairs will also be open if the place gets too busy.
Other Features: The Stag’s Head is a historic pub, which does serve food during the day in the back. There is outdoor seating and also live performances upstairs and in the basement. The Guinness here is excellent.
4) O’Neill’s on Suffolk Street
O’Neill’s on Suffolk Street is one of my favourite pubs in Dublin. This is an independently owned pub and has been in the same family for over 100 years. This is not a chain pub.
The pub is made up of several different buildings that have been combined over the years, so the interior can be a maze. Upstairs, you will find traditional Irish music every night and there will be dancing shows at the weekends.
Other Features: This is a great pub for a pint of Guinness after work. The beer garden upstairs is very comfortable and the food here is excellent, traditional Irish pub food.
5) The Long Hall
The Long Hall is one of the most beautiful pubs in Dublin. The seat at the window in front is arguably one of the best pub seats anywhere. This place is often very busy, so try to arrive early.
When you step inside this pub, you are almost stepping back in time. The walls are full of ancient antiques and you will find that the décor has not changed much in decades.
Other Features: This is one of the best pubs in Dublin to head for a quiet pint of Guinness if you have a weekday afternoon free. It is also a cozy and historic location.
The Coziest Pubs in Dublin
If you are looking for a more intimate pub experience, there are plenty of places to find a quiet and cozy drink in Dublin. For some of these places however, you may need to make sure you arrive early.
These pubs are in the second section and color-coded green in the map above.
Neary’s is a unique public house in Dublin. When you enter, you will be greeted by countless plush and comfortable booths. It is a spot known to be frequented by Irish actors and musicians.
If you cannot find a seat either inside or in the outdoor area, there may be some seating upstairs. This part of the pub opens up later in the evenings when things are a little busier.
Other Features: This is a historic pub, which has excellent Guinness on tap. There are also plenty of options for outdoor seating here.
2) The Dawson Lounge
The Dawson Lounge is one of the strangest pubs in Dublin, located near St. Stephen’s Green park, this pub is easy to miss. As soon as you walk through the front door, you will head downstairs and see the entire place in front of you.
This pub is probably the smallest pub in Dublin. There are hardly any spaces here, but I highly recommend checking it out if you can. Heading here before 6pm, will usually mean that you will be able to get a seat before the after work crowd comes in.
Other Features: This pub is one of the best local haunts for a pint of Guinness.
Visiting Kehoe’s feels like you’re visiting your great-grandmother’s house. It feels like the interior of this place hasn’t been updated in generations.
While the downstairs has plenty of nooks and crannies, the upstairs is more open and usually has more room for groups. On sunny days, the pub will practically be empty, with people instead choosing to stay on the street outside.
Other Features: This is an excellent pub for a pint of Guinness, it is also a historic and traditional Irish pub that is popular with the locals.
While certainly bigger than the Dawson Lounge, Bowes is another hole in the wall pub that doesn’t have a lot of room inside. When you go inside however, you can see why this place is so popular.
The walls are covered in gorgeous wooden paneling and there are countless bottles and mirrors all over the place. It really looks elegant and inviting at the same time. Just make sure to arrive early to get a seat.
Other Features: This is a traditional, Victorian era pub with excellent Guinness.
5) Old Royal Oak
The pub looks very similar to the surrounding houses, but inside you will find a single room heated by a small gas heater. This is as cozy a spot as any in Dublin and well worth the trek out to.
Other Features: This is a unique pub, located just outside the city. It has a small beer garden and excellent Guinness.
The Best Historic Pubs in Dublin
In this section, I want to talk about Dublin pubs that have a bit of history to them. While you are never far from history in the center of the city, each of these places certainly has a place in it.
This is the third section on the map above and is color-coded dark red.
1) The Brazen Head
There has been a pub of some description on this location since the year 1198, making the Brazen Head the oldest pub in Dublin. Not necessary Ireland like it says on the wall outside.
Inside, you will find a maze of rooms that have been added together over the centuries. Supposedly, this was a place where rebellions against the British were planned, famous writers took inspiration and even where Robin Hood drank when he was in Dublin!
Other Features: This pub of course has excellent Guinness in addition to traditional food. There are also live performances of music and storytelling that take place here.
2) Jack Nealon’s
Located on the trendy Capel Street. Nealon’s pub is a great traditional pub for a pint of Guinness, where you will be able to chat to locals and relax.
This pub was more important historically however, as it was one of the few places in Dublin where gay men were able to socialize back when such an act would have been illegal – right up until the 1990’s. The pub is much quieter these days, but this location has played an important part in recent Irish history.
Other Features: This is a great traditional pub for Guinness.
3) Ryan’s on Parkgate Street
Ryan’s is an excellent pub located close to the Pheonix Park in Dublin. The Irish writer John Banville once described it as the finest pub in Dublin.
This is a beautiful Victorian era pub that has more recently focused on food rather than drinks. There are even oysters on prominent display in the center of the pub. This is a great place to go, especially if you are on your way to the park or the nearby Heuston Train station.
Other Features: This is a traditional pub that has put a great amount of effort into the food on offer.
4) The Lincoln’s Inn
The Lincoln’s Inn was famously included in the novel Ulysses by James Joyce. While the Inn that is in the name and novel is no longer there, this pub has changed little since the 16th of June, 1904.
If you enter this pub, near Trinity College, you will find it divided into two sections. The left is the more traditional pub, while the right will be for food.
Other Features: This is a traditional pub, with excellent Guinness and food.
5) The Temple Bar
This pub is named after the Templebar district of the city, the area is NOT named after the pub, and it dates back to the year 1840. While locals tend to avoid this spot and regard it as a tourist trap, I don’t think you necessarily should.
Just know what you’re getting into. This pub will be a little more expensive than most others in Dublin and you will likely not meet many locals. You will however meet plenty of Bachelor and Bachelorette parties here. Like it or not however, this has definitely become a historic pub in Dublin.
Other Features: There is a whiskey bar inside and also live music performances every night.
The Best Pubs in Dublin for Live Traditional Irish Music (Sessions)
One of the most special things about Irish pubs is traditional music and even in the heart of the hustle and bustle of Dublin city you can still find it. Music sessions can be difficult to find if you don’t know what to look for. But they will have musicians and singers show up to a pub to play music and anyone can join.
This is the fourth section in the map above and is color-coded light blue.
1) The Cobblestone
The Cobblestone pub in Smithfield is one of the most beloved pubs in Dublin and has been in the same family for decades. If you get the chance to visit this place, you will find live music pretty much every day of the week.
The musicians tend to sit at the front of the bar and it can get a little crowded. So make sure to arrive early if you want a seat near where they will play. On weekends and busier nights, there might be more than one session going on in this pub.
Other Features: This pub has some of the best (and cheapest) Guinness in Dublin. There is also an excellent beer garden outside.
2) Piper’s Corner
Piper’s Corner is located just off Abbey Street, north of the river Liffey. Though this pub has been refurbished in recent years, it has a long and storied history with traditional music and sport.
There are music sessions here most nights of the week, with Sunday being particularly good. This pub has more seating than many of the others that I have mentioned in this music section, so it might be a little better for larger groups.
Other Features: Piper’s has an excellent selection of craft beer and whiskeys. In addition to the excellent Guinness on tap. It’s also a great place to watch major, local sporting events.
McNeill’s is truly a gem of a pub, and one where you will find some of the most authentic traditions of Irish music still alive in the heart of trendy Capel Street.
This pub is on the smaller side, so don’t expect to go here with larger groups. But if you get the chance to go here on a quieter night during the week, you will likely see why some of the best Irish musicians in Dublin love playing here.
Other Features: This is a cozy, traditional pub, which is great for a pint of Guinness.
4) The Celt
The Celt is located near O’Connell Street in the North Inner city of Dublin and has expanded to the surrounding buildings over the years.
This means that the oldest part of the traditional Irish pub is still largely intact, with the newer additions being great options for things like food. I highly recommend checking this place out.
Other Features: This traditional Irish pub has great food and a great little beer garden.
Located on Camden Street, south of the river Liffey, Devitt’s is a popular spot with young people later in the evenings. If you go here earlier in the day however, you will get to experience some live Irish music.
This is a great place to visit if you want a nice relaxed evening before you head out on the town or if you want to stay a little further south of the main part of the city center.
Other Features: This is a great place for a pint of Guinness or to stay out later in the evening.
The Best Pubs in Dublin to Find Live Gigs
While traditional music sessions are one of the most unique things about Irish pub culture, there are still plenty of places where you will find more conventional gigs and performances. Some pubs in Dublin are famous for the quality of the performances that they put on.
These pubs are the fifth section in the map above and are color-coded in light orange.
The name means “here” in Irish and Anseo absolutely could qualify as one of the best places to be in Dublin. This cozy little pub has amazing Guinness, a great atmosphere and a really unique venue upstairs.
It feels like you’re almost stepping back in time when you go upstairs in this place. But I have seen some of the best performances of my life in this intimate venue, from established comedians practicing new material, to up and coming artists.
Other Features: This is one of the coolest spots in Dublin which is also a cozy little spot for a quiet pint earlier in the day, before the performances start upstairs.
Whelan’s is famous for its live music venue. The older part of this pub is a more traditional pub, located on the main street. There is still performances that take place here. But the main feature is the stage behind the bar.
Though I really don’t like the movie P.S. I love you, the scene above was filmed here in Whelan’s, some of you may have had the unfortunate experience of seeing this movie. I have actually seen really great performers play here in Whelan’s and there will usually be something on most nights in the week.
Other Features: This is a trendy spot and is popular with both locals and visitors alike. If you are in Dublin for a few nights, check to see if there are any good gigs on here.
3) Button Factory/ Crowbar
The Button Factory is a popular venue in Dublin that plays host to plenty of musical acts and clubbing nights. Attached to it is Crowbar, a more intimate pub, with beautiful and plush leather seats.
These two are really part of the same establishment and you should be able to visit one from the other. Also, both are connected to the Irish Rock and Roll Museum.
Other Features: Crowbar is a cozy and cool spot, great for a quiet drink. The Button Factory is a great late night venue for gigs and clubbing. It also has an outdoor section.
4) Sin é
Meaning “That’s it” in Irish, Sin é is one of the most popular venues for up and coming local artists to perform in Dublin. Here you will be able to attend great open mic nights or even see some more established acts.
The main floor has a stage/ performance area at the back. But downstairs, you will find more seating and its usually a little emptier.
Other Features: This is a cool bar that is a great place to see popular contemporary Irish music and meet locals. It has the feel of a more relaxed dive bar.
5) The Porterhouse Templebar
Located in the Templebar district is the original Porterhouse location. This was one of the first craft beer companies set up in Ireland, establishing themselves in this famous district in the 1990’s, when the area became popular.
If you visit this pub, you won’t be able to find any mainstream beers on tap as they focus on their own beers and guest brews. In the middle of this pub is a stage area which can be seen from three different floors. Most nights during the week, there will be some sort of performance here. The atmosphere is usually really fun.
Other Features: This is a craft beer pub that has music on most nights. The food served here is also good and this is a great place to go for a meal in the city center.
The Best Pubs in Dublin for Traditional Irish Food
If you want to find some traditional Irish food, then there are plenty of options for you. While Ireland in the past wasn’t a great place to visit if you wanted a good meal, things have changed. Many pubs and restaurants have started to bring back older meals and more people get to enjoy them today!
This is the sixth section in the map above and is color-coded dark green.
1) Darkey Kelly’s
This pub is located just outside of the Templebar district and is next to Christchurch Cathedral. Named after one of the most notorious serial killers in the city’s history, this pub is one of my personal favorites.
The food here is excellent, but you will also find great Guinness and craft beer. Also, there will be live music playing every night of the week, with a traditional music session on Sunday afternoons.
Other Features: This is a traditional pub with great food, Guinness and music. It also has a solid craft beer and whiskey selection and an excellent outdoor section.
2) The Old Storehouse
This is a pub in the Templebar district that is popular mainly with visitors and not locals. I think that’s a shame because the food here is excellent.
The Old Storehouse is a great spot for some traditional Irish cuisine, especially for larger groups during the day. However, I will say that later in the evening you might see why locals don’t tend to hang out here. There are other places in the city that are more popular among Irish people later on.
Other Features: This is an excellent pub for a traditional meal in Dublin. There will also be live music.
3) Bar Rua
Meaning “Red Bar” in Irish, Bar Rua is a craft beer pub that does a modern take on traditional Irish cuisine. This is a popular place for locals and it is located just off trendy Southwilliam Street.
This is a place Dubliners will go to on their lunchbreak for a bite to eat and they might even head back here after work for a pint!
Other Features: Bar Rua has great food and craft beer.
4) The Bank
Shockingly enough, this pub is located in a former bank! The building is actually gorgeous and inside, you will see great works of art and architecture all over the place, in addition to some of the vaults leftover from this place’s previous use.
The food in the bank is top quality and this is probably the highest-end place for food that I will mention on this list. Still it is accessible and inside you will find a good mix of people.
Other Features: This is a historic pub and inside, you will find a copy of the Book of Kells that you will be able to read through. There are also plenty of artwork about famous Irish rebel leaders inside.
5) The Hairy Lemon
While this pub has one of the strangest names on this list, this is a great traditional Irish pub that also serves food.
Though this food might not be the fanciest in the city, it is definitely good quality. I recommend going here earlier in the evening and it is surrounded by plenty of great places to move to afterwards.
Other Features: This traditional pub serves food and has a great beer garden upstairs.
The Best Pubs in Dublin For a Pint of Guinness
There are few things in this world that beat a nice quiet pint (usually Guinness, but not necessarily) in a great pub. You can either do this by yourself and go with a book or have the company of a few close friends.
While almost every pub on this list would be great for this, the ones I’ll mention below are some of the best.
This is the seventh section on the map above and is color coded black.
Mulligan’s on Poolbeg street arguably has the best Guinness in the city center of Dublin. Located across from the old Department of Health (formerly the theatre Royal), this is a traditional Victorian era pub.
It is a really popular place for people to go after work, but in here you will find plenty of great places to sit and have a quiet drink and great conversation.
Other Features: This is a traditional pub that is popular with locals, especially for a pint of Guinness after work.
McDaid’s has been around for at least a couple of hundred years at this stage and it has changed very little in that time.
While the ground floor is relatively small, the upstairs will open up if things get a little busy. This is a great place to chill out and relax with friends.
Other Features: This is a traditional pub with excellent Guinness.
3) The Flowing Tide
The Flowing Tide was recently refurbished but none of the charm was lost. Inside, it is still beautiful and covered in traditional decoration.
Though this place is on the smaller side, there will usually be enough seats for smaller groups or individuals to relax in. There are also 2 snugs if you really want to get away from the crowds.
Other Features: This is another traditional pub with excellent Guinness.
This is possibly the busiest pub in this section, but I still think that you can have an excellent pint of Guinness here with friends. Also, this is a great place to come by yourself, if you’d like!
There is outdoor seating here around the exterior of the pub. From here, you will be able to sit back and watch the world go by.
Other Features: This is yet another traditional pub with excellent Guinness, but it also has a great outdoor seating area.
5) John Kavanagh’s (The Gravediggers)
Technically, I shouldn’t include this pub on this list as it is located well outside of the city center. But it would be a shame if I didn’t mention Kavanagh’s, near Glasnevin Cemetery.
There are (probably) more people buried in this cemetery than currently living in Dublin. It is also the final resting place of plenty of Irish revolutionaries. This pub has changed little in the years since before Irish independence.
Other Features: This is very much a historic and traditional Irish pub. It is widely regarded as having the best Guinness in all of Dublin and it also serves food. The only issue is that you will need transport to get back to the city.