Dublin has a great nightlife, there is something to suit people of pretty much any taste. The pub culture in Ireland is famous around the world and Dublin has some of the best pubs around.
The literary heritage that the country has is alive and well, with theaters performing both classic works of art and modern plays. Irish cuisine has seen a renascence in the last decade, with new restaurants opening all over the city, serving global cuisine cooked with local Irish ingredients.
The buzz around the city is something that visitors often comment on and is usually seen as a highlight of any visit, Irish people call it the “craic”. This article will list will talk about some of the best ways to best experience it at night in Dublin, but this list is by no means exhaustive!
1) Experience Some Traditional Irish Pub Culture
This is something that most people think of when they think of Ireland and with good reason. The “public house” used to be the focal point in most communities in Ireland and this was the main place where people would socialize, and get out of the rain! Today people still like going out to the pub to meet up with friends and catch up on any of the local gossip or meet new people.
A good traditional pub won’t be playing loud music (ideally no recorded music at all) and any t.v. sets they have will usually be small and out of the way, only used for the most important of sporting events. The idea being to get people talking to one another and this is what you should do here. So turn off that phone and start chatting to people!
Some great traditional pubs include:
- Mc. Daid’s
- M. Hughes’
2) Go to the Theater
Dublin has a great literary tradition, with figures like Oscar Wilde and James Joyce (among many others) all growing up here. Even today you will be able to find modern writers putting on shows and some great artists still call Dublin home. When here, you will have the chance to take part in one of the best cultural traditions in Dublin. There are many different types of performance on offer, from the mass, family appeal of the Christmas panto to intimate plays by Brecht, there are plenty of things to look out for in Dublin theatres.
Below are links to some great theatres in Dublin. Click into them to find out about upcoming performances:
- The New Theatre
- The Olympia
- The Gaiety
- The Abbey Theatre
3) Listen to a Traditional Music Session
One of the most beloved Irish traditions is the music session. This is where people gather, usually in a pub, with their musical instruments and play together. If they know the song they will join in and if they don’t they will let those in the know play, while they respectfully observe. If you happen to find yourself in a pub with such a session going on, do the same. Enjoy the music, but keep the noise down and respect the performers. It is considered rude to interrupt the songs, but if you know them, you can join in!
There are some famous pubs in Dublin that put on regular traditional music sessions, my favourites are below:
- The Cobblestone, from 5pm on.
- O’Donoghue’s, on Merrion Row.
- Darkey Kelley’s, Every Sunday afternoon.
4) Watch a Free comedy Show
The Irish sense of humour is something that most people comment on when they visit. We like to think that we have a good sense of humour and we tend to have a less than serious outlook on life. There are plenty of Irish comedians that have become successful abroad, with many of them having cut their teeth in comedy clubs around the country. When you get here you will be able to check out some rising stars of the Irish comedy scene as well as more established performers trying new material in these free comedy shows. All you really need to do is show up and then pay what you feel the performance was worth when its finished.
Some of my favourite free comedy shows include:
- The Riff-Raff Comedy show, every Wednesday night at 8pm in the Chelsea Drug Store
- Comedy Crunch in the Stag’s Head, Every Sunday, Monday and Tuesday night at 9pm.
5) See Some Traditional Irish dancing
This is arguably one of the most famous aspects of traditional Irish culture. Ever since Riverdance took the world by storm, people have always wanted to check out some traditional Irish dancing.
You can look at my guide on where to see Irish dancing in Dublin.
6) Try Some International food cooked with Irish Ingredients
People who came to Ireland even as recently as 10 years ago always used to say the the Irish food was one of the only negatives of their stay. Today that is no longer the case. Many of the people who made those complaints 10 years ago have come back and commented on how great the food has gotten! Today you can find some great international food cooked with fresh Irish ingredients.
7) See Whats on in Whelans
Whelan’s is easily one of the most beloved pubs in Dublin and its famous for its live music. Artists from all over the world have performed here. Ed Sheerhan held a secret concert here after his main stadium gig in Dublin a few years ago and many other artists have a deep love for this venue.
If you want to find out about what gigs are coming up in Whelan’s, check out their website HERE.
8) Enjoy Some More Music
If you choose not to go to Whelan’s, you will still find music all over Dublin. The streets are filled with buskers, even on cold winter nights, with famous local bands like U2 occasionally joining in! One of the best things that you can do in Dublin is to wander the streets and listen to the music wafting on the air. There will be many pubs that have musicians performing for their customers free of charge.
Just wander around until you find the music you like!
9) Go on a Pub Crawl
Dublin is home to over 750 pubs of all descriptions, I have often seen visitors overwhelmed by the choices on offer. This is perfectly understandable and there are a few great pub crawls that will bring you around Dublin, avoiding the tourist traps and going to some of the better places that the city has to offer. Though there are several different ones, my personal favourite starts in the Templebar district and finishes in the famous Copper Face Jack’s nightclub. The ticket is only €12, and you can come back for free as many nights as you want, this is really great value for money.
I have a full list of my favourite things to see in Dublin, including some great pub tours around the city.
10) See whats on at Vicar Street
Another beloved Dublin venue, Vicar Street, is where the Irish comedians who have made it big like to perform. Located right next to the Guinness Storehouse, vicar street is a great place to head to if you want to experience some of the best Irish comedy.
11) Join the Gravedigger Ghost Bus Tour
Like any 1,000 year old city, Dublin has a lot of stories to tell, but not all of them are happy. Some of them are dark, or downright scary. There are a lot of ghost tours around Dublin, where you can explore the streets by foot and get up close and personal with some of the unsavory parts of Irish history.
But my favourite Ghost tour in Dublin is undoubtedly the Ghost Bus tour. On this one, you will be able to see parts of the city that most visitors never really get the chance to see.
You will also be taken off the bus at certain points, so you will still be able to get up close and personal to the visceral parts of Irish history.
12) See an Independent Irish Movie
Irish cinema might not be as well known as cinema from other parts of the English speaking world, but it is still an important part of modern Irish culture. Today there are a number of great independent cinemas around Dublin where you will be able to see some great Irish movies.
Some places to check out include:
- The Irish Film Institute
- The Lighthouse Cinema
13) Start Things Off Outside the Centre
Few people live in Dublin city centre today, most people live in the suburbs surrounding the city. For a local, a typical night out in Dublin will generally start off well outside the city centre and there are some really great neighborhoods to check out while you are here, I will go into some of the most popular later on. But for now I just want to mention a few places.
Some great places to visit include:
- Stoneybatter and Smithfield
- Dun Laoighre
14) Go to Rathmines
Located just south of the Grand Canal, and therefore the city centre of Dublin, the suburb of Rathmines is a popular spot for locals. There are some great things to check out in this area including restaurants, shops and bars.
This is one of the best parts of the city to visit if you want to escape the crowds of tourists. This area is easily accessible via public transport links and is also within walking distance of the city centre. If you want a good place to start your evening, then you should check this place out.
Some popular spots in Rathmines include:
- The Stella Cinema (The boom is definitely back!)
- Farmer Browns, Restaurant
- Blackbird, Bar
15) Go to Howth
Howth is one of my favourite places in all of Ireland and I always tell people they should check it out. It is a peninsula just north of Dublin city and during the day it has some of the best hiking on the East Coast of Ireland. If you want to see some of the best views of nature in the country, you should definitely head here during the day. At nighttime though, there is still plenty to do, especially during the summer months. There will be bars with live music along the coast well into the evening.
For more information on Howth, check out my guide to the area.
16) Enjoy Some Irish Craft Beer
Ireland has a long history of brewing, companies like Guinness and Jameson have been famous all over the world for hundreds of years. The thing is, neither if these companies are Irish owned anymore. In fact most of the big Irish alcohol brands have been bought up by international conglomerates and while this has certainly brought a lot of benefits to the consumer, these companies have lost a little bit of their authenticity. Recently there has been a growing Irish craft beer industry and today you will be able to go to bars all over the city where you can find locally owned and brewed Irish beer.
Some of my favourite bars for craft beer in Dublin will only sell their own products, so you won’t be able to find the likes of Guinness or Smithwicks in any of these places. Some of the best are:
- Against the Grain
- Piper’s Corner
- The Black Sheep
17) Go on a Pub Culture Tour
Clearly pub culture is a big part of Irish culture and you don’t have to drink alcohol to enjoy it! The best evening tour I have gone on in Dublin is without doubt the Pub Culture Tour run by the Yellow Umbrella tour company. This tour goes to three different places where you get a good overview of different aspects of this part of Irish culture. You will see some traditional pubs, modern craft beer bars and get to try some Irish food too. This is the best value for money tour I know about in Dublin!
The tour is €20 and you will get 3 craft beer samples, a half pint of Guinness, a gin and tonic, locally brewed whiskey and a discount on food. I do not get any money for recommending this tour, I just want to tell as many people about it as possible!
I have a full list of my favourite things to see in Dublin, including some great pub tours around the city.
18) Chase the Last of the Sunshine
Believe it or not, we do actually see the sun sometimes in Ireland. In fact during the summer months you might even need sunscreen more than you need rain gear!
Because Ireland is so far North, at the peak of the summer it doesn’t get dark until around 11pm. This is great for experiencing the outdoors in a country where you don’t usually get to do that type of thing. There are a couple of places where people like to hang out in the city when the sun is shinning.
If you head to Trinity College on a sunny day you can see many people, most of whom are not students, at the student bar (the Pav). You could also head to the Barge, a pub along the canal where crowds can be seen enjoying the elusive Irish sun whenever they can get it!
19) Greyhound Racing
One of the most popular evening pastimes in Dublin is “heading to the dogs”. There are a couple of greyhound racing tracks in the city where you will get food, drink and can bet on races. If you don’t lose too much of your money, you might even have a cheaper night than if you had stayed closer to the city centre.
Greyhound Racing Tracks in Dublin:
- Shelbourne Park
- Harold’s Cross
20) BYOB Bowling
There are several “Bring Your Own Beer” nights in bowling alleys right across Dublin. These places are usually a little outside of the city centre and are almost entirely frequented by locals. Beer is usually cheaper when you buy it in an off-licence (liquor store) or at a supermarket. If you want to have a few drinks and a good time without spending too much money in Dublin, then this is one of your best options.
The company Leisureplex has a few locations around Dublin where you can take part in this activity. They are a little off the beaten tourist trail, but well worth a visit for the BYOB nights out.
21) Finish the Night at Coppers
As mentioned previously in this article, Copper Face Jacks is the most popular nightclub in Ireland. Most people just call it Coppers and if you go there you will notice that it will be crowded with mostly locals well into the early hours of the morning. Though the place is a little controversial among Irish people, they either love it or hate it! This place is popular for a variety of reasons, but the biggest one is that it is one of the last places to close in Dublin. Finishing a night out here is something that is well worth experiencing at least once!
22) BONUS ACTIVITY – Avoid Templebar
I know that this is less of an activity and more advice on stuff you shouldn’t do, but its a bonus!
Templebar is an area of Dublin, specifically the cobblestoned part of the city on the South bank of the river Liffey. There are plenty of cool things about this part of town, I have already mentioned a couple in this article like the ifi and the start of the pub crawl. But Irish people tend to avoid this area and have a low opinion of it. Because Irish people avoid it, other Irish people avoid it, this has become something of a self-fulfilling cycle. But another reason why this area has become a little notorious, is the price of beer. You can spend up to twice the amount of money for a pint in this part of Dublin.
Do yourself a favour, if you want to enjoy some of the pubs in Templebar do it in the afternoon, then make your way to one of the other suggestions above!