There's been as many lists of Dublin pubs made as there are pubs in Dublin... feckin' loads, and there'll be millions more no doubt. But that's okay because no two lists will likely ever be exactly the same; there's so many pubs available to us in this city, of various types, different styles and attracting different crowds, that lists of 'The Best Pubs' or someone's 'favourite' pubs serve to be, if nothing else, at least reminders to us locals to go back to a pub we may have overlooked for too long.
For visitors to Dublin the choice can be a little overwhelming perhaps and there is a tendency to traipse from pub to pub in the Temple bar district - which is all well and good for lively atmosphere, live 'Irish' music and a scattering of the typical 'Irish Pub'.
But these pubs tend to be full of other visitors to Dublin, dare I say it, tourists with relatively few 'locals' frequenting the majority of the bustling bars in the area and prices tend to be a bit higher than in pubs outside of the 'cultural quarter'. It's one of the fundamental reasons we started our Backpacker Pub Crawl here in Dublin, was to make a pick of the best pubs us locals love accessible to backpackers wanting to experience our real Dublin while in town.
But Pub Crawls aren't for everyone and of course we can't fit all of the great pubs into one night so here's a list of watering holes we here at NEXT recommend checking out depending on what you're looking for. They're loosely categorised into different types, but many could comfortably sit under a few of these categories. Also, ask the lovely reception staff at your hostel where's good to go... they'll know! ;)
Old Man Pubs
Don't be put off by the title of this category, The old man's pub or Aul fella's pub is a dying breed and one which harks back to the days of old. Of course it doesn't exclude women at all, it's merely the generalised term for a good pub in which one can have a quiet pint and chat, a quality pint of Guinness is essential and there's an intrinsic sense that the dark browns and wooden panels of the aged decor have witnessed a couple of centuries of genius, wit, creativity, song & dance, nonsense and, of course, drunken escapades. The kinds of pubs our grandfathers and their fathers before them drank in. These pubs are ideal for a 'cheeky / sneaky' day-time pint or liquid lunch and great for meeting real locals and characters. Perfect for resting the feet and quenching your thirst after a walking tour or a busy afternoon in museums and galleries.
Grogan's - 15 South William Street, Dublin 2
Locally considered as one of the pubs for the best pint of Guinness in Dublin, Grogans is an ideal place for sinking a pint or five. Toasted sandwiches at the bar and a great spot to sit outside people-watching on one of Dublin's hippest and most bustling corners.
The Stags Head, 1 Dame Court
Walking into The Stag's Head for the first time really does feel like you found something secretly stagnant in time, a somewhat hidden piece of history. Including Victorian character, Connemara marble caps the long mahogany bar with sprinkles of colour cast from the stained glass windows.
The Long Hall 51, South Great George's Street
It's essentially a long hall, no music or TV and is great for a nice pint.
Live music pubs
The musical talent per square inch in Dublin is truly awesome. We are lucky to have such remarkable musical creativity of an exceptionally high standard and spanning a multitude of genres and disciplines literally all around us here.
Some (of many) Pubs nurturing this talent and supporting local independent bands and artists are:
Whelan's - 25 Wexford Street, Dublin 2
This year celebrating 25 years of Live Music in Dublin, Whelan's is nothing short of an Irish Institution. Playing in Whelan's is the benchmark for up-and-coming acts in the country. It's a charming rustic bar with two stages that regularly play host to numerous established Irish & international artists as well as new bands and music acts. Some of the notable acts which have entertained us over the years here include Jeff Buckley, Kate Nash, Ed Sheeran, Nick Cave, Bloc Party, Arctic Monkeys and countless others...the list goes on and on and on and hopefully will continue for at least another 25 years. It's one of our Backpacker Pub Crawl pubs so you can check it out with us or in your own time, either way it's well worth popping in.
Sweeney's - 32 dame Street
“A drinking pub with a music problem” is how Sweeney's defines itself and in it's relatively short existence (6 years or so) this pub has become a regular haunt for contemporaries of the current Irish music scene. It's edgy, stylish in its own charming way. I always think of Sweeney's, rightly or wrongly, as the unemployed, slightly crusty, hippy-like brother or sister in the family of Dublin pubs. And I love it. It's down-to-earth and feels honest, not much bullshit and full of wonderful nonsense. 3 floors accommodate over 50 bands & DJs per week and usually free in!
Pubs for real Traditional Irish music
Places for good traditional Irish music not necessarily aimed at attracting tourists eager to tick the 'Riverdance music' box.
The Cobblestone - 77 King St North
It looks fairly dingy, dodgy even, from the outside but The Cobblestone is one of the few remaining pubs which manages to be a breath of fresh air while having the delightful musty charm of the old rural pub and, with some of the country's best traditional musicians passing through regularly, fantastic music to match the warm, friendly interior. A good spot close to Jameson Whiskey Museum in Smithfield.
O' Donoghue's - 15 Merrion Row
One of Dublin's oldest pubs, this is a favourite haunt of locals and visitor's to Dublin. It bore witness to the traditional music revolution of the 60's and 70's, evidenced by the photos, paintings & sketches adorning the walls of legends the likes of The Dubliners and Christy Moore who were found here breathing new life into the tradition. The rich legacy of Irish music in O'Donoghue's is thankfully still nurtured today and their Guinness ain't bad either.
The Celt - 81 Talbot St
A charming pub on the Northside with a warm welcome and friendly staff, The Celt offers a cosy atmosphere in a setting that you can almost hear creaking such is its rustic charm. The music fills the whole space with energy and lively fun, attracting locals and visitors alike.
Pubs catering to Dublin's alternative scene have dwindled in recent years. Only eight or so years ago there was much more choice for the classic rock fan or hairy, head-banging, heavy-metal fan in Dublin. Sadly that's no longer the case but there's still a few pubs where one can let their hair down to their favourite Pantera track or make a toast to Johnny Cash.
Fibber Magees – Parnell Street
The first pub I visited in Dublin...when I was 9 years old. Those were simpler times and the child safety authorities were thankfully not alerted. Fibbers has long been on the scene as a place where metallers, goths and hard-rockers hang out. It suffered it's fair share of nu-metal fanatics when all that kicked off which saw a new (nu) breed of younger clientele frequent it but still a good place for your old-school anthems as well as that new noise. Very good cheap drink specials too.
Gypsy Rose - 5 Aston Quay
A rock and blues bar overlooking the river Liffey. An upstairs, a downstairs, a cafe, a tattoo parlour, an intimate stage, a dancefloor, an indoor smoking area and decent prices makes Gypsy Rose not a bad spot to check out.
O' Reilly's / Club Hell – 2 Poolbeg Street
O'Reilly's is a fairly standard pub but for the fact that it's housed underneath a train station and as such exists in an interesting underground layout. On Saturdays it hosts Dublin's largest rock night for 500 or so happy people and offers very, very good drinks promos and the obligatory tunes.
Places where skinny jeans, ironic t-shirts, oversized glasses, massive head-phones and neck beards fit right in alongside vintage & second-hand furniture. There's been plenty of pubs springing up in recent years here which embrace a vibe and style more familiar with utilitarian Berlin bars or Budapest ruin pubs, adding a variety of choice to our pub scene which is most welcome.
The Bernard Shaw - 11-12 Richmond St South
Regularly hosting anything from markets to hot-tub parties to exhibitions, The Bernard Shaw is one of Dublin's most fun places to have a pint. There's a good smoking area, a double-decker bus serving pizza and lots of graffiti.
Cassidy's - 27 Westmoreland Street
I really like this place – friendly staff, pizza available, free crisps and retro candy & sweets from Irish childhood, board games, good tunes pumped out from the likes of R.A.T.M, Q.O.T.S.A and Joni Mitchell. If you have no idea who any of those are please stop reading this rambling litany of pubs and go listen to each of them now. Please. It's far more important. For those of you still reading there's also a fairly decent selection of craft beers available amid dimly lit 'quirky' décor.
The Workman's Club
A bit shabby in that carefully executed way, The Workmans is more a live music venue and club space than a pub proper, but it has a bar or two and the large, usually busy smoking area feels like a pub a lot of the time. A good place to go when it's getting late-ish in the night....1am territory.
Craft Beer Pubs
I'm actually not gonna delve deeply into this one here as I am a bit of a craft beer fan and this deserves a feature of it's own which will come soon but here's a brief mention of a few craft beer pubs driving a craft beer revolution here that are worth checking out if you're in town before our dedicated craft beer pub recommendations list is born. You can easily find these on t'interweb for more info.
Against The Grain
The Brew Dock
The Headline Bar
L Mulligan Grocer
....But there's many more so look out for our Craft Beer Pubs list coming very soon(ish).
And you can also check out our recent picks of the best craft beers available in Dublin here if you're interested.
That's it for now pub lovers. Dublin is synonymous with the pub and, as I mentioned from the start, I could do ten more different lists and they'd each be equally valid such is the variety of pub options in this little city. I must include some honourable mentions - some of my absolute favourites which equally deserve checking out are;
The Foggy Dew, Peadar Kearney's (especially Tuesday night, great trad session), Sin é, Frank Ryan's and last but not least, The Dice Bar.
And don't take the categories above too seriously as all of the above pubs share one or more of the elements of the other categories too, for example an old man pub might also now be a hipster pub (only for being 'an old man pub' in the firstplace yes, but nevertheless...). It's difficult not to have a good time in any pub here really - as long as you're open to enjoying life and interacting with locals then time spent in a Dublin pub is time spent well.
Ps. If you are in a pub here ask the barman or barwoman if s/he has seen me, Mike Wrach (the surname is pronounced like rack), and see what happens (;