Dublin is full of pubs: modern mega pubs catering to a young crowd, cozy small corner pubs with the frozen-in-time decor, bars for folk music and conversation, and pubs that are no more than watering holes for the serious drinkers. With more than 750 bars to choose from, it is hard to go thirsty in the Irish capital.
But where can you find the best pubs in Dublin? Ultimately, beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. Are you looking for craic (the Irish word for ‘fun’)? Hoping for traditional music? Or craving a drink in a pub with a bit of history to it? Dublin has a bar to fit every bill.
The best way to find your favorite Dublin pub is through drinking pints, pints and more pints – but to get you started, here is an alphabetical guide of where to go for a great night out in Dublin:
The Auld Dubliner
Situated smack in the middle of the busy Temple Bar District, this pub is known for its bright mural (including a Jack Russell Terrier irreverently relieving himself in public – which may be a harbinger for what is to come as the night progresses), folk music, and crowds.
The address alone ensures a steady stream of mostly young and sometimes very noisy crowds. A pint here will never be boring, but don’t expect to be able to hear yourself over the music or the raucous merry-makers.
The Bankers Bar
Decorated with nostalgic posters along the narrow bar, The Bankers is a traditional Irish pub on Trinity Street. As the name suggests, the building was once a bank – and it’s rumored that there are still old vaults sitting in the depths of the bar. Close to Trinity College, the pub has been popular with students since opening just over a hundred years ago. For a bit of a change, head above the main bar on Fridays and Saturdays when the remodeled upper floor serves as a comedy club.
The Brazen Head
James Joyce's mused in "Ulysses" that “a good puzzle would be cross Dublin without passing a pub.” So it is no small wonder that he goes on to mention the Brazen Head in his most famous novel. One of Ireland's oldest pubs, the Brazen Head is located in a building that dates back to the year 1198. The building has been updated more recently, but the historic pub has been a drinking institution for well over a hundred years.
Today, thirsty crowds flock to this Dublin landmark for both the Guinness and the literary connections.
Known for its traditional Trad sessions, The Cobblestone describes itself as a pub with a music problem. With live Irish music 7 days a week, a pint in this pub is nearly always accompanied by a piper and a fiddle. Located on Dublin’s north side, the music draws in a lively local crowd – but this Smithfield watering hole also has the distinction of pouring cheaper pints than the pubs in Temple Bar.
The Living Room
There is a pub for every taste in Dublin, and The Living Room’s appeal is that it is decidedly more modern than the city’s old-timey dark wood bars. The central pub is a popular sports bar with multiple screens showing Irish matches on game day. On a rare sunny day, The Living Room also has an outdoor beer garden perfect for lounging with a drink in hand - though you will find it crowded even during more inclement weather. After the sporting matches are over, the bar takes on a nightclub vibe until the wee hours of the morning.
The Long Stone
A quick walk from Trinity College and across the road from Pearse Street Garda Station, in a rather unexciting area of town, this quirky bar is billed as Dublin's oldest Viking pub. That claim might be stretching the bounds of truth a bit because the pub was established in 1754, when the Vikings had long since disappeared. The popular pub is, however, named and decorated in homage to the Norsemen who settled in the area long ago. The dimly lit bar incorporates Viking elements into its design and even has a statue Balder, the Norse God of Light and Warmth, which doubles as a fireplace.
Mary's Bar & Hardware Shop
Head to any small town or village in Ireland and you can probably still find a pub tucked away into a grocery store or DIY shop. Mary’s Bar & Hardware Shop opened in 2014 but offers a taste of these classic hybrid pubs in the heart of the capital. And who knows? You might find something useful to purchase off the eclectic shelves between rounds.
Busy Grafton Street has traditionally been rumored to be the only road in Dublin without a pub. Luckily, some of the city’s best pubs, including McDaid’s, are just a few steps away down side streets. Most people drop in for a quick drink, but you should linger awhile to enjoy the art deco interior to truly appreciate the classic pub. In addition to the décor, the artistic connections are to be found in famous patrons from the past: Patrick Kavanagh used to drink here, so did (albeit in larger quantities and with greater frequency) Brendan Behan. The latter is rumored to have modeled some of his characters on fellow drinkers in this pub - he would, wouldn't he?
Today, McDaid's has a dark-ish interior, lots of original woodwork, and is a good place to have a quiet pint. But it’s not quite as quiet as a morgue, even though the building once served as one.
Mulligan's has been pouring pints since 1782 (though not at this location originally). Over its long history, many celebrities have sidled up to the bar for a drink – including President John F Kennedy, poet Seamus Heaney, and actress Judy Garland. James Joyce was on the list of bar regulars, as was most of the staff from the Irish Press (which folded in 1995). Mulligan's is also famous for its connection with legendary Kerry sports writer Con Houlihan and still has a plaque in his honor. Mulligan’s main claim to fame, however, is a perfect pint of Guinness poured by experienced staff. In fact, the pub is known as “the home of the pint.”
Irish folk music fans cannot visit Dublin without making a pilgrimage to O'Donoghue's in Merrion Row. This high-traffic pub is known for having launched the career of the Dubliners, Ireland's seminal folk and ballad group.
Very near to the city center, O'Donoghue's is surprisingly large ... and it needs to be, as the pub is on several tours. All this means that the pub will nearly always have a spirited influx of visitors, especially during the tourist season, and when live music is on.
Stepping into the unspoiled Palace Bar is like going back in time to the Victorian Age. The pub has been open since 1823 and is popular for its extensive collection of Irish whiskeys. In addition to its period décor, the Fleet Street pub is known for its long association with writers, thanks in no small part to its vicinity to the Irish Times office. A short walk from Ha’Penny bridge, the pub is a welcome local alternative to Temple Bar.
The Porterhouse, on the fringes of Temple Bar and just a stone's throw from Dublin castle and city hall, opened in 1996 as Dublin's first pub brewery. At the time, the Guinness-soaked publicans of the old guard were skeptical that such a new-fangled microbrewery could survive.
But endure it did and The Porterhouse is now as much a Dublin institution as you can get in just twenty or so years. A popular pub to enjoy craft beer, or to let your hair down.
The Stag's Head
When Guinness needed an iconic pub to use as the backdrop for a filmed advertisement, it came to The Stag’s Head. The elegant Victorian-style pub is full of dark wood and, of course, features a large stag’s head mounted over the bar. The beloved pub is tucked away down a passageway on Dame Street – but its location close to Dublin City Hall and Grafton Street keeps this hidden gem of a bar bustling throughout the day and night.
Formerly known as "Messrs Maguire," this huge pub sprawls over four floors and boasts its own micro-brewery to create a winning combination of pub, late-night bar, and restaurant. Within sight of O'Connell Bridge, J.W. Sweetman is also as central as it gets, making it an ideal meeting place during a night out. Not one to rely only on location, location, location, J.W. Sweetman is famed for its selection of homebrewed beers, though no one will fault you for ordering a pint of Guinness.
Established in 1818 as bar and grocery store, Toners still has a traditional feel and an ideal snug (a private, cozy corner separated from the rest of the pub) for a drink after a long day of exploring Dublin. Beyond the old-timey brass taps and warm interior, the bar is popular for its outdoor patio that opened in 2012. Known as The Yard, the beer garden is packed on sunny days when locals arrive in droves for a pint in the open air.
Check out the Jameson Distillery as well.