As the cultural and political capital of the Republic of Ireland, which has become increasingly progressive and gay-friendly in recent years, having recently legalized same-sex marriage, friendly and energetic Dublin lies at the heart of the country's gay scene. This deeply literary and historic metropolis with about 530,000 residents within its city limits hosts the popular Dublin Gay Pride in late June, and in the heart of the bustling - albeit touristy - Temple Bar nightlife district, you'll find a handful of extremely popular gay bars.
The city doesn't have too many expressly LGBT nightspots, but the few establishments here are centrally located, inviting, and typically quite packed on weekends. Moreover, should you venture into just about any pub, wine bar, or restaurant cocktail lounge in the heart of the city, you'll be warmly welcomed, no matter your sexual orientation. Folks tend to get on well throughout Ireland, and Dublin ranks among the most welcoming cities in Europe.
Here's a compilation - in alphabetic order - of the key hangouts popular with gays, lesbians, and their friends in this compact, handsome city bisected by the picturesque River Liffey. If it's a bit of a steamier atmosphere you're seeking, also have a look at the Dublin Gay Bathhouse Guide.
Known equally for its artfully presented, locally sourced contemporary dining as for being a lively gathering spot in a fashionable part of the city, the Front Lounge (34 Parliament St., 1-670-4112) caters strong to gays and lesbians but is quite popular with Dubliners of all shades. Inside, set against a backdrop of ancient whitewashed stone walls and a wall of windows facing bustling Parliament Street, you'll find tables for dining as well as comfy armchairs, better for lounging with a cocktail or a point in hand. This is a stylish option for drinks or a meal before continuing on to one of the neighborhoods many theaters or art spaces.
The George (George's St. across from Dame Lane, just south of Dame St., 1-478-2983) is one of the iconic gay bars of Europe, and by far the most popular LGBT establishment in Dublin. It's a good-size bar with a stage featuring wonderfully campy and fun drag shows and games, from bingo with Shirley Temple Bar to Wednesday's wildly popular Space N Veda variety show. Weekends tend to be especially packed, with top DJs and dancing, and out back, there's a large patio that smokers flock to along with plenty of others looking to chat someplace a bit quieter. The George is in a popular section of the city center, a short walk from several excellent restaurants (Fallon & Byrne, Rustic Stone), and from here it's also an easy stroll to the handful of other gay bars in Dublin.
With its gilt ceiling and ornate woodworking, the handsome Jack Nealon Pub (165 Capel St., 1-872-3247), which occupies a brightly painted red 18th-century building just across lively Capel Street from Pantibar (see below) is a favorite spot for drinking and conversation among all Dubliners. The proximity to Pantibar does lead to there being plenty of LGBT folks on many evenings. The bar keeps here are particularly friendly.
It's unfussy and easygoing, and with a great location fringing the fashionable Grafton Street shopping district, but McDaids Pub (3 Harry St., 1-679-4395) greatest claim to fame is that it's been since 1779. If you're looking to enjoy a pint away from the sometimes excessively jubilant crowds of Temple Bar, this is an ideal spot.
Named for the witty and wry - and infamous in his day - Irish gay literary icon Oscar Wilde, Oscars actually has two establishments in Dublin, both of them exceedingly supportive of and welcoming toward LGBT folks. When the country was in the midst of its referendum on marriage equality, Oscars used "voteyes#marref" as its Wi-Fi password. Situated diagonally across from gracious Merrion Square, at the corner holding the famous Oscar Wilde statue, you'll find Oscars Cafe Bar in Smithfield Square (6 Smithfield Square, 1-529-7341), an inviting spot for cocktails, beer, and three meals daily - including traditional Irish breakfasts and creative pub fare at lunch and dinner. A 15-minute walk west, just beyond Temple Bar and fringing the Dublin City Council complex, Oscars Cafe Bar in Christchurch (16-18 Fishamble St., 1-555-1442) serves similarly delicious food and drink and also draws a good mix of folks, straight and gay but always friendly. The Christchurch venue is large enough for events, too, and has hosted a number of gay weddings.
Something of an institution thanks to its extraordinary owner, the great diva, LGBT activist, and drag icon Rory O'Neill, Pantibar (7 1, 8 Capel St., no phone) opened in 2007 and is located in a brightly colored space in Dublin's inner Northside, just a short stroll across the River Liffey via the Grattan Bridge - it's an easy walk from the city's other gay bars. The pub is a great place to chat with locals and meet new friends. There are, of course, drag shows, but even when there's nothing going on in terms of entertainment, this is a super-friendly spot for drinking, and the crowd is extremely eclectic - women and men of all ages and styles. Rory O'Neill has been the subject of a documentary and plenty of great news coverage over the years, and many have seen her efforts as central to Ireland's steady acceptance and even embrace of the LGBT community.