Montreal isn't exactly known for its pub culture. Terrasse and 5-à-7 culture? Hell yes. Nightlife culture? A university city like Montreal wouldn't be one without it, especially given how low the legal drinking age goes. But pub culture as it is known across the pond as a community meeting place, a focal point where neighbors and friends converge on a daily basis to shoot the breeze? Not so much. However, a case could be made for Montreal's Irish pub culture, especially on St. Patrick's Day. You see, locals who like their Irish pubs love their Irish pubs.
But which ones reign supreme?
Le Vieux Dublin, aka Old Dublin Pub, claims the title of Montreal's oldest Irish pub, having first opened in 1978. It's a claim, a seemingly undisputed one, that's almost hard to believe considering Montreal has had a prominent Irish community for over 200 years, but even if others may have come before, Old Dublin is still standing, the eldest among its currently operating peers.
It is no longer in its original University Street location though, having moved to a nearby venue, just off main downtown thoroughfares like Ste. Catherine Street and yet a stone's throw from all the bustle, just far enough to keep away random riff raff.
Open since 1993, Irish ex-pats and visitors consistently insist Hurley's is the Montreal Irish pub to visit for a taste of home. There's no doubt this pub is the liveliest of the bunch. Loud, brash and perpetually primed for a cheer, don't be surprised if a few regulars break out into a step dance when the evening's live traditional music starts up.
And don't be surprised if the place is packed. If anything you should be surprised if it isn't. So if you want a coveted spot in main room where the band plays, get there early.
Not to be confused with Ireland's actual embassy (which is in Ottawa by the way), you wouldn't be faulted for confounding Irish Embassy with an Irish sports bar. This place is great for catching the big game.
With friendly staff framed by a gorgeous wood interior, the layout of the downtown pub is brilliant in that not only does it still feel cozy even though it's a fairly big room, but the flat screens are placed so strategically that it you could sit anywhere and still have a great view of the game. You gotta love that.
Irish Embassy offers solid pub fare and almost daily live music as well. Nice terrasses, too. It's a fine choice for a pint after an afternoon at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts or after catching a game or concert at the Bell Centre, both a five- to ten-minute walk from the pub.
McKibbin's has more than one location in and around Montreal, notably on the Main, but out of all of them, our favorite is the original downtown locale on Bishop Street, which might as well be called an Irish complex. It's huge. Three stories high. Our preferred spot? The bottom floor for its smaller size and laidback vibe. It feels more like an Irish pub than the rest of the venue. Mind you, the main floor has its charms when a live band is playing, which is often.
McKibbin's isn't the only Montreal Irish pub with a handful of locations. Ye Olde Orchard's original pub on Monkland fared so well—so well that you need the luck of the Irish to score a spot on its terrasse—that it spread forth and multiplied across the Greater Montreal area. Two of the more central locations are just off the Main in the Plateau and south of Ste. Catherine in downtown Montreal. As with most Montreal Irish pubs, live music is on the roster.