10 Best Irish Pubs - Both The Traditional And More Modern Incarnations
By Emily Carson
Dublin Local Expert
Everyone has a stereotypical idea of what makes a classic Irish pub: lots of flagstone flooring, leaded glass windows, dim lighthing, hardwood trim and live trad music to round it all off. There are certainly many Dublin pubs that still offer this exact experience but the best Dublin pubs have that little bit extra to set them apart. Whether it's bona fide historial grounds like The Brazen Head, literary patrons like The Duke, a focus on in-house brewing like The Porterhouse or just a cosy and inviting atmosphere like Anseo you'll find an example of that Irish charm that people love to recreate across the globe in 'Irish bars'.
What makes a real Irish pub are its regulars, the quality of its beers on tap and the atmosphere - something that sets Irish pubs out from the rest. This list has a mix of Irish pubs that are steeped in history and those that are reinventing the nature of the Irish pub through focussing on Irish brewing or providing a great venue for Irish music and culture. They are mostly concentrated within the city centre but one or two will mean taking a trip - don't worry they are well worth the pilgrimage. Enjoy the quaint interiors and soak up the culture!
Whelan's is a sprawling pub and music venue that's but a hop, skip and a jump away from Anseo. The interior is real old school Irish pub fare with a carved wooden bar and the 'Stone Man' a life size, drinking statue propped up against the bar. While the site has been operating as a pub for more than 200 years don't be fooled by its quaint décor; the venue itself has played host to some unbelievable artists such as Jeff Buckley and Nick Cave. It is still at the forefront of live music in Dublin and you will often find the artists staying after the gigs for a drink themselves. ((01) 478 0766)
9 The Brazen Head
The Brazen Head claims to be Ireland's oldest drinking establishment - dating back to 1198. Originally a coach house set in medieval Dublin it claims patronage of many of history's famous figures from Joyce to Jonathan Swift, Daniel O'Connell and Michael Collins. If you want to drink the same spot as revolutionaries then this is the place for you. In keeping with the tradition of live Irish music in pubs The Brazen Head has live Irish music sessions every night of the week - previous acts have included Van Morrison and the Dubliners. Sunday afternoon sessions allow customers to pitch in and sing to the crowd - if you think you've got what it takes! (353-1-677-9549)
8 The Porterhouse Temple Bar
This brewing gem opened the doors of its first branch in 1989 and hasn't looked back since. Sourcing some of the best beers from the continent as well as brewing their own, The Porterhouse now boasts five premises in Dublin, London and New York and their Plain Porter won the gold medal at the world brewing industry's most prestigious award last year. They brew an excellent stout in house, but offer a wide range of ales, lagers and seasonal beers to whet your appetite as well, their Temple Bar branch also features live music seven days a week with traditional music at the weekends. (353-1-679-8847)
Anseo is one of those pubs that makes you feel at home. It's cosy, with shelves of books should you wish to spend an afternoon drinking Guinness and slowly becoming unable to read coherently. The upstairs also plays host to the Laugh Out Loud Comedy Club and some of Dublin's best-loved comedians will sometimes put on impromptu shows upstairs. This is the perfect pub to have laid-back afternoon drinks or a more lively evening session. Good drink selection, great music and an excellent atmosphere, Anseo is definitely worth settling down in for a pint or two. (01 4751321)
6 The Duke
Located just off Grafton Street this pub has been around since 1822, "changing the world forever," as their sign claims. The Duke became famous for its appearance in James Joyce's 'Ulysses' and now the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl takes its leave from within The Duke's walls every night of the week during the summer months. The atmosphere is laid back and famously housed the likes of Patrick Kavanagh, Brendan Behan and Myles na gCopaleen who supposedly headed over to Kehoe's once they had been ejected from The Duke for being disorderly. Overall, a nice pub with some great history behind it. (353-1-679-9553)
5 Old Mother Reilly's
Old Mother Reilly's or 'Ma Reilly's' as it's affectionately known to its clientele is decorated in the style of the 'old Irish pub' and has the ambiance to match. Located in nearby suburb Rathmines, this old style bar has the classic low ceilings, flag stone floors and occasional live music that characterise an Irish pub visit. The smoking area is cosy with plenty of room while the interior of the pub has plenty of large benches and tables to accommodate bigger groups. This is a nice pub with reasonably priced drinks that won't often fill to the brim at the weekend unlike city centre pubs. Well worth visiting. (+353 1 4975361)
4 Johnny Fox's
If the hustle and bustle of Dublin's city centre is getting to you and you would prefer to take your Guinness with a scenic panorama then head up to Ireland's 'highest' pub, Johnny Fox's in the Dublin mountains. The drive is about half an hour but you can take the Express Bus from several central locations to arrive in time for service and leaving after last orders. The pub features live traditional music every evening and its famous 'Hooley Night' features a top dance act; a welcome alternative to the city's busy pubs. (01 295 5647)
3 The Black Sheep
The Black Sheep is the sister pub to Camden Street's Against the Grain on the trendy Capel Street. The basis of this pub is great beers, wine and food in a clean, friendly atmosphere with broad wooden tables and board games stored for a night of competition and tasty beverages. The crowning glory of The Black Sheep is its four cask ale pumps, which are reflective of the move towards more interesting drinking trends in the capital. This is the perfect place to spend a few hours sampling some of the 100 craft beers on offer in an up and coming area of the city. There's a real emphasis on showcasing Irish brewers here and that's what makes it an Irish pub with a difference. ((01) 873 0013)
2 The Bailey
If you want a central pub that is as authentic a Dublin experience as possible then head for The Bailey. An area famed by James Joyce, you'll find Bloomsday revelers drinking burgundy and munching on Gorgonzola sandwiches within its walls as well as Dublin's young professionals choosing from its broad wine list after work year-round. There is a food menu comprising of plenty of delicious treats to accompany your beverages at reasonable prices and when it's sunny Duke Street is the perfect place to sit out and people watch. (+353 (0)1 6704939)
Kehoe's is a favorite of many Dubliners, and for good reason. It has managed to maintain its quirky, low-key pub character amid lots of newer, glossier competition. This pub used to act as a grocers as well as a public house and downstairs you'll see the old shop facade as you sip on your pint. This is the perfect place to have a quiet drink - it is commonly lauded as having one of the best pints in Dublin - while basking in the surroundings of a place that has refused to be modernised. An antidote to the bustling pubs that surround it while remaining close to Grafton Street. (677-8312)
About Emily Carson
Emily grew up in Dublin, and studied French and English Literature at the University of Edinburgh. During her university years, she lived in both Scotland and France, but traveled around Europe and Southeast Asia. She returned to Dublin after her studies to find it growing culturally (in spite of the economic downturn). While Dublin was once criticized for its expensive nature, a new wave of inventive and affordable restaurants have popped up as well as interesting and exciting cultural events that prove that Dublin is still progressing and rivals other major European capitals.
Read more about Emily Carson here.