Mary’s Bar and Hardware is a multi-purpose pub in the centre of Dublin | Courtesy of Mary’s Bar and Hardware
In a city where every street corner seems to have a bar, it can be difficult to find the best pubs. Culture Trip’s guide to Dublin’s watering holes helps you find the best of Irish hospitality, authentic ambiences and, of course, an excellent pint.
It’s often said that Guinness tastes better in Ireland, and where better to test that theory than in Dublin, home of the famous Irish stout? The hunt for the pint of your life will take you through the treasure trove of bars and pubs that line the city’s streets. You’ll want to soak up the ambience of a classic Irish boozer, yes, but what about that hidden speakeasy, that eclectic bar that doubles as a DIY shop or the home of the best cheese toasties in Ireland? These are the best bars in Dublin where you can raise a glass to the city’s pub tradition.
The Confession Box
Bar, Pub, Beer
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If you’re looking for a quintessentially Irish pub away from the crowd of boozing tourists in Temple Bar, head slightly north of the city to The Confession Box. Serving a perfect Guinness, this tiny, two-storey Georgian pub is a charming drinking hole with a somewhat notorious history. Irish revolutionaries (among them Michael Collins) who had been excommunicated by the Church would drop into the pub for communion and confession granted by priests of the nearby St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral who were sympathetic to their cause. Nowadays, visitors and regular punters share stories and sing along to live music in a comfortingly small, familial setting.
Bar, Pub, Craft Ale Bar, Beer, Wine, Cocktails, $$$
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Located close to the tree-lined Grand Canal is The Bernard Shaw – a casual pub perhaps known more for its outdoor space than its indoor space. Walk past the first couple of bars inside to find yourself in a huge, partially covered beer garden. Get here early during the summer months, as you’ll struggle to find a perch among the crowd. Don’t forget to soak up the beer with a slice of pizza served up in the garden’s Big Blue Bus before you leave.
You won’t find any fuss or frills at Grogans Pub – one of Dublin’s olde worlde classics is suitably decked out with traditional wood cladding, dark carpet and cushioned benches. There are no TVs or music here, but the conversational hubbub of this little boozer is all the soundtrack you’ll need to enjoy your beverage and the pub’s signature snack – a perfectly melted, perfectly crisp cheese toastie. Original art pieces, many by local artists, adorn the walls of this cosy pub and are all for sale if you fancy a lasting souvenir of your trip to Grogans.
If you’re a fan of live music, Dublin’s legendary Whelan’s needs to be on your must-visit list. Centrally located, the pub hosts intimate gigs and comedy nights regularly, resulting in a lively atmosphere. The popular venue began to attract serious musical talent in the early ’90s and has seen Jeff Buckley, the Arctic Monkeys and Ed Sheeran perform. It’s also been immortalised in film as the spot where Gerard Butler sang ‘Galway Girl’ to Hilary Swank in PS I Love You. Despite this pedigree, there’s no need to be a music buff to enjoy this bar; Whelan’s is at heart a classic Irish pub with plenty of space to sit with your favourite tipple.
Sometimes a glass of wine and a board game won’t cut it. Enter, Token – a lively bar, restaurant, retro arcade and pinball parlour all in one. With a rotation of beers, cocktails and the opportunity to trade arcade tokens for a shot of Baby Guinness, this isn’t the place for a quiet catch-up. It is, however, the spot for a large helping of social gaming and a side order of nostalgia. Try your luck at Space Invaders, reminisce over Pac-Man or spend far too long deciding between Ken and Ryu in Street Fighter II. Home-made sliders and vegan-friendly tacos are the perfect accompaniments.
Is this the right place? Is it open? Will I get in? These are common questions for those searching for one of Dublin’s celeb hideaways, Hacienda Bar. This Spanish-looking villa may seem out of place in the traditional surroundings of Smithfield, but you’ll feel right at home once you’ve made it in – if you make it in, that is. You have to buzz the locked door where you will be greeted by Shay, the bar’s well-known landlord; if you’re deemed to be polite and friendly, you are welcomed inside. Immerse yourself in this dimly lit Aladdin’s cave of curios, chill by the fire, mingle with the regulars and have a game of pool. This small, casual speakeasy is like no other. Forget ’20s-style cocktails and any hint of pretension – Hacienda Bar is all about the craic.
Cafe, Wine Bar, Wine, Coffee, Snacks, Contemporary, Irish
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Nobody likes to judge a book by its cover. But passers-by would be forgiven for making an immediate assessment of Bestseller Dublin Wine Café, thanks to the chic awning on the exterior and alluring name. Once the headquarters of the National Bible Society of Ireland, Bestseller is now a bookshop serving coffee by day and wine by night. If you’re not up for polishing off a bottle, curl up in one of its leather armchairs with a glass of rioja, a locally sourced antipasti platter for one and your favourite page-turner. Alternatively, set up camp by the windows and watch the world go by to the backdrop of ambient jazz.
Claiming the title of Ireland’s highest pub (along with a handful of other contenders), this 200-year-old hideout is a 40-minute shuttle bus ride away from the city centre, but very much worth the journey. Marvel at Johnnie Fox’s world-famous Irish dancing Hooley Show, dine at the award-winning seafood kitchen and snoop through the pub’s ‘living museum’, teeming with Irish relics. In the 1960s, this pub was known for its ‘sessions’, where travellers would meet to play songs with the regulars. Not much has changed over the years; enjoy a pint of the black stuff, take in some quality music and make memories in this most authentic of Irish boozers.
Calling all gin lovers – 57 The Headline is the place for you. Following its success as a gastropub with an array of draught beer and whiskey on offer, it opened the No 57 Gin Bar upstairs. This bar has a cosy but refined front-room vibe and is open only on Fridays and Saturdays. Settle back on a sofa and sip a local gin – selected by the knowledgeable staff – by candlelight. The gin is so good you’ll want to take it home, and you can. Luckily, No 57 Gin Bar also curates and sells gin hampers.
Drop Dead Twice is hard to miss, with its black-and-yellow facade and buzzing atmosphere. The downstairs Taproom offers a large selection of craft beers, but the upstairs is where the fun really begins. The bar has been tailor-made for the Dublin cabaret and comedy scene, where performers take to the stage at events such as the Dublin Fringe Festival and Rogues Gallery (which is Ireland’s only sideshow). On quieter evenings, you can book a slot at the BYO Cocktail Bar – hand over your spirit of choice and watch as a mixologist creates your bespoke cocktail.
Have a drink and pick up some batteries at Mary’s Bar and Hardware | Courtesy of Mary’s Bar and Hardware
Never again will you need to leave the pub early because you forgot to buy that light bulb or replace those batteries. At Mary’s Bar and Hardware, you can pay for weed killer with your whiskey. Mary’s celebrates Ireland’s old, multi-purpose pubs, where punters could shop for groceries and other bits and bobs on their way home. This DIYer’s heaven is set off Grafton Street, Dublin’s shopping hub, so it is perfect for a quick pit stop. If you want to make a night of it, grab one of the bar’s board games and battle it out with your friends to the soundtrack of the live music played here every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday until late.
Ireland might be known for its boozers, but that’s not to say it’s unwelcoming to those after a teetotal tipple. The Virgin Mary is Ireland’s first alcohol-free bar, serving virgin wine, beer and mocktails in a stylish cocktail-bar setting with leather booths. Seating just 30, The Virgin Mary was set up to accommodate a growing desire for non-alcoholic drinks, and it certainly fills that niche. Try The Irish Virgin, a frothy draught disguised as the black stuff. It’s so good that during a blind taste test, 80 percent of participants were unable to differentiate between the alcohol-free version and an actual pint of Guinness.