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Get a Real Taste of Ireland at Dublin's Best Pubs

Published by Bill Lehane, Writer

Country: Ireland

The Experience

For most Dubliners, the pub is the centre of Irish society. Every occasion takes place here, be it happy or sad, culinary or alcohol-fuelled, literary or sporting, business or pleasure, family or friends. And no matter where you go in Dublin, you'll find a public house or two or three on every street. As James Joyce wrote in his classic novel Ulysses, “A good puzzle would be to cross Dublin without passing a pub.”

One of the best aspects of Dublin pub life is that it's a culture open to all, locals and visitors alike. Everyone is welcome to sample the charm, “craic” (fun in Gaelic), music, drink and conversation. Whether you're after a quiet pint, a rock music bar, cocktails, traditional music and dancing, food or a simple suburban bar (known as a “local”), you will find it right across Dublin.

Of course, for the classic and most authentic Irish pub experience, you'll want to stay away from Dublin’s many modern bars and go for the older, cozier establishments. There you'll find a better pint, better atmosphere and better conversation. Better still, take a day off from conventional sight-seeing and have one drink in a series of different pubs. This way you'll experience the very best of what Dublin pub culture has to offer. This can be done without leaving the environs of Grafton Street, Dublin’s busiest shopping area.

Starting from St Stephen's Green, a popular city park, you'll find your way to Peter's Pub—a tiny establishment on Johnson's Place that has great stout if you can fit yourself in the door! Circle back towards Grafton Street and you'll come to Neary's—another classic spot with cozy red interior that has a back door that joins up with the stage door of Dublin's Gaiety Theatre. Come after a play and the actors you've just seen will be at the bar already!

On nearby South Anne Street you'll come to Kehoe's—a cavernous old bar where it's easy to get lost and where you'll see sports fans drinking out on the street after a big match. Across the road you'll find McDaids, where the drinks are good but standing is compulsory; and Bruxelles, the home of Irish rock ‘n’ roll, where you can let your ear guide you between two basement bars with sharply contrasting musical styles. Slightly further down is The Duke—a well-known footrest halfway through the Grafton Street area on Duke Street. Davy Byrnes, famous as a location in two of James Joyce's books, is on the same street.

If you continue on down you'll come to O'Donoghues on Suffolk Street, formerly known as the Thing Mote and one of the city's airiest wooden pubs. Further up you'll hit O'Neills—a large and welcoming green pub that takes up one whole corner of Suffolk Street. By now you'll have visited many of Dublin's best pubs, and this is without even reaching Temple Bar—the city's cultural and nightlife district.

Inside this cultural quarter you'll find dozens of bars including the Palace Bar, where there's always a great traditional music session upstairs; the Auld Dubliner, a nice warm bar that's frequently overlooked; and the Temple Bar itself, which is the best place to find other visitors to team up with. Choose whichever takes your fancy to round off the evening before taking a short stroll back to your guest bed happy in the knowledge that you've seen and done the best of Europe's coolest drinking city.




When to Go to Dubiln Pubs

The best time of year to visit Dublin's pubs is in the spring, autumn and winter, because summer crowds won't spoil a quiet pint in a cozy wooden bar; and there's no better excuse to drop in for a drink than some inclement weather!

Seventy-eight different airlines from around the world fly to Dublin Airport, the country's main airport hub. Check online booking engines for the cheapest deals. Getting to the city from the airport is straightforward, with dedicated Aircoach buses offering direct transfers to the city and principal hotels for US$18 return. Ordinary Dublin Bus city buses are cheaper still, but there may not be any space for your luggage.

Odds n' Ends

All of the places mentioned in this article are within ready walking distance of one another in Dublin's south city centre. Nonetheless, you'll need to dress up warm, especially when visiting in winter.

The best drink to have is, of course, Guinness, but there are plenty of other famous Irish drinks you can try as well. Ask the barman for tips and you'll always get a friendly response.

If you find yourself out late and needing transport home, the Nite Link bus service operates from the city centre to most other neighborhoods on Friday and Saturday nights. Tickets cost US$7.50 (you can either buy a prepaid ticket or pay in cash on board). There are also lots of taxis, but avoid the official taxi queues as thumbing for a cab is usually much faster.

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