It’s only right that Dublin, that most gregarious of cities, is the undisputed standard-bearer for the humble pub. From nursing a quiet afternoon pint on an old mahogany counter to enjoying the rowdy hum of an evening trad music session, there’s a different character to each Dublin pub experience. And though the city offers some magnificent restaurants, museums and galleries, its beating lyrical heart is found at the bar.
The Brazen Head
Dublin’s pubs are famous for the literary and historical luminaries who once quenched their thirst, though few can claim Gulliver’s Travels author Jonathan Swift and legendary revolutionary Wolfe Tone as regulars. Though the current building was built in 1754 as a coaching inn, you’ll notice a grand painted parchment on the Brazen Head’s entrance on Lower Bridge Street declaring that it (or at least some form of alehouse) dates back to 1198. Either way, this is a grand old Dublin institution that, while often busy with tourists, boasts a vibrant beer garden and live music seven nights a week from 9pm.
Dublin’s meandering old streets mean that there’s not a whole lot of room for vast beer gardens, but Toner’s on Baggot Street has plenty of room for a few pints in the sun and heaters for when the weather cools down. With ‘Toner’s Yard’ emblazoned in jaunty red letters and twinkling fairy lights strewn above the patio, it’s a busy spot so arrive a little earlier to nab yourself a table. And for a pub with such a fine outdoor space, Toner’s is also home to one of Dublin’s coziest snugs located just inside the front window.
‘A drinking pub with a music problem’ goes the snappy tagline at The Cobblestone, but this is a friendly pub that takes its music seriously. And in a city with musicians proudly displaying their craft every night of the week, the journey out of the city centre to the Cobblestone’s street corner home in the Smithfield area is well worth travelling for. With quality trad music sessions in the bar played by superb musicians to a receptive and appreciative audience, this lively pub is built on respect for Irish musical culture and owner Tom Mulligan’s family have been playing Irish music for five generations.
Yes, it might be the most touristy of Dublin’s famous pubs (and by quite some distance) and it’ll also probably be the most expensive Guinness of your trip, but the Temple Bar pub is worth a visit just for the experience. With its bright red facade and green shrubbery hanging over the windows, the exterior is almost as ostentatious as the jaunty interior, and you’re guaranteed a lively music-filled atmosphere any time of the week. And if you’re not in the mood for a pint then Temple Bar comes armed with a choice of over 450 types of rare whiskey, making it the largest whiskey collection in Ireland.
The Blue Light
It’s a while out of the city centre in the foothills of the Dublin Mountains, but The Blue Light’s terrace offers majestic views of the entire city stretching as far as the hazy outline of the Howth Peninsula. Dating back over 300 years, the pub takes its name from smugglers looking for a signal that the coast was clear so that they could safely land illegal booty such as rum, tobacco, wine and brandy. If you’ve been exploring the mountains or hiking the Wicklow Way, there’s no better spot for a post-walk pint and the cinematic views are at their best as the sun goes down and the city lights begin to flicker on.
Davy Byrne’s pub
Writer James Joyce lived in European cities such as Paris, Zurich and Trieste but his stories were almost always set in Dublin and one of the most vivid literary references to his hometown was at Davy Byrne’s pub on Duke Street. Joyce himself had drunk here many times before and the main protagonist of his masterpiece Ullyses – Leopold Bloom – drops by the pub in chapter 8 and orders a ‘gorgonzola sandwich and a glass of Burgundy’. The pub was also frequented by the likes of Patrick Kavanagh and Brendan Behan, but it’s the Joyce connection that remains the strongest – especially on Bloomsday, a joyous annual celebration of Joyce every June 16.
John Kavanagh’s (aka ‘The Gravediggers’)
Is where to find the best Guinness the most subjective question of them all? There’s no doubt that Dublin is the finest city for the black stuff, but where it’s served is a whole different animal to ponder. With an evocative name and an even better drop of Guinness, John Kavanagh’s (aka ‘The Gravediggers’) in Glasnevin might be the best of them all. Located next door to Glasnevin Cemetery and dating back to 1833, its unfussy old-world interior, weathered wooden bar and lack of music and television mean you can enjoy a peaceful pint by yourself or settle in for a few with your friends.
The Long Hall
From the Palace Bar to the Stag’s Head, Dublin’s home to several lavishly decorated Victorian pubs but few can match The Long Hall on South Great George’s Street. The red and white striped awnings on the outside make it seem a little twee at first glance, but on entering it’s like stepping back in time into a glamorous 19th-century Epoque. Virtually unchanged since 1881, its cozy lounge is blanketed by a glossy crimson ceiling, elaborate wooden partitions, antique clocks, globe lamps and red leather bar stools. The service here is excellent too, so settle in, order a pint and admire the splendour of one of Dublin’s great pubs.
The Black Sheep
Despite the pervasive presence of Guinness, Dublin hasn’t been able to fend off the craft beer revolution of recent years and there are plenty of beer options for those looking beyond the nation’s favourite stout. Sitting at the northern end of Capel Street, The Black Sheep is a craft beer nirvana with almost 20 different beers on tap and myriad more Irish and international varieties filling up their fridges. Owned by the Galway-based Galway Bay brewery, the 3 per cent Weights and Measures session IPA is an easy-drinking introduction to their style while the 8.5 per cent West Coast DIPA Of Foam and Fury is strong, complex and big on tropical notes.
The Palace Bar
Irish whiskey has had something of a renaissance recently, and some of the finest examples can be found upstairs at The Palace Bar. A beautiful old Victorian pub on the eastern fringes of Temple Bar, the pub has a whiskey bar upstairs and is a cozy spot to settle in for a dram or two from Ireland’s ever-growing number of distilleries. The gaudy neon ‘Whiskey Palace’ sign brings a touch of Vegas sheen to proceedings but don’t let that put you off – this elegant bar is stacked with handsome wooden cabinets packed with everything from newer distilleries like Teeling and Roe & Co to rare exclusives such as Redbreast’s 17-year-old Single Cask.
Story by James March / Source: cntraveller.com