There were a few things that I noticed straight away while in Dublin. They seem to love Americans (which in reality seems to be very rare these days). They were really in touch with our politics. And the people were warm and friendly. After having a bicycle accident, a family actually took me into their home, patched me up, picked up my bike and fed me. It was incredible and totally unexpected.
Also, the pubs and nightlife were incredible. Typically packed with both tourists and locals, and having live music is the norm. And it rained. A lot. But that should not deter anyone from heading to the Emerald Isle for a great time. Start your trip off in Dublin and spread out from there.
The area that is now Dublin started its life off as a small Viking settlement in 841. The Vikings settled the area and intermingled with the Celts having set up the original settlement on the banks of Liffey River and over the course of about two hundred years the little settlement grew. It was then in 1171 that the Vikings were expelled from the area by King Henry II of England.
By the 17th century, Dublin became one of the greatest cities in Europe second only to London and for the most part, a lot of Georgian architecture and historic landmarks from the era can still be seen today.
Though Ireland’s history in the 20th century was not always the sunniest, the city has emerged from its sometimes troubled past and now still stands as a major European capital that’s modern, fun, and full of absolutely great things to check out. Stereotypes might point to the Irish loving their drink but while that might be a stereotype there’s no doubt that Dublin has some amazing bars and nightlife.
If you’re in the city and looking to grab a drink, have a dance, and enjoy a night out, here are some of the best bars and nightlife spots in Dublin.
The Long Hall
The Long Hall is an iconic place for the Dublin pub scene. While being well known, the pub still isn’t one of those places where it’s going to be super packed and that you’ll have to fight your way through to the bar just to order a pint. In fact, it is a kind of the opposite. The vibe here is a relaxed one, it’s the type of place where you can tuck into a booth with some friends and order a pint of Guinness. Which is, as they say, better in Ireland.
With its iconic red and white façade and red brick walls, The Long Hall is also one of the oldest pubs in the city, being established in 1766 and also being relatively unchanged since it opened. The interior keeps its kitschy Victorian aesthetic alive with its weird antique clocks adorning the walls, wood carved partitions, and mismatched chandeliers.
The Long Hall also allegedly pours one of the best Guinness’s in the city because of how often the taps are cleaned and maintained. You also might not be surprised to find rock legend Bruce Springsteen here, as it is said that he stops by whenever he’s in town.
The Bar With No Name
Also going by “No Name Bar”, “Secret Bar”, “3 Fade Street”, and “Snail Bar” this modern and hip bar is one for the hipsters. If you’re looking for a bar so obscure it doesn’t even have a name, well this is it. The Bar With No Name is located above Kelly’s Hotel and is only accessible via a set of rickety old stairs. There’s no sign outside, instead, there’s just a little snail on the doorway telling people that there is something behind the door.
Once you find the place the bar is made up of three cavernous rooms with mismatching furniture, leather couches, cement walls, and a fireplace to give it a homey feel. They have a wide selection of beers on tap but it is their cocktail that really shines when it comes to drinking at The Bar With No Name. The bar is most popular on weekend nights when local DJs spin tunes live but their brunch service is also widely regarded.
Bar 1661 is a new bar that not only offers a long list of local craft beers and whiskey available but what sets them apart from every other bar in the city is they specialize in poitin cocktails. What is poitin you might ask? Poitin is an Irish-style moonshine made from cereals, grain, whey, sugar beet, potato, molasses.
It typically averages between 40% – 90% ABV and from 1661 until 1997 it has been illegal to make and sell in the country (and is still illegal in Northern Ireland). The legal version sold today has been to be no more than 45% ABV as the bootleg variety has been known to cause adverse health issues.
Poitin has seen a resurgence in Irish bars in the last decade or so and Bar 1661 specializes in the drink, serving it up in modern cocktails and drinks in a cool and hip setting with leather-topped bar stools and warm dark green walls and booths.
Temple Bar is one of Dublin’s oldest streets and for a long time went into disrepair. It was in the 17th century that the area was redeveloped for wealthy English families living on the shoreline of the Liffey River. Temple Bar is also the name of one of the city’s most iconic pubs that bring in droves of tourists daily looking to get a pint and pay handsomely for it too. Instead of overpaying for a Guinness at Temple Bar, head to the end of the street, turn onto Fleet Street, and head to Palace Bar.
Palace Bar has been around for over 200 years and has been a staple in the area and a favorite for locals for literal generations. The bar is also like a living museum where much of the bar’s décor and aesthetic hasn’t changed much since 1823. The current owners have been in charge of Palace Bar since the 40s.
Located just a stone’s throw away from the Liffey Boardwalk PantiBar is the city’s newest and hippest LGBT bar. The bar is on Capel Street which once was a neglected and unloved part of town, is now one of the coolest spots in the city. While there are tons of centuries-old pubs and bars in the city, PantiBar represents the new age in Ireland and the openness of the city’s attitudes.
Approaching PantiBar you’ll notice the giant neon sign out front that is frankly very hard to miss.
Directing people inside, once in there, you’ll notice the walls being adorned with customs artwork from local artist Niall Sweeney and the small stage which will likely have someone or something going on from drag shows to bingo night, to a DJ set. The bar even serves a specially brewed pale ale only available at PantiBar and if you fancy an afternoon pint, you might even run into Pedro and Bruno the adorable pups belonging to bar manager Shane.
PantiBar is a great place to grab a drink in the afternoon, start your evening and party, or for finishing a night out with friends.
Drop Dead Twice
Dead Drop Twice is a bar that stands out for multiple reasons.
The bar stands out because the black and yellow shaded painting style of the façade makes the place pretty hard to miss. It also stands out because Dead Drop Twice is located on an otherwise pretty quiet and calm street where most of the bar’s neighbors are antique shops and galleries. Finally, it stands out because Dead Drop Twice is a “bring your own cocktail” bar.
Split between two levels the bar is a classic Irish pub on one side and a nifty new cocktail bar on the other where guests are encouraged to bring their own liquor and the bartenders will mix you up a cocktail based on whatever it is you brought. If you don’t want to bring your own booze, fear not because the bar is still packed with spirits and pints and they even have their own pub dog who chases champagne corks around the bar floor.
The Brazen Head
Located in Merchant’s Quay The Brazen Head is allegedly the oldest pub in Dublin. Supposedly the pub has been a tavern since 1198. Archaeological evidence dug up in 1989 revealed that several structures and buildings existed in the area as early as the 1600s and that there was an inn located here as early as 1668.
Whether an inn or a pub existed here is up for debate but maps from medieval Dublin do show signs of a substantial building being here between 840 and 1540.
The Brazen Head is literally as much of an “Irish pub” as it gets. In fact, it can be said that The Brazen Head is THE Irish pub. The pub these days serves both classic and modern Irish food like beef and Guinness stews as well as a wide selection of ales stouts. The bar’s atmosphere is what you’d expect complete with gloomy stone walls, lantern-lit tables, wooden chairs. The Brazen Head is an essential part of Irish history with even James Joyce giving it a shoutout in Ulysses.
Sometimes you’re looking for luxury and a night out. 9 Below offers some of the best luxury cocktails in one of the coolest and lavishly designed bars on St. Stephen’s Green. The bar is located in a refurbished basement complete with original vaulted stone ceiling and romantically dark space.
The list of drinks here is long with tons of wines available and an even longer list of whiskeys including one that goes for 1,389$ a glass (it’s the Midleton Pearl 30th Anniversary in case you were curious). Once you grab a table you’ll notice the plump olives and Mexican black pepper crackers waiting for you to snack on while you drink.
The waiters here wear high-waisted cigarette pants and white shirts and will always have something to recommend you if you’re not sure where on the menu to start. There’s no food available here so if you’re hungry just keep asking for more olives.
Vintage Cocktail Club
Another bar on Dublin’s list of “secret watering holes” is Vintage Cocktail Club. Located on Temple Bar the busy tourist-centric street has a lot of pubs on it but in order to keep out the riff-raff, the only indication that Vintage Cocktail Club even exists is the little letters on their weathered door that read “VCC”.
Once inside the place is far less shabby than the exterior will have you believe (without being too pretentious). The sitting area is decked out in retro ads, leather booths, vintage decorations, floral wallpaper, and a fireplace that lit all year. It’s the living room of your grandma’s house if your grandma’s also served some amazing cocktails.
Located on a little thoroughfare between St Stephen’s Green and the iconic Trinity College is Kehoe’s. While the namesake of the bar has long passed, Kehoe’s is housed in a 200-year-old Victorian-era building complete with vintage mirror decor, stained glass windows, partitioned snugs, and mahogany wood paneling with pictures of famous Irish people. Despite its seemingly refined atmosphere, the bar brings in a diverse clientele of tourists, students, locals, and long time patrons. The drinks are affordable and you’ll often find people standing outside the front, pint in hand, catching a breath of fresh air. Kehoe’s is the type of place where you can head inside when the sun goes down and leave when it comes up.
Dublin is home to many bars and along with its long history, there are tons of iconic bars and pubs in the city that are over a century old. Grab a Guinness in a Victorian-era pub or hit the dancefloor at one of the city’s modern bars. Whether you’re just grabbing a pint or spending the night Dublin’s got the pub that will fit you just right.
And how do you say cheers in Ireland? Sláinte ! It means Health.
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