I’d argue that no guide to the best pubs in Dublin is accurate (including this one!).
Everyone has their favourite Dublin pubs, and what one person describes as mighty, the next might class as shi… you get the picture.
I’m writing this guide based on 16 years of sippin’ pints in many (arguably too many) great bars in Dublin City Centre and beyond.
Below, you’ll discover places pouring the best Guinness in Dublin to some of the oldest public houses in the land. Dive on in!
The best pubs in Dublin
The various Dublin pubs below are in no particular order – I’ve just popped them in at random.
The only thing to note is that the bars below are all traditional – there’s no gastro pubs, nightclubs or any of that craic. Enjoy!
Our first stop is a fine one. Neary’s, a UNESCO City of Literature Bar, has a long connection to the arts, thanks to its proximity to the Gaiety Theatre.
In 1871 the doors of the Gaiety opened and its stage door was conveniently directly opposite the rear entrance to Neary’s.
Nearly all of the Neary’s original features remain intact, like as the gas lamps (still in working condition) at the entrance and the bars many ornate features.
The bar staff are decked out in shirts with Dickie Bows and there’s many a secluded corner to tuck yourself away in (the pick of the bunch is on the left inside the door).
You’ll find it on the corner of South William Street where it’s hard to miss with it’s bright red facade and a generally packed-out smoking/seating area.
When you step inside Grogan’s, you get that warm fuzzy feeling that often accompanies the discovery of a traditional Irish pub.
If you visit on one of those rare days when seating is available inside, you’re in for a treat.
Have a nosey around at the paintings on the walls, watch the comings and goings of the eclectic mix of clientele and bask in the brilliance in what is one of the best pubs in Dublin City Centre.
3. John Kavanagh’s (The Gravediggers)
The first of several bars in Dublin in this guide that sits outside of the city centre is The Gravediggers/Kavanagh’s.
Established in 1833, John Kavanagh’s is one of the more unique pubs Dublin has to offer, and you’ll find it in Glasnevin.
I’ve been here twice now and the only thing that outshined the quality of the pint was the service – the bar staff chatted to us like we’d been drinking there for 50 years.
You’ll commonly hear this pub referred to as ‘The Gravediggers’. The pub picked up this nickname because it’s, quite literally, built into the wall of Glasnevin Cemetery.
The interior is beautifully preserved and there’s no music/TVs, so it’s a great spot for a chat. The fact that it pours some of the best Guinness in Dublin is the icing on the cake.
Toners is another of the best pubs in Dublin City Centre. And the weathered snug here will knock you sideways (if, like me, you’ve a weird obsession with that kind of thing).
Toners was established several hundred years ago, in 1818, and it has managed to retain its old-world charm beautifully.
The snug at Toners is fully enclosed, offers private access to the bar and has a heap of old-school memorabilia and decor to keep you amused while you sip.
Over the years, it attracted literary heavyweights like Kavanagh and Yeats. Snugs aside, Toners is also home to one of the best beer gardens in Dublin!
5. The Palace Bar
Once described by poet Patrick Kavanagh as the “most wonderful temple of art”, Fleet Street’s Palace Bar is more like a museum than a pub.
One of the oldest pubs in Dublin, it can be traced back to 1823. When you step through its doors, expect high ceilings and weathered walls that are strewn with paintings of famous local figures.
The Palace is an unspoiled Dublin pub that has retained all of its original Victorian glamour. In fact, the pub’s decor is exactly as it was 189 years ago.
The only thing that I have against this place is how busy it gets. Don’t get me wrong – most Dublin pubs get wedged at certain times. The Palace just seems to get the overflow from the nearby Temple Bar pubs.
Kehoe’s is another of the great Dublin pubs. You can’t bate this place on a late Saturday afternoon if you fancy watching a match with a finely poured pint (the back room is your best bet for a seat near a tele!).
This pub boasts a rich literary history. First licensed in 1803, it stands in all its glory as a Victorian shrine, its interior decked out as it was after its 19th-century renovation.
Kehoe’s was regularly visited by literary giants Kavanagh, Behan and Myles na gCopaleen. According to legend, John Kehoe was rarely pleased to see them arrive as their boisterousness clashed with this once conservative Dublin pub.
Related read: Check out our guide to 32 of the Best Things to do in Dublin in 2023
7. The Cobblestone
The Cobblestone in Smithfield is another of the best pubs in Dublin for live music, with trad sessions taking place on Mondays (19:00 to close), Tuesdays to Fridays (17:00 to close) and on Saturday and Sundays (14:00 to close).
It has a fairly novel slogan, too – It’s ‘A drinking pub with a music problem’ (hit play above for a sample of a trad session here).
This is one of several bars in Dublin that gets missed by some, as it’s a little out of the way in Smithfield, but it’s worth the walk/taxi.
8. The Oval Bar
The story behind Dublin’s Oval Bar is impressive. In the years that led up to 1916, the Oval became a haunt for members of the Irish Citizen Army and the Irish Volunteers.
On Easter Monday 1916, the Irish Volunteers captured the General Post Office (GPO) and proclaimed the Irish Republic. The week that followed brought devastation and destruction to the city of Dublin and the Oval.
On the Wednesday, the HMS Helga II sailed up the River Liffey and shelled Liberty Hall and the GPO. A blazing inferno engulfed the city centre, with many buildings, including the Oval, left destroyed.
The pub’s owner, John Egan, set about rebuilding the pub and it was able to re-open its doors for business in 1922. Just in time for the civil war… although it shut its doors the building remained unharmed.
9. Bowes (Fleet Street)
Few Dublin pubs are as overlooked as Bowes, but that’s arguably its biggest draw, as it tends to be less chaotic than many of the Dublin pubs a short walk from it.
You’ll find Bowes on Fleet Street, a 2-minute walk from Temple Bar. Bowes eluded me for many years, until a cold Saturday afternoon not long ago.
I’d heard great tales of this place, and my expectations were exceeded. This is, in my opinion, one of the best pubs in Dublin when it comes to Guinness.
There’s also some glorious corners to perch yourself in. If you’re lucky, there’s the snug area just inside the door, but seats here are hard to nab!
10. The Long Hall
The Long Hall is another of the most famous pubs in Dublin. Licensed since 1766, the Long Hall is one of Dublin’s oldest and most visually impressive pubs, both inside and out.
The interior, which dates from 1881, has the same Victorian-era vibe as the magnificent Crown Liquor Saloon in Belfast, and it feels more like a Victorian shrine than it does a pub.
It’s cosy, beautiful and the service is nothing short of magnificent, which may be partly due to the fact that several of the pub’s long-standing barmen have been there for 35+ years.
11. Mulligans of Poolbeg Street
Mulligan’s of Poolbeg Street has been a cherished public house for generation after generation of Dubliners.
Known for its colourful history that spans over 200 years, it began its life as an unlicensed drinking venue until it began serving up pints legally in 1782.
Over the years, Mulligan’s has hosted everyone from James Joyce to John F. Kennedy. The latter visited the premises when he was a journalist with the Hearst Newspaper.
From its old-school decor that includes a grandfather clock that holds the ashes of an American tourist named Billy Brooks Carr, to the several reported ghost sightings, it’s definitely a unique little boozer.
12. The Brazen Head
The Brazen Head is officially the oldest pub in Dublin, dating back to 1198 when it started its life as an 11th-century coach house.
The building that stands today dates back to the 1750s, and it was known to be used by the United Irishmen while they plotted against British Rule.
Robert Emmet (an Irish nationalist and rebel leader) kept a room at the Brazen Head and it was here that he planned the 1803 rising.
The Brazen Head is, unsurprisingly enough, one of the more famous pubs in Dublin, given its age. You’ll mainly find tourists in this spot soaking up the history and enjoying the live music that’s played each night.
13. Johnnie Fox’s
Yes, Johnnie Fox’s is a historic pub as well as a tourist favourite, known and loved for it’s Hooley… which is some kind of dance, by all accounts!
You’ll find Johnnie Fox’s in the Dublin Mountains where it gives off the vibes of a 19th century rural Irish home. It was founded in 1798 and was frequented by Daniel O’Connell (the great Irish Liberator) when he lived nearby.
Johnnie Fox’s has a long connection with Irish music and culture. In the early 1950s, Irish storytelling and music were recorded in Johnnie Fox’s for Sunday night radio.
You often hear of Johnnie Fox’s described as a tourist trap (mainly by those that have never visited) – I’ve spoken to (literally) hundreds of people who’ve visited here over the years and I’ve yet to hear a bad review.
14. The Stag’s Head
Voted one of the best pubs in Dublin by several publications, The Stag’s Head dates way back to 1780. The interior is what you’d expect from a Victorian-era pub (it was redesigned in 1895).
There are several different areas to nurse a pint at the Stag’s Head, but none come close to the section right as you come through its doors (on the right above).
It can be near impossible to nab a seat here, but try all the same! If you rock up on a sunny day, you’ll find people sitting and standing in the beer garden out front.
The next pub on our list once played home to the Dublin City Morgue… yep, the morgue. Don’t let that put you off, though, this is a cracking spot that often gets overlooked.
The story goes that, when the Moravian Brethren took over the building they developed the practice of standing their corpses in a vertical position.
It’s possible that this is why the pub has a high ceiling. Back in the day poets Brendan Behan and Patrick Kavanagh were both known to frequent McDaid’s.
This is a lovely spot for a sunny Saturday afternoon. Nab a seat outside and enjoy a pint while you watch the world wander by.
16. Doheny & Nesbitt
Doheny & Nesbitt is one of the more notable Dublin pubs, and it’s a fine example of Victorian pub architecture, with the building itself dating back to the 1840’s.
This lively spot on Baggot Street is home to some mighty (but highly sought after) seating areas, including several snugs.
The snug at the back of Doheny & Nesbitt is the best of the bunch. If you can wiggle your way in here, you’ll have an unbeatable setting for a night of chatter with friends.
Searson’s on Baggot St. is another of the more popular bars in Dublin (especially on match days!), and it’s home to a mighty snug.
You’ll find it the second you ramble in the front right entrance, just on the left. Although this snug is fully enclosed, natural light spills in thanks to a finely placed window.
It also has a dedicated counter with a little bell. Searson’s has a fine bit of history attached to it, along with many-a-tale of misbehaving literary giants.
18. Darkey Kellys
Darkey Kelly’s has a nice old-school feel to it and, unlike some nearby places that tend to attract tourists by their droves in Dublin, the service here is top-notch.
There’s live music seven nights a week and the food here is the bees-knees. This is top of the list in our guide to Dublin pubs with music for good reason!
19. The Merry Ploughboy
The Merry Ploughboy is another fine spot for a bit of live music, and there’s an an award-winning traditional Irish night that takes place here.
Now, it’s outside of the city, in Rathfarnham, but you can grab a €10 return shuttle from Dublin City.
The inside of the Merry Ploughboy is nice and old-school and there’s some lovely cosy corners to kick-back in and soak up the atmosphere.
If you’re looking for a show, a feed and a beautiful interior, this is one of the best bars in Dublin to spin out to.
20. The Celt
This place looking like a time capsule, and I mean that in the best possible sense. The fact that there’s trad 7 nights a week is the icing on the cake.
When you walk through its doors, it nearly feels like you’ve stepped into a pub in the back of beyond in West Cork.
What great Dublin pubs have we missed?
I’ve no doubt that we’ve unintentionally left out some brilliant bars in Dublin from the guide above.
If you have a place that you’d like to recommend, let me know in the comments below and I’ll check it out!
FAQs about the best bars in Dublin
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What Dublin pubs do the best Guinness?’ to ‘Which Dublin bars are the oldest?’.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
What are the best pubs in Dublin?
In my opinion, the best Dublin pubs are John Kavanagh’s (The Gravediggers), Bowes (Fleet Street), The Long Hall, Mulligans of Poolbeg Street and Neary’s.
What are the most famous pubs in Dublin?
The most famous bars in Dublin are arguably The Temple Bar, The Stag’s Head, The Brazen Head and The Long Hall.
What Dublin pubs do live music?
Some of the best pubs in Dublin for live music are The Celt, Darkey Kelly’s, Johnnie Fox’s and the Merry Ploughboy.
Keith O’Hara has lived in Ireland for 34 years and has spent most of the last 10 years creating what is now The Irish Road Trip guide. Over the years, the website has published thousands of meticulously researched Ireland travel guides, welcoming 30 million+ visitors along the way. In 2022, the Irish Road Trip team published the world’s largest collection of Irish Road Trip itineraries. Keith lives in Dublin with his dog Toby and finds writing in the 3rd person minus craic altogether.