The best pubs in Dublin, for me, aren’t the fancy new boutique bars where you can sip a champagne mojito out of a watering can for the fine aul price of €14.
They’re not the gastropubs where you’ll get a pint and a burger for a fiver, and they definitely aren’t the tourist traps that you’ll find scattered throughout the cobbled streets of Temple Bar.
For me, the best pubs in Dublin are the old, unique bars that have a heap of history tied to them (and that serve a fine pint).
In the guide below, you’ll find the best Dublin pubs for history, Guinness and live music. Oh, we’ve also lashed in a section to the best snugs in Dublin, also.
Table of Contents
The best bars in Dublin (that boast heaps of history)
The first section of our guide tackles Dublin pubs that boast bucket-loads of history. These spots are perfect for those of you visiting Dublin and looking to nurse a pint in a place that has a tale or two to tell.
Below, you’ll find some of the oldest pubs in Dublin along with a clatter or bars that saw their fair share of trouble and strife during the Easter Rising.
1. The Confession Box
The first spot on our guide to the best pubs in Dublin is The Confession Box. You’ll find it at 88 Marlborough Street on the ground floor of an old Georgian era building.
Dating back to the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921), this pub has a quirky story behind where its name originated.
During the conflict that took place during Ireland’s war for independence, the last know ex-communications from the Catholic Church in Ireland took place.
The ex-communications were directed at Bishop Daniel Cohalan of Cork and Michael Collins along with many others that were involved in the rebellion.
Back then the pub was known as the Maid of Erin and some of the rebels were known to drop in to receive Communion and Confession from sympathetic priests from the nearby Pro-Cathedral, thus earning the pub the nickname The Confession Box.
I was here a couple of weeks back for a pint (it was decent – see photo above). It’s a rough and ready no-fuss spot. Grab your pint and head upstairs. There’s some seating that overlooks the pub below.
2. 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.
Kehoe’s Bar is another of the great Dublin pubs. You can’t bate this place on a late Saturday afternoon when 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 the three arrive as their high spirited showmanship clashed with this once strict and conservative Dublin pub.
When you enter, have a look around for the serving hatch and buzzer in the snug which both remain exactly as they did 100 years ago.
As if you need any other reason to drop by, Kehoe’s is widely regarded as being home to one of the best pints of Guinness in Dublin.
4. The Brazen Head (the oldest pub in Dublin)
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.
While it’s unclear as to how much of the original coach house still remains, there’s a wealth of history within this busy little pub.
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. Those familiar with James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’, may recall the mentioning of the pub – ”you get a decent enough do at the Brazen Head for a bob”.
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.
5. The Long Hall (one of the best pubs in Dublin if you’re looking to step back in time)
The Long Hall is one of the best pubs in Dublin City centre. I’d gladly spend many a weekend afternoon perched in the corner near the window with a book and a pint.
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.
Licensed since 1766, the Long Hall is one of Dublin’s oldest and most visually impressive pubs. The interior, which dates from 1881, has the same Victorian-era vibe as the magnificent Crown Liquor Saloon in Belfast.
If you’re a fan of Irish rock, you may recognise the Long Haul from Phil Lynott’s video for his hit-song ‘Old Town’ from 1982.
Our next stop takes us to Neary’s, a UNESCO City of Literature Bar and another great Dublin pub. This lovely little boozer has a long connection to acting and literary, thanks to its location.
in 1871 the Gaiety Theatre opened. The stage door to the Gaiety is directly opposite the rear entrance to Neary’s. Need I say more?
Nearly all of the Neary’s original features remain intact, such as the 4 gas lamps that are still in working condition. Interestingly enough, it’s said that these are some of the last working indoor gas lamps in Ireland.
I was here recently. The Guinness is delicious. Although you’d be hard-pressed to find a bit of room to stand on a Saturday evening.
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.
According to the lads at Publin, 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.
8. 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.
9. Davy Byrne’s (one of the more famous Dublin pubs)
This is one of a number of Dublin pubs that were immortalised in James Joyce’s Ulysses (it appeared in Chapter 8). Since then, Davey Byrne’s has become a pilgrimage point, of sorts, for Joyce fans across the world.
Byrne’s was established in 1889 by, unsurprisingly enough, Davey Byrne. Before opening this pub, he managed another pub in the city known as the Scotch House.
During Ireland’s war for independence, the pub was often visited by Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith. One of the rooms upstairs in the pub was actually used for meetings of the Irish Republican Brotherhood.
If you plan on doing a Dublin literary pub crawl (organised or self-planned), you’ll find yourself in here at some stage.
10. The Dropping Well
The Dropping Well in Milltown owes its origins to the Great Famine of 1845 – 1849. The story goes that in 1847 starving people would live and gather along the banks of the River Dodder.
Many of these people died next to it and the presence of disease-ridden bodies became a considerable issue.
It was at this time that John Howe and his wife approached the government and applied for a liquor licence, offering to set up a community morgue on the banks of the river, also.
The Howe’s request was granted and The Dropping Well Pub opened its doors in July of 1847. The premises has changed hands several times over the years with one owner, a P.H. Meagher, introducing a lavish post-Victorian renovation.
The top pubs in Dublin for a mighty pint of Guinness
The second section of this guide to the best pubs in Dublin is dedicated to helping you discover a great pint of Guinness in the capital.
There are hundreds of bars in Dublin and you’d be hard done by to find one that doesn’t serve Guinness. However, despite the Guinness quality team visiting pubs across the capital (and country) many still serve up a shocking pint.
Below, you’ll find 12 pubs where you’re guaranteed to pick up a solid pint of Guinness. Most are old-school Dublin pubs that have stood the test of time.
1. John Kavanagh’s (The Gravediggers)
Established in 1833, John Kavanagh’s is widely regarded as the GOAT (greatest of all time) when it comes to its drop of Guinness.
I’ve been here once and the only thing that outshined the quality of the pint was the service – the barman chatted to us like we’d been drinking there for 50 years.
Now, 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
I’ve heard stories that gravediggers from Glasnevin used to knock on the back wall of the pub to request a pint. They’d then be served through the railings that link the pub and the graveyard, hence the name.
This is one of the best pubs Dublin has to offer. It also made our list of 36 of the best pubs in Ireland (have a look if you haven’t already!)
2. The Palace Bar
The Palace is hands-down one of the best bars in Dublin. From the minute the lamp standing proudly outside greets your eyes, you know you’re in for something special.
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.
I had my first pint in the Palace last year. I had my second, third, fourth and fifth on the same night. The pint here is top-notch as is the service. You could easily nip in here while waiting to meet a friend, nurse a pint, and admire the gorgeous interior and decor.
The history behind Brogan’s Bar is an interesting one. According to the lads at ‘Come Here to Me‘, this property was once home to the first gay bar in Dublin (known as ‘The Viking’).
It wasn’t until 1990 that it switched owners and was named Brogans. I’ve been drinking here for a while now and can vouch for the Guinness as being excellent.
This is a handy pub to nip into if you’re heading to a gig in the Olympia or if you’re looking for a no-nonsense Dublin pub with plenty of seating and a great pint.
4. Ryan’s of Parkgate Street
Ryan’s is another Dublin pub that’s well-known for the quality of its pint. It’s also another spot that still holds it’s original Victorian interior.
You’ll find it a stone’s throw from the front gate of the Phoenix Park which makes it the perfect spot for a post-ramble-in-the-park pint and bite to eat.
If you nip in here, keep an eye out for the original gas lamps, the gorgeous traditional snugs and the other ornate features.
5. The Royal Oak
Our next pub takes us out to The Royal Oak, a hidden gem in Kilmainham, not far from the Gaol. This is another brilliant no-nonsense pub which, similar to Brogan’s, has a fairly bare decor with plenty of wood veneer.
The Royal Oak has been serving the local community in Kilmainham for nearly 180 years. And with pints like the one in the photo above, it’s not hard to see how it has managed to battle against the test of time.
This is also one of a handful of Dublin pubs that’s dog-friendly. So if you’re out with the madra and it starts lashing down, you can both dry off with a fine pint.
6. The Clock
I’ve only ever been into The Clock on Thomas Street to use the jacks (the toilet, for our non-Irish readers), but I’ve heard from countless people that the pint here is A+.
This Dublin pub is also linked to the Irish rebellion of 1803 – it’s said that it was a regular meeting spot for the United Irish men.
I’ve heard stories that the smoking area in this place has a cage with a load of birds in it… it’s also said to be a decent spot to watch a match.
7. Tom Kennedy’s
Tom Kennedy’s is a great little spot for a pre-Vicar-Street-pint. It’s a traditional Irish pub that has live music banging away each weekend.
This is one of those spots that I only discovered after following the likes of Dublin By Pub and the Guinness Advisor on Instagram.
The pints from this place are heavily reputed to be some of the best in Dublin. I’ve heard a lot of good things about the food here, also. Whack it on your to-sink-a-pint-in list.
8. Walsh’s of Stoneybatter
If you’re in search of an old-fashioned pub in Dublin that’s perfect for a catch-up with friends (there’s no loud music or TVs in here) give Walsh’s in Stoneybatter a crack.
I’ve been in here a handful of times over the years – similar to the Gravediggers, both the pint and the service in this Dublin pub are insanely good.
A lot of people miss out on Walsh’s, thinking that Stoneybatter is miles from the city centre, when in fact it’s only a half-hour ramble from O’Connell St. and only 15 minutes from Smithfield.
9. The Lord Edward
I dropped into the Lord Edward after leaving a gig at Vicar Street back in December. It was lashing rain and I was dying to use the jacks.
We legged it in and ordered up a couple of pints. Absolute magic. This is another old-school Dublin pub that serves a delicious pint with a head so plump you could rest a coin on top of it.
The interior is no-fuss (the toilets are in bits!) and it seems (based on the night we were in) to get a fairly local crowd. If you can, nab the seat to the left just inside the door – you’ll have a perfect viewing point to the busy street outside.
10. Gaffney & Son
If you’ve never heard of Gaffney’s it’s a pub in Fairview and it’s up there with the best bars in Dublin for Guinness. Look at the head on the one I was presented with a few months back…
If you’re planning on visiting, try and get in early and secure the seats just to the left of the door. You’ll squeeze about 8 people in here.
Update: I was here again last night. A solid experience again – I had completely forgotten that the barman (on the last three times that I’ve been, anyway) drops the pint down to you.
If you’ve never been to Grogan’s, it’s one of the more famous pubs in Dublin on our list and was established in 1899.
I have a love/hate relationship with this place – when I manage to grab a seat inside, it’s the best pub on earth. When I walk inside and see that it’s packed to the rafters, I leave cursing it (mainly out of jealously of those that have secured a table).
It can be near impossible to grab a seat inside Grogan’s if you don’t arrive in early. If you rock up in the summer months, the outdoor seating is great for people-watching with a pint.
Grogan’s is another spot that makes you realise the difference professional bar staff make to your overall pub experience – the folks that man the bar here are warm, welcoming and pour a mighty pint to boot.
12. Mulligans of Poolbeg Street
A quick edit: I’d never been to Mulligan’s before last night (January 10th). I’d heard good things so I met a friend here for several (6) pints. The pint was solid, but the service was shite. We were sat at the bar for 3 hours and the three lads serving gruffly fired the pints across to people (it wasn’t busy), with many sloshing over the rim of the glass. You could tell it was irritating people. Moody bar staff don’t bother me, but messy pints, especially when it’s easily avoidable, do. Poor form from a pub that prides itself on serving one of the best pints in Dublin. Hopefully I caught it on an off-night.
Moving on – Mulligan’s 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.
The best snugs in Dublin
Ah, snugs – those cosy little nooks in pubs across Ireland that are often near impossible to grab to yourself. In this section, we’ll tackle the bars in Dublin where the best snugs can be found.
The first snug on the list is Slattery’s in Rathmines. This one boasts all the makings of a traditional snug – it’s private (fully enclosed) and also has a little door to the bar.
There’s a proper old-school feel to this snug – expect worn old wooden panels and red leather seats galore. This one’s perfect for a group and can easily accommodate up to 9/10 people.
Next up is Smyth’s pub in Ranelagh. You’ll find this snug tucked away to the right of the front door. It’s cosy and the seats are plump and comfy.
You’d be doing well to grab a seat in here – it’s been occupied ever time I’ve visited over the years. If you can’t get space in the snug, you’ll find plenty of other spots to plonk yourself for an hour or two.
Searson’s on Baggot St. is 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.
4. The Waterloo
The Waterloo is the second Baggot St. pub to make this list. You’ll find the pubs original snug to the left as you enter. This is another one that benefits from a clatter of natural light.
Although this snug has no door, it offers a more private setting than the other areas of the bar. The big panel window also makes it the perfect spot to people watch with a pint.
Toners is up there with 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 this kind of thing).
This one’s 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.
6. Doheny & Nesbitt
Yep, another one for Baggot St. Doheny & Nesbitts is home to three snugs, which increases your chance of nabbing one.
The one at the back of the pub 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.
Kehoe’s is another excellent Dublin pub that boasts a heap of history, dating back to 1803 (which also makes it one of the oldest pubs in Dublin).
The snug here is another heavyweight, with a hatch and door to the bar, also. I go to Kehoe’s a lot, and I’ve never managed to grab a seat in this snug. But I’ll keep on trying.
The best bars in Dublin for live music
We get a lot of emails from people visiting Dublin that want to visit a pub that plays live music.
Luckily, there’s no shortage of music pubs in Dublin, with some offering traditional music sessions 7 nights a week and many more boasting live music every weekend.
Here are some to the best pubs in Dublin for live music (if you know of another pub worth adding, let me know in the comments section).
1. Darkey Kellys
Darkey Kellys is one of the bars in Dublin if you’re in search of a spot that offers live music 7 nights a week.
Sessions here tend to start in the late afternoon and go on until late. There’s also a packed roster of acts lined up to play each week.
2. Devitts of Camden Street
Devitts of Lower Camden Street is another spot where you’ll find tunes played 7 nights a week.
It’s also surrounded by a heap of different restaurants and cafes if you’re looking for a pick-me-up or a bite-to-eat before heading in for the music.
3. Nancy Hands
The live trad sessions here only take place on a Saturday, but they’re said to be some of the best in the city.
4. The Merry Ploughboy
If you’re in search of a live music show, get yourself to the Merry Ploughboy in Rathfarnham – it’s the only pub in Ireland that’s owned and run by traditional Irish musicians.
This pub is a little out of the way if you’re staying in the city, but there’s a shuttle bus organised for those attending the show. I was here recently and the food is class (Irish slang for good).
5. The Stag’s Head
The Stag’s Head is a beautiful old Dublin pub that dates way back to 1780. The interior is what you’d expect from a Victorian-era pub (it was redesigned in 1895).
You’ll find live music or comedy shows taking place in the pokey downstairs area of the Stag’s Head throughout the week.
6. Peadar Kearney’s
Peadar Kearney’s Pub on Dame Street is one of the best pubs in Dublin for non-traditional live music, in my opinion. If you can get in here early, try and nab the seats just inside the door or the ones to the left of the bar.
I’ve yet to spend a night here where the musician (it tends to be one lad and a guitar) hasn’t been absolutely brilliant.
7. The Cobblestone
The Cobblestone in Smithfield has arguably the best slogan of any pub in the land. They describe themselves as ‘A drinking pub with a music problem’ (hit play above for a sample of a session).
Trad music sessions take place at the Cobblestone on Mondays, from 19:00 until close, on Tuesdays to Fridays, from 17:00 until close and on Saturday and Sundays, from 14:00 until close.
O’Donoghue’s of Suffolk street is another one that’s up there with the best pubs in Dublin for live music (it’s played on the ground level).
I’ve spent many a night here over the years and you tend to have, similar to Peadar Kearney’s, one lad up in the corner with a guitar. Add this spot to your Dublin pub crawl route.
9. The Auld Dub
The Auld Dub is one of the best pubs in Temple Bar. If you’ve never been inside, it’d be easy to assume that it’s a tourist trap, given the other pubs in its vicinity…
HOWEVER, the Auld Dub is a spot that’s known to have top-notch live music playing most nights of the week. I’ve been here a lot in the past two years – you tend to get a mix of contemporary music with trad, depending on who’s playing.
Here’s a map of Dublin pubs on our to-sink-a-pint-in list
You’ll find each of the pubs mentioned in this guide on the Google Map above. If you’re looking to organise a Dublin pub crawl, this should help when mapping out your route!
Is there a place that you think should be added to our list of the best pubs in Dublin City Centre/the wider county?
Pop your suggestion into the comment section below – it takes a couple of seconds!