The topic of the best pubs in Dublin is one that fires up a fair bit of debate online.
Everyone has their favourites, and what one person describes as mighty, the next might class as shi… you get the picture.
Below, I’m going to give you a probably fairly biased insight into some of the most notable Dublin pubs (traditional, historic and generally old-school spots).
From places pouring the best Guinness in Dublin to some of the oldest public houses in the land, there’s a bar below to tickle most fancies (unless you’re into gastro pubs, that is…).
What we think are the best pubs in Dublin (historic, traditional spots)
The first section of our Dublin bars guide is wedged with our favourites. These are places that one or more of The Irish Road Trip Team have been to many times over the years.
Below, you’ll find some of the oldest pubs in Dublin, like The Gravediggers, and some cosy, traditional bars, like Bowes, to Victorian era pubs and more.
1. John Kavanagh’s (The Gravediggers)
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 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.
The interior, as you can see from my recent visit above, is beautifully preserved, there’s no music/TVs, so it’s a great spot for a chat and the bar pours the best Guinness in Dublin. A pub you’ll find hard to leave.
2. 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 greatly 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!
3. The Long Hall
The Long Hall is one 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.
4. 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.
Our next stop takes us to Neary’s, a UNESCO City of Literature Bar and another great Dublin pub. This lovely little pub 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.
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.
Kehoe’s Bar 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.
7. The Palace Bar
The Palace is another that goes toe-to-toe with the best pubs in Dublin (aside from on a Saturday, when it tends to be packed!). 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 five years ago. I had my second, third, fourth and fifth on the following weekend. The pint here is top-notch as is the service.
Famous pubs in Dublin
There’s a handful of famous pubs in Dublin who’s names are known far and wide, and I’m talking about the many pubs in Temple Bar.
Places like the Oval, Davy Byrne’s and McDaid’s are famous, yes, but they also have a fine bit of history attached to them, as you’ll discover below.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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).
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.
5. Davy Byrne’s
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.
I have a love/hate relationship with this place – when I manage to grab a seat inside, it’s one of the best pubs in Dublin City Centre and, possibly, beyond.
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.
7. 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.
The best Dublin pubs with snugs
Now that we have what we think are the best pubs in Dublin out of the way, it’s time to see what else the capital has to offer. The next section of our guide is all about the snug!
1. 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.
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).
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 heavweights like Kavanagh and Yeats. Snugs aside, Toners is also home to one of the best beer gardens in Dublin!
3. Slattery’s (Rathmines)
The next snug on the list is in 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.
Slattery’s is one of several famous Dublin pubs to change hands in 2021 (reportedly for €3 million). The Brazen Head, the oldest in the city, sold for a whopping €15 million a few months previous.
Next up is Smyth’s 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 last 3 or so 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 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.
The best bars in Dublin for live music
The final section of our guide to the best pubs in Dublin takes a look at Dublin pubs that host live music sessions.
Many of the pubs below hold trad sessions 7 nights a week, while others have set evenings (usually Thursday to Sunday) when music takes place.
1. 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!
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. The Celt
The Celt is another peach of a traditional pub in Dublin. Located on Talbot St (just off O’Connell St.), it’ll suit those of you staying in most central hotels in Dublin.
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.
5. The Old Storehouse
You’ll regurally hear visiting tourists refer to the Old Storehouse as one of the best pubs in Dublin for live music, and they’re not wrong!
Located in Temple Bar, behind the old Central Bank building, The Old Storehouse consists of three separate bars. Spend a rainy, romantic afternoon in the Snug or enjoy the live music and craic in the main bar while there’s also a venue bar at O’Flaherty’s.
This is one of several Dublin pubs with music taking place 7 nights a week (5-10 pm Monday to Saturday and 3-10 pm on Sundays).
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.
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