The Story Behind The Brazen Head: The Oldest Pub In Dublin

brazen head dublin
This painting is © The Irish Road Trip

Dating back to 1198, the Brazen Head is the oldest pub in Dublin.

Dublin’s an old city. First settled over 1000 years ago, Ireland’s capital has grown slowly into the vibrant, cosmopolitan city it is today.

However, it’s still home to some wonderful old-world pubs, and few come close to the experience offered at the Brazen Head.

In the guide below, you’ll find everything you need to know about the oldest pub in Dublin, from it’s history to what to expect when you visit.

Some quick need-to-knows about the Brazen Head in Dublin

brazen head dublin
Photo via Google Maps

Although a visit to the Brazen Head in Dublin is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

Located at the top of Lower Bridge Street in the Merchant’s Quay area of Dublin, the Brazen Head is easy enough to spot with its handsome castle wall exterior and plenty of noise often coming from its lively courtyard.

2. Dates back to

While the present building that you see today dates back to 1754, local tradition claims that the site has housed a tavern since 1198. And though no documents exist to prove that, we know that there’s been a licensed alehouse here since the mid 17th-century at least (which is old enough!).

3. A whole lot of history

Back in the 17th-century, Bridge Street was a hub of activity for wealthy merchants and the nobility so the Brazen Head would have likely seen plenty of action in those early heady days. It’s also been host to political upheaval and literary fascination, as we’re about to find out!

4. Not the oldest in Ireland

Some people state that the Brazen Head is the oldest pub in Ireland. This title, however, is held by Sean’s Bar, which dates back to 900AD.

The history of the Brazen Head

oldest pub in dublin
Photos via the Brazen Head on Facebook

History’s nothing without its characters and thankfully, plenty of those have passed through the doors of the Brazen Head during its long history.

From writers to revolutionaries, this is a Dublin pub that’s been weaving stories of passion for hundreds of years and we’re going back to 1798 for our first one!

United Irishmen and The Rising of 1798

While it’s a date that figures strongly in people’s minds for obvious reasons, Irish Republicanism goes back much further than 1916 and the Brazen Head has actually played a part in that long history.

Inspired by the French Revolution, the Society of United Irishmen was formed in 1791 to overthrow the yoke of British rule and to secure a national government. 

Many of their meetings took place at the Brazen Head, the result of which were the rebellions of 1798 and 1803. They both failed and Robert Emmet, one of the leaders, was beheaded in nearby Thomas Street in September 1803 (his ghost is said to still haunt the pub!).

Michael Collins and the planning of the revolution

Another famous revolutionary who often sought refuge within the storied walls of the Brazen Head was Michael Collins, a prominent figure from the 1916 Easter Uprising who somehow escaped execution by the British.

Although, unlike the previous rebellions, this time around the Brazen Head itself was almost destroyed as it saw fierce fighting nearby. 

It was close to being destroyed again during the bloody Civil War of 1922 and if you want a closer look at this turbulent period, check out some of the old photographs on the walls inside the Brazen Head.

Frequented by literary giants

“Good puzzle would be to cross Dublin without passing a pub,” muses Leopold Bloom in James Joyce’s classic novel Ulysses and Joyce would probably have had the Brazen Head in mind when he wrote those words. Though Joyce wasn’t the only grand figure of Irish literature to enjoy a pint within the walls of the old pub. 

Poets, playwrights and novelists including Patrick Kavanagh, Brendan Behan and Jonathan Swift are all said to have drunk here over the years and anyone taking a literary tour of Dublin is bound to pass through the Brazen Head at some point!

What to expect when visiting Dublin’s oldest pub in 2021

inside the brazen head
Photos via the Brazen Head on Facebook

The Brazen Head is quite different to some of the other historical pubs in Dublin. Below, you’ll find info on their storytelling sessions, live music and folklore evenings.

1. Live music

It wouldn’t be a Dublin pub without a bit of music to lift the atmosphere and there’s no shortage of fine groups performing each night at the Brazen Head. With live music each night from 21:30 and Sunday sessions between 15:30 and 18:30, every day is a music day.

2. Brazen art tour

The Brazen Head is well know for some of the quirky evenings it has hosted over the years. A while back, they held a storytelling and folklore evening, but it appears that this is no more. An up-and-coming addition is the Brazen art tour, set to launch soon. We’ll update this guide when we hear more.

3. Food

With so many other Dublin attractions nearby, you’re going to be in the mood for a great feed after a long morning or afternoon exploring and the Brazen Head’s menu will sort you right out. Get stuck into a hearty beef and Guinness stew or a classic fish chips and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the Brazen Head’s interior. Rustic brick walls covered in memorabilia and mahogany furniture make this stunning spot to eat and plan your next adventure. 

Things to do near the Brazen Head

One of the beauties of the Brazen Head is that it’s a short spin away from some of the best things to do in Dublin.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from the oldest pub in Dublin (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).

1. St Michan’s Church (5-minute walk)

places to visit near the brazen head
Photo via Google Maps

A short scamper north across the Liffey lies St. Michan’s Church, a 300 year-old church with a slightly macabre fascination (for some at least!). Relatively inauspicious from the outside, St. Michan’s is famous for its vaults which contain a number of mummified remains. These include a crusader, two members of the 1789 rebellion and the 400-year-old body of a nun.

2. Dublinia (5-minute walk)

Photo via Google Maps

Did I mention that Dublin was old? Just a short 5-minute walk south of the Brazen Head lies Dublinia, an interactive museum where you’ll be able to travel back in time to experience Dublin’s violent Viking past and its bustling medieval life. You’ll also be able to climb the 96 steps of the old tower of St. Michaels Church and get some cracking views across the city.  

3. Christ Church Cathedral (5-minute walk)

Christ Church
Photo by littlenySTOC (Shutterstock)

One of Dublin’s oldest and most handsome cathedrals, Christ Church Cathedral is next door to Dublinia so could make an afternoon of these two famous attractions. Originally founded in the early 11th-century, it’s fair to say this place has seen plenty of change over the years! Check out the crypt when you’re inside, at 63 metres long it’s the largest of its kind in Ireland or Britain.

4. Endless other attractions

places to eat and live music
Photo via Guinness.com

With the Guinness Storehouse to the west and Temple Bar to the East, the Brazen Head is actually in a great spot for checking out a number of other cracking Dublin attractions. Or even if you just want a leisurely stroll down the river Liffey to take in Dublin life, the Brazen Head is in a perfect spot to do that too. Or you could simply stay for one more pint inside its ancient walls before planning your next move! 

FAQs about the oldest pub in Dublin

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What is the oldest pub in Dublin called’ to ‘When did the brazen head open?’ (1754).

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.

How old is the Brazen Head in Dublin?

The Brazen Head, officially Dublin’s oldest pub, dates back to 1198. When you walk in here, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

Is the Brazen Head worth visiting or is it a tourist trap?

The Brazen Head is a beautiful pub, and it’s unique in both its appearance and its history. It most certainly is not a tourist trap.

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