“Good puzzle would be to cross Dublin without passing a pub”, mused Leopold Bloom in James Joyce’s Ulysses. Yes (and it’s been solved), but why on earth would you want to? When I started, this list was 3 Unmissable pubs to visit in Dublin, then became five, then ten, then limited to the city centre – it’s just going to have to be a series I think… which may be no bad thing either. Just as a disclaimer, my preference is for old pubs, with old men sitting at the bar from before it was even constructed and a comfy place to sit and chat.
Cobblestone, 77 King St North, Smithfield, Dublin 7
The Cobblestone is in the heart of Smithfield, an area in the north inner city once known for its horse market and now being revitalised through redevelopment and hipsters. Still, this pub is unchanged and one of the best places to hear live trad music and it describes itself as a ‘drinking pub with a music problem’ (did you get that Brendan Behan reference?!)
Frank Ryan’s, 5 Queen St, Arran Quay, Dublin 7
Not far from The Cobblestone is this wee gem with the most interesting ceiling I’ve seen. A great place for music, pool, meeting friends or a date (at least you can talk about the frilly underwear hanging from the ceiling).
The Brazen Head, 20 Lower Bridge St, Merchants Quay, Dublin 8
It’s a little bit touristy but then as supposedly Dublin’s oldest pub what would you expect? While the Brazen Head claim it’s been operating since 1198, the licence dates from 1635, the current building is from 1754 but was built over a merchant house from 1613 or thereabouts. Anyway, it’s old. Even if it’s not the oldest pub in Ireland, that’s Sean’s Bar in Athlone which has been going since 900AD or so. That’s only 26 years after the very first settlers came to Iceland.
The Stag’s Head, 1 Dame Court, Dublin 2
Rumour has it that Quentin Tarantino was once refused service for trying to pull rank in this Victorian bar which actually dates back to 1770. “Educating Rita”, “Penny Dreadful” and “A Man of No Importance” were all filmed here.
The Palace Bar, 21 Fleet St, Dublin 2
A real literary pub where Flann O’Brien, Brendan Behan, Patrick Kavanagh and more, would go for a pint, it was also the unofficial second office of the Irish Times which used to have their offices on nearby Westmoreland Street and D’Olier Street.
The Long Haul, 51 South Great George’s Street, Dublin 2
A friend of mine met a very drunk Rhys Ifans in here. Twice I think. And Phil Lynnott shot a video here. Utterly random and often jammers, it’s a great spot for a few pints.
The International Bar, 23 Wicklow St, Dublin 2
A tiny, and Dublin’s oldest family-owned Victorian bar, that featured in Ulysses by the name of its licence holder:
Opposite Ruggy O’Donohoe’s Master Patrick Aloysius Dignam, pawing the pound and a half of Mangan’s, late Fehrenbach’s, porksteaks he had been sent for, went along warm Wicklow street dawdling.
It also has a decent comedy club upstairs, and Ardal O’Hanlon of Father Ted fame, started his stand-up career here, amongst others.
The Hairy Lemon, Stephen Street Lower, Dublin 2
I think the last time I was in here was after a zombie walk, when thousands of Dubliners decided that dressing up as the living dead and chasing tourists was a fun way to send an afternoon. Anyway, full of cosy nooks and crannies, the Commitments was also filmed here and the walls are covered in memorabilia.
The Lord Edward, 23 Christchurch Place, Wood Quay, Dublin 2
Hands down the best place to be on New Year’s Eve in Dublin. At midnight they open the windows and you can ring in the New Year literally with the bells from Christchurch just across the street.
Mary’s Bar & Hardware, 8 Wicklow St, Dublin 2
This is a bit of an anomaly because it’s just a couple of years old, still, if you’re not heading out of Dublin this is the closest you’ll get to the phenomena that is “pub + something else” which you can see “down the country”. Pubs that are half pub, half shoe shop/hardware shop/grocery shop, and where the husband would sit for a pint while the wife did her business on the other side. They do actually sell the stuff in the shop bit. At least I bought a packet of jelly to nibble on because I was hungry. Good for the nails don’t you know.