Few places on earth are as defined by bar culture as Dublin. Stroll down any street and you’ll pass dozens of drinking establishments, each offering its own personality and idea of a good craic – Irish for a fun time. While many tourists never wander outside Temple Bar, the city is filled with local favorites that bring more to the stool than a well-pulled Guinness. Dublin pub crawls wend among 750-plus waypoints – we’ve distilled them down to a more manageable five that stand out on the scene. Sláinte!
O’Donoghue’s: Home to Dublin’s premier jam session, this little pub packs out seven nights a week for traditional Irish music. An informal round of musicians – sometimes five, sometimes 15 – gathers, and the bodhran drums and fiddles start up around 9 pm on weekdays and Sundays after mass (15 Merrion Row).
The Swan Bar
The Swan Bar: Come for the stout, stay for the history. One of only a dozen or so remaining Victorian bars in the city, The Swan played a key role in Ireland’s tumultuous past. Founded in 1897 and formerly owned by a Republican, the pub served as a weapons cache during the Easter Rising in 1916, then stood on the front lines of the Irish War of Independence, one of the last buildings to fall to British troops. Ask the bartender to show you the black-and-white photo of its bullet-riddled facade and point out the hollow wall, now plastered over, that served as a secret escape route during sieges (58 York Street).
O’Neill’s: A glowing portrait of Arthur Guinness welcomes patrons to this multilevel pub a block off Grafton Street by Saint Andrew’s Church. Settle into one of the “snugs” (small private rooms used in Victorian times to shield upstanding ladies and gentlemen from judgmental glares), head up to the rooftop beer garden (one of very few in Dublin), or gather around communal tables, some of which are outfitted with taps so you can pull your own pint (also a rarity). The building has served as a public house for more than 300 years and is known for perhaps the city’s biggest and best draft selection – taps line the L-shaped bar with some 64 beers and ciders, most of them Irish. Come hungry: O’Neill’s serves an exceptional “carvery,” a meat-heavy smorgasbord of traditional dishes, from shepherd’s pie to beef-and-Guinness step (2 Suffolk Street).
The Liquor Rooms
The Liquor Rooms: In a city awash in beer and Irish whiskey, The Liquor Rooms offers passage to a different, slightly scandalous past. Pull open the door adorned with an intertwined LR and disappear into this sexy subterranean speakeasy of plush red benches, velvety lampshades, striped circus-tent walls and ceilings, and taxidermy – including a full-size bear. It’s designed for conversation and while The Liquor Rooms stages occasional burlesque performances, drinks are the stars of this show. The drink menu runs a full 28 pages but feel free to go off script: Bartenders will happily match cocktails to your mood or personality (5 Wellington Quay).
The Ginger Man
The Finger Man: Named after J.P.Donleavy’s 1955 novel about a young, lazy, alcoholic student, this quintessential cozy local near Trinity College and Merrion Square counts Enda Kenny, Ireland’s taoiseach (prime minister), among its regulars. The pub stakes out middle ground between professionals’ watering hole and dive bar with big blond-wood tables, cushy banquettes, and shelves lined with leather- bound books. Don’t miss what is perhaps the city’s best curry-and-chips (40 Fenian Street).
By Tim Johnson
Photography by LUIS GARCÍA