15 of Dublin's Best, Underrated Bars and Pubs
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When your Dublin sightseeing journey begins to wind down for the day and nightlife starts to beckon be sure to have planned out beforehand where you'd like kick back and enjoy the craic. The Irish capital is a city renowned for its intimate pub culture, meaning there's no shortage of choice whether you'd like to sample a unique craft beer, or enjoy some hearty pub grub. Such variety led CityXplora to do a bit of its own research into Dublin's very best drinking spots, many of which double up as micro-breweries, music venues, fantastic restaurants, and combinations thereof.
As we've done in the past, we took to Twitter and Google+ and also asked a few personal connections in Dublin itself for advice. The response was encouraging, yielding 15 suggestions in and around the city centre. We essentially posed the question, "Which bars in Dublin would you consider underrated, and would also strongly recommend to a friend". From the heart of Temple Bar (Street), to the suburbs of Blackrock and Dalkey, here is a list of the best bars in Dublin that aren't 'The' Temple Bar.
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Dublin's Best Bars And Pubs:
1) Fallon's Pub (129 The Coombe):
Our first suggestion is located not too far from the city centre, but far enough so as to afford visitors a more authentically 'local' Dublin. Fallon's Pub can be found along the The Coombe, a historic street in the southern inner city. It's received wonderful reviews for its hospitable atmosphere, friendly staff and incredible pints of Guinness- which can be surprisingly touch-and-go, even in Dublin. Views of the interior fail to disappoint. The bar sports a traditional wooden décor and its back walls are clad in vintage memorabilia and old photographs, all of which allude to the pub's long-standing reputation. So pull up a stool, reflect on that days experiences, and get chatting with a nearby local.
2) McNeills (140 Capel Street):
The folks at Publin offered a second recommendation, J. McNeill on Capel Street. If it's a non-touristy, city centre bar that you seek then they don't come much better than McNeills. Numerous reviews laud its lively ambience, hospitality and regular Irish music sessions. We personally messaged the owners and received a reply from Eoin, who informed us about the establishment's interesting musical legacy. Not only is McNeills an authentically traditional Irish Pub, but it was opened in 1834 as a music shop and has maintained its links to Irish music ever since. Sessions are held every night at 9pm, so head along after sunset, grab yourself a pint and revel in the tunes. McNeills is especially cozy in the winter months, with its three turf fires taking the chill out of the air and keeping the regular troupe of storytelling customers and staff warm.
A little bit of trivia from Eoin that history buffs are sure to appreciate: McNeills is the exact site on which the horn that sounded the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean war was made.
3) Dame Tavern (18 Dame Court):
With its central location, slightly tucked away on the corner of Dame Court and Dame Lane, and vivid red exterior, the Dame Tavern is a savvy choice for any Dublin visitor. It's a popular spot for those who crave the coveted, 'authentic', atmosphere that's either missing or in some way comprised in many other city centre establishments. The Dame Tavern was recommended to us by local Paul Murray via twitter @rhinoswinos. His own comments were: "unpretentious pub, good pint [and] good live music". So there you have it, a humble flair, live music sessions are regular and the professional staff pour a great pint.
4) O’Sullivans Pub (Westmorland Street):
This one was recommended to us by Niall Doherty of Dualway, transport & tourism professionals in Dublin who also operate the fantastic City Sightseeing Dublin Bus Tour. It's a quaint and reasonably sized bar which rarely gets too crowded, though you might find yourself standing at weekends when they have live music playing. A nice little feature of this establishment is that if you do hold a valid adult City Sightseeing Dublin ticket then you can get a free Irish coffee.
5) Nancy Hands Bar & Restaurant (30-32 Parkgate St.):
Niall's second recommendation is a good shout for dinner and drinks, especially if you've just finished strolling around Phoenix Park. It has a spacious and strikingly beautiful Victorian interior, a quality menu, and a huge variety of beverages. Though the building has its own long and renowned history it also proudly displays the artefacts of other Dublin/Irish icons. See the original staircase from Trinity College, which featured in the movie adaptation of Educating Rita. And along the walls you'll notice an extensive collection of Guinness antiques that chronicle the story of the brand's advertising.
As with O’Sullivans, if you're in possession of a valid City Sightseeing Dublin ticket then you can receive a free pint of Guinness at the bar.
6) The Cobblestone (77 King St N, Smithfield):
Away from the Temple Bar district, but still close to key attractions such as the Old Jameson Distillery, Cobblestone is one of the finest traditional Irish pubs north of the River Liffey. At first glance the green and black building looks completely unassuming, but inside is a lively and inviting environment where an eclectic selection of Irish craft beers are available on tap. Live music sessions occur each night, adding to the venue's rustic ambience and cultural credentials. The Cobblestone was suggested to us by Fiona Hilliard, a Dublin-based travel writer who shares knowledge and insights into the Irish capital over on her blog, traveledits.com. She herself cited it as a excellent place to experience traditional live music.
7) The Long Hall (51 South Great George's Street):
Fiona's second suggestion is a quirky and unpretentious Victorian watering hole. It's décor is chaotic yet congruent, ostentatious yet pleasingly cordial, but I suppose you didn't come here for an analysis of the draperies. The Long Hall boasts great reviews for its efficient and friendly staff (who also dress in old-style aprons), fair prices and all-round charming atmosphere.
8) The Palace Bar (21 Fleet Street):
The Palace Bar is another Victorian pub with stacks of history to its name. During the 40s, 50s and 60s it was the favoured haunt of journalists from the Irish Times, who had their offices little more than a three minute's walk away. In the back rooms they would discuss current events over a drink, compose copy, and even hold clandestine meetings with their sources. Today the Palace Bar is a favourite of locals and savvy visitors alike. The Tipperary hurling teams treat it as their unofficial headquarters, and as an establishment that prides itself on being a venue for discourse its one exception to the 'no singing' rule is a provision granted solely to the Welsh choir, who often gather for Wales versus Ireland international rugby games.
The Palace Bar offers a staggering variety of fine Irish Whiskies, 110 in all, and it is also a strong proponent of Irish craft beers. Try a bottle from the Dungarven Brewery, a Galway Hooker, or a Headless Dog from Belfast. The Palace Bar was suggested to us by both Fiona Hilliard and Pól Ó Conghaile. Pól is a travel and food Writer for National Geographic.
9) J.W. Sweetman (1-2 Burgh Quay):
One of the larger pubs on our list, unsurprising considering it has multiple stories and is the only establishment of its kind in Dublin to contain its own micro-brewery. J.W. Sweetman is a place where you can enjoy one of the capital's largest selections of craft beer. They've got everything from Bavarian Hefe-Weizen to Irish Red Ale- an iconic variety with a smooth malty sweetness. Experience flavours and textures from nations as diverse as Belgium, England, Japan and Scotland, and if beer isn't your thing then there's plenty of cocktails, spirits, wines, teas and coffees.
A staggering drinks list isn't the only thing J.W. Sweetman's got going for it, the classic 18th century building is flanked by the River Liffey at the crossing of the O'Connell Bridge, affording lovely views of the heart of Dublin. If you're after food then their menu has something for every time of day. Sweetman's was recommended to us by Morgan Cantrell, an avid globetrotter from Georgia, USA. Check out her blog 'Travel Morgan Travel', where you can keep up to date with her explorations.
10) VAT House Bar (2 Anglesea Street):
Nestled at the edge of the Temple Bar area, fairly close to Dame Street, is a gastropub that offers fantastic value and quality considering its central location. It was suggested to us by William St Martin via the 'Dublin Local Guides' Google+ community. As a local he explained how it's a great spot to hear and perhaps even meet a few famous traditional music players. The size of the building makes it perfect for large groups, who'll also appreciate its hearty food menu. If your aim is to go clubbing then Will points out that the VAT House offers direct access to the Hotel/Club M, making it equally ideal for young people who're staying over in Dublin for a few days.
Whether you pay a fleeting visit to this place for pre-drinks, or grace it with your presence into the wee hours, you're sure to appreciate the professional service and comfortable atmosphere.
11) The Boars Head (149 Capel Street):
The Boars Head was the first of three suggestions given to us by the local experts at DublinTown (@DublinTown). It's a essentially a solid, no-fills pub where you can get a good hot meal and a pint. Lean back, enjoy the craic and don't expect to see too many tourists.
12) Flowing Tide Pub (9 Lower Abbey St):
DublinTown's second suggestion, in a way, lives up to its name in that it sits at the confluence of two very different culture scenes. On one hand it's a typical 'Old Man Pub', with traditional décor, screenings of live sporting events, and a history that goes back many years. On the other hand it attracts actors and patrons from the nearby Abbey Theatre, an institution which also serves as the National Theatre of Ireland. Grab a pint here and you'll find yourself in the midst of some the most diverse craic in all of Dublin.
13) Sackville Lounge (16 Sackville Place):
There was hardly a person who informed our choices in this list that didn't sing the praises of the Sackville Lounge. It was initially recommended by the DublinTown experts, but also came to be mentioned by Fiona Hilliard and Pól Ó Conghaile. Niall of Dualway told us that it is located right next to his office, and that he and his co-workers occasionally head in on a Friday after work. What's our own opinion? Well it's one of the few places in this list that's garnered most of its plaudits by sheer virtue of its friendly and entertaining family staff, relaxing atmosphere, and welcoming regulars. We're also informed that the drink prices are much cheaper than in the larger tourist pubs.
14) Magpie Inn (115 Coliemore Road, Dalkey):
As alluded to earlier, not all of the pubs on this list are located in the city centre. While asking around on twitter we were approached by Frank Willoughby of downtowncitymaps.com, who explained that "some of the best bars are actually just outside Dublin City Centre. 20 minutes on the DART to Dalkey lands [and] you're in bar heaven!"
No sooner were our attentions drawn to Dalkey than Dublin local Dan Lucas told us about the Magpie Inn. The Magpie bills itself as a proper Irish pub capable of catering to drinkers and diners of all colours. Their building is warm, relaxing and wonderfully modern. The drinks list includes 20 different varieties of craft beer available on draught and by the bottle. There's also a fair selection of cocktails, whiskies and wines. To ensure their food is of the highest standard Magpie Inn works almost exclusively with artisan producers who share their values of quality and sustainability.
15) Dark Horse (33 Carysfort Ave, Blackrock):
Halfway between Dalkey and Dublin city centre is the suburb of Blackrock, location of the final pub on this list (for now at least). This artisan beer bar, owned by the Galway Bay Brewery, straddles the line between intimate local boozer and exciting national chain. Not only does the Dark Horse import certain varieties of beer that can't be found anywhere else in Ireland, but they also have their very own microbrewery. Try a Full Sail IPA, great with spicy dishes; a Stormy Port, with its roasted coffee and chocolate notes, or a 'Of Foam And Fury', an 8.5% ABV with sweet, fruity aromas. If you're after food just as much as a new craft beer then the Dark Horse has a robust lunch and dinner menu to sate your appetite. The Dark Horse was Dan Lucas' second recommendation to us.
Of their own establishment, the Dark Horse's management had this to say: "We feel we offer suburban Dublin something unique in that we have many unusual beer choices intertwined with some of the old favourites. Our customer base is very eclectic and whether you want to play pool or jenga or just talk about todays big match we have something to suit everyone".
Interested in making your trip to Dublin even more authentic? Read the Dublin Visitor Centre's piece on how to experience the Irish capital like a local. They've also suggested three 'Most Do' activities for the upcoming St.Patrick's Day Festival.