Dublin is the land of the pub. Several Irish revolutions began in Dublin’s public houses and many of Ireland’s literary giants frequently socialized over pints of the black stuff. To truly understand Ireland, pull up a chair at one of these 5 great pubs and watch the craic swirl around you. With St. Patricks Day quickly approaching, get in the spirit by checking out these top Dublin pubs.
5. Kavanagh’s aka Gravediggers
A pub on the edge of a massive graveyard, Kavanagh’s has seen its share of liquid mourning. Glasnevin Cemetery, the largest nondenominational cemetery in Ireland, shares a side wall with this old Victorian pub, built in 1833. Now on the sixth generation of Kavanagh, the bar has been family-run since its inception, and plays no music. Instead, the bar defers to the soundtrack of voices its patrons lend to the lively setting. The bars sobriquet, “Gravediggers,” arose because the gravediggers were not allowed to visit the bar during working hours, and so they devised a scheme around this nagging rule. They would bang on Kavanagh’s wall to a beat that constituted a specific drink order. The bartender would come outside and pass pints through the graveyard fence, though, according to Irish legend, the drinks passed straight through the brick wall.
Location: 1 Prospect Square Glasnevin, northern Dublin
1782 was a long time ago. This public house has been serving pints since that year. The facade and styling reflect that era and the brew could not be more perfect. According to the Irish, Mulligan’s pulls the best pint of Guinness in all of Ireland, a distinction not lost on famous patrons such as John F. Kennedy and James Joyce. In the early twentieth century, James Mulligan banned all furniture, stools, and any other sitting surface from the bar. His reasoning? He posited that when real men drank, they did so while standing. The furniture has since returned. This bar is located in the legendary Temple Bar district – the center of the universe for Dublin nightlife.
Location: Poolbeg Street, Temple Bar
For Irish music, this is the spot. Opened in 1934, this bar is relatively new compared to the rest of this list. Every night, music billows out from its large interior, beckoning travelers like a siren at sea. For a true Irish music experience that fires on all cylinders every night, look no further than O’Donoghues. The Dubliners, one of Ireland’s most famous crossover acts, got their start as a band here.
Location: Merrion Row, Off St. Stephen’s Green
2. Stag’s Head
On atmosphere alone, this is the best public house in Dublin. Everyone who visits Ireland should take in this beacon of Victorian masculinity. The wood paneling, scuffed old leather, and stained glass windows hearken back to a finer age of pub adornment. Opened in 1770, the bar has been a Dublin favorite for most of its existence, especially among the students from nearby Trinity College. The namesake Stag’s head hangs prominently above the bar, looking out on revelers from its central perch. According to Dublin lore, the head came from a deer that went deranged on the streets of Dublin and stuck its head in the door. They kept the head.
Location: 1 Dame Court, Central Dublin
1. Brazen Head
The best bar in Dublin is one of the oldest bars in the world. This bar opened in the 12th century. 1198! That is world is flat/no magna carta old school. In those days, it was not uncommon to stand shoulder to shoulder with a pillaging Viking while swilling some sort of old world brew. Today, the bar is great for music, atmosphere, food, and history.
The Irish are no strangers to revolution, and many an uprising was planned within these walls. In the 18th century, the Brazen was one of very few multi-story buildings in Dublin, and aspiring insurgents used the upper levels as a lookout for British soldiers and spies. In 1803, while plotting a revolt against England at the pub, Robert Emmet and his revolutionary cohorts were betrayed by a spy. They were executed. It is said that Emmet’s ghost haunts the halls of the Brazen Head.
Location: 20 Bridge Street Lower, Central Dublin
In a town with many great pubs, here are some serious honorable mentions:
Central Hotel Library Bar, The Ferryman, The Long Hall, The Vaults, O’Neills, McDaid’s, Kehoe’s Pub, Auld Dubliner, The Long Stone, and Neary’s.
flickr images via Infomatique, Aidan Casey, and Chadlewis76