Historically and rhetorically, Ireland has been closely linked to the consumption of alcohol. And it’s not entirely an untrue stereotype; drinking in the Emerald Isle is undeniably part of the culture. Everything can be solved and/or debated over a pint or five. In a way, it’s a great aspect of Irish life; from weddings to divorces, christenings to funerals, the drink is ever present, adding to celebrations or soothing wounds. There’s a pub to be found on almost any given street in any given town in Ireland, and they’re just not like pubs anywhere else in the world. It’s hard to explain, but you really have to experience it yourself. They’re warmer, friendlier, and somehow more welcoming. It’s no wonder that the notion of an ‘Irish Bar’ is a commercially valued enterprise all over the world.
But we’re talking about the real thing here, and for that, you have to visit Ireland herself. For a bucket list trip to the country, it’s not hard to fit in a few pub visits; Ireland’s so small that you can easily travel all the way around it in a couple of weeks. However, some of the best traditional bars are found in the capital city of Dublin, where a pint of the black stuff is practically a ‘must-do’ activity on any tourist’s list. There’s a list of our own here to get you started, but no doubt you’ll discover your own hidden bars and pubs; when you do, make sure to let the secret out on BUCKiTDREAM to inspire other travelers that might have a hankering for Ireland, so they can follow in your footsteps. But for now, whip out that BUCKiTDREAM planner and get a load of five of the best traditional pubs you can find in Dublin’s fair city.
Grogan’s, South William Street The Irish Pub is a national institution, and none display this mindset better than Grogan’s, located smack-bang in the city center, mere feet from Dublin’s main pedestrian thoroughfare Grafton Street. It’s become a bit of a standout, and it’s pitched defiantly in one of Dublin’s hippest up-and-coming crossroads and finds itself surrounded by trendy second-hand shops and modern cocktail bars. Stepping into Grogan’s is like stepping back in time; the decor is extremely old-fashioned, looking a lot like an eccentric’s over-dressed living room, and there’s not a lot of space in the main bar itself, which will see you crammed against the walls and bar in true Irish drinking fashion. Be thankful then that you can take your pint of Guinness to the plentiful outdoor tables, stake your claim, and watch the world go by in the fresh air (avoiding any smokers’ tables).
O’Donoghue’s, Merrion Row Situated a short walk from Dublin’s premier slice of greenery, St. Stephen’s Green, O’Donoghue’s is a traditional pub that comes complete with a long and varied history. Originally conceived as a grocery store way, way back in 1789, it began operating as a full-time pub in 1934 when it was taken over by the O’Donoghue family. Its iconic black and white facade has played host to many famous musicians in its time, including trad kings The Dubliners, who are to this day associated with the pub. You can happily drink the night away, surrounded by walls adorned with photographs of the famous artists who’ve played there. Irish folk musician Andy Irvine was so enamored with the bar that he even wrote a song about it, and it doesn’t get more traditional than that.
Kehoe’s, South Anne Street There’s a term in Ireland that means ‘good fun’; if someone invites you to ‘have the craic’ (pronounced ‘crack’) they’re not initiating substance abuse. The term craic is a Swiss-army-knife of a word. You might hear it in the following variants; ‘what’s the craic?’ (how are you?), ‘we had good craic’ (it was a lot of fun) or ‘the craic was mighty’ (there was serious fun being had). One place where the craic is at its mightiest is at Kehoe’s, a traditional hidey-hole that can be discovered just off Grafton Street. There are so many floors and nooks and crannies to Kehoe’s that it can be tough to get a grip on the layout the first second time you visit. The best choice is to opt for repeat visits to really get a handle on one of Dublin’s best old bars. Utterly unspoiled by time and clogged with atmosphere, Kehoe’s dates back as far as 1803, and is as popular as it ever was today. You can enjoy a Guinness upstairs by a roaring fire, in one of the numerous snugs, or even outside; in the (usually) warm summer months, revelers often spill out of the main pub and fill up the street in front.
Mulligan’s, Poolbeg Street A distinctive and classy wooden exterior provides your first impression of Mulligan’s, a traditional pub that is heavily woven into the fabric of modern Dublin through its ties to James Joyce’s much-loved and highly-regarded epic ‘Ulysses’; he apparently wrote some of it here. Serving the city for nigh on three hundred years, it was originally an illegal drinking venue, known in those days as a ‘shebeen’, and it still retains a bit of its ‘rough-and-ready’ atmosphere. In fact, a popular tale recounts a fateful night in the bar’s history in the early 1960s, a time when Catholicism dominated the country. On this particular night, the generosity and hospitality of the house exceeded what the law deemed to be appropriate, and barman Tommy McDonnell, known affectionately as ‘Briscoe’, was soon on the receiving end of a visit from the law. Before opening the locked doors, Briscoe ushered all his customers down to the cellar to finish their drinks and told them to keep quiet. The police entered, suspicious, but seeing no evidence of any wrongdoing, eventually left empty-handed. Little did they know they were just feet away from uncovering one of the would-be scandals of the decade; the good and gracious Abbot of Kilnacrott Abbey was busy finishing off his second bottle of claret when the cops came knocking.
Toners, Lower Baggot Street Just down the street from O’Donoghue’s lies another tried-and-tested traditional bar, Toners of Lower Baggot Street. Featuring one of the best smoking areas in Dublin, which sees tourists and locals alike gather in huge numbers, the interior of the bar is pretty great too. In fact, they’re like opposites of each other. The smoking area is large, open and spacious, while the snug part of the bar is cozy, cramped and confined. Together, they create an amazing traditional experience, and of course, the atmosphere is unbeatable and entirely authentic. This is apparently a common view; Toners won ‘Best Traditional Pub’ at the National Hospitality Awards in 2014, and won ‘Bar of the Year’ in 2015 at the Sky Bar of the Year Awards. It’s also said to have some of the best Guinness in the city, but then again, a lot of pubs make that claim…the only solution is to get out there and decide for yourself!
These are five of the best traditional bars that Dublin has to offer, but of course, there are a lot more, and they’re not going to discover themselves. Ireland is a fantastic destination for the bucket dream trip, so why hesitate? The above should provide you with another five good reasons to get out and experience the Emerald Isle for yourself!