Other European capitals might be better looking than Dublin, but everyone knows that personality is more important than good looks, and here’s where Dublin has the edge over sexier cities. Dublin’s biggest draw is Dubliners, whether native-born or blow-ins, and the best way to discover their charisma is in a good Dublin pub. Combining soul with sociability, the best ones will have you wondering how you might turn your visit into a more permanent one.
The Stag’s Head
Tucked away in an alley off Dame Street in the city centre, The Stag’s Head is the kind of pub tourists fantasize about. A regular with James Joyce, it is now a haunt for students of nearby Trinity College, but it’s certainly not a student pub. You can find anyone from bankers to street traders here, and locals tend to outnumber tourists.
Another pub where you’ll find locals rubbing shoulders with tourists is O’Donoghues on Merrion Row. Famous for its traditional Irish music, O’Donoghues is where The Dubliners built their reputation, but this is no “Oirish” bar. The bric-a-brac around the walls has accumulated over time, rather than being shipped in by some enthusiastic designer, creating an impression that other Irish bars the world over try desperately (and generally unsuccessfully) to emulate.
The Long Hall
Another beloved Dublin institution is the Long Hall, on South Great Georges Street, but, whereas O’Donoghues has made quite a name for itself, The Long Hall prefers to revel in relative obscurity, making it a great place for a quiet pint during the week. Following the “if it’s not broke…” theory, the bar has remained the same for years. And the clientele prefer it that way. You’ll find everyone from students to retirees here, and tourists are made as welcome as regulars.
You won’t find anything like happy-hour cocktail deals or live DJs in Hartigans, on Lower Leeson Street. This is a pub from simpler times, when a pub was judged on the quality of its Guinness, and your choice of dining options stretched from crisps to (if you were really pushing the boat out) toasted sandwiches in a bag. Based on those standards, Hartigans cannot be beaten: The Guinness is here is top-notch, and although the decor and furniture barely qualify as such, minor details don’t matter when the atmosphere is like this.
One minute you can be shopping for designer shoes in Brown Thomas, and the next you’re having a pint in what feels like someone’s living room (if they lived in an incredibly old but cosy and delightfully shabby house). That’s what it’s like when you step off Grafton Street and into Kehoe’s, on South Anne Street. Many bars have tried to reproduce this homely atmosphere, but with its unexpected nooks and crannies and inviting shadows, Kehoe’s beats them all hands down. Popular with office workers, it’s busiest on weekday evenings. This pub is right in the heart of the city. If you are looking for a hotel in dublin, there are many budget and luxury options in the vicinity.
Another oasis off the main shopping thoroughfare of Grafton Street is Grogans. You won’t find any big screens or heavy beats in this traditional wood-panelled pub, with its eclectic mix of artwork and even more eclectic mix of customers. A great place to read the newspaper on an afternoon or start a memorable conversation with friends or interesting strangers, Grogans serves great Guinness, and its toasted sandwiches (served day and night) are the perfect solution if you get hungry and don’t want to leave.
The epitome of shabby charm, Mulligans on Poolbeg Street is a monument to true Dublin character. A ceiling yellowed by the years before the smoking ban, walls lined with photographs of regulars from yesteryear, and some of the creamiest pints in Dublin make this a favourite bolt hole for true blue Dubs and blow-ins alike.
It’s worth venturing out of the city centre for this tribute to the power of good conversation. Kavanaghs (otherwise known as the Gravediggers, due to its proximity to Glasnevin Cemetery) is a screen-free cocoon of warmth and friendliness where chat and laughter (and great pints) make this the kind of place that the word “character” was invented for.
Break with tradition for The Globe, on South Great Georges Street. This is no wood-panelled, smoke-yellowed escape from the hustle and bustle: The Globe is a hip and stylish bar with a chic cafe vibe by day. All this coolness may come at the price of friendliness, but you can’t please everyone. The Globe opens late every night – until 2.30 am from Monday to Saturday, and 1 am on Sundays. It also offers free entry to the adjacent Ri-Ra nightclub.
On the same street as The Globe, Hogan’s attracts a pretty similar clientele. Popular with the young and hip, it is roomier than The Globe and also offers a downstairs dance floor for those who don’t want to just sit around and look cool. It gets very crowded at the weekends. Those who pride themselves on their musical taste will appreciate the mostly alternative sounds.