DUBLIN BY NIGHT
Visit Dublin like a local, not a tourist
There’s so much to see in Dublin by day but make sure you save time and energy for the evenings. Dublin’s nightlife is legendary and rightly so.
Irish pubs are copied the world over, but they are a poor imitation of the real thing. Walking into an old school pub in Dublin, hearing the hum of quiet conversation, the nod of acknowledgement from the barman and then patiently waiting for your pint of Guinness to settle…..it’s a thing of beauty, worth the redeye flight and the jetlag just to experience it in person.
Our playwrights are known the world over, Joyce, Beckett, Shaw, Wilde, Yeats, Keane, Leonard, Heaney. You can watch a performance at their theaters.
U2, The Cranberries, The Corrs, The Dubliners, The Chieftains are some of our musical exports,
Irish wit will leave your belly sore from laughter, our comedy clubs are not for the easily offended, but you’ll have tears rolling down your cheeks, if you can understand the comedians.
I talked about our food in the Dublin By Day page, it’s some of the freshest food you could eat and our creative chefs are taking it to new levels all the time.
There’s no tourist hotspots in the list, please don’t even consider venturing near Temple Bar at night. I’m giving you much better options here where you can interact with real Dubliners, not fellow tourists.
Let’s start with the obvious one, our pubs. Irish houses are small, so pubs are where we socialize and spend plenty of time there. Our pubs tend to be timeless, that old wooden bar feel.
Being a barman in Ireland is a very respectable position, it’s not just a part time for a college student. Barman do apprenticeships and their work is a craft, that first pint of Guinness is nearly too beautiful looking to drink. The barmen see everything, they’ll know you’re American before you say a word, don’t shout your order, they’ll come to you when it’s your turn. It’s their pub and their word rules.
You pay as you get your drink, there are no tabs here. Order your drinks and pay as the barman hands them to you. A Guinness is about €5:50 in town these days, a lager is a bit more. No need to tip, unless a waiter/waitress brings the drinks to your table.
The regulars may not turn towards you, but they are also taking in everything, watching you, listening to every word and passing on the information out the side of their mouth to their friend on the adjacent barstool “he’s a yank, from some place in the south, Charlotte I think”. It’s all just friendly inquisitiveness though, remember many of the regulars have been drinking in that pub and that same seat for years & decades, you’re in their home now ! Sit down, drink your pint and within a few minutes, you’ll be chatting away to them like old friends.
Pubs are busy, at night, they’re packed, just squeeze in and work your way to the bar to place your order. If you prefer a quieter time, go to one of the bars mentioned above during the day, bring a newspaper. The sunlight through the windows highlight the dust in the air, there’ll be a few old timers at the bar, sipping on their Guinness. Drink your pint, read your paper, be glad you’re in the pub on a Tuesday afternoon and not in an office. I’s one of my very favorite things to do when I’m home.
Which Pubs to go to ?
In Dublin, there are pubs on every street corner. My general rule for a Dublin pub is that if it has a family name over it, it’s going to a great spot. Names like Mulligans, Kehoes, Nearys, O Donoghues, Grogan, McDaids, Hogans. They are all Dublin institutions, so if you pass any of those on your wanders, stop in and have a pint.
Beware the tourist bar, if you hear more foreign than Dublin accents, go to one of the other 750 pubs in the city.
Here is a good route that will bring you past lots of bars worth a visit
Start at The Lord Edward, this is my local when I’m in Dublin. It’s very close to Christchurch Cathedral. Now you’ll go into this place and say “what is so special about this place?”. That’s the beauty of it, nothing is special, it’s a bit worn down, but it hasn’t changed in fifty, maybe a hundred years. I can picture right now exactly where each of the regulars is sitting and what they’re drinking. The regulars are a mixture of neighbors from the working class LIberties just down the road, mixed with some young professionals who are gradually taking over the area. Go, order a pint and take it in. That’s what Dublin pubs are all about.
Next, walk down Dame Street, you’ll pass The Oak, Brogans. There are some restaurants along here if you’re hungry. Then take a right up George’s Street. More food, some good pubs, you can wander down Exchequer Street, the Library Bar is a hidden gem upstairs. Keep walking, you’ll pass the Old Stand, The International. Turn up South Williams Street and you’ll find Grogans, Peter’s Bar, The Hairy Lemon. Maybe go down one of the side streets to Hogans, or go back on George’s Street and go to the Long Hall.
If you work your way to Grafton Street, all the side streets off it have top quality bars. If you’re looking for something a bit classy/higher end, Dawson Street has you covered. If you’re over there, keep going to the Shelbourne Hotel and have a drink with the hob nobs in there. It’s lovely in there at Christmas.
That whole part of town has excellent bars everywhere you turn, so follow the route I described above and you will find the best of Irish pubs.
Another good place, full of locals only, is Camden Street. It’s a hip area, no shortage of food or quality bars.
If you are in Dublin on Sunday, you must, I repeat must, go to Cassidy’s on Camden Street at 8:30pm. They have a band called Rake The Ashes, who are the best entertainment in town. They play the Irish ballads, but with their own spin on it. They sit way down the back of this bar and you will not believe how packed it gets, but the craic is ninety. I never miss Cassidys when I’m home.
I’ve drawn in red some of the streets that I’ve mentioned above, walk the streets and you’ll find a good spot for the night.
I think comedy clubs are a great way to get the pulse of a city. You hear what the topics of the day are, who the comedians are targeting and it’s always a very local crowd.
My favorite comedy club in Dublin is above the International Bar on Wicklow Street. This is also one of the bars on my list above. Depsite the international name, it’s a very old style Dublin pub. Thursday through Sunday, they have live comedy above the pub, it’s very cheap, €5-10.
The venue is small and always very busy. You may have to stand & they even have people sit on stage, you’d be very brave to sit in those seats, you are guaranteed to be part of the show.
It gets hot up there with lots of people crammed into a small space, but it’s always funny. You won’t recognize the comedians as a visitor, but Irish people will. Even though it’s a small size, it’s very well renowned and draws top Irish comics.
There is a small bar up there too, so don’t worry about missing out on a pint.
Dublin & Ireland is home to some of the most famous playwrights of the last century and there is always top quality theatre (note: this is the way it’s spelled in Ireland) on in Dublin.
Our main theatres are
The Gate (who perform at Spoleto in Charleston most years)
The Pavilion in Dun Laoghaire also has some shows
The Bord Gais Energy Theatre has any of the big international productions that are in town.
Bewleys Cafe Theatre also has some lunchtime theater too, that’s a very Dublin thing to do
Just google those for your travel dates and see what’s on.
I talked already about the quality of Irish foods, please make sure you try out lots of it before you go home.
I’m not going to pick out specific restaurants, I usually just eat at home when I’m in Dublin, but I’ll go through the general food scene and you can find your own spots.
First, pubs can have very good food. It’s not like a lot of pubs here where it’s wings and burgers. Some of the best food is in a pub. Not all pubs, but you can check the menus yourself and decide.
Some of the smaller villages on the coast that I suggested as places for day walks also have good restaurants, so you could combine a late walk with an early dinner. All the restaurants do early bird specials, which can help bring down the sometimes expensive cost of eating out in Dublin.
You’ll see a lot of ethnic restaurants around the city, lots of Indian, Italian, Moroccan, Middle Eastern. They’re very popular and can be a change of pace if you’ve already had a week of Irish food.
What to eat :
Anything seafood is my go to, we are surrounded by chilly waters that provide us with some of the best seafood there is. I always order a seafood chowder if it’s on the menu. They are loaded with so much seafood and comes with brown (soda) bread, you’re full just eating that. Dublin Bay Mussels, prawn (shrimp) and oysters are always excellent.
Our beef is supposed to be excellent, it’s usually grass fed. We really don’t eat Corned Beef & Cabbage, so if that’s on the menu, you’re probably ignored my advice and are in Temple Bar.
Save your dessert until you get to Murphy’s Ice Cream on Wicklow Street. I can’t walk by there without getting their brown bread ice cream (yeah it’s a thing!)
Whatever kind of music you want, it’s on in Dublin 7 night a week.
Most of the theaters I mentioned above have music too, often later at night after they’ve had a play on .
Whelan’s is one of the best known places for (paid) concerts. Smaller/mid size acts perform here. I was there many times growing up.
Vicar Street concerts are always good, they have more popular acts and it’s always got a good atmosphere in the venue.
For trad music, you’ll see the Cobblestone in the guide books. It’s in an area where you wouldn’t to wander too far down the side streets and the last time I was in there, it was full of foreigners, so for that reason, I haven’t been back.
Pipers Corner is relatively new, it’s on the north side, close to the Abbey Theatre. They have some top quality traditional musicians there. It’s worth a visit.
McNeils on Capel Street, which is an eclectic street itself, has a small bar but has good trad sessions.
O’ Donoghues back on the southside is well advertised and it’s always entertaining.
I’ve already mentioned this one elsewhere, but on Sunday nights, Cassidy’s on Camden Street for Rake The Ashes is the only place to be.
thelist.ie is a good site to search for gigs and concerts