There’s no escaping it – if you’re in Dublin for St Patrick’s Day, you are going to get drunk. Between the fine ales and infectious atmospheres on offer within the Irish capital’s boozers, March 17 has seen even the most determined teetotallers throw caution to the wind, pull on a big foam hat and get merry amidst the fiddlers. The party falls on a Saturday this year, meaning Dublin’s drinking dens are set to be busier than ever. So to make sure you don’t waste any time elbowing your way through sub-par establishments, here’s our guide to the city’s best bars, pubs and clubs. Try them all at your peril.
1pm: The big lunch
Without a good bellyful of stodge, we’d be surprised if you made it past sunset before hitting the deck. Kick the action off at one of these gastro hot-spots and enjoy some top notch pub grub with your first pint.
Dublin’s oldest microbrewery pub sprawls casually over three storeys. Its wooden decor may be excessively rustic, but the Porterhouse makes up for that with the quality of the beer. It sells only its own label, but its stouts, lagers and ales are better than any mass-produced beer; the Oyster Stout, made on the premises with real oysters, is very good. It also serves excellent pub food at reasonable prices, and the Irish stew and bangers and mash will fill you up without breaking the bank. 16-18 Parliament Street (679 8847/www.porterhousebrewco.com). All cross-city buses/Luas Jervis. Open 11.30am-11.30pm Mon-Wed; 11.30am-2am Thur; 11.30am-2.30am Fri; noon-2.30am Sat; 12.30-11pm Sun.
Grogan’s Castle Lounge
Grogan’s has a relaxed, shabby charm, great Guinness and tasty toasted sandwiches: three good reasons for its customers – old regulars and a number of more youthful rogues – to drop in. It’s the perfect bolt-hole in which to escape the hustle and bustle of Grafton Street. The sometimes bizarre artworks on the walls are for sale, often put there by punters. A Dublin drinking institution. 15 William Street South (677 9320). All cross-city buses/Luas St Stephen’s Green. Open 10.30am-11.30pm Mon-Thur; 10.30am-12.30am Fri, Sat; 12.30-11pm Sun.
Dimmed lighting and half-moon leather booths make Dakota one of Dublin’s coolest and (predictably) busiest bars. The long bar ensures you’re never waiting too long for a drink, although it can get a bit hectic at the weekend. It’s a great place for a sociable drink with friends (try to grab one of those booths) and reliably quiet during the day, with a cool warehouse feel. It also does excellent mixed platters of finger food – ideal for soakage if you’re planning on making a night of it. 9 William Street South (672 7696/www.dakotabar.ie). All cross-city buses/Luas St Stephen’s Green. Open noon-11.30pm Mon-Wed, Sun; noon-2am Thur; noon-2.30am Fri, Sat.
Pearse Street can feel a little quiet and desolate at night, but O’Neill’s is one good reason to venture down this way. It’s only a few minutes from College Green (but still well away from the crowds) and it’s a fine bar in general, with lots of separate rooms and big glowing fires. The ventilation could be better. Gaggles of besuited folk drink here, but don’t be put off: there are plenty of seats for all – and good pub grub too. 37 Pearse Street (671 4074). DART Pearse. Open noon-11.30pm Mon-Thur; noon-12.30am Fri, Sat.
In Ulysses, Leopold Bloom stops here for a gorgonzola sandwich and a glass of burgundy. ‘He raised his eyes and met the stare of a bilious clock. Two. Pub clock five minutes fast. Time going on. Hands moving. Two. Not yet.’ The clock is said to be kept at five minutes fast and the bar is now a regular for well-dressed Dubliners. Seating can be scarce, and the place is better suited to conversation than raucous revelry. The food – more fish and chips than gorgonzola and burgundy – is quite good, and not overly expensive. 21 Duke Street (677 5217/www.davybyrnes.com). All cross-city buses/Luas St Stephen’s Green. Open 11am-11.30pm Mon-Wed; 11am-12.30am Thur, Fri; 10.30am-12.30am Sat; 12.30am-11pm Sun.
3pm: The afternoon session
Stomachs lined, it’s time for the drinking to commence in earnest. Check these spots out for friendly crowds, fine ales and, of course, the best black stuff in the city.
This ornate Victorian gin palace has it all: jovial barman, old bloke at the bar with a pint of Guinness, smattering of characterful regulars. Indeed, the whole place looks as if it’s been carved out of thick mahogany. From its antique chandeliers to its mirrored bar, the Long Hall has survived the recent neighbourhood renovations and is still regarded as one of Dublin’s unmissable boozers. 51 South Great George’s Street (475 1590). All cross-city buses/Luas St Stephen’s Green. Open 4-11.30pm Mon-Wed, Sun; 1-11.30pm Thur; 1pm-12.30am Fri, Sat; 1-11pm Sun.
Aching to be hip and thoroughly self-conscious, this is not the original Bailey of lore. Before it was torn down years back, the old Bailey featured in James Joyce’s Ulysses (Leopold Bloom lived at 7 Eccles Street, which used to be one of the entrances to the bar) and was a vital organ in Dublin’s literary life. Today, the new Bailey has decor and drinks prices in step with the chic clientele; the outdoor seating area is a great spot at which to while away an afternoon watching Dubliners on the move. Bring a well-stuffed wallet. 2 Duke Street (670 4939). All cross-city buses/Luas St Stephen’s Green. Open noon-11.30pm Mon-Thur, Sun; noon-12.30pm Fri, Sat.
Owned by Ireland’s ‘man-about-town’ Eddie Irvine, Cocoon walks a fine line between stylish and tacky. TV screens tuned to music videos and fashion television hang on the walls while expensively-dressed clientele adorn the plush couches, availing of the free Wi-Fi and high-priced drinks. Worth stopping by for an early evening cocktail and a peek at post-Celtic Tiger Dublin in action. Royal Hibernian Way, off Grafton Street (679 6259/www.cocoon.ie). All cross-city buses/Luas St Stephen’s Green. Open 11.30am-2.30am Mon, Thur, Fri, Sat; 11.30am-11.30pm Tue, Wed; 4-11.30pm Sun.
Very quickly after it opened its doors in 2007, Southwilliam – or Swilly as its pressed for time clientele have been known to call it – became a favourite with Dublin’s trendier young tipplers. Its impressive array of imported beers and excellent selection of gourmet pies baked on-site make it an ideal spot to begin a night on the town. It can get a little crowded after 9pm, when the hipsters descend on the bar and the DJ starts up. 52 South William Street (672 5946/www.southwilliam.ie). All cross-city buses/Luas St Stephen’s Green. Open noon-11.30pm Mon-Wed; noon-2.30am Thur-Sat; 3pm-1am Sun.
The oldest bar in Dublin to have kept its original form, the grand old Palace deserves a place on everybody’s pub crawl. If it’s authenticity you’re after, this place delivers, with its aged marble counter, mirrored alcoves and a reputation as a writers’ hang-out. Indeed, the walls are adorned with many famous literary faces. This is a pub that rarely gets uncomfortably busy. 21 Fleet Street (bar 677 9290/lounge 679 3037/www.palacebar.com). All cross-city buses/Luas Abbey Street. Open Bar 10.30am-11.30pm Mon-Thur; 10.30am-12.30am Fri, Sat; 12.30-11pm Sun. Lounge 7-11.30pm Tue; 5-11.30pm Wed, Thur; 5pm-12.30am Fri; 6.30pm-12.30am Sat; 6-11pm Sun.
6pm: Until closing time
The light is fading and so is your sense of balance – time to dig into the craic big time and head somewhere with live music and lots of space to stumble about in.
If you’re up for a laugh and a sing-song, and you’re happy to drink with dewy-eyed tourists enthusing about the traditional music being played onstage, this place, smack-bang in the heart of Temple Bar, is for you. There are bands playing traditional music upstairs, decent pints at the bar and coddle (a traditional Dublin sausage, bacon and potato stew) on the lunch menu. It can get very packed at the weekends. 24 Anglesea Street (677 0527/www.thesmithgroup.ie). All cross-city buses/Luas Jervis. Open 10.30am-11.30pm Mon-Thur; 10.30am-12.30am Fri, Sat; 12.30-11pm Sun.
Bruxelles is one of those Dublin institutions that somehow manages to appeal to almost every punter – hairy, heavy metal fans, indie kids in skinny jeans, old codgers, students and tourists. The rockers and mods bars downstairs play a weird mix of tunes; upstairs is for those who just fancy a good pint and a chat. Although it needs a lick of paint, the place has pots of charm – and a useful outside seating area. 7-8 Harry Street, off Grafton Street (677 5362). All cross-city buses/Luas St Stephen’s Green. Open 10.30am-1.30am Mon-Wed; 10.30am-2.30am Thur-Sat; noon-1.30am Sun.
Sitting adjacent to the looming Central Bank and named after an old Irish ballad, this is one of the rare pubs in Temple Bar that draws a healthy mix of tourists and Dubliners. Indeed, since its refurbishment, it has attracted in the same jokers who once dubbed it the ‘Dodgy Few’. You’ll hear the best of Irish and international alternative music playing throughout the night. Get here early and lay claim to one of the charming snugs. 1 Fownes Street Upper (677 9328). All cross-city buses/Luas Jervis. Open noon-11.30pm Mon, Tue; 11am-12.30am Wed; 11am-1am Thur; 11am-2am Fri, Sat; 1pm-1am Sun.
There are only a few bars in Dublin that can honestly be described as painfully hip, and Octagon is one of them. Situated in the sleek Clarence Hotel (see p39) owned by Bono and The Edge, this eight-sided bar has seen some very famous bums on its black leather stools and in its sleek, contemporary booths. For all its trend factor, though, the staff are friendly and good at what they do; even when it’s crowded, you’ll soon have a generous, well-made cocktail in hand. It’s a bit expensive, but some things are worth paying for. Watch the media space for the proposed changes to the Clarence. Clarence Hotel, 6-8 Wellington Quay (670 9000/www.theclarence.ie). All cross-city buses/Luas Jervis. Open 11am-11.30pm Mon-Thur; 11am-12.30am Fri, Sat; noon-11pm Sun.
Dublin's miniature music institution has recently been refurbished to include a 200-capacity venue upstairs. By doubling its number of gigs, Whelan's has managed to cement its place as HQ for all things indie. Its success is due in no small part to the guidance of legendary broadcaster, author and promoter Leagues O'Toole, who has watched the venue blossom from a small club hosting then-unknowns such as Jeff Buckley to becoming Dublin's trendiest after-show nightspot. 25 Wexford Street (478 0766/www.whelanslive.com). Bus 16, 16A, 19, 19A, 122/Luas Harcourt. Open 10.30am-1.30am Mon-Wed; 10.30am-2.30am Thur-Sat; 2pm-1.30am Sun.
11pm: The last hurrah
The pubs may be chucking out, but that doesn’t mean the party has to stop. Head to one of these late night venues to round the night off in style. Just remember that hugging the doorman won't boost your chances of entry.
One of the city’s oldest and largest theatres by day and a mega club by night, this big, Victorian place has several spaces for bands, DJs and films. There are lots of bars, and the warren-like structure of this beautiful old building means you almost need a map (or at least a local guide) to find your way around. The Gaiety is a particularly good destination for fans of Latin and jazz, or indeed for an older crowd. King Street South, Around Trinity College (677 1717/www.gaietytheatre.com). All cross-city buses. Open midnight-2.30am Fri, Sat. Admission €12 Fri; €15 Sat.
This basement club and live music spot is the least tourist-oriented venue in Temple Bar. In fact, the average tourist would probably find the Hub a little unnerving. It hosts up-and-coming live acts until 11pm, then turns into a club. The vibe depends on what bands have played that night, but if you like it messy and rock ‘n’ roll, you won't be disappointed. 23 Eustace Street, Around Temple Bar (670 7655). All cross-city buses. Open 8.30pm-2.30am daily. Admission €3-€10.
This is a new-school gay bar – which means, apparently, that you can't really tell that it’s a gay bar: PantiBar is more about postmodern interior design than camp and cross-dressing. As with most gay-friendly bars, the music is the best pop party tunes. Owned and run by Dublin's best-loved drag queen Panti, who takes to the stage for what is arguably the most popular drag show each Thursday. From intimate acoustic sessions to the intriguingly-titled ‘Furry Glen Bear Nights’, there is something on Pantibar's slate for everyone. 7-8 Capel Street, North Quays (874 0710). All cross-city buses/Luas Jervis. Open 5-11.30pm Mon, Wed, Sun; 5pm-2am Tue; 5pm-2.30am Thur; Fri, Sat. Admission free.
Two flash, upmarket clubs in one: Spy upstairs, Wax downstairs. Spy is for those who like to watch and be watched rather than sweat on the dancefloor; Wax is all about the dancefloor, it’s more of a weekend club, and the music is predominantly house and hip hop. This is an ideal spot for showing off, and the cocktails are fab. Spy has a dress code and a fairly strict door policy, but Wax goes the other way: if Spy is haute couture, Wax is jeans. Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, William Street South, Around Temple Bar (677 0014/www.spydublin.com). All cross-city buses. Open 6pm-2.30am Mon-Sat; 9pm-1am Sun. Admission Spy free Mon-Fri; €8 non-members after midnight Sat. Wax €5-€8 Mon-Sat.
Formerly the famed Red Box, Tripod is one of the city’s newest kids on the block. The club doubles up as a live venue, but is still renowned for its explosive club nights. Each Friday, 515 DJs rustle up a techno/house/dance set; on Saturdays, expect more commercial/chart-based fare. Situated within the Pod complex, which also houses Crawdaddy, the labyrinthine Tripod is designed to create an explosive atmosphere, especially on nights when big-name guest DJs like Carl Cox, Erick Morillo and James Lavelle visit. Old Harcourt Street Station, Harcourt Street, Around St Stephen's Green (478 0225/0166/www.pod.ie). All cross-city buses. Open 7.30pm-2.30am Admission €10-€25.