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The Banshee
Photograph: Courtesy The Banshee

The best Irish pubs in Boston

Pull up a stool at one of these authentic bars, where beer, whiskey and a good time are always on the menu

Olivia Vanni
Written by
Olivia Vanni
Written by
Eric Grossman
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Historically speaking, Boston has long been a haven for proud Irish immigrants and their descendants, who love to show that they bleed green. Because of these strong cultural ties, it only makes sense that our city would have an abundance of authentic pubs for us to frequent and pay homage to our Emerald Isle heritage. Not only do the best Irish pubs in Boston offer affordable pints of beer—properly poured, mind you—and a lively atmosphere, but some also double as the best sports bars around town, with TV screens that let you and your pals gather to down a few rounds as you watch the big game. Many serve praiseworthy comfort food and host some of the best trivia nights or live music found throughout the Hub. Grab a friend or two, order a swig of whiskey and prepare yourself for a night of pure, unadulterated fun at these spots.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best bars in boston

Best Irish pubs Boston

  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • Somerville
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A Davis Square mainstay, The Burren is one of the most popular Irish pubs that side of the river. During the afternoon, the front room—with its wood-slatted floors and a gentle light pouring through the windows—is full of folks tucking into bowls of beef stew, sipping pints of Guinness (or any number of local brews) and listening to informal Irish seisiúns. At night, the place gets packed with young residents and Tufts students, many of whom come to check out nightly live entertainment.

  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • Allston/Brighton

This bustling Brighton pub is a neighborhood staple situated on Market Street. It boasts all of the basics of your favorite Irish watering hole: a casual atmosphere crammed with convivial crowds; a stately central bar made of dark wood; dart boards and big-screen TVs fit for game night, whether you’re watching football or football. They pour all of the classic drinks you’ve come to love—pints of draft Guinness, whiskey-laced Irish coffee and hot toddies. Pull up a stool by the bartender or crash on one of the comfy leather chairs set up in the corner.

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  • Bars
  • Jamaica Plain
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Named after the Irish playwright, Behan’s is not a fancy place—it’s small and dimly lit, with no food on offer—but that’s part of its charm. Locals love it because they're encouraged to bring in their own food—usually from the various take-out joints that dot Centre Street—to enjoy in between pints from the bars solid beer selection. 

  • Bars
  • Downtown

For more than 50 years, Eire Pub has been a fixture within Dorchester’s Adams Village neighborhood. Originally, this old school establishment was exclusively a “men’s bar,” but nowadays, all are welcome any day of the week. The kitchen serves up nostalgic American comfort food—think corned beef sandwiches, meatloaf dinners and American chop suey—while the bar offers 11 tap beers, so you can pick your pint of preference. While certainly a go-to amongst locals, Eire Pub has also seen its share of famous faces over the course of its history, including Presidents Reagan and Clinton, Anthony Bourdain and Mark Wahlberg.

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  • Restaurants
  • South End

Opened in 1909, this beloved South End haunt has held its ground on East Berkeley Street for over a century. Its customers are locals or out-of-towners in search of an authentic Boston bar experience. The tenderly named J.J. Foley’s Café was once the watering hole for the Boston Herald staff when the newspaper was headquartered nearby. Over the years, the surrounding neighborhood may have changed, but Foley’s certainly hasn’t. Well, that’s not entirely true—in 1909, the menu would not have included nachos, fig and goat cheese pizza, or poutine, but this old school staple otherwise remains the same. 

  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • Inman Sq
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A true institution in the heart of Inman Square, The Druid is a tried-and-true option if you're looking for all of the hallmarks of a classic Irish hangout: friendly crowds; tasty pub fare; a gorgeous dark wood bar; live music and a strong beer list, including impeccably-poured pints of Guinness. Trivia nights pull in people each Wednesday, and theres live, traditional Irish music during weekend afternoons. 

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  • Bars
  • Quincy Market
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One of the older—and most famous—Irish pubs in the city, the Black Rose plays its part well; photos of martyred patriots adorn the walls, and flags from every Irish county hang from the ceiling. But the true selling point for this Irish-staffed spot is the nightly program of live, traditional music. If you’re up for a rowdy, Guinness-fueled sing-along with friendly locals and tourists, this is the place to go to.

  • Bars
  • Somerville
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This neighborhood joint offers the relaxed yet lively environment that we’ve all come to love about Irish pubs—just with the slightest twist of sophistication. Though Olde Magoun’s Saloon is undeniably unpretentious, this Somerville haunt does offer a remarkable brew selection, with 25 local and imported beers on tap, as well as an impressive array of small batch whiskies, spanning bourbon, rye and Scotch. Patrons gather amongst its long tables to down these beverages alongside traditional Irish pub grub (i.e. Guinness beef stew and chicken curry) and American guilty pleasures (think BBQ meatloaf and loaded cast-iron mac and cheese). Visit on Fridays for its fish fries, or hunker down in front of one of its big-screen TVs to watch local sports, international soccer, rugby and other athletic events.

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  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Beacon Hill

Located right around the corner from the State House and the Common, this Beacon Hill establishment is the perfect place to grab some hearty Irish fare and some equally satisfying drinks. Emmets celebrates typical Irish cuisine, offers pub staples like fish and chips, chicken curry dinners and a selection of customary pies—shepherd’s pie, beef and Guinness pie and chicken pot pie, to be exact. In addition to expertly poured pints of Guinness, this place celebrates its Irish coffee, which can be made with its very own brand of whiskey. Folks gather here for live music after work—or for brunch on the weekends, when they can order morning classics like a full Irish breakfast and corned beef hash. 

  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • Central Sq
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Sitting on a relatively quiet stretch of Mass Ave, between Central and Harvard Squares, this diminuitive hangout has been going strong since 1969. In the daytime, it offers some of the best pub grub in town. Every night, the tiny space is transformed into a hotbed of live music, making it a strong neighborhood go-to anytime of the week. Stop by on Monday nights to test your trivia skills against brainy Cambridge academics.

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  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • price 2 of 4

Hidden away near the Cambridge-Somerville border, the Thirsty Scholar has served as a second home for hordes of local academics. With its charming exposed brick walls and welcoming atmosphere, the bar is an ideal place to meet friends or a date. There are plenty of TVs, ensuring sports fans can post up with a pint to watch Boston's best teams play.

Corrib Pub
  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • Allston/Brighton
  • price 2 of 4

Named after Lough Corrib, a massive lake in West Ireland, this Brighton mainstay attracts plenty of homesick expats, as well as students and longtime locals. To some people, its the definition of a proper pub: a friendly, unassuming spot to enjoy a warm Guinness, a massive serving of bangers and mash and a little live music. No wonder it's been a Boston staple since 1969.

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  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • Dorchester
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As one of New England’s most popular spots to watch a big soccer game, The Banshee lures an eclectic mix of local fans and homesick expats to its Dorchester bar. (Rugby and hurling get equal love here). Come evenings, the bar morphs into more of a general-interest hangout, with weekly trivia and dance tunes attracting a broad swath of twenty-somethings from Southie and the Dot.

  • Bars
  • Downtown

Named after the fictional, opinion-rich barkeep found throughout writer F.P. Dunne’s syndicated newspaper columns, this Financial District bar has a loyal clientele of journalists and politicians. Ask anyone who pops by after a long day at work: This place lives up to its own billing as "a great place for a pint and a chat." 

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  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Back Bay

This Back Bay Irish pub adjoining the Lenox Hotel has everything you need for a cozy, fun night out. From tasty pints and late night pub grub to a quaint interior and outdoor seating, you can't beat the lively scene here. Just steps away from Newbury Street, it’s a great spot to settle into after a day of shopping or touring the city.

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