Ireland is a nation of storytellers, and that explains why it’s a dominant force both in movie-making – thanks to notables like Martin McDonagh, Saoirse Ronan and Cillian Murphy – and movie-watching. Per capita, Ireland’s cinema attendance is consistently the highest in Europe... which says all that’s needed about the draw of a gripping story here.
In Dublin, film buffs have a healthy selection of places to watch domestic shorts and major blockbusters, whether in tucked-away basements or landmark buildings. Depending on taste and time, cinephiles can choose between multiplexes offering bags of choice (and bags of sweets) and artsy cinemas with more high-brow curation. For a guaranteed fun night out – or for when you simply want to crash after finishing up at a bar or restaurant – these are the absolute best cinemas in Dublin.
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Best cinemas in Dublin
The beating heart of Irish cinema, the IFI is the first port of call for domestic releases. They also show international independent productions that often won’t be shown anywhere else in Ireland. The Temple Bar complex houses three screens, an archive and a shop, plus a large café in which you might spot Irish film industry bit-players. It’s the go-to place for artsy types with a couple of hours to kill in the city centre – there’s always something worth seeing.
Run by Element Pictures (the production company that made ‘The Magdalene Sisters’ and ‘The Wind That Shakes The Barley’), the Light House is run with the creativity and passion you’d only expect from a bunch of proper film buffs. Big releases, Irish classics, a run of short films, one-off screenings, themed weekenders – you name it, they show it. It’s a fabulous space, too: bang in the middle of trendy Smithfield (also home to the Jameson Distillery), its airy, whitewashed interior feels more like a contemporary art gallery than a cinema.
A pioneer of the luxury cinema experience in Ireland, the Stella is a restored one-screen picture house from the 1920s with a host of original features. You’ll find each luxuriant leather seat dimly lit by a sultry table lamp here – that helps when picking at the food offering (think mini-tacos, panko chicken tenders and churros). On a date? We recommend the two-person sofas and double beds.
The baby sister of the main Stella, this 44-seater is in the basement of the uber-cool Devlin hotel in the Ranelagh neighbourhood, a 15-minute walk from the city centre. Come in through the adjoining cocktail bar – all gilded edging, mirror panelling and backlights – and you’ll immediately be struck by how intimate the place feels. Don’t expect a packed programme, though (nearly) everything they show is gold.
Standing resplendent on the main drag of O’Connell Street, the Savoy has been a fixture in Dublin since 1929. It was the principal location for Ireland’s glamorous red carpet premieres until a recent refurb, but its reputation as a cinematic institution remains. It now puts on a broad mix of films, across 13 screens, from mainstream flicks to the bigger leftfield releases.
One for international blockbusters, this Cineworld is the biggest cinema in Ireland, with 17 screens from the giant to the snug. In addition to its Imax screen, at the time of writing it was the only place in the UK or Ireland that shows movies in 4DX. That’s where effects like moving seats, wind, strobe lighting, surround sound, scents and splashes of water merge in the ultimate immersive cinema experience. You’re a brave soul if you try it with a horror film.
This cosy cinema in a city-centre hotel can be hired for up to 26 guests, whether for a hen party, a lavish date night or simply a mates’ get-together. They provide the popcorn, you bring the DVD. For a heavier night, if the hotel’s food and bar offering don’t appeal, hosts can bring wine along (the corkage fee is around €10 per bottle).
Fancy some outdoor relaxation?
There’s a reason green is the national colour of Ireland. The whole island is defined by its lush fields, verdant woodland and gorgeous gardens – and the capital city is no different. It’s home to Phoenix Park, the largest urban park in Europe, and elsewhere it brims with luxuriant public spaces.