Nightlife and the Arts in Dublin

The Irish capital has long had a roaring nightlife scene with many city centre establishments packed even midweek and over 900 pubs. While the economic crash of recent years has largely put a halt to new venues opening, Dublin remains one of the lively destinations in Europe. Most city centre pubs have live music from traditional to rock to jazz and comedy nights are a frequent occurrence.

There are several major theatres in the city including the National Theatre, the Abbey, and others such as the Gate, the Gaiety, and Bord Gais Energy Theatre as well as the Olympia and the Helix.

The Herald and the Irish Times newspapers have event listings as do the Big Issue and the Event Guide which detail weekly theatre, film, and musical events happening throughout the city.

Nightlife

Many venues opt for live music rather than DJs but the city’s dance clubs are still dominated by house music and hip-hop with many of those who come here regardless of what it is under 30. Several nightclubs catering to the over 30s can be found around the Leeson Street area near St. Stephen’s Green and stay open until 4am.

Most of the clubs in this part of the city have an informal dress code but sneakers are rarely allowed and the majority are only licensed to sell wine (often at exorbitant rates) but many have free entry.

Despite the spate of new venues which opened up during the boom years and the large scale remodelling of existing venues that happened during that period, the traditional pub has largely

retained its reputation at the heart of the city’s social life. With almost a 1,000 pubs in Dublin, there’s no shortage of places to catch a quiet pint or catch some local buzz in a not so quiet venue.

Last drinks are usually called at 12:30 am though some pubs may stay open until around 2:00. A handful of venues can be found to open at 4:00 if you find yourself awake and fancy a pint. Most are found in or near the quays and the practice dates back centuries to a time when the Liffey was wider and ships with thirsty sailors would dock much further upstream than they can today.

Generally speaking the pubs between Grafton Street and Georges Street are excellent. Temple Bar is most famous but be wary of the tourist traps charging exorbitant prices while masquerading as traditional pubs. Some of the newer pubs here are all plastic and mirrors and the area can be rowdy at times.

Camden Street’s venues are popular with Dubliners but if you’re looking for pubs that seem not to have changed in decades than a good bet would be Toner’s on Baggot Street, the Long Hall on Georges Street, Neary’s on Chatham Street, and many of the venues in the Smithfield area north of the Liffey.

Most pubs serve lunch as well as evening meals and some do breakfast as well. Location will generally decide the prices you pay but there are some good, cheap meals to be found even in Temple Bar.

Southside

Cabaret, Dancing, and Music

Bewley’s Café Theatre – There’s a tiny theatre on the top floor of this elegant stained glass Grafton Street establishment which hosts noteworthy lunchtime performances on plays by the likes of Wilde and O’Casey. The Oriental Room on the second floor hosts regular cabaret sessions.

Location: 78-79 Grafton Street, Dublin 2

Jazz

Ha’Penny Bridge Inn – Jazz and blues nights are held frequently in the small but vibrant upstairs room.

Location: 42 Wellington Quay, Dublin 2

JJ Smyth’s – There should be music on here no matter what night you visit this old-school jazz venue.

Location: 12 Aungier Street, Dublin 2

The Mint Bar – Located in the basement of Westin Hotel, a former bank vault to be precise, the Velvet Lounge band and various other jazz musicians play here between Wednesday and Saturday.

Location – Westin Hotel, Westmoreland Street, Dublin 2

Nightclubs

ALT – A former experimental theatre venue, Andrew’s Lane Theatre has been brought back to life as ALT. Hosting regular live indie performances, this is a cozy club which has developed a reputation for electro music.

Location: 9 Andrew’s Lane, Dublin 2

Lille’s Bordello – Lillie’s Bordello describes itself as the country’s most prestigious nightclub and while it was once the hot spot in the city for celebrities it’s more open these days and attracts a young crowd well into the early hours. The décor is also fantastic with its Victorian velvets and purple and pink lasers.

Location: Adam Court, Grafton Street, Dublin 2

Ri Ra – The name translates as ‘uproar’ from Irish and the place does tend to be a little wild at night though upstairs tends to be a little calmer. Ri Ra is part of the massively popular Globe bar.

Location: 11 South Great Georges Street, Dublin 2

Pubs

Cassidy’s – This venue is very popular with the youthful scene and usually overcrowded as a result meaning it has somewhat lost the charm it once had when it was a quiet local pub but the pints are good.

Location: 42 Lower Camden Street, Dublin 2

Cellar Bar – Yes, it’s a cellar, a former wine cellar to be precise, complete with a vaulted ceiling and bare brick walls. This venue beneath the suave Merrion Hotel draws a usually well-heeled clientele.

Location: 24 Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2

Davy Byrne’s – Popular with Joyceans, this is where Leopold Bloom stopped for a sandwich and glass of Burgundy in Ulysses, but the pub is let down somewhat by its overbearing décor though the pub grub is still pretty good.

Location: 21 Duke Street, Dublin 2

Doyle’s in Town – This cozy pub is still popular with journalists from the Irish Times despite the fact that the newspapers offices have moved from their former location just across the road. ‘The times we live inn,’ a playful reworking of the paper’s former catchphrase, is transcribed above the door.

Location: 9 College Street, Dublin 2

The George – Dublin’s principal gay bar with an almost exclusively male clientele and a nightclub which remains open until 2:30 am every night except Tuesday. ‘Alternative bingo’ starring drag queen Miss Shirley Temple Bar is great, if rather risqué, fun.

Location: 89 South Great Georges Street, Dublin 2

The Globe – Popular, or perhaps not, with Dublin’s hipsters, the Globe’s customers like to indulge in fine espressos by day and cram in at night. Live Rockabilly is performed on Sundays.

Location: 11 South Great Georges Street, Dublin 2

Grogan’s – A small venue popular with local creative types. The owner is a patron of local artists and it’s their work you’ll see adorning the walls.

Location: 15 South William Street, Dublin 2

Horseshoe Bar – This bar, along with the rest of the Shelbourne Hotel, was renovated recently and while there’s little space for drinkers at the famous bar, it’s a good spot for making friends in quick fashion.

Location: Shelbourne Hotel, 27 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2

Kehoe’s – Popular both with journalists of a rather cynical nature and students of Trinity, there’s a small room at back which is quite cozy while the room upstairs is essentially the owner’s former living room now opened to the public.

Location: 9 South Anne Street, Dublin 2

Library Bar – A good place for a quiet pint with book lined shelves, a roaring fire, and large comfortable armchairs and sofas. If you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, this is one of your best bets.

Location: Central Hotel, 1-5 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2

The Long Hall – One of the most richly detailed and ornately traditional pubs in Dublin, this Victorian establishment’s mahogany bar, plasterwork ceilings, and chandeliers are all over a century old. The Long Hall serves sandwiches and a good pint of the black stuff.

Location: 51 South Great Georges Street, Dublin 2

McDaid’s – Though modernised in recent years and quieter than it once was, McDaid’s retains its strong literary connection. The pub was once the favoured watering hole of Brendan Behan and other Dublin writers in the 1950s.

Location: 3 Harry Street, Dublin 2

Mulligan’s – Once a men’s only pub which began life as an illegal drinking venue before being officially licensed in 1782, Mulligan’s is known for its near perfect pints and is popular with students, journalists, and locals of both sexes.

Location: 8 Poolbeg Street, Dublin 2

Neary’s – Another pub often frequented by Brendan Behan back in the day, this Victorian style establishment has a stunning, unchanged interior and is popular with actors from the nearby Gaiety Theatre.

Location: 1 Chatham Street, Dublin 2

The Old Stand – Named for the demolished Old Stand at the now rebuilt Lansdowne Road Stadium (the Aviva Stadium these days), The Old Stand servers fine pints and good steaks.

Location: 37 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2

Peter’s Pub – On a busy corner, making people watching here a popular activity, this is a perfect example of a cozy little pub in the heart of Dublin.

Location: Johnson Place, Dublin 2

No Name – When it opened there was no sign above and so people went for a drink at the pub with no name which, naturally, stuck. A grand open plan bar with a buzzing atmosphere and lovely little patio area.

Location: 1 Fade Street, Dublin 2

Stag’s Head – Opened all the way back in 1770 and rebuilt in 1895, the Stag’s Head is frequented by actors from the Olympia, students from Trinity, and journalists. The rare Connemara red marble and rich oak carvings create one of the most unique decors in Dublin’s pub scene

Location: 1 Dame Court, Dublin 2

Georgian Dublin

Cabaret, Dancing, and Music

The Sugar Club – A major venue which hosts regular burlesque performances on most nights. The Sugar Club is housed in the former Irish Film Theatre and the Irish Times has called it “a venue to die for.”

Location: 8 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2

Pubs

The 51 Bar – Renowned for its collection of whiskies from across the globe, The 51 Bar has a good beer garden which is always hopping when the weather’s fine.

Location: 51 Haddington Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4

Doheny and Nesbitt – A genuine traditional pub with a ceiling still stained from the days when you could smoke in Ireland’s pubs. There are fine snugs and rich wooden furnishings.

Location: 4-5 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2

The Horse Show House – Named for the Dublin Horse Show which takes place each year in the nearby RDS, this venue is popular both the with rugby and show jumping crowd. It’s a good place to watch any type of sport.

Location: 32 Merrion Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4

Leeson Lounge – A nice, inclusive venue which has the appearance of a classic Dublin boozer with the exception of its TV. The Leeson Lounge is well known as a great sports venue.

Location: 148 Upper Leeson Street, Dublin 2

O’Donoghue’s – A pleasant venue that’s welcoming to tourists and hosts regular music sessions which sometimes flood out onto the street.

Location: 15 Merrion Row, Dublin 2

Toner’s – Reportedly the only pub ever visited by W.B. Yeats, he certainly picked a good one. A sign outside says it pulls the best pint of Guinness in Dublin and there’s certainly quality drink to be had here. It was also the pub used in Sergio Leone’s 1971 Western A Fistful of Dynamite (also known as Duck, You Sucker! And Once Upon a Time… the Revolution).

Location: 139 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2

Temple Bar

Nightclubs

Button Factory – A widely popular venue which features both well-established DJs and newly discovered talent.

Location: Curved Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2

Club M – A classic disco style venue with popular theme nights and a large crowd of suburbanites in the city for the night.

Location: Cope Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2

The Turk’s Head – There’s a mishmash of cultures at this pub/nightclub but the venue somehow pulls off the combination of Moroccan carvings, Arabian décor, impressive Greco-Roman mosaics and music styles such as funk, reggae, latin, and flamenco.

Location: 27-30 Parliament Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2

The Workman’s Club – There aren’t many frills but this indie hot spot draws in a regular crowd of artists and hipsters. There are regular live gigs across its three floors.

Location: 10 Wellington Quay, Temple Bar, Dublin 2

Pubs

The Front Lounge – A stylish contemporary pub that caters to both gay and straight young professionals.

Location: 33-34 Parliament Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2

Oliver St John Gogarty – Traditional Irish music plays most nights in this pub which appeals to all nationalities and age groups though the food is on the expensive side.

Location: 57 Fleet Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2

Palace Bar – Another bar popular with writers and journalists (the Irish Times was once located nearby), this venue has barely changed since the 1940s. Cartoon illustrations by newspaper illustrators decorate the walls of this tiled yet rather Spartan looking pub.

Location: 21 Fleet Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2

The Porterhouse – This is one of the few pubs in the country which actually brews its own beer with the Plain Porter being an award winning beverage. There are two other Porterhouses, one on Nassau Street just off Grafton Street and the other on the Northside.

Location: 16-18 Parliament Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2

Northside

Nightclubs

The Academy – This venue of four floors of music attracts well-known local and international DJs and has a young crowd which likes to dance until the early hours.

Location: 57 Lower Abbey Street, Dublin 1

The Church – Located in the basement of a former church turned restaurant and pub (and quite a good one at that), this is a weekend club that appeals to the mainstream.

Located: Jervis Street, Dublin 1

Pubs

The Flowing Tide – Situated right across the road from the Abbey Theatre attracts an artsy crowd both before and after performances. The décor leaves much to be desired but there’s no TV and it’s a good place for pub talk which serves a great pint.

Located: 9 Lower Abbey Street, Dublin 1

Dublin West

Pubs

The Brazen Head – A licensed premises since 1198, making it the oldest pub in Dublin, The Brazen Head has an appealing stone courtyard but a relatively modern interior. The live traditional music sessions are popular.

Location: 20 Lower Bridge Street, Dublin 8

Cobblestone – Popular with local workers in the Smithfield area but beginning to draw in a more varied crowd from across the city thanks to its good conversations and traditional music.

Location: King Street North, Smithfield, Dublin 7

Dice Bar – Trendy 20 somethings and students flock to this lively Smithfield venue where DJs perform most nights.

Location: 79 Queen Street, Smithfield, Dublin 7

Fallons – A small old time boozer near St. Saint Patrick’s Cathedral where you’ll always manage to find a seat.

Location: 129 The Coombe, The Liberties, Dublin 8

Ryan’s Pub – One of the few genuine pubs in Dublin from the late Victorian era, Ryan’s has barely changed at all since its last remodelling… in 1896.

Location: 28 Parkgate Street, Dublin 7

 

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