The Irish pub has been and is still an essential part of the Emerald Isle culture even to this day. Fun bars were the center of the community, a resting place for the weary traveler. Where business deals were struck and celebrations were had. Songs and dancing filled the hall and the aromatic smell of good Irish stew with a pint kept the spirits high. This is just one of the many reasons that make the country so popular.
And with so many to choose from (there are over 7,000 Irish pubs scattered throughout the country not to mention additional breweries, beer gardens, nightclubs, and speakeasies) there is no way you won’t be able to find your way into one of these establishments in any city, town, or little village.
Enjoy the Irish nightlife while you are here with a nice pub crawl. Or come in for an Irish breakfast. And if you have had a bit too much to drink, pick up some top Irish snacks for a hangover. Here are just some recommended places scattered throughout your trip to Ireland to stop by and take a seat on your travels.
The Dawson Lounge, Dublin
As the smallest traditional pub in Dublin, this cozy underground pub lets you rub shoulder-to-shoulder with your fellow bar patrons and it’s easy to strike up a conversation. For first-timers to Dublin, you can find it tucked away near the St Stephens Green end of Dawson Street which makes it a welcome stop after your stroll through the impressive park.
With its plain simple door and almost invisible sign, you would probably pass it by without a second thought. This may be why even with its popular self-proclaimed title you won’t find a line coming out the door. You will need to slowly make your way down the staircase without hitting your head to enter the pub. With a couple of small tables, tiny booths, bar stools, and dimmed lighting this seems more like a place to get an introspective drink than a place to have a party.
Rouse’s Bar, Ballina
Already one of the oldest bars in Ballina, what makes it unique among others is the ownership. A multi-generational bar, this place helps show the deep roots there are in Ireland’s small towns and villages. Since the 1860s the location has been a pub but as to its current proprietors the place has been owned and run by the same family since the 1940s, where they make you feel welcome and not just another customer. It just really has that authentic Irish bar we’ve all come to know and love.
With the friendly atmosphere of the staff and of course top-notch pints of Guinness along with other local favorites on a stellar beer list, they give a real old-world feel of the classic Irish pub. Head into the back of the bar for traditional Irish music, or trad session as it’s sometimes called. You might even find the owner’s grandson joining in on a few songs.
Dan Murphy’s Bar, Sneem
Another family-run establishment. Located in the south square of Sneem, this is a nice pub restaurant to stop by to or from a Ring of Kerry tour or even just passing through town. A lot of the locals make their way through here, so it is a very friendly and great place to sit down and just people-watch as plenty of tourists come through the town daily. They have a great selection of beers on tap and the food is pretty good as well. They do have a pretty solid Irish coffee for those classic Irish days.
Kyteler Inn Tavern Bar, Kilkenny
Located in the heart of Kilkenny this inn and bar has been established since the 13th century making it one of the oldest inns in Ireland. With a very surprising backstory of its ownership history (you’ll need to go there to hear the story yourself). It has multiple floors for food, more traditional live music, and entertainment. And yet with its popularity, it has managed to keep itself from just being another tourist hot spot. What makes this unique from others is that they lean into history by keeping the old stone and restoring the interior.
The Cot and Cobble, Ballina
You can find this bar along the River Moy that traverses along Ballina. In an area well known for its salmon fishing, fisherman boats would come docked to the outside of the building after a laborious day. Locally sourcing the produce and ingredients of its food menu to provide the Irish bar food we’ve all come to know and love by now. It’s also a popular location for football sports fans and other sports with its big screen televisions. Live music also serves as entertainment here. Both locals and tourists name this as one of the more popular spots in town.
Moohan’s Fiddlestone, Belleek
Found right on the main street of Belleek, this place is great for two reasons. Not only is it one of the local pub hangouts but it also doubles as a quaint bed and breakfast. With Belleek being a very quiet village even with tourists passing through this place gives off a very relaxing atmosphere where you can take your time. And you get the experience of what it is like staying in a room above a bar, which can be a pro or con depending on how you look at it. The staff is extremely friendly and accommodating.
The Kings Head, Galway
A historical pub located in the heart of the Latin Quarter of Galway, it is a landmark with a rich history dating back to the 13th century. With links to the original tribes that made up the city’s Galwegians, it’s no wonder that the continued tradition and architecture have been continued even now. You will find this in the medieval fireplaces and the few pieces of stone wall and windows that have been left but it does give an upscale vibe. Its name derives from the historical legend that it was given as a gift to the prominent executioner of King Charles I of England.
Every night has live entertainment, from music to stand-up comedy. Instead of a pint of Guinness or a drink from their cocktail list, grab one of their craft beers, a red ale known as “The Kings Head Blood Red Ale”. There is plenty of ample room here as it’s such a large building but you still get the sense of a cozy and relaxed atmosphere. Finish off with some nice shepherd’s pie before enjoying the rest of the city.
These are only a few I was personally able to experience and you may have your personal preferences or recommendations from friends and families on the best of Ireland. Some you might find along the road and randomly decide to step inside may be older than others. Perhaps you catch the place on a more popular night and can strike up a conversation and connect with new people. But you should never pass up a good opportunity to experience these kinds of places. It helps put you in the mood of this country and live as the locals do.