When looking for somewhere to visit for a weekend away, birthday or hen party one needs to look no further than Dublin. Only a short flight across the water will bring you to one of Europe’s little gems, nestled away at the very edge of the continent. No matter what your style, music taste, age or wishes from a weekend away, Dublin has it all in spades
Pubs are the backbone of this fair city and there appears to only be one route which allows you cross the city without passing a pub. But why would you want to? Pubs in Dublin range from grotty and dark to light and airy, and everything in between. If you’re looking for traditional Irish music without a price tag head to the Cobblestone. Here you’ll get authentic Irish music without being swarmed by tourists and overpriced alcohol like you would in Temple Bar. Temple Bar is a great place with its narrow cobbled street, interesting shops and laidback vibe, but it is also a tourist trap which is best avoided for a night out. Here you could pay over €8 for a pint if you’re not careful. Other pubs which play authentic Irish music that don’t need a second mortgage to visit are: O’Donoghue’s, Knightsbridge, Hughes and the Brazen Head.
For craft beer lovers there are plenty of options. Craft beer has become extremely popular in Dublin lately and most bars and pubs serve it. The Bull and Castle resembles a German Beer hall and serves great beers at a pretty affordable price. The Porterhouse, JW Sweetman (where they brew their own beer on site) and the Brew Dock are all must see spots. The Brew Dock is part of a larger company called Galway Bay Brewery and they own several craft beer pubs in Dublin. The Brew Dock is located beside Connolly station and as it is slightly further away from the city centre prices are more reasonable. Another Galway Bay Brewery pub should be at the top of any craft beer lover’s list is Against the Grain. Located on trendy Wexford Street, you always find an eclectic group of people there, sitting on unmatched furniture or standing on the street infuriating drivers.
If you’re on a budget there are several pubs in Dublin where you can get a pint from as little as €3.50. Mac Turcaills is located on a corner and moves back pretty deep, giving plenty of space for standing and chatting. The bar staff here are probably as old as the pub itself so if you’re in a rush this place is best avoided as you’ll wait a while for your drink. Located only five minutes away is O’Reilly’s, another great spot where you can find pints for as little as €3.70. O’ Reilly’s is nestled underneath an active train track, so it occasionally shakes as trains barrel over head. With its sloped walls, dim lighting and long wooden tables that look like someone just cut down a tree, sawed it in half and stuck some legs on it, it gives the feeling of being underground in a secluded area instead of in a bustling city. If you’re looking for something with a bit more grit and funk then head to Cassidy’s on Westmoreland St. Legend has it that Cassidy’s was bought by a group of friends who had a three day long party in there, wrote on the walls, trashed the furniture and hung up whatever decorations they wanted, and then decided to open it as a pub the next day, leaving it exactly the way it was. The furniture ranges from comfy armchairs to uncomfortable wooden seats that will remind you of your schooldays.
If cocktails are more your thing then you won’t have far to look. The majority of cocktail bars are located south of the river Liffey. Bars to note are Capitol, Café en Seine and Dandelion, which have delicious cocktails and then open late most evenings. If you want something a little fancier or more upmarket, the Liquor Rooms along the Liffey is an amazing spot. Sectioned off into little ‘rooms’ and alcoves and filled with plush velvet seats, the Liquor Rooms gives a feeling of opulence and mystery. It is also open until roughly 4am at the weekend so you’ll need a lot of stamina to survive the night. Another trendy cocktail bar to frequent is the Vintage Cocktail Club. With a seemingly endless menu of delicious cocktails to choose from, the VCC has something to suit every taste. It is not openly advertised and patrons must knock on a nondescript door and wait to be ushered in by a shady bouncer. Once inside, relax in a prohibition style bar in flickering candlelight while feeling like part of the speakeasy scene from the 1920s. As with the Liquor Rooms, the cocktails in the VCC run on the expensive side and it is not the type of place you would stay all night, but is wonderful for one or two to get the night started.
After all that bar hopping and cocktail sipping it is time to bust some moves on the dancefloor. Of course, the type night you want to have and the music you want to listen to will all dictate where you decide to go. For simple, unadulterated dancing, Harcourt Street is a must-see. It is a long street full of clubs in old Georgian houses. Often the queue for one club will be so long it will merge with the queue for the club beside it, so it is easy to accidentally end up in the wrong place! Places on Harcourt Street to note are Dicey Reilly’s, D|2, Krystal, Everleigh Gardens and Copper Face Jacks. All these clubs play music that appeals to the masses and are usually packed by half 12, when free entry ends. The first two often have drinks promotions on mid-week to attract students, so would be a good place to start for anyone on a budget. Copper Face Jacks is a staple of anyone who grew up or lived in Dublin for a period of time and is infamous among all Irish people. The cloakroom here reportedly takes in over a quarter of a million euro a year alone, so will give you some idea of the magnitude of visitors. It is probably the latest club in Dublin, opening until around half 4 and is a port of call for anyone wishing to continue the party long after all the other clubs have closed.
For something a bit more rock ‘n’ roll, try Doyles near O’ Connell Bridge. One of the main hangouts for Trinity College students, it is full of younger people but plays classic rock tunes and the prices for a city centre club are pretty reasonable. The club area is upstairs and it can often feel like the floor is about to cave in as people jump around to the music. Whelan’s on Wexford Street is an amazing venue for live music and after the bands have packed up the DJ comes out in force to spin retro tunes and get the place moving. This is not the type of establishment to wear high heels as they can get stuck in the cracks in the floor boards and cause a lot of stumbling. A fire is usually lit regardless of the time of year and it can get quite stifling on a busy night in the height of summer. O’ Reilly’s (see above) becomes Club Hell after dark and somehow manages to maintain its ridiculously cheap prices while still serving up a good time. The Wormans (conveniently located next to the Liquor Rooms) looks slightly like a gentlemans’ club from the outside with its heavy velvet curtains and red lights in the windows, but the inside is a rocking bar. Like Whelans, it is set in the style of an old house with huge staircases and creaking floors. Upstairs plays alt music with a seating area and downstairs is a roaring dancefloor, filled with people of all ages. On the other side of the Workmans is Bison Bar, a whiskey bar where you can take a breather if it all gets to be too much.
If you’re looking for something more alt than just an upstairs floor in a nightclub, Dublin has something to offer here too. The Twisted Pepper on Abbey Street was one of the first in Dublin to cater to this crowd of music lovers and still does to this day. Other such clubs which popped up recently are Pygmalion and the Lost Society. These are extremely popular as reputable alt, dubstep and rave clubs are few and far between in Dublin so my advice is to get there a bit earlier to be sure you get in.
So there you have it. Something for literally everybody in Dublin’s fair city. As Dublin is also quite small it is easy to walk from one side to the other, so taxis aren’t really necessary when moving between bars but it is recommended to get one home late at night. It is also worth noting that most nightclubs charge an entry free, usually around €10 so club hopping can get quite expensive, but not if you arrive before half 12 when most have free entry. On Good Friday the sale of alcohol is forbidden and all bars are closed, so keep that in mind if planning a boozy Easter weekend. Of course, there are hundreds more bars, clubs and lounges to pick from, but these are my personal favourites. And if you see a place on your travels that looks interesting you might as well pop in, you never know what might happen.