Top 5 Dublin Pubs for History, Music and Strong Brews

Top 5 Dublin Pubs for History, Music and Strong Brews

Revisit Ireland’s past while throwing back a pint at these historical Dublin pubs By: Tim Johnson
<p>The Cellar Bar is located in a series of wine vaults that date back to the 1700s. // © 2016 The Cellar Bar</p><p>Feature image (above): The Swan...

The Cellar Bar is located in a series of wine vaults that date back to the 1700s. // © 2016 The Cellar Bar

Feature image (above): The Swan Bar was formerly a weapons cache and served as a redoubt during Ireland’s War of Independence. // © Tim Johnson

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While some travelers will come to Dublin in search of history, music and natural beauty, some of the Irish capital’s best experiences can be found in its hundreds of pubs — walk down almost any street in the city and you’ll find a wide variety of places to wet your whistle. The good news: You can find all of the above in the city’s hundreds of public houses (well, maybe not natural beauty, but, as the song says, two out of three ain’t bad). Below are some of Dublin’s best historical pubs.

Those seeking literary history could visit Trinity College and its vaunted Book of Kells, an early Medieval Latin illuminated manuscript. Or, travelers could just visit McDaids, a tiny Harry Street spot that packs in a crowd of regulars and once served as Dublin’s primary place for intellectual ferment. Here, in the first half of the 20th century, novelist James Joyce, poet Patrick Kavanagh, novelist Brendan Behan and writer J.P. Donleavy all tipped back pints, and anyone in the little pub now — from the bartender to fellow patrons — will be happy to share its illustrious literary history with guests as they join the convivial atmosphere for a few suds. 

In a city steeped in song, O’Donoghue’s is one of the best places to tap your toe to some traditional Irish ditties. Still home to a nightly jam session, the pub launched the careers of Irish folk band The Dubliners back in the 1960s; the group went on to worldwide fame, and  O’Donoghue’s now has a portrait wall dedicated to the group. Founding band member John Sheahan sometimes even stops by for an impromptu set. Musicians play in the round, at the front of the room, and the crowd — which sometimes includes well-known musicians such as Bono, Bruce Springsteen and Justin Timberlake — often spills into the lane next door.

Come for the beer — O’Neill’s has 64 ales, ciders, stouts and beers on tap, one of the best selections in the city — but stay for the carvery. This Suffolk Street standard has been serving up some of the city’s best grub for decades, from all-day breakfast to Irish favorites such as prime rib (made with Irish Hereford beef), lamb shepherd’s pie and famous beef-and-Guinness stew. It’s the perfect place to while away a rainy afternoon, with plenty of comfortable corners and big-screen televisions showing everything from soccer to Irish hurling.

The Cellar Bar
Located in a series of wine vaults dating back to the 1700s, this cozy pub — located below the Main House of The Merrion hotel, Dublin’s grand dame — is a favorite after-work haunt of locals, who often come by for their Sunday brunch, too. The Cellar Bar offer pints on tap and a varied wine menu, as well as simple, delicious gastropub fare that includes everything from oysters and salmon to a tasty burger.

The Swan Bar
Ireland’s 20th-century independence was born in conflict, and this Victorian bar offers plenty of history with a pint. Once owned by an ardent Republican, The Swan Bar was a weapons cache during the Easter Rising in 1916 and served as a redoubt during the War of Independence. One of the final places captured by British troops, its walls were left riddled with bullet holes. Ask the bartender about it, and he’ll give you a tour of the pub’s secret passage — which came in handy during its various sieges — and show you some vintage photos of the devastation.