10 Best Old Dublin Pubs

10th May 2013
Pól Ó Conghaile


OK, it’s thronged on weekends, banging your head en route to the gents is a rite of passage, and the staircases feel like an Escher painting – but it all hangs together, and the wait for a pint at Kehoe’s is never too long. A pricey change of hands in the 1990s led The Dubliner to hail it “an old mans’ bar for the kids,” but time has gifted this old gem the last laugh.

Details: 9 Sth Anne St.; 01 677-8312.

Doheny and Nesbitt’s

Known as the Doheny & Nesbitt School of Economics for the stout wind issuing from the journalists, civil servants and legal eagles that frequent it, this is a Dublin classic. A blinding maze of rooms, countless snugs and partitions and a much-photographed façade roll back the years – but it’s not all about the past. The Baggot Street set swears by its unadulterated carvery lunches.

Details: 5 Lwr Baggot St; 01 676-2945.

The Long Hall

Enter the Long Hall, and your eye is drawn along a bar stocked with punters rather than clientele… if you know what I mean. Lanterns, muskets and the fact that Phil Lynott shot a video here add to the randomness of it all. An antique clock forms the arch between bar and lounge, and the carpet looks like it’s taken more abuse than Shane McGowan. Faded grandeur that can’t be bought.

Details: 51 Sth Great George’s St.; 475-1590.


Grogan’s feels like a time machine. Randomly pitched on Dublin’s hippest intersection, boasting an interior that could have been stolen from a 1970s props truck, it was once described as “like anyone’s sitting room.” Who that “anyone” might be remains a mystery, but to regulars, that’s the whole point.

Details: 15 Sth William St.; 01 677-9320.

The Palace

Although established in 1843, the Palace best evokes the drunken eloquence of mid-20th century Dublin. A sketch in the back lounge numbers the luminaries (Flann O’Brien, Patrick Kavanagh et al) who plied their wit here, though you need to get in early for a pew. A prince amongst old Dublin pubs; timeless (NB. that includes the toilets) and elegant.

Details: 21 Fleet St.; 01 677-9290.


Toner’s (pictured) is said to have been the only Irish pub visited by W.B. Yeats. Brought here by Oliver St. John Gogarty, as Aubrey Malone recounts in his book, ‘Historic Pubs of Dublin’ (New Island, 2001), the poet downed a sherry and delivered his judgement: “I don’t like it. Lead me out again.” The modern-day Toner’s is wonderfully preserved, from its old-school, waist-high counters to dispensary drawers – so you’d have to say the Nobel laureate would be equally unimpressed today.

Details: 139 Lwr. Baggot St.; 01 676-3090.


Legend has it that R.M. Smyllie once ventured to see what all the fuss was about McDaid’s. He found Brendan Behan on a table singing ‘I was Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ and Gainor Christ beside him being sick into someone else’s pint. If a pub’s literary credentials come any thicker, I’d like to know. Smyllie left, the literati stayed, and a healthy hum of locals and tourists completes the contemporary mix.

Details: 3 Harry St.; 01 679-4395.


Despite what the folk at Davy Byrne’s might tell you, Mulligan’s is the best Joycean pub in the city. “They were all beginning to feel mellow,” as the author writes in ‘Counterparts’, one of the short stories in Dubliners, and you can see what he means. The Guinness is great, the chat loud, and there ain’t a food menu in sight. Add the fact that Mulligan’s was once raided by the Black & Tans, and you’re only beginning to tap its pedigree.

Details: 8 Poolbeg St.; 677-5582.


“First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you,” as F. Scott Fitzgerald said. Whether it’s in the weirdly comforting upstairs lounge or the panelled Edwardian bar below, Neary’s eases you into an evening. Imbibers are a smooth mix of city-workers, Chatham Street diners and the Gaiety post-theatre crowd.

Details: 1 Chatham St.; 01 677-8596.

The Stag’s Head

Centred on a Connemara marble surface and watched over by the eponymous stuffed beast, the Stag’s Head’s main bar is a vessel of Victoriana. Patrons include a mix of Trinity students, stockbrokers and miscellaneous blow-ins. All are equal at the Stag’s, however. It’s even rumoured that Quentin Tarantino was once refused service for pulling rank.

Details: 1 Dame Court; 01 679-3701.


This feature originally appeared in The Irish Independent.