It was once famously said that you could not walk from one side of Dublin to the other without passing a pub. While this may well be true, there are also some pubs that are better than the rest. Pubs that stand out from the crowd in terms of architecture, atmosphere and of course their rich history. Here are 13 unique pubs in Dublin to check out on your next visit.
13. The Market Bar
So, most people in Dublin think they know the history behind this bar. Most people presume it used to be a Market and thus the name. Most people in Dublin are wrong! The truth about this one might surprise you, and will most likely gross you out a little. Those tall ceilings, and huge open plan floor space were built that way for a reason. The Market Mar, one of Dublin’s most loved and happening haunts, used to be a pig abattoir. That’s right, a place were they slaughtered 1,000’s of pigs. Think about that next time you are in there enjoying a nice plate of smoked chorizo.
Address: 14A Fade Street, Dublin 2
12. The Brazen Head
The Brazen Head boasts that it is Ireland’s oldest pub, dating all the way back to a coach house on the site in 1198.While it is unclear how much of the original 11th century coach house is still intact, there is a palpable sense of history within these timeworn walls. Drink here and you will know you are sipping pints in the same establishment as many of Ireland’s greatest literaries such as James Joyce, Brendan Behan and Jonathan Swift. Know that you might be sitting in the seat once used by Daniel O’Connell or Michael Collins, as they plotted Ireland’s Independence. If you can only make it to one unique pub in Dublin, make it this one!
Address: 20 Bridge Street Lower, Dublin 8
11. Kavanaghs Pub
Kavanaghs Pub in Glasnevin (also known as the Gravediggers) has been run by the same family since 1833, and it all that time it really has not changed very much. The pub gains its nickname thanks to its proximity to the famous Glasnevin graveyard, home to over 1 million Dubliner’s, including the Irish rebels previously mentioned who drank in The Brazen Head. The name also came about after the gravediggers used to knock on the back wall of the pub to ask for a pint. They would then be served through the railings linking the pub and the graveyard.
The pub was also used for the filming of Quackser Fortune has a Cousin in the Bronx featuring Gene Wilder (pictured above) and Margot Kidder, who are better known as their blockbuster movie characters Willy Wonka and Lois Lane.
10. The Confession Box
I had actually never heard of this pub until a wise Dublin tour guide alerted me to its existence a few weeks ago. While the name stems from its close proximity to the Pro-Cathedral, rumour also has it (it always does in Ireland!) that the excommunicated rebels in the war of independence used to come here to receive Communion from sympathetic priests. Nowadays, you are more likely to come across friendly locals or the odd lost tourist enjoying lively conversations than any priests or patriotic, Irish rebels!
Address: 88 Marlborough Street, Dublin 1
9. The Garage Bar
The Garage bar in Temple Bar is one of Dublin’s most unusual pubs in Dublin in that the decor is unlike any other bar you will in the city, or throughout the country. The bar was built-in a (you guessed it!) disused garage and owner shave somehow managed to keep the ‘grungy garage look’ intact. During the day, you will not be able to find this bar. The shutters some down and it is disguised to the world. At night, however, the shutters come up the colorful lights are turned o and the funky decor is revealed.
Think barrels and empty kegs for seats, sawdust strewn all over the floor and 1950’s petrol pumps to add further character. The music policy is simply rock and roll, and some of Dublin’s top DJ’s can be found here from Wednesday til Sunday right up until 2.30am.
Address: Essex St East, Dublin 1
8. The Stags Head
How could you not love a pub that was named after a wild deer that went deranged on the streets of Dublin and stuck its head into the door of this building? A pub that, rumour has it, used that same deer’s head to decorate the interior and even named their fine drinking establishment after it! Also one of Dublin’s oldest pubs, The Stags Head is said to date back to 1770.
It is known for the preservation of its Victorian interior and the restored advertising mosaic on the footpath on Dame street, some distance from the pub’s doors. The pub has also appeared in many films, notably A Man of No Importance, starring Albert Finney and Educating Rita starring Michael Caine and Julie Walters.
Address: 1 Dame Court, Dublin 1
The Charge of the Light Brigade, in 1854, at the Battle of Balaclava remains one of the most infamous events in military history. It may come as a surprise to most people, however, that the fabled bugle that sounded the charge was not only made in Dublin but was sounded by a Dubliner. The famous bugle was in fact made by J. McNeill in his music store on Dublin’s Capel street, where a pub of the same name still operates. To read more on the fascinating history of this music store (and pub!), head on over to the Come Here To Me site, which is a wealth of information when it comes to Dublin history and culture. Apparently a music store, by the same name, has reopened at this location and can be found above the pub. History lives on!
Address: 140 Capel Street, Dublin 1
6. The Dropping Well
This Dublin pub, located in Milltown in South Dublin, has some history. Over the years, the building has had many uses, but its first days were also its darkest. The historic pub owes its origins to the Great Famine of 1845 – 1849, which was when it was first licensed as a Community Morgue in ‘Black ’47’. The Great Famine, having ravaged the countryside since 1845 reached epidemic proportions in Dublin by the early summer in 1847. Then owners John Howe and his wife approached the authorities to apply for a liquor license and offered to set up a Community Morgue station on the banks of the Dodder River at Classon’s Bridge. Their request was immediately granted and The Dropping Well Pub opened its doors to the public that summer.
Address: Milltown, Dublin 6
5. The Czech Inn
Here is a pub that many people know, thanks to being situated so close to Dublin’s Temple Bar, but very few know the true history of. The Czech Inn is situated on the site of Isolde’s Tower. Sound familiar? It should as the name comes from the old Nordic legend of Isolde and Tristan. Isolde was the Irish princess who was supposed to wed England’s King Mark, but after drinking a love potion she subsequently fell in love with a knight named Tristan, who was delivering her to England to her husband-to-be. Realising she could not fulfil her love for Tristan, Isolde forced herself to drink a death potion. Then, realizing his doomed fate, Tristan too drank a death potion, or so the story goes!
You can see an incredible digitized video of what old Dublin, and Isolde’s Tower, would have looked like if the city walls were still intact here. It’s makes for a fascinating peek into Irish history.
Address: Essex gate, Temple Bar, Dublin 8
4. The Church
Only in Ireland can you drink a pint of Guinness in a church where the maker of Guinness was once famously wed. Confused? Well, St Mary’s Church on the corner of Mary Street and Jervis Street in Dublin city centre happens to be where Arthur Guinness was married in 1761, exactly 2 years after Guinness was first founded. And what was once a church, in true Irish style, is now one Dublin’s most stunning bars. Complete with original stained glass windows and organ, it’s basically still a church just with the seats removed and a large bar in the centre!
Address: Junction of Mary St & Jervis St, Dublin 1
3. The Bank
Another historic building that has been converted into a fine drinking establishment, The Bank on College Green is a splendid example of Victorian architecture. The pub, which was once a banking hall, is actually owned by the same people who run The Dropping Well. The site, which has been occupied since Viking times, was bought by the Belfast Bank in 1892 who took 2 years to turn the building into a grand Victorian-era banking hall. Even today. if you ramble downstairs to the nether regions you will find the vaults which have been retained as a museum-type feature.
Address: 20 College Green, Dublin 2
2. Darkey Kelly’s
One of the most enduring legends surrounding Dublin has to be that of the witch Darkey Kelly. For generations, Darkey Kelly was regarded as a woman who was burned at the stake for witchcraft after she accused the notorious Sheriff of Dublin Simon Luttrell of fathering her baby. But new research, revealed last year, claims she was in fact Dublin’s first female serial killer. Apparently she was executed for the murders of at least five men whose bodies were found hidden in a brothel she owned in Dublin, on the grounds of what is now Darkey Kelly’s pub! Whether you believe she was Ireland’s first witch, or Ireland’s first serial killer, this unique Dublin pub is certainly worth a visit!
Address: Copper Alley, Fishamble Street, Dublin 2
1. Davy Byrnes
The origin of Davy Byrnes pub can be traced all the way back to the 25th March, 1722, when Richard Span gave a lease on the farmland premises to Issac Eustaunie, a Jew whose family had migrated to Ireland during the 18th century. Duke Street, named after the first Duke of Grafton – who also lent his name to Grafton Street – was little more than a country lane at the time! In fact, a lease from 1784 describes the Davy Byrnes as “a brickhouse complete with tenements and farmyard” but belonging to the parish of St.Anne, within the City of Dublin. It’s hard to believe sitting outside this pub today, so close to the hustle and bustle of Grafton street, that it was no more than a farmhouse a little more than 200 years ago!
Address: 21 Duke Street, Dublin 1