No visit to Ireland is complete without spending some time in a few of the country’s iconic pubs. In Ireland, you’ll experience first-hand the hospitality and friendless for which the Irish are renowned, as well as possibly getting the chance to listen to some wonderful traditional folk music. Some of these pubs even have inspired artists and appeared as the backdrop to works of literature, film, music and song.
Ireland’s pub scene is internationally notorious and with good reasons. The best pubs are often old, creeky and full of charming nooks and crannies, or simply the place to get the best pint. And because it’s hard to know where you’ll find the perfect pint and a plate of hearty home-cooking, here are our favourite pubs in the entire Emerald Isle!
Sean’s Bar — Athlone, County Westmeath
Sean’s Bar in Athlone is not only the oldest pub in Ireland but it’s also the oldest pub in the world, as certified by Guinness World Records. The pub is an ancient landmark of Ireland and dates back to 900 A.D. with walls made of wattle and wicker dating back to that time.
Located in Shannon-side Athlone, it’s a simple and rugged place with little glam to it, but a fantastic and vibrant beer garden and an enthusiastic clientele. Nowadays, the pub is one of the cosiest pubs in Ireland complete with open fire, a random assortment of décor from fishing rods to framed certificates on the walls. They are very friendly and welcome locals and foreigners with open arms so a visit here is a must if you’re passing through town.
Astonishingly, the pub predates the 12th-century Norman Castle adjacent to it by more than 200 years, with its stone-clad walls as an embodiment to ancient Ireland before the country could even be a whole, united country (it was a collection of kingdoms).
O’Loclainn’s — Ballyvaughan, County Clare
Hidden away in the corners of a somewhat meekly street is one of the best pubs in Ireland. O’Loclainn’s is recognized by food and travel gurus as a special place that you will definitely enjoy your time in.
From the inside, the pub looks like a small square-ish room with a few seats, so it might not be suited for a large group of people. However, you will also find that there is a phenomenal combination of dozens of bottles of whiskeys ranged along shelves, which all give a seamless band beautiful glow of light inside the pub.
Tigh Neachtain’s — Galway City
Established in 1894, Tigh Neachtain’s offers great pints of Guinness and over 100 selections of whiskeys. It’s an old-world pub with a dimly-lit interior and open fires and very cosy area to sit at.
The pub has a reputation for supporting local cultural festivals and groups and host regular traditional music sessions. Neachtain’s also has an excellent and comfortable outdoor tables area for when the weather is good.
The Blackbird — County Cork
Ballycotton is known as a picturesque fishing village in East Cork and it is where the astonishing Blackbird Pub is located. The pub is well worth a detour off the tourist trail. Why? Well for starters, they do an extremely tasty pint of Guinness and the Whiskey is great as well.
It’s a great spot in the summer months with a beer garden and food truck style kitchen out the back, and a stove inside to keep you well disposed of during the summer months. They serve homemade locally sourced food and have an incredible live music scene with class acts playing in their “backroom”.
Bushe’s Bar — County Cork
If you go to West Cork and ask anyone about Bushe’s Bar, they will most likely know its location and where to guide you. Bushe’s Bar is an institution in West Cork with its rich, flamboyant views on warm summer/winter nights. You can expect live music outside on the square during summer and a lovely log fire to warm up during winter.
Indulge in some delicious seafood sandwiches (all imported from Baltimore) and ice-cold pints with a view and you won’t be disappointed. With some of the cheapest drinks prices in Ireland, Bushe’s of Baltimore is the perfect pub for a pint or two any time of the year.
The Stag’s Head — Dublin
Considered as one of the very oldest pubs in Ireland, The Stag’s Head is a landmark in Dublin with an interior characterized by the typically urban Irish Victorian pub interior. The pub first attained superseding fame in the 1830s when it was named ‘John Bull’s Albion Hotel and Tavern’. This was one of the most sought after premises of that age because it was in close proximity to the iconic Dublin’s Theatreland and the fashionable stores of Dame Street and College Green.
While it’s true that The Stag’s Head dates back a few centuries, it was rebuilt in 1895 by renowned architects. He intended to design the pub with stag-themed stained glass windows, mirrors, and wood panels and of course you can find a large stag’s head right over the bar. Additionally, the main area is a long, spacious room with a bar of polished mahogany and walnut, with Connemara marble with a highly decorated ceiling above.
The lavishly designed pub was frequented by many public figures of the past centuries such as the author James Joyce.
O’Riada’s — Kilkenny
One of the oldest of the ancient pubs in Kilkenny – and it doesn’t get more traditional than O’Riada’s.
Tiny, often crowded, strangely labyrinthine and plastered with local GAA announcements and other such community services, this small, charming pub is a great place to go and catch up with a friend for a chat and a pint after a long day. Needless to say, the Guinness is exceptional.
Sit on the wooden picnic bench-style tables at the back or prop yourself up at the pub where the friendly staff are likely to be humming along to anything from Fleetwood Mac to Bon Jovi. The pub usually attracts a regular local crowd and won’t be overrun with tourists.
The Brazen Head — Dublin
If you go on The Brazen Head’s official website, you will find a text that states it’s Ireland oldest pub. That’s obviously very arguable, considering that Sean’s Bar is the holder of this title. Alas, it’s true that The Brazen Head is very old, dating as back as 1198.
It’s more than old enough, of course, and while the Brazen Head has countless beautiful signs of ageing, it’s not clear how much of the original structure actually stands. But, no worries, the pub has managed to retain an authentic Irish pub feel. You will find some century-old graffiti on its walls. The Brazen Head is not far from the Guinness brewery which is located at nearby St. James’ Gate, so be sure that they never run out of pints.
Old patrons of the pub include public figures such as James Joyce, Brendan Behan and Jonathan Swift, as well as noted revolutionaries such as Robert Emmet, Wolfe Tone, Daniel O’Connell and Michael Collins. Rest assured, you’ll find the best in traditional Dublin dishes on the menu, too.
Smugglers Creek — County Donegal
Established in 1845, the pub has seen a fair few storms and smugglers during its time. On your arrival at Smugglers Creek Inn, you will be instantly impressed with the warm and welcoming atmosphere and the panoramic view from every corner of the pub. Since 2009, the pub has been under the ownership of Emily Browne.
What’s fascinating about the Smuggler’s Creek is that it is a roadside pub situated along the Wild Atlantic Way – one of Ireland’s most famous drives – and looks down on the spectacular Rossnowlagh Beach. Situated high on a hill over one of Donegal‘s best surf spots, this pub and restaurant serve up some terrific seafood dishes. Sit outside with a pint, munching on freshly-caught scampi, and watch the waves roll in from the Atlantic. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins in the distance!
The Bernard Shaw — Dublin
If you’re feeling thirsty, hungry, or looking to play pool in a graffiti-soaked wonderland with your mates then The Bernard Shaw is right up your alley.
One of Dublin‘s most popular pubs and for fine enough reasons, the Bernard Shaw is a true gem in the city, complete with a spacious beer garden and their very famous Big Blue Bus, which also doubles as a pizzeria. Popular with a younger crowd, expect great music, delicious pizza and a wide range of craft beers.
It is also a great spot to watch big sporting events, such as the All Ireland Football Final. The pub is really alive after dark other than any time of the day. The back area is the pub’s best feature, the perfect spot to relax with your mates on long benches and forget your worries.
Mutton Lane Inn — Cork City
A much-admired Cork Pub, the Mutton Lane Inn is probably one of the oldest drinking establishments in the city. Mutton Lane itself, situated off St. Patrick’s Street, is one of many alleyways that lead into the famed English Market and used to be where live sheep were run into the market at one time.
The pub is characterised by its distinctive mural and beer kegs on which to sit, this is a quiet, dim and candle-lit pub that lends itself to a conversation with a lot of wooden features highlighted by flickering candlelight.
There is often music at the inn, and what’s more, there’s no television. Conversation and camaraderie are key aspects of the Mutton Lane Inn. It’s always busy, but if you’re lucky enough to get a seat, you may not want to leave.
Mulligan’s of Poolbeg St — Dublin
One of the many places reputed to serve the best Guinness in Ireland, Mulligans is among the last remaining big-name Dublin pubs that hasn’t been dressed up into something else. The pub is two minutes walk from the main thoroughfare, O’Connell Street and has been at the core of the city’s cultural and spiritual life for nearly 300 years.
Pretty much the only modern thing you will find there is a large TV, presumably installed for the sole purpose of giving the attendees something to shout at.
Mulligans has long been a great theatrical pub for public figures from political and literary facets. And in the mid-1950’s John F. Kennedy, as a journalist with the Hearst Newspaper, visited Mulligans. thousands have come since and are still coming to pay homage at the literary shrine.
Jolly Roger — Sherkin Island
Not far from Ireland’s southernmost point, the Jolly Roger is a traditional island pub and restaurant on West Cork’s Sherkin Island. A well-known drinking establishment in the area, there’s daily live music throughout the summer to entertain visitors and the pub serves a range of craft beer and stout.
Their seafood is amazing: Lobsters are served local fresh and all day, smoked fish, West Cork’s artisan cheeses, and organic produce from Sherkin Island itself.
The Barge Pub — Dublin
If you live/work in or near Dublin city centre and it happens to be a sunny, warm day, one of the first places you’ll think of flocking to is the Barge Pub. Perhaps you will even find a large crowd of people sitting outside it.
The Barge is one of Dublin’s most popular spots in the summer in Ireland and it is perfect for pints in the rare Irish sunshine. It could also be useful to watch big sporting events on the wide screens presented there.
They also serve an excellent daily roast and their brunch is well worth getting out of bed for at the weekend. Try their creamy seafood chowder or cheese nachos for extra daylight.
Kyteler’s Inn — Kilkenny
Kyteler’s Inn in Kilkenny is one of the oldest inns in Ireland and a truly historical venue with an intriguing background. Kyteler’s is nothing short of intriguing; one wall, in particular, feeling a lot like staring out from the interior of an old castle, with stained glass windows, wooden shields, swords and animal heads.
The pub dates back to the 14th century, and trades as a ‘medieval pub’, though the food is more of a nod to Irish farm tradition, and the beer close to the typical when it comes to what you’ll find around Ireland. Well worth a stop off sheer entertainment and decorations.
Tom Barry’s — Cork
Situated in a lane in Cork city famous for having a high density of pubs, Tom Barry’s is one of the Cork’s most popular drinking holes. It’s not strange for the pub to often appear on ‘Best Irish Pubs’ lists or have it recommended to you by locals.
The pub was previously known as The Caheragh Bar until half of the last century. It was renamed into Tom Barry’s afterwards and Tom himself oversaw the pub’s expansion in the last few decades and helped turn it into one of the city’s most beloved watering holes. He sadly passed away in 2015, but the pub has continued to thrive while still keeping his memory alive.
The pub is arguably best known for its stunning beer garden, which has been a fixture since the mid-1990s. With a flower display tended to by Tom’s mother and an unmatched view, it quickly became one of the pub’s main draws and marked it as a destination of sorts.
If you’re lucky they might have a fire lifting in one of the snugs to keep you warm and there are free board games to keep you occupied on long winter nights (or rainy summer days).
The Temple Bar — Dublin City
There is never a dull moment at Dublin’s Temple Bar. Located right beside the River Liffey, this brightly painted pub is beloved by tourists. The neighbourhood includes some great galleries, cafés and cultural spots to enjoy aside from the general atmosphere of drinking and all-around fun.
But first, some history. Temple Bar has always been a popular spot – the Vikings set up camp there as far back as 795 A.D. And you can still witness their settle remains today. Fast forward to the 17th century to an era when British politician Sir William Temple built his grand residence and gardens on the site, the name stuck and Temple Bar was born.
Temple Bar is probably best known for its nightlife, it’s the party hub of Dublin’s city centre. But far from just being the first choice for hen parties, there is a slew of exciting clubs, pubs and venues on offer.
When the sun goes down, the volume goes up. Street musicians play their hearts out for the revellers hopping from pub to pub. The rhythmic sounds of Irish trad music may tempt you in for a pint and a dance inside The Temple.
O’Connells — Portobello, Dublin
Drawing a mix of locals from Portobello and visitors from outside Ireland, O’Connell’s is a great place to grab a quick drink. If you’re lucky you’ll get table service, and on very special nights landlord Eddie gets out the karaoke machine for a sublime night of entertainment.
We can’t put it better than this Yelp reviewer: “Like all pubs of good standing and character, it has an incredibly efficient layout. A warren of cubby holes, secret passages, old cookers and wondersome signposting. Brilliant.”
De Barra’s Folk Club — Cork
De Barra’s Folk Club in Clonakilty has established itself as one of the most popular live music pubs in County Cork. A past winner of Live Music Venue of The Year award and Ireland’s number one folk club, many national and international musicians have started out in De Barra’s.
They still return now and then to play to a more intimate crowd so you never know who you might get to watch. Popular with local musicians for over 30 years, this is a pub worth travelling for.
Teach Ósta — Inis Meáin
Inis Meáin is one of the three Aran Islands (the one in the middle) and Teach Ósta is the only pub on the island. The other two islands, Inis Mór and Inis Oírr, both receive more attention as tourist destinations but Inis Meáin is definitely worth a trip.
Teach Ósta is like the social hub for the (very small) population of the three islands. It’ll take you a lengthy drive from Galway and a ferry across the sea to reach the island. Live music plays most nights in the summer, with plenty of weekend sessions dotted throughout the rest of the year.
The Old Thatch — Killeagh, County Cork
Not as incredibly old as the previous entries on our list, but The Old Thatch is no slouch, having opened way back in the early 18th century. The Thatch is a proper Irish village pub with all the little quirks you’d want from such a place and tucked well away from the tourist trail. Named for its thatched roof, it has a rich history.
It has been operating as a public house since 1650. The pub is filled with quirks and oddities that hint at the building’s storied past. For instance, a deer head caught by a previous owner in 1851 is mounted on the wall. There are stone walls and old barrels still visible behind the bar.
McGann’s Pub — County Clare
A well-known traditional music pub in County Clare, McGann’s is a great place to grab a drink after a day of sightseeing at the Cliffs of Moher or after staying at the beach. This small and cosy pub is known for its warm and hearty Irish food and daily live music sessions. If you’re lucky enough, you might also get the chance to witness impromptu music sessions with local artists.
Matt Molloy’s — Westport
Matt Molloy’s is a great place to listen to traditional music and, maybe, join in a dance or two. Mingle with people from all over the world and listen to a melange of different languages. It has a traditional interior with flagstone floors and painted wood-panelled walls, with a cosy fire. It is a notable music venue with a warm atmosphere.
Serving very reasonably-priced drinks, find yourself here any day of the week and you’re guaranteed live music and lots of fun.
L Mulligan Grocer — Stoneybatter, Dublin
Stoneybatter is one of those vivid and unique little areas of Dublin that make the city so quirky. A couple of decades ago it was just plain rough but with families and young professionals struggling to find homes in the city, it is now quickly turning into one of Dublin’s trendiest areas.
One of the trailblazers of the craft beer movement in Dublin, L Mulligan Grocer features a phenomenal selection of drinks, great food, and friendly faces at the pub. Also, just a hop, skip and a jump from the always-excellent Walsh’s down the road if you fancy a change of scene.
Jim O’ the Mills — County Tipperary
Imagine this… A pub that only opens one night a week was named Ireland’s Best Pub by the Irish Times. Pretty weird, right? Opening only on Thursdays, Jim O’ the Mill is a compact affair, with just a single beer tap. There’s plenty of live music including fiddles, boxes, and bodhráns brought along by the locals, often provided by one of the family’s five daughters. You’ll be welcomed in like one of the Ryan family who runs the place, assuming you can find it. Old style with an open fire and a legendary trad session, this pub is pretty special.
The pub itself only has one tap: Guinness. There are other bottles of beer and spirits available, but anyone wanting a pint must settle for the black stuff.
O’Donoghue’s — Dublin
It’s true that O’Donoghue is not the oldest pub in the capital, but it has a very vigorous history. Renowned as a world-class music pub, the trad sessions held in their front bar are amazing.
The pub feels untouched since their time, with those nightly sessions still firing ahead, the Guinness flowing, and the backroom so old-school it almost feels like a Victorian classroom rather than a pub. You can even stay here, though unless you’re planning to have a few, we’re not sure we’d recommend it.
Jerry Flannery’s Bar — County Limerick
A popular venue for all sports lovers in Limerick, Jerry Flanner’s Bar is one of the biggest in the city. The owner himself is a former Irish rugby player. The pub also boasts the largest whiskey menu in Limerick and can be headed to after or before attending a match at the neighbouring Thomond Park Stadium.
There’s a nice little snug if you’re looking for somewhere private to hangout, otherwise expect to mix with a fun, sports-loving young crowd, especially at weekends. The beef stew is melt in your mouth perfection.
Brennan’s Criterion Bar — Bundoran, County Donegal
Brennan’s Criterion Bar opened on St. Patrick’s Day in 1900 and for decades it has been run by the elderly sisters Patricia and the late Nan Brennan, who, along with the pub, recently appeared in a national ad campaign for Guinness.
The interior is remarkable: it’s a charming old house that’s evidently the dwelling place of its owners. In order to encourage conversation, there is a strict ban on televisions, music, and swearing!
Top of Coom — County Kerry
Located over 1000ft above sea level and on the border between County Cork and County Kerry, Top of the Coom claims the title of Ireland’s highest pub. It was ruined by a devastating fire a few years back, but it was reopened in 2014 and has been back strong.
Top of the Coom has been an institution for over a century and has been in the family of the current owners for five generations. The journey itself can be tough and requires resilience, but once you get there you will find how fulfilling it is for the lovely atmosphere and the great pints and the vast wonderful nature.
The Forge — County Donegal
Right in the heart of Donegal Town and just across the river from Donegal Castle lies The Forge Pub, winner of the Pub of the Year award in Ulster Regional Awards in 2018. Once you’re inside the pub, it won’t take you long to understand why. The pub is a true gem in the city, complete with a spacious beer garden and a wide range of craft beers. Even if you’re in town briefly to tick the best sights of northwest Ireland off your bucket list, make sure you pass by The Forge.
Gings Bar — County Leitrim
Situated right beside the pretty River Shannon, Ging’s Bar is one of the most fascinating Irish pubs in the midlands. It dates back to over 130 years ago, and besides the huge riverside beer garden, people love this bar for its live music, old jukebox and pool tables. The pub is also a great place to stop for a quick break if you’re just passing through Carrick-On-Shannon.
Moreover, there are many spectacular things about the pub: the beer garden on a sunny day is dazzling. Right beside the water, the sun hits it perfectly when it’s out. And if you look the other way, you have a gorgeous view of the bridge. It’s up there with Ireland’s best pubs by all accounts
Dick Mack’s — County Kerry
Popular with locals and tourists alike, Dick Mack’s is one of a kind and the sort of place you could easily spend an entire afternoon at. Don’t be surprised if you saw some famous faces at the pub, or end up chatting with the owner. Full of characters, conversation and a wide variety of whiskeys, this is the only place to go in Dingle for guaranteed craic.
Glyde Inn — County Louth
The Glyde Inn is an authentic and a striking pub in County Louth and dates back to 1770. It was bought by Paul and Ann O’Neill in 1978 and they have a full operation over it.
In no time, The Glyde became a destination hub for amazing food, drinks, and music. In 2008 the O’Neills extended the premises to include the Linn Duachaill Restaurant and a Bed and Breakfast overlooking Dundalk Bay and the Mountains of Mourne. Paul and Ann are in charge of the B&B and the restaurant and pub are looked after by their son Conor.
Their award-winning menu also includes seafood caught by fishermen in Dundalk Bay and Carlingford. Each September The Glyde Inn hosts The Taste of Togher Festival as part of The Discover Boyne Valley Flavours events.
The Glyde Inn won the title of not only Irish Pub of the Year at the official Irish Pub Awards but also took home the award for Best Food Pub of the Year.
Feel free to post your personal pub count and your favourite pub in Ireland in the comments. Which is it?