Dublin's traditional music and festival scenes
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Traditional music is the rhythm of Dublin's streets and pubs, and this is complemented by a thriving festival scene
‘Trad’ is everywhere in Dublin and you’re sure to find a tin whistle, a fiddle or a bodhrán (pronounced bow-rahn) being struck on their own or all together in Temple Bar.
Oliver St John Gogarty’s (Temple Bar Hotel, 58 / 59 Fleet Street, Dublin 2; +353 671 1822; www.gogartys.ie) hosts a live music session most nights but plenty of less touristy bars offer better ‘trad’ music such as O’Donoghues Bar (15 Merrion Row, Dublin; + 353 660 7194; www.odonoghues.ie) or take a little excursion into the Dublin mountains (a half hour taxi ride away) to Johnnie Fox’s Pub (Ballybetagh Rd, Glencullen, Co. Dublin; +353 295 5647; www.jfp.ie) for an excellent music session as well as delicious Irish food in a quirky but authentic Irish pub. Be advised to book ahead as it’s often packed to the rafters in here, but everyone should visit this legendary watering hole - it's also the highest bar in Dublin!
Authentic Irish pubs
A veteran Irish pub for live music is The Cobblestone Pub (77 King Street North, Smithfield, Dublin 7; +353 872 1799; www.cobblestonepub.ie) where a permanently reserved area for musicians hosts The Session with the Pipers and other live music recitals to get toes and heels tapping. Dublin's oldest pub The Brazen Head (20 Lower Bridge St, Dublin 8; +353 6779549; www.brazenhead.com) is another reliable place for excellent live music seven nights of the week with great food. Favourite Dublin pubs with locals for a quiet pint free of music include The Long Hall (51 South Great Georges St, Dublin 2; +353 475 1590) The Stag’s Head (1 Dame Court, Dublin 2; +353 679 3701), Grogan’s Castle Lounge (15 William St South, Dublin 2; +353 677 9320; www.groganspub.ie) or Neary's (1 Chatham St 2, Co. Dublin; +353 677 8596).
Dublin is home to more than a few musical legends, and our pub scene is indicative of this.
Ronnie Drew from the Dubliner’s began his career as a regular pub performer. Phil Lynott has been immortalised as his statue stands proudly outside Bruxelles (7/8 Harry Street, Dublin 2; +353 677 5362) so raise a glass to Phil when you’re enjoying a pint al fresco. U2 have a special relationship with Dublin city, as the band has been as good to the city, as Dubliners have been to U2. The original Windmill Lane Studios (20 Ringsend Road, Dublin 4; +353 668 5567; www.windmilllane.com) or ‘U2 studios’ have long since relocated but the original studios, although derelict, are a popular cult symbol for U2 fans to visit. The Clarence is legendary and is where U2 made their name and is owned by the stars today.
Dublin’s festival circuit is amongst the best in the world and if you’re a music hound, be advised to check ahead so that your trip will coincide with a festival to suit your own taste. Dublin City Soul Festival, Dublin Dance Festival, DLR Festival of World Culture, The Heineken Festival, Taste of Dublin, AIB World Street Performance World Championships, The Waltons Guitar Festival and Temple Bar Tradfest are just a few. Whether you immerse yourself in these festivals or not, this is when Dublin will be at its liveliest, and most fun, but also the most crowded. Check online www.dublinevents.com or www.dublin.ie for the latest goings on and see my When to go to Dublin page.
A Traditional Irish Music Pub Crawl (20 Lower Stephen Street, Dublin 2, +353 (1) 475 3313, www.discoverdublin.ie) can be booked that takes two and a half hours (from 7.30pm) and soaks up traditional beats as well as some city sightseeing with two professional musicians as your hosts. The star of the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest was Riverdance – the groundbreaking Irish music and dance show that trips off tongues in most major cities of the world today. The show returns to Dublin's Gaiety Theatre (South King Street, off the top of Grafton Street, Dublin 2; +353 679 5622) each summer.
Other spectacles of Irish dancing, suited to first-time visitors, can be found at the Arlington Hotel (23-25 Bachelors Walk, O'Connell Bridge, Dublin 1; +353 804 9100; www.arlington.ie) seven nights a week or at the Merry Ploughboy Pub (Edmondstown Rd, Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin; +353 493 1495; www.mpbpub.com). However, be warned, these shows can be a little twee so please bear that in mind!
Dublin is a busy city for concerts with top international acts hosted by the refurbished O2 arena (North Wall Quay, Dublin 1; +353 819 8888; www.the02.ie). The best international singers and bands perform here regularly. As well as pop and rock concerts, Dublin has two of its own opera festivals, the DLR Glasthule Opera Festival held in the Pavilion Theatre every June and the Anna Livia Opera Festival held in the Gaiety Theatre every September. For lovers of classical music, the National Concert Hall (Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin 2; +353 417 0077; www.nch.ie) stages live performances every evening.
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Read more on my Dublin nightlife page.