Dublin nightlife: pubs, clubs and culture

by ykmedia

Do you like drinking, dancing or drama? Whatever your mood, follow this guide to discover the best Dublin has to offer

Follow my advice to have a good night out in Dublin and read about my favourite hangouts below.

Bars for a chat

If I’m in the mood to catch up with a friend, Fallon & Byrne (17 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2; +353 721010; www.fallonandbyrne.com) and Olesya’s Wine Bar (18 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2; +353 672 4087; www.olesyaswinebar.com) serve excellent wine and have a warm atmosphere. For a more traditional setting, Kehoe's pub (9 Anne St, S Dublin 2; +353 6778312) or McDaids (3 Harry Street, Dublin 2; +353 6794395) are a stone’s throw from each other off Grafton Street and, if you’re lucky, you’ll find an inviting snug to settle down in homely and authentic pub surroundings. In the same vein, a locals' hideaway is the Library Bar in The Central Hotel (1 - 5 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2; +353 679 7302; www.centralhoteldublin.com).

Bars for a boogie

Good music is key here and The Exchequer Bar (3-5 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2; +353 6706787; www.theexchequer.ie), The South William Bar (52 William Street, S Dublin 2; +353 6725946; www.southwilliam.ie) and The Globe (11 S Great Georges Street, Dublin 2; +353 6711220; www.globe.ie) or Hogans (35 South Great Georges Street, Dublin 2; +353 1 677 5904) deliver great music, good craic (Irish for fun) and a live DJ at weekends. A few steps away, Shebeen Chic (6 S Great Georges Street, Dublin 2; +353 85 1186108; www.shebeenchic.ie) also has a dance area downstairs or for a chilled chat on a comfy sofa (if you get there early), The Snail Bar is a buzzing late bar (3 Fade Street, Dublin; +353 7645681) or opposite, Market Bar (16 Fade Street, Dublin 2; +353 6139094; www.marketbar.ie) is good fun.

If you’ve got your dancing shoes on, Dame Street hosts two excellent bars – 4 Dame Lane (4 Dame Lane, Dublin 2; +353 6790291; www.4damelane.ie) and Sweeney's downstairs in Le Cirk Hotel (32 Dame Street, Dublin; +353 635 0058; www.lecirk.ie) offer a DJ on two levels at weekends. At the top of Harcourt Street, The Odeon Bar (Old Railway Station, 57 Harcourt Street, Dublin 2; +353 4782088; www.odeon.ie) and Tripod (Old Harcourt Station, Dublin 2; +353 4763374; www.pod.ie) are two late bars offering good music and food, with DJs into the early hours from Thursday-Saturday, as well as a DJ or a live band at weekends.

Late night revelry 

Most bars in Dublin will close at 11.30pm mid week with half an hour of drinking time allowed after closing, or 12.30am Thursday-Saturday, while late bars will serve until 2.30am and clubs until 4.30am. The latest opening clubs in Dublin are found either on Wexford, Leeson or Harcourt Street. My preference is to get into Whelan’s (25 Wexford Street, Dublin, Co. Dublin; +353 4780766; www.whelanslive.com) or The Village (26 Wexford Street, Dublin 2; +353 475 8555; www.thevillagevenue.com) before 10.30pm to avoid door charges to enjoy live music upstairs.

For a more cheesy dance experience, Dicey Reilly’s (Russell Court Hotel, 21 Harcourt Street, Dublin 2; +353 478 4066) and Copper Face Jacks (29 Harcourt Street, Dublin 2; +353 475 8777) are sketchy to say the least but you’re sure to have a laugh and both are popular hangouts for singletons. In the same vein, Leggs (29 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2; +353 1 676 6269) is a chaotic scrum in the wee hours. 

Cultural nightlife

The Gaiety Theatre (South King Street, off the top of Grafton Street, Dublin 2; +353 679 5622; www.gaietytheatre.ie) is a legendary Dublin venue that turns into a late club on three floors (including a movie) at weekends. The Olympia (72 Dame Street, Dublin 2; +353 (1) 679 3323; www.ticketmaster.ie) is a beautiful old building with booths upstairs (a cracking venue for live comedy or music) as is Andrew’s Lane Theatre (9 St Andrews Lane, Dublin 2; +353 677 9336; www.andrewslane.com). The International Bar (23 Wicklow Street, Dublin 2; +353 677 9250; www.international-bar.com) is an informal live comedy venue where there’s often a traditional music session downstairs. The Abbey (26 Lower Abbey Street, Dublin; +353 878 7222; www.abbeytheatre.ie) and Gate Theatres (1 Cavendish Row, Dublin; +353 874 4085; www.gatetheatre.ie) host live drama every week - make sure to look out for a bargain pre-theatre dinner nearby, such as the divine Chapter One restaurant. Check websites for ticket booking.

More expert advice on Dublin

For suggestions on where to stay in Dublin, see Dublin Hotels – Award winning expert hotel reviews, from cheap to luxury hotels in Dublin and for nightlife, see Dublin nightlife .


I've sponsored terminally itchy feet as a journalist and travel writer for 10 years. Living in Chicago, San Francisco and San Diego before taking time to soak up Asia and Australia on my travels to New Zealand, I landed my first journalism job with Mountain Scene in Queenstown, NZ (2003) where I lingered for five years as a freelancer for the Herald on Sunday, New Zealand Herald and Insight Guides, magazines B-Guided, Ski & Snow, Fitness Life, and columnist for Avenues. I also wrote travel pieces for Backpacker and Food & Wine magazines in Ireland.  Home to roost in 2008, these days I work as Deputy Editor for Irish Country Magazine and freelance for Women Mean Business magazine and various websites. I also run my own eco-fashion agency YK Styles, which I set up in 2009.  

I've come full circle. Dublin is home for me once again. Time away allowed me to develop a new appreciation of the grey (and often wet) cobbled streets between Dublin's Victorian and Georgian walls. Dramatic bridges and luminous lights in the rejuvenated Docklands area now complement a medieval aesthetic. The excesses of the Celtic Tiger years have bowed to a more sincere, affordable and friendly city. One thing stays the same: the joy of cosying into a serene,darkened Dublin pub, distant music floating in from a street busker, while waiting for a creamy pint of Guinness to settle...bliss. 

My Dublin


Where I always grab a coffee/tea/hot chocolate: Bewleys Café on Grafton Street in a C18th building, refurbished in the 1920s to resemble cafes in Paris and Vienna, oriental tearooms and Egyptian architecture – yes, really. Admire six imposing stained glass windows, and two floors up, gaze down onto the buzz of Grafton Street from the theatre café balcony. Immortalised by James Joyce in ‘Dubliners', it's the biggest café in Ireland, and in this case at least, biggest is best.

My favourite stroll: Through the grounds of Trinity College, along Dame Street, weaving the cobbled lanes of Temple Bar, past Dublin Castle, to reach Christchurch Cathedral at the top of the hill, making sure to look up, photograph and marvel the medieval sites all around. A less sober alternative is Dublin's literary pub crawl, voted one of the world's best 50 walks by the Sunday Times, proving you can justify any bar crawl by throwing in some history, a bit of walking and a lot of laughs.

Fiction for inspiration: Dubliners is a collection of 15 short stories by the genius of James Joyce or throw yourself in the deep end with his legendary book Ulysses. Delve into 1950s Dublin with classic crime novel Christine Falls by Benjamin Black (pen name for John Banville) or laugh your way through Roddy Doyle's modern classics The Commitments, The Snapper (also hilarious films) and Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha.

Great Dublin films: If you don't shed at least one tear (yes guys, you too) at Once you're missing a heart string or two. Glen Hansard of Irish band The Frames, who stars in the movie, since won an Oscar for his co-written song Falling Slowly from the soundtrack.  The opening scene is pure Dublin.

Where to be seen this year:  It's all happening in the Docklands area where you can browse the Point Village Market on Sat/Sun from 9am-5pm, go for a spin on The Wheel of Dublin, our giant Ferris Wheel, for 60m views of the city and Wicklow mountains, glass of wine in hand on the deck of the Gibson Hotel.

The most breathtaking view:   Choose from three: 60m high views from a capsule in The Wheel of Dublin, or the Gravity Bar on the 7th floor of the Guinness Storehouse for a 360 view, or 5th floor balconies of the Gibson hotel in the Point Village look across the River Liffey to the rolling glass fascade of Aviva stadium.

Best spot for some peace and quiet:  Any of Dublin's art or photography galleries and National Museums (all free entry) or marvel at 5 million books in silence in Trinity College Library.

Shopaholics beware:  Grafton Street, especially Brown Thomas where slaves of designer labels need to hold onto their hats. I prefer side roads off Grafton Street and Temple Bar for quirky boutiques, weekend markets The Loft (second floor of Powerscourt Shopping Centre, off Grafton Street) and Cows Lane (off Dame Street) for emerging fashion and jewellery, or Georges St Arcade for affordable vintage.

City soundtrack:  So much music, so little space. Imelda May's album Love Tattoo for kick ass rockabilly, jazz and blues. Traditional - The Dubliners; Rock - U2, The Frames; The Pogues for ballads and a bronze statue of Phil Lynott outside Bruxelles on Harry Street evokes classic Thin Lizzy hits The Boys are Back in Town, Jailbreak and Whiskey in the Jar.   The Commitments soundtrack is another must listen. Whelans pub is a Dublin institution if it's live music you're after.

Don't leave without:  Meandering the medieval, cobbled lanes of Temple Bar (beware of overpriced restaurants) by foot or the best fun you can have on two wheels - take a bike tour to exploit 120kms of new cycle lanes so you can pedal Dublin's leafy Georgian strips at your leisure.