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Best pubs in Dublin for food and traditional Irish music

We'll be in Dublin for a couple of nights. What are the best pubs for good food (as well as beer, of course) and traditional Irish music. And, at what time do they stop serving food, and what time does the music start?

Posted by
13930 posts

It seemed to me that trad isn't much played in Dublin except in tourist spots like Temple Bar. There live music starts in the early afternoon and goes until curfew, or whatever it's called when the pubs can no longer sell alcohol. I remember that on Saturday night the cut-off was 11 pm, but was told it's later on Friday nights. There are lots of pubs in Temple Bar, so there's always music in a few of them, though it's probably not continuous anywhere in the afternoon. Some of the music is trad, but I heard popular music from the 1960's to the present. On my Saturday night in Galway, for instance, I went from a group performing current stuff with amps and colored light effects (not my thing) to a trio of young lads playing trad.

You might want to start your night with the excellent Dublin Literary Pub Crawl (book in advance).

Posted by
11704 posts

The ones with better food are often referred to as gastro pubs. They're pubs that have made an effort to make their food more like restaurants.

There are pubs in temple bar but you're more likely to find only big bars. My first (and last time) there all I found was giant bars you could find in any U.S. city - noisy and crowded. The biggest difference (at least at the time) was you were allowed to carry your drink with you onto the street.

I was getting ready for an early night but a couple of Irish guys started a conversation with me, then made a point of showing me some real pubs in Temple Bar. They exist but generally in basements with stairs off the sidewalk and little signage.

There is traditional music but much of it is staged and not nearly as enjoyable as at small town pubs around the country. I'd suggest for both food and music, ask at your lodging for recommendations. Tell them you are looking for a good pub for food and separately a good place for music - see what they recommend. If you're not happy with the recommendation, ask someone else. I haven't met the Irish person yet who didn't at least try to be helpful.

I'll be in Dublin Saturday morning. If I visit anything that sticks out, I'll check back.

Posted by
3203 posts

Last September, after visiting the Kilmainham Gaol at the end of the day, we took a taxi to The Cobblestone, at 77 King St N in the Smithfield district. Not sure if food's even available, but the Trad music was superior. They have seating reserved right at the front for musicians, and for the 2+ hours we spent, musicians came and went, played a few tunes, had a drink or two, and then others came and joined in. It was a real melting pot of tourists and a lot of locals (who knew the musicians) and great craic, with quite a variety of instruments over the course of a couple hours. Get a seat if you can, but a lot of people stood to fit into the place and enjoy the music.

Walking through Temple Bar after dark was unseemly, with more than a few guys urinating up against buildings and on the sidewalks outside. Maybe they were too drunk to find the men's room, or just didn't care, but the wet sidewalks weren't wet from rain. Didn't stick around.

Posted by
19 posts

I agree with what Cyn wrote about The Cobblestone. My wife and I have been there numerous times over 3 trips to Dublin. Every session was completely different. One night there were four fiddles. Another night there were 16 musicians with a wide variety of instruments. The musicians not only talked with us, but welcomed visitors to come and play as well. It's an amazing experience if one loves traditional music. We never asked about food there, but the music is incredible.

Posted by
10 posts

Temple Bar is extremely touristy, however, if you are looking for a Guiness Pie and trad music then it's in full swing every night of the week there. Sometimes you can find great trad music in some pubs just slightly off Temple Bar (still touristy, but not the bachelor party/huge groups style of touristy that Temple Bar tends to be), for example: O'Neills has trad music and Irish dancing many nights of the week, plus a full menu of food until late. This pub is also enormous and like a maze of wooden staircases which can be charming and fun to explore.

Some of my favorite pubs/bars in the city center:
Dingle Whiskey Bar
JW Sweetman

Posted by
57 posts

So, to echo the folks above - avoid Temple Bar.

My one exception for Temple Bar is the Auld Dub. The live music there, while not traditional, is excellent. Pints are also decently priced, unlike in neighbouring bars.

If you're after a trad session, the Cobblestone in Smithfield is a good shout.

If you're after a proper pub experience in Dublin, here are some recommendations:

  • McDaid's (off Grafton St. Used to be a morgue)
  • The Long Haul (beautiful old pub that serves a mighty pint)
  • Neary's (one of my favourites)

If you're after trad music, the Brazen Head (oldest pub in Dublin) caters to the tourist crowds

Actually, Ned O'Shea's is another cracking pub that does trad music, now that I come to think of it.

Posted by
14 posts

The Cobblestone - to add to what the others above said, we asked our young Irish bartender behind the bar at The Temple Bar (the actual pub with the name) where HE went with his Irish friends to drink, and he said the Cobblestone. So there you go. :)

Posted by
11704 posts

Checking back. The place I'd recommend for food is O'Neil's Pub and Kitchen. It's directly across from the Molly Malone statue. The food was good. It had several options. I went to the sandwich bar several times, good prices and good food.

The best trad session I had for my whole trip was ironically in Dublin. It was a collection of musicians just getting together to play, which is what a trad session should be. It was at O'Donaghues bar near St. Stephen's Green. I think they do a session on Sunday nights.