You might be surprised to know there are some things about Ireland which just aren’t true. For example, most Irish people won’t know what a Shamrock Shake is (Mc Donald’s there doesn’t do it). Even crazier than that, Lucky Charms isn’t also in cereal aisles in Irish supermarkets. Before you get worried that everything you’ve been told about Ireland is wrong, one thing is entirely accurate; their pubs (bars) are incredible.
All around the country are perfect Irish pubs where a stranger can pop in for a pint of Guinness and leave a few hours later, having made at least a few friends. If you’re lucky enough to be traveling around Ireland soon, be that in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, or both, you’ll want to seek out those little pubs dotted around the country that most tour books won’t ever tell you about.
Whether you’re only visiting Dublin, are on a mission to explore the stunning Wild Atlantic Way, or want to see first-hand what life during The Troubles was like in Belfast, here are nine pubs that you should make time to check out if you’re nearby. I’ll take you on a quick tour going clockwise around the country on a whirlwind pub crawl.
The Nine Pubs To Visit When You’re In Ireland:
- McGrattan’s Café Bar – Dublin
- Bad Bobs – Dublin
- Fionnbara – Cork
- Flannery’s – Limerick
- The Salt House- Galway
- Farren’s Bar – Donegal
- Sandinos – Derry
- Harbour Bar – Ballycastle
- Kelly’s Cellars – Belfast
McGrattan’s Café Bar – Dublin
The first pub on the list is right around the corner from the likes of the National Museum of Ireland and National Gallery, but with it being tucked down a laneway, it’s the literal definition of a “blink, and you’ll miss it” pub.
So why is it on the list? You can walk at any time of day, be met with a warm welcome, and be able to get a seat right by the fire. Bar the sound of sports on the TV, it lacks the hustle of most city-center bars and is only ever frequented by locals.
They also offer solid pub grub much cheaper than you’ll get from more touristy spots like nearby Toners and O’ Donoghue’s.
Bad Bobs – Dublin
First time in Dublin? It’s a given that at some point you’ll have to visit Temple Bar. While the area is charming, it’s essential to know one thing: it can get expensive compared to the price of other city-center pubs. It can also feel quite claustrophobic at night and at the weekends.
Luckily, there’s a bar just a few streets down, which is still in Temple Bar but feels much more friendly and accessible. Bad Bobs on Essex St is a lively spot on weekends and offers the same experience as neighbouring pubs without feeling like a tourist trap. It’s also a popular spot for students living in the area who attend Trinity College as their prices are more like local pubs and they do cocktail deals every night.
Fionnbara – Cork
Sometimes the most unassuming looking pubs have the best stories to tell. Fionnbara on Douglas St looks like a typical neighborhood pub, but step inside, and you’ll find not only the best craft beer selection in Cork, but a funky furnished beer garden tucked away in the back.
If you’re a big beer lover, they have 14 rotating taps on the go at all times and the pizzas they cook right at the bar (you’ll see the oven when you walk in), ideal when you’re with a group and need a decent snack to tide you over.
Flannery’s – Limerick
When you turn the corner on to Upper Denmark Street and see the stonewall façade of Flannery’s, you know you’re walking into a popular spot. It’s a no-fuss pub where you can sit on a rainy day with a Guinness or whiskey and get chatting to the locals.
They also have some lovely signature whiskey cocktails if you’re with someone you’re trying to convert to a whiskey fan.
The Salt House – Galway
Galway is a very compact city. In fact, you can see most of the sights in just about two hours if you’re a fast walker. So what should you do when you have a few hours free, and you’ve spent more than enough time by the Spanish Arch? You find a spot at The Salt House and grab a board game.
It’s one of the friendliest bars in town, and just far enough away from Quay Street that it retains an authentic atmosphere. With local brewery Galway Bay supplying most of the taps, you’re guaranteed to walk away with a new favorite beer.
Farren’s Bar – Donegal
Donegal is an experience unto itself. Seen at the “remote” county of the country, it’s made up of long stretches of winding country road between the hills and dozens of little villages with pubs acting as the center of the community.
The reason I’m picking Farren’s in Malin Head as the pub to visit isn’t just because it’s one of the most remote and northern bars in the country, it also was home to Star Wars for a few months. A lot of the recent trilogy had scenes filmed here, with most of the cast heading to Farren’s every day when work was done.
When you’re driving there, you’ll be able to pick the formerly unassuming local pub out as they now have Star Wars murals painted on the walls outside.
Sandinos – Derry
A little slice of South American socialism in the heart of Derry, Sandino’s is unlike any other bar you’ll find in Derry, or possibly the country.
By day, you can stop in for a quiet pint and let the world go by. Go in at night, and the tiny bar has enormous speakers hanging from the low ceiling, which play everything from Latin beats to hip-hop to 70s funk-rock on any given night.
It’s the kind of bar where you’ll quickly find yourself fixated on every poster, piece of art, and memorabilia stuck on the walls.
Harbour Bar – Ballycastle
There won’t be many chances in life you can stand outside a pub with a pint, point over the sea to land in the distance, and be able to ask, “Is that Scotland?” It is entirely possible if you’re outside the Harbour Bar on a sunny day.
Ballycastle is roughly ten miles east along the coast from the Giant’s Causeway. While most people will go directly to Belfast or Derry when they’re there, you won’t find a lovelier bunch of people to share a Guinness or pint of Harp with than those in Ballycastle; especially if you venture into Harbour Bar for just one pint.
Kelly’s Cellars – Belfast
If you’re visiting Belfast as part of a tour group, there’s a perfect chance you’ll stop off at The Crown Bar, While it is a nice bar, it’s the default place to go simply because it’s beside the central bus station and hotels.
Get yourself a real slice of Belfast pub life by going to find Kelly’s Cellars. It’s been occupying a laneway off Royal Avenue since 1720 and is one of the liveliest pubs in town. You can order a Guinness and stew and soak up this beautiful little spot which has been unchanged now for 500 years, even with events like the Troubles having changed much of the city’s landscape in the late 20th century.
Raise a glass on me!
I hope you found this whirlwind guide of bars to visit around Ireland worthwhile. Hopefully, you’ll find yourself in one of these spots in the future and come away with at least a few good stories to tell.