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Go Native in Dublin

Hope Collins

... if most of the people there are crowds of hen/stag parties or people wearing shamrock hats then you are probably not in a bar that attracts many Irish people,

Dublin tourism enjoys herds of visitors every year, hoping to enjoy Dublin for its famous social scene and hospitality. Unfortunately many who visit never leave the main tourist areas and therefore never experience the ‘real’ nightlife as it is known by the locals themselves.

The main culprit is called Temple Bar, located in the south of the city. This area used to house the most destitute of Inner-city Dubliners, but when a government scheme turned the poor out of the city and disposed of them in nasty housing estates in the outskirts, a competition took place to redecorate Temple bar and give it a boho, arty feel. It is a prime spot for visitors as it boasts excellent bars, nightclubs, restaurants and hotels (including the U2 owned Clarence Hotel), however many people have exploited the American ‘plastic paddy’ syndrome and sold their soul to leprechauns, twee fiddly-dee bands and shamrocks.

Many tourists that leave Dublin thinking that the Irish live in a psychological haze of make-believe really only have themselves to blame, as Temple Bar is difficult, but not impossible, to escape. Try to stick with the local rule – find places that are popular with the Dubliners themselves. A good litmus test is to have a good lookaround the bar, if most of the people there are crowds of hen/stag parties or people wearing shamrock hats then you are probably not in a bar that attracts many Irish people, therefore you might as well go back home and go to one of the millions of ‘Oirish’ bars located around the globe.
If you would like to break out of the tourist straitjacket and experience Dublin as it really is, read on!

Modern Bars
Even on the edge of Temple Bar lie non-touristy pubs. An example being the Porterhouse, situated on the edge of the area on Parliament Street. It boasts four floors and a massive stock of beers from all over the world. As it is a microbrewery so don’t be surprised if you order your favourite lager and they give you their equivalent. It often has bands playing traditional Irish music, but in the style Irish people love.
But if you are looking for a proper Dublin night out, you could do worse than to shun the Temple Bar merchandise and try out the quays or further into the south side of the city.
(At this point you may be objecting to this article due to frequent mentions of bars and pubs. ‘Surely there is more to Dublin than alcohol?’ you may cry. You are absolutely right, but as the Irish love to party, you may as well do as the Roman’s do, so to speak)

:Both streets on each side of the Liffey boast an excellent range of bars and nightclubs, where you can really get a feel for Dublin as a young cosmopolitan city. Sirens, on bachelors walk, is a low-key bar during the day but transforms into a loud raucous music bar at night. It carries some history too – Leopold Bloom drinks there in Joyce’s Ulysees (Sirens is the name of the chapter)
: If the cheesy, loud bar scene is for you, Zanzibar on Bachelor’s walk is an excellent choice. Imagine hundreds of people in a huge bar with two floors, the highest ceilings you have ever seen, and to top it all off, impressive African décor. (Not forgetting the dance floor.)
: Find your way to St George’s street, and go to the Globe. The Globe hosts a lively clientele who enjoy eclectic music and an emotive lighting scheme.
: RiRa’s can be found around the corner, The Globe’s sister club; different music nights on every day of the week with a great atmosphere. The Globe often has live bands.
Traditional Pubs – Great Guinness!

If older bars and/or a decent pint of Guinness is what you are looking for, try one of the hundreds of old bars in the city, and by the way the saying is true – it does taste better in Ireland, and it does depend on how it’s poured, so don’t knock it until you’ve tried it in a few places.
Traditional bars – even the ones that market for a young clientele – really are the gems of Dublin and makes any chain bar look laughable. Their unique atmosphere is enhanced by their history and craftsmanship, and it is very satisfying to drink in a one hundred year old bar that hasn’t sold out to the twee Irish market while remaining as popular as it ever was.
Look out for O’Neill’s around the corner from Grafton Street and Molly Malone’s statue, with many ancient dark mahogany staircases and a no-music policy (the roar of the crowds are enough!). The Ting Moat on the same street, sit on the huge balcony and look down at the bar below – all bars in Dublin seem to have impressively high ceilings. Discover Toners on Baggot Street, a very small bar with arguably the best Guinness in Dublin.

Gay Bars
The gay bars are great too, the two leaders being The George on St George’s street (you can’t miss it – it’s purple) both bar and nightclub, plus bingo on a Sunday with Shirley Templebar and friends; and The Front Lounge, an ultra modern pub with great décor.
Nightclubs in Dublin are almost always attached to hotels, exploiting a loophole in previous Irish licensing laws. Now all clubs can stay open until 2 am and many bars too. The best ones are The Kitchen (at the Clarence Hotel) The Pod or the Red Box, situated at the top of Hartcourt street, and of course RiRa’s. Chosen due to their refusal to be middle of the road, and good atmosphere. Check the Hot Press for listings. In fact, buy it as soon as you get there, or check it out online at as it is an excellent weekly event listing for Dublin.
Some handy websites are and, both excellent general websites;; for great flight deals;, a great Dublin pub guide; and for a laugh. And remember – anyone can do Dublin, but only the brave go off the beaten track and do it properly!

© Hope Collins 2002

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