So you’ve just landed, dumped the bags at your hotel and before the jetlag kicks in you are looking to quench your thirst. Temple Bar has it’s fair share of tacky pretend Irish bars designed to extract as much money from unsuspecting tourists as possible. My advice is to avoid these at all costs. But as 99% of tourists are determined to go anyway, this guide is designed to keep you away from the worst of them and perhaps point you towards where you should go and what you should drink. There are a few gems of pubs amongst the fakery. My job is to steer you towards them. If you still get ripped off, that’s your fault. Perhaps you will leave with the clothes on your back and a story to tell. There’s also a chance you’ll lose your clothes and have an even better story.
A few words about me. Born and bred in Dublin. I’ve experienced both sides of these same bars, as both a customer and a longtime bartender. I don’t just like Guinness, I love it. And I’ve learned there’s no better place in the world than in the company of good friends enjoying chat and laughter over a good pint.
You’ll quickly realise Dublin is pretty small and the city centre can easily be covered on foot. If your hotel is central you can hail a cab or just walk. The liffey is your guide. Temple Bar begins on the south bank of the liffey and extends east from Christ Church as far as the doors of Trinity College. In this patchwork of labyrinthine cobbled streets lies a maze of bars, pubs, clubs and restaurants.
Though strictly not part of Temple Bar, Bowes pub is a worthy place to begin. Located on Fleet Street in the little block between Westmoreland Street and Dolier Street, Bowes pub is a step back in time. Long and roomy with comfortable snugs, it’s a great place to get comfortable and enjoy a quiet drink over creamy pints. I’m a Guinness snob. And can safely say, this is some of the best Guinness in the city. Bowes also has a wonderful selection of whiskey, with over 100 to choose from. Light snacks such as toasted cheese sandwiches are available all day and it plays host to some of Ireland’s best traditional musicians on a Sunday night. Something which you don’t often see in Temple Bar pubs is that Dubliners actually drink here.
The Palace Bar
Walk out of Bowes, turn left, and on the far side of Westmoreland Street lies the Palace Bar at the very entrance to Temple Bar. Beautiful on the outside, even nicer on the inside from the comfort of your barstool enjoying a pint of creamy Guinness. Believe me, it’s good here. The Palace is small and can get busy at night, so it’s best to experience it during the day. For whiskey, it can’t be beaten, having a full selection including their own Palace Bar whiskey. There is often traditional music, either upstairs or at the rear of the ground floor. It’s a traditional Dublin pub which hasn’t changed in over 80 years, except for the odd craft beer or two on tap. Favoured by writers and poets, it reflects this with portraits, photographs, paintings, pieces of writing and many other assorted trinkets adorning every corner of the walls. Again, locals will often pay this place a visit. Always a good sign.
As we venture further into Temple Bar the next pub we come across is the Oliver Saint John Gogarty (Tourist Trap). It’s always packed. Both inside and outside. The place is huge, with a warren of rooms making up the tree-lined beer garden, dance area, cosy snugs and bar. Take my advice and DO NOT go in here. Take some photos of the building if you like and swiftly move on unless you want poor service in a tacky bar at rip-off prices. If you do want to see it, perhaps go during the day for one drink. By night the prices increase on the hour. If you do visit, expect a lively bar with traditional music every day as well as a choice of pub-grub and restaurant. They also have self-catering apartments in the adjacent hostel. Basically you could leave the airport and spend your entire trip here. The whole purpose of this guide is to maybe open your eyes to the “real Dublin pubs” that exist outside of Gogartys.
The Auld Dubliner
Moving swiftly on, and I do mean swiftly, across the street is the Auld Dubliner pub (Tourist Trap). Likewise, give this place a wide berth. Nothing of interest lies within except tacky tourist crap. This busy Dublin pub can’t help but attract the bustling tourist trade in Temple Bar. You won’t find too many locals here; but if a boisterous, lively atmosphere is what you’re after, the Auld Dubliner is as good a pub as any in the area. On the plus side, you will never get bored here. The downside – you’ll not hear the music (or your own words) at peak times. Definitely not a place for a quiet pint. Again, like Gogartys, you can expect hearty Irish pub-grub, like stews and coddle. They do play Irish “folk” music in it’s broadest sense which will usually result in a boisterours sing-song.
Further up the street in the heart of Temple Bar by Meeting House Square lies the Quays with it’s tiled front. I’m tempted to again tell you to avoid, but as tourist traps go this place can offer up a lively atmosphere. The place gets packed in the evenings. The crowds are drawn in by the traditional music starting at 3pm and played seven days a week. As you’re probably going to check it out, perhaps a visit during the day and a quick drink before going to a proper Irish pub. There is a restaurant upstairs serving traditional Irish favourites. If you want a party atmosphere this place will be filled with hen parties and stag nights (bachelorette/bachelor parties for our American friends).
The Temple Bar (Tourist Trap)
It looks like a pub, sounds like a pub and even smells like a pub. Heck, it even serves alcohol. But to all intents and purposes this is just a money making machine. Kerching! This is the quintessential Temple Bar pub. I’d love to say it’s soulless, devoid of character and best avoided at all costs. But it does it’s job very well. If you still insist on a visit, you get a big pub with lots of pretty stuff hanging from the walls, a beer garden, lots of whiskey, expensive food and drink and traditional music. A local might enter by one door and quickly leave by another as there are other pubs you can visit!
On the plus side, it is a great looking pub and it serves tourist needs well. It’s purely for tourists and that’s important to remember as I put my prejudice to one side for a moment. You will likely have a great time as you enjoy the lively crowd, traditional music and over 450 whiskeys to choose from. It gets very busy seven days a week. This bar will certainly rip you off, but do it with a smile on it’s face.
The Ha’penny Bridge Inn
This landmark pub is a few doors down from the Quays pub overlooking the bridge that bears its name. As Temple Bar pubs go this one has managed to remain authentic and is frequented by locals. The place is a busy, friendly traditional pub that offer a variety of entertainment at affordable prices. Expect traditional music, country, jazz, blues and of course, comedy. This place was one of the first pubs in Dublin to put on comedy nights. Battle of the Axe on Tuesday nights is still going to this day. I highly recommend giving this place a visit.
Bison Bar and BBQ
Originally an annex to next doors Workman’s Club, The Bison Bar has carved out it’s own niche.
Initially dedicated to showcasing its whiskey selection, Bison has branched out into authentic Texan barbecue and is killing it with its delicious offerings coming in overly generous portions. The layout features bar stools designed from saddles adding to the overall Texan look. With over 150 whiskeys on offer and some great cocktail deals this place is ideal for whiskey lovers.
I preferred the old place. But the old place was a dive. I guess that just reflects my taste. In fairness, they’ve got the balance right between old and new with a lively atmosphere and quality music. It doesn’t seem like a Temple Bar pub, sitting as it does just on the edge of less touristy Dame street. This is reflected in the mix of locals and tourists which I think creates a more authentic experience of an Irish pub.
The walls are adorned with rock memorabilia and you could class this place as a rock bar I guess, with some indie music thrown in. But the rock music does not overwhelm the Irish pub atmosphere. At weekends they have a DJ and a live band however the highlights for most visitors are the Sunday folk sessions.
Not your typical traditional Irish pub playing “fiddley-piddley” music. This newly established Temple Bar pub is styled on an open plan bar run out of a disused garage complete with car doors, chairs cut from old oil barrels, sawdust on the floor and 1950’s petrol pumps. The music is 50’s, 60’s, 70’s R&B and soul favourites, and there are some inviting drink offers in the shape of well-priced pitchers and cocktail deals. A great place for a hen night or stag party if you ask me. It’s small but is big on atmosphere. Well worth a visit.
I hate to use the word “bohemian”, but it describes this place perfectly. And that’s a good thing. The bar is still young, having been established in 2010. A pup of a pub in relative terms. And perhaps because of it’s fresh roots and links to its erstwhile predecessor, the now defunct Workingmen’s Club (est 1888 until 2003) the place has preserved its atmosphere. This is a place where a gig becomes an all-out party. The ground floor hosts live bands while the first floor has DJ’s playing tunes till 3am. Up top is an unbeatable roof-top terrace where you can enjoy your reasonably priced drinks and cocktails.
This place was way ahead of it’s time by sourcing “new” beers from the continent and even brewing their own as far back as 1989. We now simply call this craft beer. For this, the Porterhouse should take a bow.
They now have three pubs in Dublin. Their Temple Bar location is the best by far with a wide range of ales, lagers and seasonal beers to choose from as well as an award winning stout brewed in house.
Featuring live music seven days a week with traditional music at the weekends it’s a big and boisterous venue without overdoing the touristy shtik. Spread over three floors with it’s own micro-brewery on site it’s worth a visit, albeit a bit pricey.
The Turks Head
Not your typical Temple Bar pub and not your classic Irish pub. The Turks Head is a beautifully crafted venue with Spanish style architecture and colourful mosaics. The bar itself hosts a variety of eclectic musical nights with everything from reggae to ska to trance. At weekends you are guaranteed a party atmosphere with late night DJ’s and live performances. It’s a firm favourite with locals and I highly recommend it.
Next door to the Turks Head on Parliament Street is the Front Lounge. This gay friendly venue is stylish and comfortable with plush sofas and walls lined with visually stunning artwork. Here you will find delicious cocktails, reasonably priced lunches and nights that range from karaoke to drag to variety acts. Great for a quiet drink during the day and if it’s a party you’re after the place kicks off at night.
Don’t expect a traditional Irish pub. Instead of Guinness and whiskey it’s vodka and redbull washed down with jagerbombs. A popular spot for hen parties, you are guaranteed to see a gang of slappers with inflatable mickeys on their heads.
It used to be called the Norseman. Then it changed to Farringtons. Now it’s back to The Norseman. Either way it’s just your typical Temple Bar pub with pricey drinks, trad music, stags, hens, tourists and the very odd local. It’s a good spot to watch sport and they have some pretty decent food on offer.
Not quite Temple Bar. In fact it’s away over on Dame Street. But it is very touristy and so it therefore makes the cut. This place packs up quickly and is a favourite for locals to grab a quick drink before a show in next doors Olympia Theatre. Perhaps it’s because of the cheap beer. Always a plus in my book. A great place for a sing-song, Brogans pulls in some quality Irish musicians and is a great place for a sing-song seven days a week.
Located off a side street, The Mezz has live music seven nights a week and is very popular with locals and tourists alike. It’s a small venue but is always packed and buzzing with a great atmosphere. The late bar at the weekends makes it a must-see in my book. Probably one of the best music venues in Dublin! Check it out.
Of course, half the fun of being here is finding your own special places. I do recommend stumbling blindly into pub basements you don’t know. Good things can come of it.
Ordering a Drink in an Irish Pub
If you are a tourist the chances are you are going to drink Guinness. This is a good thing. But there are a few thing you need to know first.
Guinness takes time. But it is worth it. The proper pint needs to settle. You must wait for the liquid in your pint to change colour from creamy brown to dark black with a white creamy head. To drink it any sooner will arouse scorn and derision.
If you are English, do not taint the taste by ordering blackcurrant with your Guinness. This is sacrilege. Drink it as it was meant to taste. Pure and divine.
If you are ordering a round of drinks, order your Guinness first. Guinness takes time to settle (see first point above). Plus the bartender will pull your pint of Guinness first and then get the rest of your order before finishing off the half poured pint. And remember, you still need to let the pint settle.
Drink pints, not glasses (halves). A cheap pint can cost five euros. A half-pint does not cost half. It will cost a lot more than three euros. So it makes sense to drink pints.
Tipping bartenders is OK. We work hard. And it’s nice to be appreciated. But you don’t have to do it every time.
Don’t attract the bartender by shouting, whistling, clicking your fingers or waving money. This will not get you served.
Know your order. A busy bar is a stressful place. If you have several drinks to get, know exactly what they are. Delaying the bartender is not an option. Delaying the customers around you is not an option. Remember. This is an Irish bar with lots of thirsty people.
So that’s a guide to Temple Bar. if you made it through your first night, well done. Now all you need to do is find your hotel. Then find your hotel room. Then find your keys. Find the keyhole. Find your bed. And hopefully the next morning find yourself with a sore head, an unexplained tattoo and a willingness to do it all over again.