No trip to the Emerald Isle is complete without ducking into a pub and ordering a pint. From bustling bars in Dublin, to quiet hole-in-the-wall taverns in coastal fishing villages, Ireland has hundreds of great places to have a pint. The trick is finding non-touristy, traditional pubs where you’ll get a true taste of Irish beer, music and people. Here’s our list of Ireland’s 5 best pubs -- order’s up!
The Stags Head is the backbone of Dublin’s Temple Bar neighborhood. The 19th-century spacious room has a long mahogany bar ideal for large parties. Despite the pub’s size, whiskey casks in the walls and a Renaissance-style wood ceiling give the bar a cozy feel. It has also been a popular drinking place for famous people past and present including James Joyce, Quentin Tarantino and Irish political leader Michael Collins. The Stags Head has live traditional music every night in its music venue (called the Stag’s Tail) below the main bar. And if you want a more intimate setting, book the old Victorian smoking lounge tucked behind the main bar.
If you’re interested in impromptu Irish music, the tiny seaside village of Doolin is the place to go. And McDermott’s Pub -- a magnet for traditional Irish music -- is the place to hear it. Doolin lies right on the Atlantic Ocean (on County Clare’s northwest coast) just 6 miles from the famous Cliffs of Moher, and McDermott’s Pub has been a staple of the village since 1867. McDermott’s has live music nightly from early spring to late autumn and on weekends during the winter. If you’re not a beer fan, McDermott’s also has a large selection of wines from around the world. Don’t forget to order a crock of the homemade soup of the day and slice of homemade Irish brown bread.
If you like seafood, this is the pub for you. Moran’s Oyster Cottage is a 250-year-old thatched cottage, oyster shack and bar. It has been run by 7 generations of the Moran family, dating back to the 1800s. It’s not only Ireland’s oyster capital (yes, they have oyster-shucking competitions), it’s also where bartenders pour a perfect pint. Moran’s Oyster Cottage is located just 12 miles outside of Galway; in a short drive, you can taste the salty crustaceans of Galway Bay.
Sure, the Pavilion might be one of Cork’s busiest bars, but it’s also one of the best. Not only does it have live music nearly every night, but you can also hear DJs play from Thursday to Sunday in the late-night basement bar, and watch stand-up comedy performances. Tickets are available at the door (be careful, they sell out frequently) and the basement bar doesn’t have a cover charge. The Pavilion is also one of the main venues for the Cork Midsummer Festival, an annual 16-day summer celebration of contemporary arts and culture.
Don’t be put off by this wide-open, non-Irish looking bar. Louie’s Backyard & Bar opened in 2008 as the chic replacement for the Bank of Ireland branch that once occupied Kilkenny’s limestone Left Bank building, built 1870. With 5 plasma screen TVs, it’s Kilkenny’s go-to spot for watching sporting events. Louie’s has a fully heated, covered smoking area and a retractable roof for all weather conditions. Cozy up to the roaring outdoor fire, or grab a stool at the indoor or outdoor bar. Listen to live jazz bands during a mid-week pint stop, or rock out to a DJ on a Saturday night out.
Finally, before you go pub crawling, remember: Irish people take their beer (and the place they drink it) very seriously. So before you venture out, beware of these simple drinking faux pas: don’t forget to remove your hat when you enter a pub (it’s rude if you don’t); don’t tip the bartenders (they make an ample salary); sip your pint, don’t chug it (no, it’s not cool if you’re falling off your bar stool wasted); and please, please don’t ask for an Irish car bomb because in Ireland, nobody drinks them.