Favorite pubs in Dublin

A friend recently announced on Facebook he is heading to Dublin in a few weeks. There were a lot of virtual thumbs ups and “have a Guinness for me!” comments that flooded his wall. It seems people get excited about Ireland, no matter what their lineage. I promised I would send details about some of the pubs we had found while in the city.

As I dove into pictures from my trip to help aid the memory banks, I posed the question to Husband. “What were the best pubs in Dublin?” His response – “There were no bad pubs in Dublin.” True. Every pub in Dublin has a little something different to offer, including a unique experience.

What was originally going to be a direct Facebook message to my dear friend with a list of our favorite pubs, turned into a full blog post. So Richard, this is for you. Sláinte!

The Celt

The Celt Pub at 81 Talbot Street Dublin 1 has the traditional interior ambience of rural Ireland just blocks from Connolly Station, which is a main hub for both buses and trains. This small pub hosts live music seven days a week in a tiny corner that sits across from the bar. The Celt is situated in a popular area of hostels and inexpensive B&Bs, so the crowd (and sometimes musicians) are either wandering youth, looking to experience Ireland at her finest, or laborers getting off work, complete with sweat and dirty boots.

O’Shea’s Merchant

O’Shea’s Merchant at 12 Lower Bridge Street in South Dublin is across the street from the famous Brazen Head pub. The Brazen Head, while the epitome of Irish pub cool on the inside, did not make my list because the tourists outnumber the Irish. While I recommend seeing the Brazen Head, spend time in O’Shea’s Merchant. Traditional Irish music is the name of the game, and spontaneous dancing by patrons averaging around the age of 60 is a common sight.


This pub is in a working class neighborhood of Dublin, just around the corner from the Jameson and Powers Distilleries at 77 North King Street, Dublin 7. The Backroom hosts local musicians from folk, country and roots genres. Seek out a bluegrass session to see how the Irish spin something that is distinctly American. No matter what night you are at the Cobblestone, you’re guaranteed plenty of foot stomping.

If you are looking for a different beer experience other than Guinness, Smithwicks, Harp or Murphy’s, Ireland does have a few microbreweries. For a taste of how the Irish interpret brews other than dark porter, there is a microbrewery worth a try:

The Powerhouse Brewing Company

This brewing company has five establishments, and we visited the one in the Temple Bar neighborhood, skipping the more touristy Temple Bar Pub. Located at 16-18 Parliament Street in Temple Bar, the three-story brewhouse has nine mirco beers on tap and one seasonal. Crowded and popular with the younger set, it is still easy to belly-up to a copper kettle drum (right there as decoration in the bar) and sample a flight of your favorite styles. Messrs Maguire is another brewhouse that a true beer geek might want to try, but it didn’t get as high of ratings as Porterhouse during our visit. You can find Messrs Maguire at the foot of the O’Connell Bridge, Burgh Quay, Dublin 2.

And finally, the pubs that didn’t make my list but are worth noting ~

Brazen Head: It was established in 1198. It has dirt floors. Those two facts alone help you look past the Italian and Japanese tourists sitting next to you.

The Church Bar: This is truly a bar in a former church. Elegant and grand, with the pipe organ still in place in the choir loft overhead, the beer selection is poor, and some might consider it sacrilegious to drink in a former place of worship. But its a spectacle to behold.

The Temple Bar: Probably the most recognized pub in Dublin, stop in just to say you had a Guinness there. Or take a picture and say you had a Guinness there. No one will know.

The countryside of Ireland

Fishing boats in Howth


On the road to Trim.

Abandoned cottage.

Roadside Jesus.

Conor Pass, outside of Dingle.

At the bottom of Conor Pass, these horses were leisurely grazing.




Making the old, new

I’m in the process of having some 35 mm film negatives transferred to digital images. Over the last few days I went through all of my travel images to see what I really wanted to preserve and what could be left for a later day.

The greatest thing about looking at old travel photos is the reality check it provides. In your hands you have proof that 1)  the hairstyle you had was not ‘da bomb’; 2) your Euro fashion attempt was just an American in a scarf; and 3) your travel pictures look just like everyone else’s.

I was mortified at my photos. Boring! I have stood in the center of some majestic, ancient cities, and my pictures make me want to take a nap.

You probably know the remedy – take a look at your subject from a different angle. That theory is harder than you think when you’re standing in front of the Eiffel Tower. You want to take a picture of the whole darn thing. And you should. But then it’s good to play around with angles to see what other lines, shapes and dimensions you can get from your subject.

I’ve pulled a few examples of when I did break the norm just a little bit. As a disclaimer I do realize that at least 1.7 million people also have these “alternative” angles.

First, let’s look at the Louvre Museum in Paris. We know the glass pyramid at the Louvre mixes contemporary in a traditional setting. But how does that feel? I took this picture inside the pyramid to put the modern age in the foreground while blending France’s history in the background. It felt like momma was looking in on what had become of her children over the years.

Next, the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. It’s the most recognized bridge in the city. While this angle isn’t really different (it’s not hard to get this angle, you just have to climb some stairs) it’s still different than the straight on shot that every tourist takes from the bridge opposite of the Ponte Vecchio.

This next picture was taken one early morning in Amsterdam. My photos were starting tolook the same again. Bicycles, coffee shops and canals were filling up my memory card. I needed something a little different – stat. Again, this isn’t the most intriguing picture, but it sums up the quiet Amsterdam neighborhood of Jordaan to me. The reflection has Dutch buildings, a canal and bicycles, just from another point of view.

Finally, this photo was taken in Brussels at night with my point-and-shoot. I had put the digital SLR away for the day and was just enjoying the scene. It was a holiday weekend in Brussels when I was there, so everyone was out. I took this angle for two reasons. The main reason is that I was literally sitting on the ground. People gather in the Grand Place square and just hang out on the cobblestones with a picnic basket or a beer. I also wanted to get the grand spectrum of the buildings, but they are so tall you cannot capture them unless you turn your camera sideways. This is probably one of my favorite things to do now – turn the camera on it’s ear. The scene is kind of interesting, but a different angle and black and white treatment make the lovers walking by more intriguing to my eye.

The moral of the story is sometimes you just need to get up and move around or sit on the ground with a beer. The one thing I do know is that I have a lot of places to revisit so I can get better pictures next time.

Getting under an Irishman’s skin

If memory serves correctly, it was my fault. Husband and I were sitting in a pub on a bustling street in Galway. As with every pub in Ireland, we were befriended by locals, this time by three men on their way home from work. Our group circled around a small table and talked about American and Irish history. That’s when I brought up the British. Dicky, the tallest, broadest man of the group, spit over his shoulder. “That’s what I think of the Tans,” he said slowly.

Thankfully an awkward moment in Ireland is only as long as a sip of beer. It was evident on our trip that some Irish still harbor unfavorable feelings toward England. It also explains why you could not order a Black & Tan without an Irish scolding. Mixed marriage is one thing, but combining Irish and English beer in the same glass is sacrilege.

After apologizing to our three hosts for the obvious insult, the men did what the Irish do best – talked it out. We spent the next hour talking about the history of Galway, the struggling economy in Ireland, and their travels to America. In the end even Dicky admitted his sister-in-law was a Tan, “and a beautiful woman, God bless her.”

The lush green hills and sheep sprinkled across the landscape are just one element that make Ireland magical. But it’s the people like Dicky that make Ireland unforgettable.

Galway was a favorite town during our trip through the southern half of the country. A college town situated on an inlet of the western sea, it is full of young people, music and a large shopping district.

While there are many places to stay, we had good Irish luck at Victoria Hotel. It was at the end of a street off the main square of town, which meant it was centrally located yet quiet. We were able to negotiate our rate to $70 Euro per night, which included a full Irish breakfast.

If you only have time to do a few things in Galway after the pubs, I suggest fueling up and mingling with the locals.

While pub food is usually very good, McDonagh’s Fish-and-Chips at the end of Quay Street is worth a stop in Galway, even if you’re just passing through. Moderately battered, the fresh catch is fried to crispy perfection. The chips are also good, but it’s the mushy peas I dreamt about for months after returning home to the States. The combination of sweet peas, milk, butter and salt are addictive.

After stuffing yourself on fish, chips and peas, stroll the opposite direction on Quay Street to the open air market wrapped around the St. Nicolas Collegiate Church. Roasted nuts, fresh herbs and cockles are on display, and rubbing elbows with the residents of Galway definitely heightens your local experience.

Ireland spoiled me a little. Trips abroad after experiencing the Emerald Isle left me hoping a stranger like Dicky would approach in a pub to discuss world politics of the day. But that hasn’t happened yet. Instead, I’m left with a longing to return to a place that feels very much like home.

Want to hear more about Ireland from a local? Check out the winners of the Irish Blog Awards.