Top spots, to be sure

Belinda Jackson drinks in everything the Irish capital has to offer.

When the good times were good for Dubliners, you'd find them celebrating their good fortune in the pubs. Now the overheated economy has taken a frigid nosedive, you'll find Dubliners ... er, in the pubs commiserating their poor fortune.

Dub pubs used to be a maelstrom of cigarette smoke and sticky floors. The first European country to go smoke-free, you can now see the ceilings but it's best to avoid looking at the floors. Drawing on years of extensive research, here's a smattering of Dublin's best pubs. If we've forgotten your favourite, sorry.

Best local: Finnegan's

It's worth the 40-minute journey south on the DART, the city's coastal train, to Dalkey to drink at Finnegan's. On a weekend afternoon, the back bar is sunny and packed to the rafters with auld mates, young couples, families and the lads, squeezed in between the antiquities, on church pews and at big tables enjoying the warmth of this pub that's a known Bono haunt (he lives not far up the road).

Sorrento Rd, Dalkey, County Dublin

Best snug: Kehoe's

Ahh, we love a good snug, that little cul-de-sac in a bar where women traditionally hid away while getting plastered. Seating two or 20, snugs are cosy spots out of the public eye. The best are to be found in Kehoe's, but also Toners (139Baggot St Lower, Dublin 2) or Doheny & Nesbitt (5 Baggot Street Lower, Dublin 2). Get in early to beat the suits, especially on Thursday and Friday afternoons, if you want to bog in for a serious session.

9 South Anne St, Dublin 2

Advertisement

Best wine bar: ElyWineBar

The wine list is a credible blend of Italian think barolo, montepulciano and French and the cheese platters are generous and carefully thought out with a heavy organic bent. The original Ely is full of little nooks made for tete-a-tetes, rendezvous and other French phrases suggesting naughtiness. Bacardi breeze drinkers should note that this bar is for grown-ups.

22 Ely Place, Dublin 2

Best daytime bar: Cafe en Seine

With its belle epoque decor and old French glamour, the perfect time to be in Cafe en Seine is 11am for coffee. Set your alarm clocks, people, and get out before it turns ugly. Late at night, the queues are endless, the crush intense and the prettiest bar turns into a high-end meat market that thinks nothing of charging €6 ($10.75) for your favourite beer.

39 Dawson St, Dublin 2

Best sidewalk cafe: Olesya's Wine Bar

Sometimes, usually in April and September, it's warm enough to sit outside without gale-force winds reminding you you're on the knife's edge of Europe. When that happens, make for Olesya's, just off the shopping mecca of Grafton Street, and grab an outdoor table for a spot of people-watching and the choice of 400 wines from across the world. A warning: sometimes it's not pretty. Last visit, a nasty beggar cursed us with the charming "Cac an Deabhail ort". (We'll let you look it up).

18 Exchequer St, Dublin 2

Best music: O'Donoghues, Whelan's

Received wisdom is you're better off heading for Clare, Galway or Kerry anywhere out of Dublin for traditional (aka diddley-ay) music but O'Donoghues is a living legend that keeps it alive in Dubs. A haunt of Christy Moore and The Dubliners, there's music seven nights a week. And if there's no one playing, the patrons are guaranteed to conduct their own singalong. The Wild Rover is, of course, staple fare. For contemporary tastes, head to Dublin's best live music venue, Whelan's, for anything from punk to Gael-pop to Aussie rock, where the likes of David Gray, Jeff Buckley and our own Nick Cave have played. It's a real pub as well as venue and has free entry to gigs on Mondays and Tuesdays and before 10.30pm on other nights.

15 Merrion Row; 25 Wexford St, both Dublin2

Best martini bar: Fallon & Byrne

Sometimes you don't want a strapping pint; you want an elegant little martini. The bar at the end of the restaurant that is Fallon & Byrne seems a little out of place with its 1950s ice-cream parlour stools fixed to the big bar. But the buzz of the room will welcome you here, long after the diners have finished in this hip Soda (South of Dame Street Area) haunt.

11-17 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2

Best tourist pub: Brazen Head

There are a few contenders for this crown, including Ireland's smallest pub, Dawson's Lounge (25 Dawson St, Dublin 2), and Guinness's Gravity Bar (7th floor, Guinness Storehouse, St James's Gate, Dublin 8), where you're hard pressed to find a Dubliner. The Brazen Head reckons it's been serving the hard stuff since 1198 from its spot near the Christ Church Cathedral. Its sunny, walled beer garden is packed in Ireland's short summer and there's live Irish music every night.

20 Bridge Street Lower, Dublin 8

Best view: Gravity Bar

The Gravity Bar is waaaaaay up on the top floor of Guinness's St James's Gate brewery, reached by an external glass lift, and has sweeping views over the city and out to the Wicklow Mountains. Strictly for tourists (Irish and foreign), the price of a pint is included in admission to the brewing museum. Nip back downstairs for the Guinness and beef pie, if you haven't had enough of the black stuff.

Guinness Storehouse, St James's Gate, Dublin 8

Best gay bar: The George

The George is Dublin's first and landmark gay bar. Yes, Shirley Temple Bar still calls the ever popular bingo every Sunday at 8.30pm, bless her, and it includes a quieter lounge bar (aka Jurassic Park). If you're wanting to branch out, head for the gay-friendly Front Lounge (33Parliament St, Dublin 2) or The Dragon (64-65 South Great George St, Dublin 2) for a late pint or two, Space Invaders and a chance to meet young, hip and super-friendly locals in the back bar.

89 South Great Georges St, Dublin 2

Best literary bar: McDaids

The setting for the James Joyce story Grace, and a former chapel and morgue dating from 1779, McDaids reeks of Dublin's rich literary culture. Baggot Street is layered in literary tales and digs of Irish luminaries such as Brendan Behan (Borstal Boy) and Patrick Kavanagh. Bloomsday, held annually on June 16, is a celebration of Joyce's epic Ulysses and pubs mentioned include Davy Byrne's Pub (21 Duke St, Dublin 2).

3 Harry Street, Dublin 2

Best rugby bar: Sinnotts

When traditional foes Ireland and England crash skulls, Sinnotts is where the locals go to roar expect the place to be mobbed. Antipodeans needing a dose of big-screen rugby action and Aussie rock jukeboxes head to Outback (Parnell St, Dublin 1) when the game is on the pub flies the Australian, New Zealand and South African flags with equanimity and Mondays are comedy nights. Rugby matches are held at Croke Park, so try Fagans (146 Lower Drumcondra Rd, Dublin 9), the local of former taoiseach (Irish PM) Bertie Ahern. Note: Games are expected to move back to Lansdowne Road, so any pub in Donnybrook or well-heeled Ballsbridge will do the job.

South King Street, Dublin 2

Best hotel bar: Octagon Bar

If you're into Bono spotting, of course it has to be the Octagon Bar in the Clarence Hotel. With good reason why give your hard-earned cash to someone else when you can drink in your own bar even if you earn as much as the boys from U2? On the flip side, if you're not up for being seen, the quiet bar in the Fitzwilliam Hotel (St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2) has lots of comfy leather booths and the cocktails won't break the bank. Ideal for state secrets or a drink after dinner in the Michelin-star restaurant, Thornton's, upstairs.

Wellington Quay, Dublin 2

Best for beautiful people: The Shelbourne Hotel

After an €80 million refurbishment, the Shelbourne Hotel is a whole lot slicker than it used to be. Its Horseshoe Bar has always been an iconic haunt for legal types and men in pork pie hats after the races but the champagne bar at the front of the hotel is the place to be seen, as is the Saddle Room Restaurant that it leads in to. The last time we were there, we spotted ex-boyband boy Ronan Keating trotting in with a bevy of beauties, as is his wont.

27 St Stephens Green, Dublin 2

Belinda Jackson was a guest of Tourism Ireland and Etihad Airways.

TRIP NOTES

GETTING THERE

Etihad Airways flies from Sydney and Melbourne to Dublin via Abu Dhabi, phone 1800998995, see www.etihadairways.com.

STAYING THERE

The Fitzwilliam Hotel is on St Stephen's Green and in easy walking distance to most great pubs. From €104 ($186) a person a night, check the website for specials, phone +35314787000, see fitzwilliamhotel.com.

FURTHER INFORMATION

See discoverireland.com.au.

Comments