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The number 16 has great significance in Irish history. In 1916, the Easter Rising saw Ireland take major steps towards independence. For that uprising, 16 men were executed. James Joyce’s magnum opus Ulysses takes place on June 16th, a day that is still celebrated as Bloomsday. Tying all of this history together is the Irish pub. These public houses have been gathering spots for Dublin’s most famous characters for centuries. Some of Dublin’s Victorian pubs have been preserved as ongoing connections to the past. And how many of these Victorian pubs have survived to the modern day as some of oldest pubs in Dublin? 16.
When I first learned about Dublin’s 16 Victorian pubs at a special exhibition about Dublin pubs at The Little Museum of Dublin, I immediately took it as a challenge to have either a pint of Guinness or an Irish whiskey in each one. Sometimes more. These things happen when you’re on a mission. I have no regrets.
What is a Victorian pub?
Queen Victoria ruled the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Ireland from 1837 until 1901. This long era saw a tremendous amount of change in the British Isles. Part of this progress was the evolution of the pub. During the Victorian era, pubs began to focus more on improving the drinking experience to become true destinations. Rather than just being a place to get a drink, pubs became more ornately decorated & more comfortable. Thus, the Victorian pub was born.
There are certain hallmarks that denote Victorian pubs. Each is decorated with copious amounts of wood, often dark mahogany. The bar can either be made from wood or granite. Victorian pubs also include intimate elements that make a large room seem smaller or a small room seem bigger. These fixtures include partitions, mirrors, and the most unique aspect of a Victorian pub – the snug.
A snug is a private drinking space within a pub, with door that can be closed and a little window that connects directly to the bar. The purpose of a snug was to allow anyone to have more privacy (especially clergy & public officials), but snugs were popular as rooms that gave women a discreet place to drink. Snugs were also used for business deals & matchmaking. Few Dublin pubs have snugs today. Many were removed to create more space, making their presence in historic pubs all the more special.
Other common Victorian pub details include stained glass, brass fittings, flower boxes on the facade, and tile floors (aside from when the floor might be wood or carpet). You’ll find these elements at today’s surviving Victorian pubs in Dublin.
There’s some debate about what exactly constitutes a Victorian pub, as well as the total number, since some of these pubs date back even longer than Queen Victoria’s reign. These are the 16 Victorian pubs listed in the museum exhibition. However, there are other pubs around Dublin that have some Victorian elements. Whatever the case, all of these traditional Irish pubs are worthy of a visit for a drink and some craic. Each has its own little quirks & unique atmosphere that can fit whatever mood you’re in.
Dublin’s Victorian pubs
This list is roughly organized from historic Dublin city centre pubs to the pubs located in the outer suburbs.
The Palace Bar
The Palace Bar is one of the most famous pubs in Dublin, thanks to its prominent location in Temple Bar & beautiful preservation.
There’s plenty of gorgeous woodwork & tiling at The Palace Bar, as well as a back room with a skylight. Many of Dublin’s Victorian pubs are quite dark inside, so if you’re particularly wanting good looks at all of the historic fixtures, head in during the day time for better light & to avoid the nighttime crowds.
Address: 21 Fleet St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, D02 H950, Ireland (map)
While there are many reasons to go to an old Irish pub like Bowe’s, their particular draw is one of the best whiskey collections in Dublin. In addition to local Dublin whiskeys such as Jameson, Teeling, and Pearse Lyons, Bowe’s has an expansive selection of over 200 whiskeys from around the rest of Ireland & the world beyond, including Scotland, Japan, & the United States. As a result, Bowe’s has won awards for being not just the best whiskey bar in Dublin, but the best whiskey bar in Ireland.
Near Trinity College, Bowe’s is just far enough outside of Temple Bar that it can avoid the worst of the tourist crowds, but it’s close enough that it’s still convenient. It’s a smaller spot, with the requisite beautiful panelling & wood designs that denote a Victorian pub, along with windowed partitions made with painted glass.
With knowledgeable bartenders who are happy to take the time to introduce you to your new favorite whiskey, plus traditional music on Sundays, Bowe’s is an outstanding place to experience the warmth of a historic Irish pub in Dublin.
Address:31 Fleet St, Dublin 2, D02 DF77, Ireland (map)
The Long Hall
As you might expect from the name, The Long Hall is indeed in the shape of a long hall. The Long Hall originally opened in 1766. The current refurbishment was done in 1881 to bring it into true Victorian style.
It’s a beautiful Victorian pub, with plenty of dark mahogany, tons of mirrors, beautiful chandeliers, and a long snug to match. Of particular note is a gorgeous clock mirror partition arching overhead.
The Long Hall is one of the most famous pubs in Dublin, with fans from all over the world. Celebrities such as Bruce Springsteen can sometimes be spotted here.
Address: 51 South Great George’s Street, Dublin 2, D02 CP38, Ireland (map)
The Stag’s Head
If you’re a person who is bothered by taxidermy, steer clear of the The Stag’s Head. For everyone else, head inside to experience one of the most historic pubs in Dublin. There has been a pub on this site since 1770, with the current incarnation having been opened in 1895. Not much has changed since, aside from a few adjustments to keep up with the times, such as being the first pub in Dublin with electric light.
This multilevel pub has some of the best preserved Victorian pub elements in town, including stained glass windows complete with stag’s heads, tile mosaics also with stag’s heads, and so much dark wood everywhere. It’s easy to see why it has won awards for being the best traditional pub in Ireland. The Stag’s Head has also been a popular filming location for everything from Guinness commercials to movies like “A Man of No Importance” & “Educating Rita”.
Address: 1 Dame Ct, Dublin, D02 TW84, Ireland (map)
The International Bar
If you’re looking for live comedy in Dublin (or any other performance for that matter), The International Bar is a great place to find it inside a building that has housed a pub for centuries. The O’Donohoe family purchased the pub in the 1880s & still own it to this day. It even earned a mention in Ulysses.
Famous comedians who have taken the stage at The International Bar during their International Comedy Club & Comedy Cellar shows include Dylan Moran, Dara O’Briain, Jimmy Carr, Eddie Izzard, Jemaine Clement & Bret McKenzie, & more.
Get there early or even better, buy tickets ahead of time if you want to attend a comedy show at The International Bar. The comics perform upstairs, and the room fills up quickly on busy nights. There’s also live music downstairs, plus a basement below. With all of this space available, anyone can put on a performance.
As is the case with many of Dublin’s Victorian pubs, be sure to pay close attention to the little details, from the fine mahogany carvings & pink granite bar, to the design of the ceiling & the cool tile floors. The International Bar is a feast for the eyes & ears.
Address: 23 Wicklow St, Dublin, D02 VH59, Ireland (map)
The Swan Bar is one of Dublin’s oldest pubs. A drinking establishment on or near this site dates back to 1661. The current interior is from 1897 (though the building is from earlier in the century). The Swan is unpretentious & welcoming to all (especially if you love rugby – Sean Lynch, one of the owners, played for Ireland).
Inside you’ll find over two dozen taps, including not only the necessary Guinness but also several craft beers. The Swan was the first Victorian pub I visited, thanks to it being close to the Little Museum of Dublin. This location also meant that it played a role in housing pro-independence forces during the 1916 Easter rising.
In addition to the Scottish granite bar, be on the lookout for the gorgeous swan mosaic on the floor.
The Swan Bar is proud of its history, and rightfully so.
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Address: 58 York St, Dublin, D02 RW67, Ireland (map)
Kehoe’s is one of the most popular Victorian pubs in Dublin thanks to its location just off Grafton Street. On a nice evening, happy hour crowds of Dubliners spill out onto the sidewalks surrounding the corner bar, beneath the flowers adorning its facade. Try to visit during a rare quieter time to better see the architectural details of this local favorite, including the sunlit snug just inside the front door & the mahogany grocery furnishings.
Kehoe’s has won multiple awards for its status as a quality traditional Irish bar. It first opened in 1803 before undergoing a later refurbishment during the Victorian era. Kehoe’s has a slightly more rustic feel within its brightly colored walls, but there’s no shortage of partitions & stained glass, all of it adding to the character the beloved pub. Head upstairs & to find more lounge space as you further explore the historic building.
Address: 9 Anne St S, Dublin, D02 NY88, Ireland (map)
Toners stands out amongst Dublin’s Victorian bars by not being as meticulously restored as some places. As a result, it’s a traditional Irish pub that actually feels like it’s as old as it is. This doesn’t mean that Toners lacks any of the Victorian details you’d expect like snugs, old stock drawers, & wood everywhere. The rustic feel coveys the feeling that many, many people have had a lot to drink at Toners, rather than it being an over-preserved exhibit. And they have, including William Butler Yeats.
Toners won several awards for being a great traditional pub. Its snug was also once named “Snug of the Year.”
Outside, there’s another special spot called Toners Yard. An outdoor beer garden like this is a rarity in central Dublin. On pleasant evenings, the outside space comes alive with the happy hour crowd.
Address: 139 Baggot Street Lower, Dublin 2, Ireland (map)
Doheny and Nesbitt
Doheny and Nesbitt is just down Baggot Street from Toners. The bar has been here since the 1840s, with most of its original 19th century fittings still in place. Doheny and Nesbitt is noted for its Whiskey Corner. You can probably guess what’s there.
Head to the high-ceilinged back room for more space, and take note of all the usual Victorian details scattered about the main room, including original wood floors & the papier-mâché ceiling.
Address: 5 Baggot Street Lower, Dublin 2, D02 F866, Ireland (map)
Have you ever wanted to stay in a hotel above a pub? Not only is The Norseman one of Dublin’s oldest pubs, it also offers five hotel rooms. This makes your bedtime journey after a night of drinking all the more easy.
A pub has existed on this site in some fashion or another since the 1500s, with an officially licensed establishment first being recorded in 1696. Most recently, The Norseman was known as Farrington’s of Temple Bar before changing its name back to honor Dublin’s Viking history.
The decor is a bit more simple than other Victorian bars in Dublin, but there are still some partitions.
Due to its location & nightly live music, The Norseman can get busy, especially on weekend nights.
Address: 28E, Essex St E, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, Ireland (map)
Slattery’s on Capel Street is the perfect Victorian pub for early risers, opening at 7am each morning. Known as an “early house,” such pubs are becoming increasingly scarce. As you’d hope with a pub with such early hours, they’re known for great Irish breakfasts, endorsed by Anthony Bourdain. He also visited several of the other Victorian pubs on this list during his visits to Dublin.
In addition to the early hours & Irish breakfasts, Slattery’s has live music on weekends, and the Victorian flourishes you’ll expect, such as wood furnishings & a beautiful tile floor. There’s also a wall dedicated to the history of the 1916 Easter Rising, including memorabilia.
Address: 129 Capel St, North City, Dublin 1, D01 YN83, Ireland (map)
Cassidy’s is located on busy Camden Street. It has everything you’d expect in a traditional Irish pub in Dublin, with Victorian hallmarks such as copious amounts of wood & tiles. The booths are great, and the Guinness is cheap. Since the pub is so long, there are quieter areas at the back if you want them. There’s also traditional Irish music a couple of times a week. Oh, and Bill Clinton once stopped in for a pint.
Note that this is a different Cassidy’s from the one on my list of the best craft beer bars in Dublin.
Address: 42 Camden Street Lower, Saint Kevin’s, Dublin 2, D02 YP57, Ireland (map)
Ryan’s of Parkgate Street is close to the entrance of Phoenix Park, as well as Heuston Station & Kilmainham Gaol.
It’s a classic Irish pub with a bit more of a polished atmosphere. Thanks to the F.X. Buckley steakhouse upstairs, the food menu at Ryan’s is the best of all of Dublin’s Victorian pubs, featuring steaks, oysters, other seafood, and local Irish specialities.
The historic Victorian pub features include two lovely snugs, as well as little details such as gas lamps & old cigarette match strikers.
I had this fantastic lunch inside one of the snugs.
Address: 28 Parkgate St, Stoneybatter, Dublin 8, D08 CH93, Ireland (map)
The Hut (also known as Mohan’s The Hut since it’s owned by the Mohan family) is further outside of the Dublin city centre, on the way to Glasnevin Cemetery. As such, it’s the sort of neighborhood pub that is filled with old men watching horse racing at 2pm on a Thursday. Don’t take this to mean that The Hut unwelcoming to outsiders. You’ll potentially get spotted as a newcomer, but attention remains focused on the horses, spirited discussions amongst friends, and fresh pints.
Thanks to being far away from the touristy areas of Dublin, The Hut has the cheapest pint of Guinness of all of the historic Victorian pubs. Given that they also proclaim to “specialise in flawless Pints of Guinness,” this is a double win. Upon careful consideration, I found no flaws with mine.
In between breaks during the live sport shown on the TVs, be sure to look up so you don’t miss the colorful stained glass ceiling. The tile floors, partitions, & giant snug also show that The Hut is a classic Victorian pub that has been well maintained over the years.
Address: 159 Phibsborough Rd, Phibsborough, Dublin, D07 HA21, Ireland (map)
Gaffney’s (also known as Gaffney & S0n) is also a bit outside of the Dublin city centre. It’s just across the street from the pleasant Fairview Park. Thanks to its location not far from Croke Park, it’s also a popular meeting spot on Dublin GAA match days.
Since it’s away from the city centre, Gaffney & Son is a much quieter Victorian pub. During the daytime, it’s a place to contemplate over a pint at the beautiful wood bar. The intimate corners have the feel of a personal study, while the stained glass partitions let just enough light into each area.
There are two sides to the bar, one of which felt darker & had more stained glass. Outside, there’s a patio with a smoking area.
Address: 5 Fairview Strand, Clontarf West, Dublin, D03 W5H0, Ireland (map)
Finnegan’s is located in the Dublin suburb of Dalkey, though it’s an easy train ride. Dalkey is a lovely day trip from Dublin, so if you’re looking to get out of the city, it’s a nice break.
Even when the town may seem quiet, everyone’s in Finnegan’s for a Friday lunch & pint of Guinness. The food focuses on local ingredients, especially fresh seafood.
Address: 1 Sorrento Rd, Dalkey, Co. Dublin, A96 CX47, Ireland (map)
Last updated on February 9, 2021
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