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Dublin nightlife guide: Best live music pubs to visit

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No trip to Dublin is complete without a pint of Guinness or ten in some of our much-loved watering holes. There are so many different kinds of pubs and bars to choose from that deciding where to spend your precious night out in the city can be an overwhelming task.

If there’s anything Dublin does better than many other cities, its nightlife! With close to a thousand pubs in Dublin, the pub culture of the Irish capital is a unique and special part of the city. 

No trip to Dublin is complete without a pint of Guinness or ten in some of our much-loved watering holes. There are so many different kinds of pubs and bars to choose from that deciding where to spend your precious night out in the city can be an overwhelming task. And pub crawls in Dublin are a great way to experience the nightlife, when the city opens up in a completely different way.

Live music in Dublin Pubs
One aspect of pub culture that many visitors to Dublin are eager to experience is live music. Ireland boasts an incredible musical heritage, and live music is a common feature of the local pub scene here in the capital. Broadly speaking, you can categorize live music in Dubin pubs into three different types:

  1. The stage musician - generally a lone singer with a guitar doing covers 
  2. The Traditional Irish Music session
  3. The live band 

The best pubs for live music in Dublin
Arguably the most famous area in Dublin is the Temple Bar district. This is a stretch of narrow, cobblestoned streets with a delightfully high pub density per square-foot right in the heart of the city center!

It has a reputation among locals as being the ‘touristy’ district, and the prices for drinks can be a little higher than pubs elsewhere in the city. That said, there’s always a guaranteed great atmosphere in the pubs of Temple Bar. Most will have live music from early in the day; mostly the stage musician armed with a guitar, a mic, and a repertoire of classic songs and recognizable, sing-along-friendly ballads. 

The Temple Bar Pub
The most famous of Dublin’s Temple Bar pubs is The Tempe Bar, named after the area itself. It sits in red and black, adorned with a mass of flowers-in-bloom and year-round twinkling fairy lights the likes of which you’d usually expect to see at Christmas. Its exterior is entirely Insta-worthy, and the corner of Essex Street and Temple Lane is constantly swarming with visitors getting the quintessential Dublin Pub snap. 

Most locals would tell you to avoid it as an inauthentic representation of our pub culture, and there is some truth in that. However, there’s no denying you’ll have an insatiable urge to venture inside, the lure of a vibrant crowd singing aloud to a live rendition of Wonderwall at 4 in the afternoon is difficult to resist when Dublin pub life is a foreign curiosity - and we say go for it…well, for one pint anyway, tick the box and then move on. 

We highly recommend the Old Storehouse Pub in the Temple Bar quarter too for great live music daily. The vibe here is less ‘touristy’ and contrived than in The Temple Bar pub, but the atmosphere is just as fun. 

Best Dublin Pubs for traditional Irish music sessions
Moving out of the Temple Bar district, you’ll find pubs with live Irish music in the form of the pub session. This is where traditional Irish musicians, with a variety of different instruments, come together to jam.

The five best pubs in Dublin for traditional Irish music sessions are:

  • The Cobblestone pub in Smithfield.
  • O’ Donoghue’s pub on Merrion Row.
  • McNeil’s on Caple Street.
  • O’Neils Victorian Pub & Townhouse on Pearse Street.
  • The Piper’s Corner on Marlborough Street.

All of these pubs have a respectable reputation for the authentic pub session - that is, where musicians come together, regardless of their level of ability, to play together. The session is not so much for the audience as it is for the musicians themselves. Musicians can share tunes, learn from each other and have fun experimenting. 

There are no microphones or set lists, it’s the original sphere of innovation among folk musicians and can make for a truly unique Dublin pub experience. 

The Cobblestone pub in Smithfield is arguably the most well-known of Dublin pubs for live traditional music sessions, along with O’Donoghues on Merrion Row which boasts a strong musical heritage as a favorite boozer of some of the most influential Irish folk musicians during the 60’s cultural reawakening here. 

Any traditional musical pub crawl one might undertake in Dublin really ought to include both these iconic music pubs! 

Where to see Live Bands in Dublin
While there is a good selection of live music venues catering to live music acts beyond the singer-songwriter and trad session, it’s not so common to stumble upon a band in a pub proper.

Thankfully though, there’s Whelan’s on Wexford Street; a Dublin live music institution boasting decades of hosting incredible live music acts from up-and-comers to world-famous icons. It’s a sprawling interior of dark wood and stone and is home to a warm, friendly, and welcoming vibe. 

There are three stages in Whelan’s - one in the venue part of the pub, another upstairs in the second of three bars, and a third in the newly renovated ‘Bourke’s’ bar where you’ll find incredible live blues on Sunday evenings. 


Photo by Matheus Câmara da Silva on Unsplash

How to sample the best of Dublin nightlife
If you’re visiting Dublin, you’ll definitely want to experience a proper Dublin night out, and the best way to do that is on an organized pub crawl! 

There’s a musical pub crawl - but it only actually goes from one pub to a second, so not really a proper bar crawl, and there’s also a literary pub crawl which is a pub tour of those bars with a connection to Dublin’s writers and literary heritage. 

The best pub crawl in Dublin for a proper cross-section of authentic local nightlife is run by Generation Pub Crawl Dublin. It starts off as a Temple Bar pub crawl, visiting a couple of the best pubs in the area before venturing to where the local's party. You get a free welcome Guinness at the start, free shots throughout the night at each pub, exclusive drink specials and discounts, free entry and skip-the-lines to both Whelan’s and Dublin’s most popular nightclub, Copper Face Jack’s; and all for just €14. It’s the most fun you’ll have in Dublin and the best way to meet others and experience the wonderful pub culture Dublin is famous for. 

So, go forth and enjoy the pubs of Dublin! Sláinte. 


Main photo by Gregory DALLEAU on Unsplash

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