The Irish pub is an essential part of Ireland’s culture, and it is within these walls that you can enjoy creamy pints, find the coziest snugs, and experience the friendliest of welcomes.

Ireland is home to more than 7000 pubs many of which serve food, are open all day and late into the night and host unbeatable Irish music sessions.

Here are 20 of them you should bookmark for that trip you've been daydreaming about. Anyone for a pint of creamy Guinness?

Ciarán Kavanagh behind the bar in Kavanaghs, known to Dubliners as The Gravediggers © Kavanaghs

The Gravediggers, Dublin

Known for: An excellent pint and Irish tapas 

A much-loved establishment with not a television in sight, conversation is key here at The Gravediggers. Now run by the seventh generation of Kavanaghs, the pub is so called as it was built into the wall of Glasnevin Cemetery and gravediggers used to come in for a few drinks after a hard day’s labor.

Head into the lounge to sample what's best described as Irish and continental tapas from chef Ciarán Kavanagh. Anthony Bourdain called this place "a little piece of heaven" and said in 2007: "I have all my happiest moments in Irish bars like this." 

Teach Hiúdaí.jpg
Musicians at a traditional Irish music session in Teach Hiúdaí Donegal © Teach Hiúdaí

Teach Hiúdaí Beag, County Donegal 

Known for: Traditional sessions every Monday and Friday night

Musicians travel from far to Teach Hiúdaí Beag in the heart of the Donegal Gaeltacht, where Irish is the main language spoken. The weekly traditional music sessions are legendary, and you can book to stay overnight in the guesthouse upstairs. Wipe off the cobwebs the following morning with a stroll on Gaoth Dobhair's most famous beaches a 10-minute walk away. 

10 best beaches in Ireland

Pub Frontsmall youtube banner 1 copy.jpg
DeBarras pub and folk club in Clonakilty is part of a musical movement in west Cork © DeBarras 

De Barra's Folk Club, Clonakilty, County Cork

Known for: Being 'the Carnegie Hall' of Cork

Walking into De Barra's Folk Club in Clonakilty is like walking into a musical history museum. The venue has played host to every Irish folk musician you can think of from the legendary Christy Moore (who coined the Carnegie comparison) to Damien Dempsey. Relish your pint and take in the surroundings, the walls are covered with musical instruments from all over the world. Be sure to leave time to explore the picturesque seaside town of Clon (as the locals know it) too.

How to see the best of Ireland's West Cork coast on a four-day road trip

The Moorings.JPG
The Moorings overlooks the picturesque harbor of Dungarvan in County Waterford © The Moorings

The Moorings, Dungarvan, County Waterford 

Known for: Gin cocktails overlooking the sea

The Moorings in Dungarvan is a slice of heaven on a sunny day. Right on the harbor, it's the perfect spot to reward yourself if you have cycled the nearby Waterford greenway. Order a gin and tonic, and don't leave without trying the seafood chowder. Their outdoor courtyard bar is bordered by the castle walls of King John’s Castle which was built in the 12th century.

These 11 Irish castles showcase the dramatic beauty of historic Ireland 

O'Connells Meath.jpg
O'Connell's in Co Meath © Rachel O'Connell

O'Connell's, Skryne, County Meath 

Known for: Being the pub featured in Guinness's Christmas advertisement

O'Connell's pub is a familiar spot to many, as it has featured in the Guinness Christmas advertisement for 17 years. Situated in the stunningly beautiful Skryne, just across the valley from the Hill of Tara in the royal county of Meath. The pub has been in the O’ Connell family for 170 years and very little has changed in the generations, it still boasts of having no TV and no internet.

Today it is run by Rachel O'Connell, who recalls her grandmother refusing customers' requests to put a TV in for the World Cup final in 1986. "I called into her that day and the bar was empty but her sitting room was packed, as she brought them all down from the bar to her sitting room to watch the match."

Dos and don't when visiting Ireland 

Dick Macks.jpg
Dick Mack's pub in Dingle has been operating since 1899 and very little has changed © Dick Mack's

Dick Mack’s, Dingle, County Kerry 

Known for: The newly opened and very popular brewhouse

Dingle is spoiled for choice when it comes to a great night out, but Dick Mack’s is in a class of its own. Established in 1899, this iconic pub encapsulates three key things: beer, whiskey and, unexpectedly, leather. This is a fascinating dual-function pub with its fine selection of drinks laid out on one half of the bar and a leather shop on the other. Dick Mack's also offers twice-daily brewery tours.

25 of Ireland's best festivals

Established in 1775, Morrisey's pub - Abbeyleix, County Laois
Morrissey's pub and grocery in Abbeyleix is not just a bar; the owner maintains the tradition of the all-in-one shop © Oliver Strewe / Getty Images

Morrissey's, Abbeyleix, County Laois

Known for: Transporting you back in time to the 1900s

Although the thatched roof may be gone, Morrissey's in Abbeyleix is still a major draw, and anyone passing through the town (on the Dublin - Cork route) should make a pit stop here, if only for the Instagram shot. Dating from 1775 (when it opened as a grocery store), this treasure of a pub has withstood the onslaught of modernization. A hotchpotch of oddities lines the shelves above the pew seats and pot-belly stove. It's a wonderful place to soak up the atmosphere with a pint or a coffee. Traditional music sessions take place on Saturday nights.

15 essential things to do on your Irish holiday

Thomas Connolly 02.09_1.jpg
A pint of the finest in Thomas Connolly's heritage pub, Sligo town © Thomas Connolly

Thomas Connolly, Sligo town 

Known for: An extensive whiskey list 

Sligo is known as the resting place of poet WB Yeats, and many make the trip to pay their respects at the Nobel prize winner's grave in Drumcliff. A stop-off at Thomas Connolly is highly recommended; it’s best known for the warm welcome, famous pints of stout, regular live music and an ever-growing range of over 200 premium Irish whiskeys and scotch. You can raise a glass to the great writer. 

How learning Gaeilge in Ireland expanded more than my vocabulary

The Wicklow Brewery, Redcross Co.Wicklow - Photography by Niall O'Kelly
Mickey Finns Pub hosts story-telling nights and traditional music sessions where anyone with a tune is welcome to join in © Niall O'Kelly Photography

Mickey Finns Pub, County Wicklow

Known for: Being in 'the heart of the garden of Ireland'

Just over the Dublin border, in the stunning vale of Avoca in Wicklow is Mickey Finn's, a cozy, low-ceilinged pub with a warren of rooms each with welcoming open fires and potbellied stoves. The bar incorporates beers brewed at the next door Wicklow Brewery and comes with pairing suggestions, such as Wicklow Black Stout beef pie paired with a Black 16, or the artisan 8oz burger with maple-smoked bacon and Helles Lager chutney accompanied by a Hopknut Pale Ale. Be sure to make time to take in some of the surroundings outside the pub, you are in one of the most beautiful spots in Ireland. 

Ireland's most romantic getaways 

JJ Houghs two.jpg
JJ Houghs Singing Pub in Banagher home of the finest espresso martinis in County Offaly © JJ Houghs

JJ Houghs Singing Pub, Banagher, County Offaly 

Known for: A great stopping off point for boating on the River Shannon

Tucked amongst thriving vines with a soothing dark interior, JJ Houghs in Banagher is a 250-year-old pub long celebrated for its charm and the warm welcome of its owner. Descriptions of the place range from 'quirky', 'idiosyncratic' to ' individualistic' so you know a unique experience is in store. It's a popular spot with boaters taking river cruises in the nearby majestic River Shannon. JJ's also serves pizza and cocktails, and by all accounts, the espresso martinis are a house special. 

Introducing Ireland's national parks

The Rusty Mackerel.jpg
The Rusty Mackerel pub in Donegal is surrounded by breathtaking scenery © The Rusty Mackerel

The Rusty Mackerel, County Donegal 

Known for: Serving fresh fish caught at night and delivered to their door every morning

With the backdrop of some of the country's best scenery and attractions, County Donegal is a must on any Irish bucket list. The renowned traditional Irish bar at the foot of Sliabh Liag serves up great drinks and mouth-watering seasonal food, if the spicy fillet of mackerel is on the menu, look no further.

If you fancy spending an all-nighter in the bar for the traditional live music session, make sure to book into one of The Rusty Mackerel's comfortable rooms and enjoy a hearty breakfast in the morning. Don't leave the area without stopping off at Glencolmcille Folk Village and Silver Strand beach

What to pack for your trip to Ireland

Tucked away off a Temple Bar side street is the brilliant Street 66 © Street 66

Street 66, Dublin

Known for: An atmospheric LGBTQ+ bar with great music

This LGBTQ+ bar is one of the few queer bars in the city. A safe space to have coffee, an invigorating drink or even a dance on Fridays and Saturdays to some banging tunes, the atmosphere is inviting and can be cozy too depending on the time of day. There’s a distinct influence of roots, reggae and soul music to be seen in the décor and art as well as in the music. Get ready to meet some new four-legged friends too, as it’s a dog-friendly bar.

Car or public transport? How best to get around in Ireland

The Sunflower.jpg
The cheeky sign 'No topless bathing, Ulster has suffered enough' adorns the outside wall of The Sunflower © The Sunflower

Sunflower Public House, Belfast 

Known for: A cultural hub with plenty of history

Nestled on the corner of Kent and Union Street in Belfast is the Sunflower Public House. Owned by Argentina-born Pedro Donald, who has another beloved pub The American Bar. This simple pub is instantly recognizable from its relic of 1980s Belfast, a security cage and though no longer in use, it has persevered as part of its social history. This is a no-nonsense, no gimmick pub — it bills itself as a simple corner pub. Order a pint of Armagh’s McIvor’s cider, made with apples from the orchard country.

Belfast: A local's guide on where to go

Tigh Neachtain.jpg
Tigh Neachtain is located right in the heart of in the heart of Galway City © Tigh Neachtain

Tigh Neachtain, Galway city

Known for: Unforgettable music sessions

A favorite of local Galwegians for both food and drink, Tigh Neachtain on the corner of Cross Street has been serving up pints since 1894. Squeeze inside for their live music sessions or head there early to nab a place outside in their sunny drinks area. If you can get a seat inside, you might never leave. The pub is a big patron of the arts and music (it is Galway after all) so expect a lot of cultural activities around Galway Arts Festival in July. 

21 incredible places to visit in Ireland beyond the Cliffs of Moher

O Lochlainn.jpg
 O'Loclainn's Irish Whiskey Bar proudly displays its aged whiskey library © O'Loclainn's

O'Loclainn's Irish Whiskey Bar, Ballyvaughan, County Clare 

Known for: Margaret’s incredible whiskey knowledge

Wind your way to Ballyvaughan in County Clare and hop onto a bar stool for a magical tipple in quaint settings. Owner Margaret and her daughter are well versed in their whiskeys, with 70 Irish whiskeys and 20 Scotches available for sale. Not sure what your tipple is? Don't worry, they will advise you based on what you tell them you have tried and liked before. With more than 500 bottles on display (these are not on sale) visitors can look at labels and bottles and how they have changed through the decades.

12 spectacular walks in Ireland for every ability

Clarke & Sons in Drogheda has been associated with the arts for generations © Clarke & Sons

Clarkes Bar, Drogheda, County Louth

Known for: Escaping to candlelit nooks and crannies

Clarkes is small but so charming and not pretentious grabbing for the old vibes, according to one local. The Drogheda pub has long been linked with the arts in Ireland. Nano Reid, one of Ireland's foremost visual artist born in March 1900 lived on the premises with her family until 1926 when the pub was sold. It has a cozy interior of snugs and creaking floorboards. The atmosphere here is enhanced by the pub’s aged dark wood and patrons can lose themselves amidst the music and candlelight.

8 Irish islands for every kind of adventure

Blakes of the Hollow 2.jpg
 One of the most well-recognized Victorian-era pubs in Ireland © Blakes of the Hollow

Blakes of the Hollow, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh

Known for: Game of Thrones carved door 

One of the best-known Victorian-style pubs in Ireland, Blakes of the Hollow is lovely for a quiet drink by yourself or with a few friends in one of their original snugs. Sit back with an expertly poured pint (or Irish coffee — the ones here are perfection) or tap your feet at one of their live music sessions. For fans of the epic high-fantasy show, a photo with the carved Game of Thrones door is a must.

Where to find Game of Thrones tours and attractions after the finale

Save the Cobblestone demonstration
The Cobblestone pub in Smithfield was saved from redevelopment last year © Damien Storan / Getty Images

The Cobblestone, Smithfield, Dublin

Known for: Calling itself a 'drinking pub with a music problem'

Largely regarded as one of Ireland’s most famous traditional music pubs, The Cobblestone is popular with tourists and locals. From organized sessions, to simply turning up with your instrument and hopping into the fray, a night out here is not to be missed. The Cobblestone is so well respected and loved that there was a massive campaign in 2021 in a bid to save it from developers.

How to find ‘real’ traditional Irish music⁠ in Dublin 

Mother Macs.jpg
Mother Macs building in Limerick dates from 1787 and has served many purposes down through the years © Mother Macs

Mother Macs, Limerick City

Known for: Its large range of refreshing craft beers

Mother Macs is located right in the heart of Limerick City in an iconic building dating from the 1700s. It doesn't serve food but you are not coming here to eat. They have 150 Irish whiskeys (you read that right) and whiskey tasting events that can be booked online with co-owner Mike. Craft beers are also a passion for the Mother Macs team, and the list is ever-changing. Check out their podcast, too. 

Do I need a visa to travel to Ireland?

The duke of york pub belfast
Take your pint outside to the popular cobbled laneway outside the Duke of York © 500px

The Duke of York, Belfast 

Known for: A pint in the sun 

Tucked down a cobbled lane in Belfast city center is the Duke of York, known for its colorful flowers outside and original mirrors and memorabilia inside. You won't find as many visitors as you will in Crown Liquor Saloon, this is a locals' haunt, so you need to step off the beaten track. The perfect spot for a cold beer when paying a trip to Belfast. 

First time Northern Ireland: a small destination with Titanic appeal

You might also like: 
The best time to go to Ireland
Ireland’s top 10 natural wonders
The best road trips in Ireland 

Explore related stories

Jess kayaking in Newfoundland


Where Lonely Planet staffers traveled in July

Jul 16, 2024 • 5 min read