Ireland: Visitors' Info

Irish Pubs*

The Brazen Head, said to be Dublin’s oldest pub.

Ireland is famous for its excellent pubs, but not all Irish pubs are excellent.

The best pubs in Dublin, Belfast and Cork tend to be of Victorian vintage.

Pubs in smaller towns and villages are sometimes slightly eccentric combinations of licensed premises and e.g. a grocery and / or hardware store, a post office, a cobbler’s workshop or even a funeral parlour!

Good pubs do not play piped muzak.

Many older pubs still have Lounges (table service) and Public Bars (bar service only; some extreme diehard cases serve Men Only – illegal!).

“Snugs”, private compartments for couples or small groups, still exist in a few good pubs.

Pay for your drink in cash when it is served. All forms of credit are illegal, unless you are having a meal as well.

The custom of buying “rounds” has largely vanished, and it is normal to purchase drinks just for oneself and one’s partner.

Food is nowadays served in many pubs, but only a few are notable for the high quality of their menus. “Pub grub” meals, often available at lunchtime and in the early evenings, are usually OK. Most pubs will at least have sandwiches. Almost all pubs sell snacks such as crisps and peanuts. These, and maybe olives, are free in the poshest places.

Pubs are of course primarily drinking establishments, but especially in smaller communities, they are often the main entertainment venues, hosting popular dances, concerts, sing-songs, karaoke sessions, pub quizzes etc.  Watch out for traditional music sessions (common) and evenings of folklore and tall tales with a seanchaí (traditional storyteller, rare nowadays).

Many pubs have games (e.g. darts boards, table football, pool / snooker tables, chess / draughts boards etc.), and some organise leagues and other competitions. All forms of gambling are prohibited in pubs.

“Pub Crawls” involve visiting several pubs and drinking at least one pint of beer or glass of spirits in each. Most are spontaneous, but the most famous organised one is the Dublin Pub Marathon, with 26 stops, usually won by some mad Australians.

The best time to enjoy most Irish pubs is in the evening, but the best pubs are pleasant at any time of day.

“Last Drinks” are usually called at 23:30. Closing time is midnight, or later on specially licensed occasions; thereafter only nightclubs serve drinks until 03:00. The famous “lock-ins” of yore are now rare.

Children are not allowed on licensed premises (including most restaurants) after 21:00


* The word “pub” is an abbreviation of “public house”; the proprietor is a publican, not to be confused with the Roman tax collectors criticised in the Bible.

Pubs, restaurants and nightclubs are also referred to by police officers, judges etc. as “licensed premises”. This is a reference to the licence required to sell alcohol for consumption “on the premises”.