79 Queen Street
Tel: 353 1 633 3936
Who knows where the name came from—is it because the Smithfield neighborhood can be a little dicey? At this small, dark bar with blacker-than-black walls, red strip lighting, and some of the most eclectic music in town—DJs spin anything from blues and soul to country, indie, and more—you're as likely to see a Harley as a Vespa parked outside. The inside is crammed with candles, uncollected empties, and bathrooms the size of phone booths. The feel is underground (do the bar staff look like the Ramones, or do the Ramones look like the bar staff?), and the clientele regularly spills onto the streets outside. Loved by its easygoing crowd, Dice Bar also sells excellent European microbeers.
4–5 Lower Baggot Street
Tel: 353 1 676 2945
Long-time regulars just call it Nesbitt's, and so should you. Dublin is full of pubs, but there's nothing like the character of this landmark watering hole, serving up drinks since 1867. It's the real deal, with carved timber, old wooden floors, and an ornate papier-mâché ceiling, plus snugs (tiny, semiprivate rooms just off the bar) and partitioned areas favored by politicians and economists. Nesbitt's is around the corner from the Dáil (Ireland's Parliament), and they say that decisions about the economy are made here on a daily basis. So, people-watch with wild expectations—Gorbachev, Bono, and Nobel Prize–winning poet Seamus Heaney have all tipped a pint here (although not together—yet). There's pretty good pub food on weekdays, including shepherd's pie, hearty soups, and tasty grilled-cheese sandwiches. Patrons have even coined their own noun: "Nesbittspeak."
South King Street
Tel: 353 1 677 1717
The Gaiety has an illustrious history as a ragtag theater (it opened in 1871), with anything from opera to pantomime to Irish drama making up a given evening's bill. So it was a weirdly logical move to turn the theater's after-hours emptiness into a cabaret for soft-core clubbers. From 11:30 pm, three floors kick off, with a jumble of bars playing host to live tunes, DJs, salsa dancing, and any genre of music you'd care to shake a stick at. The star attraction is the main auditorium, where classic movies play in the kind of chill-out zone that club impresarios dream of. Performers are a mixed bag, so check the lineup on the Web site.—Pól Ó Conghaile
9 S. Anne Street
Tel: 353 1 677 8312
Kehoe's is one of the dozen or so original 19th-century Irish pubs that remain in Dublin. The interconnecting rooms, chin-wagging snugs, and cozy lounges remain exactly as they were in generations past. The pub squeezes into the rooms of what once was a house, and upstairs, especially, it feels like you are in someone's bedroom. Things get particularly sardinelike on weekends (watch your head on the way to the gents), but that's all part of the process. A pricey change of hands in the 1990s led The Dubliner magazine to call it "an old man's bar for the kids," but look around…at the wooden counters, the settling pints, the humming conversation. Leopold Bloom would have approved.—Pól Ó Conghaile
14A Fade Street
Tel: 353 1 613 9094
This former sausage factory adjoining the George's Street Arcade is a huge space, with a sky-lit interior, wooden floors, and lots of greenery. There's a mezzanine level with sofas and a second bar, as well as a heated beer garden (one of the best smokers' spots in Dublin) and an open kitchen that does tapas dishes like salted almonds and smoked trout salad in small and large sizes. It's a great spot for drinks and an inexpensive nibble, but it gets seriously busy after 6:30 pm, courtesy of the after-work crowd (that goes double on Fridays). The Market Bar boasts an unsurpassed ability to absorb crowds, but the results can be noisy; thankfully, there's no music to compete with conversation.
Old Harcourt Station
Tel: 353 1 476 3374
In the beginning, there was the POD. Or Place of Dance, as the acronym may be. The old Harcourt Street railway station was first converted to an industrial nightclub space in 1993, when Dublin's club culture was only beginning to come into its own. Paul Oakenfold, Marshall Jefferson, and Boy George have all manned the decks, but the venue's latest incarnation is arguably its best. Clubbers now have the run of the 1,300-capacity Tripod (also a live venue), the smaller-scale Crawdaddy, and POD itself—all of which interlink, depending on the night. From private booths to pared-back granite walls and throbbing, gigantic dance spaces, there's something for everyone here.—Pól Ó Conghaile
52 South William Street
Tel: 353 1 672 5946
Drop in to the South William by day, and you're treated to an eclectic pad serving nine kinds of delicious pies (bacon and cabbage, chicken and leek, venison with cranberry). By night, bar stools are removed to facilitate growing crowds; tables and chairs are whisked away to reveal a dance floor. By the time you've clocked the fact that the venue has three floors, it's already too late. The barmen are shaking cocktails, the hipsters holding court, and the smoking area is a study in congestion. "Let's all just session through the recession" is the choice quote from its Web site.—Pól Ó Conghaile
25 Wexford Street
Tel: 353 1 478 0766
Whelan's dates from 1772, so when the current owner bought the place in 1999, you could see why he vowed not to develop it into a tacky "superpub." For a time, too, the vow was kept. Whelan's boasts a magically intimate live venue (Nick Cave, the Fleet Foxes, and local heroes the Redneck Manifesto have all electrified audiences here), and an infamous lock-in was presided over by local musicians like Paddy Casey and recent Oscar-winner Glen Hansard. Then came the expansion, which opened up several extra rooms to drinkers. The pub retains its original 18th-century portal (replete with open fire, wooden bar, and, yes, wallpapered ceiling), and the venue is rockin' as ever, but let's be blunt. It's a superpub. An indie superpub, maybe, but a superpub nonetheless.