Dublin’s Secrets: An Insider’s Guide to the Top Spots

You haven’t come to Ireland if you don’t see a traditional music session, and there are plenty offered up for tourists in the Templebar quarter and beyond. But what no one knows is that just five minutes walk from there, behind the city’s famous Four Courts building, you’ll find the real thing.

By day, Hughes pub serves up no-nonsense dishes of spuds and roast beef to a host of odd characters, barristers, prison officers and journalists working in the courts. By night, it’s the haunt of the city’s “trad” musicians, where they go to play for each other…and anyone lucky enough to find them.

Friday night is best, when up to 20 musicians will take over the front of the bar. All free…apart from whatever drinks you may buy.

Victorian Secrets—Dublin’s Victorian-era bars are among the city’s nicest places to drink. There are older bars in Dublin, but the lavish, ornate interiors and warm ambiance of the Victorian pubs are a special experience. You find inside elegantly crafted counters in highly polished hardwood or made of marble. The walls are paneled in rich, dark timbers with beveled mirrors, elaborate tiling, and decorative brass fittings.

Each has a unique atmosphere and set of stories and some—like Ryan’s on Parkgate Street—are very much on the tourist trail. But to avoid the tour bus crowds, try the Long Hall on Georges Street, an easy walk from Trinity College.

Park Yourself in Style—Everyone goes to St Stephen’s Green, but only two minutes from there, the Iveagh Gardens are the nicest—and most secret—of the city’s parks. It seems only local office workers and the park attendants can find the place, and it’s no wonder they keep it to themselves. Stepping through a small doorway you leave the city behind for sculpted rockeries, sweeping lawns and mature trees.

Walk up Harcourt Street and take the first left down what appears to be a dead end. You’ll see the door in the wall at the end.

Guinness in the Coombe—While the wealthy of old Dublin lived around the “Georgian Mile,” the poorer classes lived on the other side of the city in the Coombe and Liberities neighborhoods. This area is home to the city’s number one tourist attraction: The Guinness Storehouse. Admittedly there’s a great view from the bar, but at $18 entry it’s an expensive “complementary” pint of Guinness. My tip? Keep your 18 bucks and take a walk around here instead. This is the real Dublin, with markets, local grocers, butchers and odd antique stores.

Editor’s note: In the current issue of International Living magazine — which you can subscribe to here — Eoin’s full insider’s guide to the Irish capital includes even more Dublin secrets.

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