Dublin is a city steeped in history and is probably most famous for its incredible nightlife, cold Guinness and fun music pubs. There are endless things to do on a weekend in Dublin, and some lively areas to stay in.
But did you know there are some seriously unique and historical pubs in Dublin to be found, that used to serve another purpose? When you travel to Dublin, you’ll want to check out some of these great drinking spots!
Here we list 13 unique pubs in Dublin that were once music shops, morgues, and even a pig slaughterhouse. Crazy, right?!
Here Are The Best Pubs in Dublin for Unique Bar Lovers
In This Post:
1. The Market Bar
Most people in Dublin think they know the history behind this 300-year old bar. Most people presume it used to be a Market and thus the name.
Most people in Dublin are wrong!
The truth about this one might surprise you, and will most likely gross you out a little.
Those tall ceilings and huge open plan floor space were built that way for a reason. The Market Bar, one of Dublin’s most loved and happening haunts, used to be a pig abattoir.
That’s right, a place where they slaughtered thousands of pigs.
2. The Brazen Head
The Brazen Head boasts that it is Ireland’s oldest pub, dating all the way back to a coach house on the site in 1198.
While it’s unclear how much of the original 11th-century coach house is still intact, there is a palpable sense of history within these timeworn walls.
Drink here and you will know you’re sipping pints in the same establishment as many of Ireland’s greatest literaries such as James Joyce, Brendan Behan and Jonathan Swift.
Who knows, you might be sitting in the seat once used by Daniel O’Connell or Michael Collins, as they plotted Ireland’s Independence.
Regardless, this is one of Dublin’s most popular pubs and is a great spot for nightly live music.
Address: 20 Bridge Street Lower, Dublin 8. Click here to find the Brazen Head on the map.
3. Kavanaghs Pub
Kavanaghs Pub in Glasnevin (also known as the Gravediggers) has been run by the same family since 1833, and it all that time it really has not changed very much.
The pub gains its nickname thanks to its proximity to the famous Glasnevin graveyard, home to over 1 million Dubliner’s, including the Irish rebels previously mentioned who drank in The Brazen Head.
The name also came about after the gravediggers used to knock on the back wall of the pub to ask for a pint. They would then be served through the railings linking the pub and the graveyard.
The pub was also used for the filming of Quackser Fortune has a Cousin in the Bronx featuring Gene Wilder (pictured above) and Margot Kidder, who are better known as their blockbuster movie characters Willy Wonka and Lois Lane.
Click here to find Kavanaghs Pub on the map.
4. The Confession Box
I had actually never heard of this pub until a wise Dublin tour guide alerted me to its existence a few weeks ago.
While the name stems from its close proximity to the Pro-Cathedral, rumor also has it (it always does in Ireland!) that the excommunicated rebels in the war of independence used to come here to receive Communion from sympathetic priests.
Nowadays, you are more likely to come across friendly locals or the odd lost tourist enjoying lively conversations than any priests or patriotic, Irish rebels!
Make sure to sample the Guinness on tap here while enjoying the decor and a good chat with the locals.
Address: 88 Marlborough Street, Dublin 1. Click here to find The Confession Box on the map.
5. The Garage Bar
Update 2020: Sadly, this bar closed its doors.
The Garage Bar in Temple Bar is one of the more unusual pubs in Dublin in that the decor is unlike any other bar you will find in the city, or throughout the country.
The bar was built-in a (you guessed it!) disused garage and the owners have somehow managed to keep the ‘grungy garage look’ intact.
During the day, you will not be able to find this bar. The shutters come down and it’s disguised to the world. At night, however, the shutters come up, the colorful lights are turned on and the funky decor is revealed.
Think barrels and empty kegs for seats, sawdust strewn all over the floor, and 1950’s petrol pumps to add further character.
The music policy is simply rock and roll, and some of Dublin’s top DJ’s can be found here from Wednesday until Sunday right up until 2.30 am.
Address: Essex St East, Dublin 1
How could you not love a pub that was named after a wild deer that went deranged on the streets of Dublin and stuck its head into the door of this building?
A pub that, rumor has it, used that same deer’s head to decorate the interior and even named their fine drinking establishment after it!
Also, this is one of Dublin’s oldest pubs — The Stags Head is said to date back to 1770.
It’s known for the preservation of its Victorian interior and the restored advertising mosaic on the footpath on Dame street, some distance from the pub’s doors.
The pub has also appeared in many films, notably A Man of No Importance, starring Albert Finney and Educating Rita starring Michael Caine and Julie Walters.
7. McNeill’s Pub
The Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854, at the Battle of Balaclava, remains one of the most infamous events in military history.
It may come as a surprise to most people, however, that the fabled bugle that sounded the charge was not only made in Dublin but was sounded by a Dubliner.
The famous bugle was in fact made by J. McNeill in his music store on Dublin’s Capel Street, where a pub of the same name still operates.
To read more on the fascinating history of this music store (and pub!), head on over to the Come Here To Me site, which is a wealth of information when it comes to Dublin history and culture.
Apparently, a music store by the same name has reopened at this location and can be found above the pub. History lives on! Click here to find this Dublin pub on the map. Address: 140 Capel Street, Dublin 1
8. The Dropping Well
This pub, located in Milltown in South Dublin, has a long history. Over the years the building has had many uses, but its first days were also its darkest.
The historic pub owes its origins to the Great Famine of 1845 – 1849, which was when it was first licensed as a Community Morgue in ‘Black ’47’.
The Great Famine, having ravaged the countryside since 1845 reached epidemic proportions in Dublin by the early summer of 1847 (when it was given the name Black ’47).
Then owners John Howe and his wife approached the authorities to apply for a liquor license and offered to set up a Community Morgue station on the banks of the Dodder River at Classon’s Bridge.
Their request was granted and The Dropping Well Pub opened its doors to the public that summer. The Dropping Well has quite a long history, click here to learn more about it. And, click here to find it on the map. Address: Milltown, Dublin 6
9. The Czech Inn
Here is a pub that many people know, thanks to being situated so close to Dublin’s Temple Bar, but very few know the true history of.
The Czech Inn is situated on the site of Isolde’s Tower. Sound familiar? It should as the name comes from the old Nordic legend of Isolde and Tristan.
Isolde was the Irish princess who was supposed to wed England’s King Mark, but after drinking a love potion she subsequently fell in love with a knight named Tristan, who was delivering her to England to her husband-to-be.
Realizing she could not fulfill her love for Tristan, Isolde forced herself to drink a death potion. Then, realizing his doomed fate, Tristan too drank a death potion, or so the story goes!
You can see an incredible digitized video of what old Dublin and Isolde’s Tower would have looked like if the city walls were still intact here. It makes for a fascinating peek into Irish history.
Click here to find the Czech Inn pub on the map. Address: Essex gate, Temple Bar, Dublin 8
10. The Church
Only in Ireland can you drink a pint of Guinness in a church where the maker of Guinness was once famously wed.
Well, St Mary’s Church on the corner of Mary Street and Jervis Street in Dublin city centre happens to be where Arthur Guinness was married in 1761, exactly 2 years after Guinness was first founded.
And what was once a church, in true Irish style, is now one of Dublin’s most stunning bars. Complete with original stained glass windows and organ, it’s basically still a church just with the seats removed and a large bar in the centre!
Click here to find the Church bar and restaurant on the map. Address: Junction of Mary St & Jervis St, Dublin 1.
11. The Bank
Another historic building that has been converted into a fine drinking establishment, The Bank on College Green is a splendid example of Victorian architecture.
The pub, which was once a banking hall, is actually owned by the same people who run The Dropping Well.
The site, which has been occupied since Viking times, was bought by the Belfast Bank in 1892 who took 2 years to turn the building into a grand Victorian-era banking hall.
Even today if you ramble downstairs to the nether regions you will find the vaults which have been retained as a museum-type feature.
Click here to find The Bank on the map. Address: 20 College Green, Dublin 2
12. Darkey Kelly’s
One of the most enduring legends surrounding Dublin has to be that of the witch Darkey Kelly. For generations, Darkey Kelly was regarded as a woman who was burned at the stake for witchcraft after she accused the notorious Sheriff of Dublin Simon Luttrell of fathering her baby.
But new research claims she was in fact Dublin’s first female serial killer.
Apparently she was executed for the murders of at least five men whose bodies were found hidden in a brothel she owned in Dublin, on the grounds of what is now Darkey Kelly’s Pub!
Whether you believe she was Ireland’s first witch or Ireland’s first serial killer, the pub is certainly worth a visit! Click here to find Darkey Kelly’s on the map. Address: Copper Alley, Fishamble Street, Dublin 2.
13. Davy Byrnes
The origin of Davy Byrnes pub can be traced all the way back to the 25th March 1722, when Richard Span gave a lease on the farmland premises to Issac Eustaunie, a Jew whose family had migrated to Ireland during the 18th century.
Duke Street, named after the first Duke of Grafton – who also lent his name to Grafton Street – was little more than a country lane at the time.
In fact, a lease from 1784 describes the Davy Byrnes as “a Brickhouse complete with tenements and farmyard” but belonging to the parish of St.Anne, within the City of Dublin.
It’s hard to believe sitting outside this pub today, so close to the hustle and bustle of Grafton street, that it was no more than a farmhouse a little more than 200 years ago!
Click here to find Davy Byrnes Pub on the map. Address: 21 Duke Street, Dublin 1.
Hopefully this list gave you some tips for the best, most unique pubs in Dublin. Enjoy a Guinness, some conversation, and a night out in one of Dublin’s most interesting and historical watering holes. If there are any pubs that we missed, feel free to leave a comment below!
Some of the images in this article are courtesy of Shutterstock.com. Check them out for royalty-free images and videos!
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