Drinks With A Difference – Ireland’s Most Unique Bars

Gathering in your local pub is a time honoured tradition. We celebrate and commiserate in our nation’s pubs. All across the country we watch some of biggest sporting events on screen. We enjoy girls nights out and the lads enjoy laid back drinks, all in the comfort of our local boozer.

Sipping on perfect pints and killer cocktails, in places were the barman knows your order before you’ve taken your coat off (or is that just me?), our love for our pubs go beyond a place to simply grab a drink. We look for bars that cater to our taste buds and imagination.

Ireland is full of snazzy bars, slick cocktail clubs and local pubs where a strange face across the door is an unusual sight. To celebrate pubs of all shapes and sizes, we’ve put together a tipple-tastic list of Ireland’s most unique bars. Whether you’re looking for Ireland’s oldest pub or retro arcade halls, we’ve got you covered.

Token, Dublin

Sitting in the up-and-coming neighbourhood of Smithfield is Token, a restaurant and bar filled with old school arcade games. Downstairs is a pinball parlour for those pinball wizards among you. Maybe you’re a dab hand at Tekken or Pac Man.

The menu is complete comfort food with a restaurant twist. There are great choices for vegans and veggies too. Vegan hotdogs or cauliflower and avocado tacos are delicious options, even for the carnivores. Don’t leave without indulging in a deep fried Oreo bomb for dessert.

After you’ve filled up on bites, dance your dinner off on the Dance Machine (a personal favourite of mine). What’s even better is you can snap up a main dish, side, beer and tokens for ten games for less than €20!

The Shire, Kerry

They say Kerry is the Kingdom and they may just be right as it’s home to The Shire Bar. Inspired by the thrilling world of J.R.R. Tolkien, enter this pub through the Hobbit Hole and be transported into the world of Lord Of The Rings.

The level of LOTR commitment in this Kilarney bar is in full force, with the pub even having its own Shire Beers on tap, such as Frodo’s Larger, Bilbo’s Beer and Gandalf’s Ale.

Sit back and relax with a Middle Earth Mojito and recall your favourite scenes from the epic film franchise – they serve tasty grub here too.

Sean’s Bar, Athlone

Dating back to 900 AD, Sean’s Bar was named by the Guinness Book of World Records as Ireland’s oldest bar.

When renovating the bar, a section of the original wattle and daub wall used to build the bar was found, as well as old coins used as barter. A part of this wall can still be seen inside, with the remaining walls and coins on display in the National Museum.

Full of character, Sean’s is a homely pub where you will find visitors warming up by the open turf fire and musicians huddled in the corner playing Irish ballads. It’s a pub to sip a pint of the black stuff and wile away the hours.

The Crown Liquor Saloon, Belfast

This iconic Belfast watering hole dating back to the 1880’s looks as impressive inside as it does out. It’s one of the last traditional Victorian gin palaces in the country.

Owned by the National Trust, this bar has been carefully restored to its former glory. Stained and painted glass windows encase carved mahogany booths, intricate tile mosaics and even features original gas lanterns.

Grab a chair in one of the Crown Liquor Saloon’s many snugs and sip a drink or enjoy a traditional meal in a bar full of unique character.

The Hacienda Bar, Dublin

I have personally walked by this spot hundreds of times, always thinking it was closed down. The doors are never open and yet it’s incredibly well maintained for a disused building.

A quick press of a buzzer and the door opens to Dublin’s best kept secret, the Hacienda Bar. Taking its name from the Spanish white walled exterior, this relaxed Dublin pub is a haven for celebrities passing through the city. The vibe is unpretentious and laid back, with visitors chilling out with a beer while playing pool.

You’ll find owner Shay (dressed rather fantastically) mingling with top stars, maybe playing his guitar or even starring as himself in one of the many of the films and TV shows that have been recorded in this iconic pub.

Mary’s Bar & Hardware

This unassuming city centre bar sits on the site which once was the Wicklow Hotel, a regular watering hole for Micheal Collins.

Walking through the door of Mary’s, you’re met by a wall of bits and bobs – nails, tins of paint, cans of Brasso and all manner of DIY essentials.

Spend a while enjoying one of Dublin’s best ham & cheese toasties paired with a pint. Make your trip to Mary’s worthwhile and pick up that spare light bulb you’ve been meaning to buy.

You can read our review of this cosy Dublin pub here.

Barcadia, Cork

Snack on the tastiest comfort food while you go head to head in epic battle on one of the many arcade games – choose from ping pong and the much loved classics such as Street Fighter, Space Invaders and Tetris.

Your inner 90’s child will be filled with nostalgia as you hop from game to game in this retro arcade. The fully stocked bar ready to whip up a tempting cocktail is always a bonus.

Fuel your body for battle with loaded burgers, hand made pizza and sweet treats. If you’re looking for an action packed night out, Barcadia is the place to be.

Fitzpatrick’s, Louth

Fitzpatrick’s Bar & Restaurant is more than just a place to eat and drink. This award-winning gastro pub is full of Irish memorabilia, road sign posts and beer gardens overflowing with colourful flowers.

The Shannronan bar is a self contained bar right beside Fitzpartick’s, perfect for when you want a quiet drink in a comfy snug. If like me you don’t want to leave your dog at home there’s even a VIP (Very Important Pooch) area, where you can leave your dog.

You’ll spend hours here exploring the gardens and finding nooks and crannies full of surprises. When you’ve worked up an appetite, feast on locally caught Carlingford seafood.

Did we mention there’s even a petting farm that’s sure to entertain the children (and the adults!)?

The Hidden Naggin

While this totally unique pub has no fixed abode it’s still a quirky little hang out. A traditional Irish cottage pub on wheels, this cool cottage can be hired as your very own private bar.

The Hidden Naggin features a classic wood panelled bar, a fireplace and a cabinet full of fine porcelain an Irish mammy would be proud of.

If you’re looking for a unique addition to your special celebration or just want to gather your closest friends for a completely memorable evening, this will certainly impress.

The Dawson Lounge, Dawson St

You’d be forgiven if you passed this hole in the wall. Hailed as Dublin’s Smallest Pub, the Dawson Lounge, this low key bar is a favourite hang out for those in the know.

Descending down the red carpeted stairs, you’re met with pockets of conversation and a small but perfectly stocked bar with classic beers and spirits.

It’s especially delightful on a cold evening when you slip in the door to take shelter in this Dublin institution.

The Crosskeys Inn, Antrim

Dating back to 1654  The Crosskeys Inn is one of Ireland’s oldest thatched pubs and is famous for its traditional music sessions.

Step back in time as you enter this historic pub. Sit by the open turf fire and sip the hours away while you imagine the stories of the generations of visitors before you.

Listen to the locals storytelling and singing sessions or during the summer, enjoy the many BBQs that take place outdoors.

The Barbers, Stoneybatter

This trendy bar is a vibrant hang out spot holding regular quiz and music nights. The Barbers has lots of craft beers and spirits to suit all tastes.

Why not kill two birds with one stone and pop in for a quick short back and sides? It’s not just a catchy name, The Barbers quite literally is a barbers.

You can get ready for your night out with a stylish new hairdo followed up by an ice cold pint. What more could you want?

The Gravediggers, Dublin

Open since 1833, John Kavanagh’s is known locally as The Gravediggers . This is a pub that has seen many famous faces pass through its doors, including Gene Wilder when he filmed ‘Quackser Fortune has a cousin in the Bronx’.

This iconic pub once served pints through a hatch to the gravediggers next door in the cemetery (hence the name). It’s an old school affair here, no music, no TV and it’s cash only.

Some might say I am slightly biased as The Gravediggers is my local haunt, but it has a distinctly charming appeal like no other.

In the kitchen, Ciaran Kavanagh serves up his famous Coddle, it even got the seal of approval by the late great Anthony Bourdain. Don’t leave without ordering one of his sister Ann’s famous desserts.


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