One of Ireland’s most enchanting traditions is its music. From Riverdance to Celtic Woman to the Chieftains, Irish music has made its way around the world, delighting audiences with toe-tapping rhythms and gorgeous melodies. But the best way to experience the music is still in the old-fashioned Irish pub, the way it’s been for centuries. Musicians gather to play their fiddles, flutes, and accordions in informal “sessions,” where anything could happen and anyone could show up. So when you’re in Ireland, make sure to visit these pubs for a night you’ll never forget!
The Cobblestone, 77 King St N, Smithfield, Dublin. “Trad” (traditional music) is played here 7 days a week, starting as early as 2pm on weekends and running until close. You’ll often find the owner himself playing the flute, along with some of Dublin’s best fiddlers and accordion players. Plus, the back room hosts concerts from touring folk acts on the weekends. And with craft beers from all over the country on tap, you might even work up the courage to sing a song or two.
O’Donoghue’s, 15 Merrion St, Dublin. This is the place where it all began for two of the most famous Irish bands in the world, the Dubliners and the Chieftains. O’Donoghue’s was at the heart of the folk revival of the 1960s and has hosted a “who’s who” of Irish musicians over the years. Now it wears its history proudly on its sleeve, with traditional music sessions every night.
TigCoili, Mainguard St, Galway. Located in the heart of the city, TigCoili is one of the most popular pubs in Galway, and for good reason. Stellar sessions every night of the week and a well-stocked bar make this a must-visit. Look on the walls for pictures of some of the well-known musicians who have dropped by over the years, and then look around the room; they may be there in person!
Sin É, 8 Coburg St, Cork. “Sin É” is Irish Gaelic for “that’s it,” a phrase often spoken at the end of traditional Irish songs. You’re bound to hear a few of the locals chime in with a song of lost love or nostalgia for days gone by. The cozy quarters mean you’ll be up close and personal with the musicians, and you’ll feel like a part of the group in no time. Cork has its own unique style of music, along with a fierce rivalry with Dublin; anyone there will be quick to tell you about why Cork is the “real capital” of Ireland.
The Roadside Tavern, 17 Rooska, Lisdoonvarna. While it doesn’t have music every night of the week like some of the others on this list, what it lacks in quantity it more than makes up in quality. County Clare has one of the richest musical heritages of any county in Ireland, and Lisdoonvarna is a popular getaway for people across the country. That adds up to weekends filled with great music and great “craic,” as the Irish like to say. (It means “fun” or “excitement.”) The Roadside Tavern has sessions on Friday and Saturday nights and also has excellent food, which earned it the title of “Best Gastropub in Clare” in 2016.