Nightlife & the Arts in Dublin

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Dublin Nightlife

Long before Stephen Dedalus's excursions into "Nighttown" in James Joyce's Ulysses, Dublin was proud of its lively after-hours scene, particularly its thriving pubs. But the now tamed Celtic Tiger economy, once the envy of all Europe, turned Dublin into one of the most happening destinations on the whole continent. Things have calmed down in the last few years, but the city's 900-plus pubs are still its main source of entertainment; many public houses in the city center have live music—from rock to jazz to traditional Irish.

Live music has replaced DJs in a lot of Dublin nightspots, but in Dublin's dance clubs the dominant sound is still hip-hop and house music, and the crowd that flocks to them every night of the week is of the trendy, under-30 generation. Leeson Street—just off St. Stephen's Green, south of the Liffey, and known as "the strip"—is a slightly frayed and uncool nightclub area aimed at the over-30 crowd that revs up at pub closing time and stays active until 4 am. The dress code at Leeson Street's dance clubs is informal, but jeans and sneakers are not welcome. Most of these clubs are licensed only to sell wine, and the prices can be exorbitant (up to €30 for a mediocre bottle); the upside is that most don't charge to get in.

Theater is an essential element of life in the city that was home to O'Casey, Synge, W.B. Yeats, and Beckett. Today Dublin has seven major theaters that reproduce the Irish "classics," and also present newer fare from the likes of Martin McDonagh and Conor McPherson. Opera, long overlooked, now has a home in the restored old Gaiety Theatre.

Check the Irish Times and the Evening Herald newspapers for event listings, as well the Big Issue and the Event Guide—weekly guides to film, theater, and musical events around the city. In peak season, consult the free Fáilte Ireland (Irish Tourist Board) leaflet "Events of the Week."

Despite rampant remodeling during the boom years, the traditional pub has steadfastly clung to its role as the primary center of Dublin's social life. The city has nearly 1,000 pubs ("licensed tabernacles," writer Flann O'Brien calls them). And although the vision of elderly men enjoying a chin wag over a creamy pint of stout has become something of a rarity, there are still plenty of places where you can enjoy a quiet (or not so quiet) drink and a chat. Last drinks are called at 11:30 pm Monday to Thursday, 12:30 am Friday and Saturday, and 11 pm on Sunday. Some city-center pubs have extended opening hours and don't serve last drinks until 1:45 am.

As a general rule, the area between Grafton and Great George's streets is a gold mine for classy pubs. Another good bet is the Temple Bar district (though some of the newer ones are all plastic and mirrors). And if it's real spit-on-the-floor hideaways you're after, head across the Liffey to the areas around Parnell Square or Smithfield. Beware of the tourist-trap, faux-traditional pubs where you can hardly hear the music for the roar of the seven flat-screen TVs.

Most pubs serve food at lunchtime, many throughout the day and into the early evening. This is an inexpensive way to eat out, and the quality of the food is often quite good.

If you will need late-night transportation, try to arrange it with your hotel before you go out.

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