It may be somewhat of a stereotype, but that doesn’t mean it’s untrue: live music is Ireland’s lifeblood. For centuries tunes and songs have been passed down through the generations and few countries can claim a richer musical heritage.
But Irish music is far from a heritage attraction, it is a living, breathing entity, and on show every night across the country. Here’s our pick of the best music venues in Ireland to hear it for yourself – from bustling pubs in Dublin city centre to favourite folk bars in Dingle and Clonakilty.
Top 10 music bars and gig venues in Ireland
1. Whelan’s, Wexford Street, Dublin
Grab a stool at the bar or lean pint in hand on one of the wooden partitions at Dublin’s indie HQ, where folk musicians play in the bar downstairs nightly. Upstairs is the more boisterous main stage, where you might just encounter the next big thing. It happened with the Arctic Monkeys, after all…
Read more: 11 best bars in Dublin
2. Sin é’, 8 Coburg Street, Cork
The long-established home of Irish traditional music in Cork city, Sin é first opened its doors way back in 1889 and has been devoted to traditional Irish music ever since. There’s live music every night from 6.30pm until close, and on Sundays at 5.30pm.
Read more: 17 best pubs and bars in Ireland
3. Roisin Dubh, Lower Dominick Street, Galway
All manner of Irish and international names have played the Roisin Dubh (Black Rose), from Lisa Hannigan to Ed Sheeran. Whatever night you’re in town there’s sure to be something happening here. Considered Whelan’s western counterpart, be sure to check the website for listings, including stand-up comedy and open mic nights, as well as big-name shows. There’s an extensive roof terrace too.
4. Dolan’s, 3/4 Dock Road, Limerick
When it opened in the 1990s, Dolan’s was initially a showcase for the city’s ever-expanding traditional music scene. But this stellar venue’s reputation has grown stratospherically over the years, with acts such as Kasabian, Snow Patrol and Franz Ferdinand playing here. The Main Pub is the hub, with live traditional music seven nights a week, while the Warehouse attracts the big names. Upstairs at Dolan’s and the Kasbah Social Club host everything from rock and pop to private events.
5. Cyprus Avenue, Caroline Street, Cork
This Cork venue may be small, but the musicians who have played here certainly aren’t, from The Go! Team and Iain Archer, to Mumford & Sons and Spiritualized. A 500-capacity venue since 2018, it features live music seven nights a week.
6. The Cobblestone, 77 King Street North, Smithfield, Dublin
In Dublin and want to hear authentic live traditional music? There’s no better place than the Coblbestone, a proper hole in the wall boozer with wooden floors and laidback nightly sessions (generally around 9pm). The back room hosts a line up of gigs, from bluegrass to folk and, on Wednesdays, the Balaclava sessions, where you can learn how to play Irish music yourself.
7. De Barra’s Folk Club, Clonakilty, Co. Cork
De Barra’s Folk Club in seaside Clonakilty has earned a musical reputation far beyond the confines of its West Cork location, thanks to long-standing associations with Noel Redding (the Jimi Hendrix Experience), Paddy Keenan (The Bothy Band) and folk artists Christy Moore and Roy Harper. Come on a Monday for the weekly traditional Irish music session, or Tuesday for the acoustic sets.
8. O’Sullivan’s Courthouse, Dingle, Co. Kerry
No TV, no juke box, no pool table, just good honest live music and a darn fine pint. The nightly traditional sessions often feature Tommy O’Sullivan and a revolving cast of his musician friends, while on Sundays an early set starts around 6pm.
9. O’Donoghue’s, 15 Merrion Row, Dublin
Ok, so it does attract the tourists, but there’s a reason for those crowds – this is one of Dublin’s best traditional sessions and one you won’t forget in a hurry. O’Donoghue’s was a favourite haunt of the Dubliners, a major part of the Irish music revival of the 1960s, and today remains devoted to bringing Irish music to the masses. Come early for the nightly session, which generally starts around 9.30pm.
10. The Reel Inn, Donegal Town, Co. Donegal
There’s always something on at the northwest’s best traditional music pub. You’ll find plenty of characters here, not to mention a cracking pint of Guinness or real ale, and there’s a good mix of tourists and locals. This is an old school pub so stick to the pints and prepare to spend the whole night listening to some top toe-tapping tunes.
Read more about the great things to see and do in Ireland and discover new holiday destinations right on your doorstep:
- 10 of the most beautiful beaches in Ireland
- Royal stays: The Most Luxurious Castle Hotels in Ireland
- Weekend Breaks in Ireland
- The Best Festivals in Ireland
Written by Helen Ochyra for Skyscanner.
*Revised October 2019. Information correct at the time of publication and is subject to change and/or availability.
10 of the best music bars and gig venues in Ireland
|1. Whelan’s||Wexford Street, Dublin|
|2. Sin é’||8 Coburg Street, Cork|
|3. Roisin Dubh||Lower Dominick Street, Galway|
|4. Dolan’s||3/4 Dock Road, Limerick|
|5. Cyprus Avenue||Caroline Street, Cork|
|6. The Cobblestone||77 King Street North, Smithfield, Dublin|
|7. De Barra’s Folk Club||Clonakilty, Co. Cork|
|8. O’Sullivan’s Courthouse||Dingle, Co. Kerry|
|9. O’Donoghue’s||15 Merrion Row, Dublin|
|10. The Reel Inn||Donegal Town, Co. Donegal|