Historic Pubs of Dublin: The Brazen Head, The Palace Bar and The Stag’s Head

When finding out where to drink in Dublin, I didn’t consult a book or website. I turned to a dead man.

Frank McCourt,  the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Angela’s Ashes, hosted a PBS documentary about the historic pubs of Dublin in 2008. He passed away a year later. Where ever he drank, I’m going to drink. If it killed me, at least I would be in good company.

I got a $1 DVD copy at a local book sale, ripped it onto my laptop and then uploaded it to my iPod. In the program, he visited 13 pubs in Dublin. I got to 9 of them in my four night stay. I also needed to visit the craft beer bars and a cocktail lounge along the way. Indeed, I live to tell the tail.

The Brazen Head is a no-brainer in visiting Dublin. It’s the oldest pub in Dublin, dating back to 1198. It’s more museum  with historical significance then pub. In 1803, a group of Irishman met there to plot a revolt against the British. One of those men, Robert Emmet, was caught and hanged. His ghost haunts The Brazen Head. Today, Irishman met there to revolt against their wives and girlfriends.

The pint of Guinness is the only thing you need to buy to wander around and study the structure and vintage photographs of Michael Collins, James Connolly, Jonathan Swift and James Joyce. It’s expanded to include an outdoor area and rooms for dinner. I suggest just getting a pint. There are far better eating places in town.

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Built in 1823, The Palace Bar on Fleet Street was appealing to me because it’s where journalists frequent. Writers from the nearby Irish Times would spend their lunch and post-work hours there to talk about the day’s news. Caricatures of the great Irish writers and reporters hang from the wall. You’ll see Patrick Kavanagh, Brendan Behan and Flann O’Brien honored on the walls.

During the day time, you can enjoy the back room’s glass ceiling. At night, the mirror dividers at the bar provide separation between parties. It’s one of the best preserved Victorian pubs in Dublin.

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There’s seems to be a pub named The Stag’s Head in every city in America. The O.G. Stag’s Head in Dublin dates back to 1770. It’s where McCourt would drink when he was a student at nearby Trinity College.

It’s technically in the tourist hell of Temple Bar. On my visit, I saw an old guy pissing in the alley way next to it. On the way out, I saw a chick puking in the same alley way.

In any event, inside is a magnificent Victorian pub. I suspect it’s the prototype of what fake American Irish pubs in American want to be. There’s bright brown and red wood,  leather seating, stained glass windows and brass fixtures all around. Although, I don’t think the TVs broadcasting American football matches was something held over from the 18th Century.

As legend has it, a hued of deer got loose on the streets of Dublin. One stag got his head stuck in the building and thus The Stag’s Head was born. Always print the legend.

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