O'Donoghue's bar, located just off St. Stephen's Green in Merrion Row, is quite simply a Dublin institution, and a legend in its own lifetime. To most tourists visiting the city, O'Donoghues is the epitome of everything that an Irish bar should be, and no self-respecting visitor would consider their visit complete without having visited this most famous watering hole at least once.
I'm constantly dropping tourists of all nationalities at O'Donoghue's. Over the years its name has spread worldwide (by word of mouth) to the extent that it's probably one of the best known Irish bars on the planet.
And a typical old fashioned Irish bar it most certainly is. O'Donoghue's pay no heed to modern trends and is a really old fashioned "spit and sawdust" establishment. It has the most basic of amenities, and toilets (at least the men's) that you need a clothes peg over your nose and a pair of welly boots to visit!
There's no fancy seating, carpets, and soft lighting in this boozer, although in fairness, if this is what you're after you can now visit the newish extension that has recently been opened at the rear of the building. (But if it's a luxury lounge bar you're after, you'd be better served visiting the "Horseshoe Bar" in the Shelbourne Hotel in Stephen's Green, which is only about a 100 yards up the road)
But it's the public bar in O'Donoghue's that the tourists come to see and which the locals love, with its worn linoleum floors, walls stained brown by the smoke from millions of cigarettes, and wooden bar counters worn down by the passing of countless millions of pints of the black stuff. Mind you, the walls won't be getting any browner from the fag smoke since Ireland became the first European country to introduce a smoking ban a few years back!
O'Donoghue's has the reputation of selling one of the best pints of Guinness in the city and at the weekends if you want to gain entry to this bar at all then it is essential to arrive almost at opening time.
So what is the secret behind its amazing popularity with locals and visitors alike?
The answer is music; the Irish variety. It was in this bar that many famous legends in the Irish and Folk scenes first plied their trade, and learnt the skills that were to go on to make them household names. In the late 1950's and early 60's, it was here that Ronnie Drew and Luke Kelly first met and played sessions together, the fledgling band later to go on to become the world famous Dubliners.
In more recent times it was from here that the Furey Brothers emerged, and where Irish music legend Christy Moore honed his musical talent, and to this day the pub is often used by big names from the Irish music scene. Their pictures line all the walls, with some amazing snaps of incredibly youthful looking stars before they made the big time.
There is also an absolutely colossal collection of bank notes from all over the world stuck on the walls behind the bar, and if you are a foreign visitor, you can be sure that the barman will ask you for a sample of your countries currency. (That is if they don't have it already)
The bar is constantly thronged with a real mixed bag of punters, consisting of locals, tourists, the office crowd, the music set, and even the odd politician from Government Buildings which are just across the road. It is not unheard of for the Irish Prime Minister (An Taoiseach) Bertie Ahern, himself a native Dubliner, to pop in here for a swift one at the close of government business.
In the evening you are certain to get a bit of live music, with many musicians and singers of every kind simply joining in the mostly impromptu sessions. If you feel you have a voice, you can even give it a go yourself. (Beware though, they're a critical crowd, and expect the best!)
The back bar is more civilised, with all the amenities that you would expect from a modern hostelry. Comfortable seating, carpets, and even light bar snacks and meals. So you can escape into here if it all gets a bit much for you in the lively public bar.
One very solid piece of advice. Don't miss O'Donoghues if you ever visit Dublin, but if nature calls, then head for the toilets in the back bar.