City beats

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Seize the night: Ireland’s renowned music scene offers 'craic agus ceol' and much more besides.

As the evenings draw in and Ireland dons its copper hues, Irish nightlife comes into its own, especially throughout the island’s eclectic cities. From spontaneous traditional music sessions in historic pubs, where stout and local ales sit together as easily as old and new friends, to awesome venues spotlighting tomorrow’s U2 and today’s indie gems, Ireland’s social scene truly is one to be heard. If it’s 'craic agus ceol' (which translates as 'fun and music', in Gaelic) that you’re after, you’ve come to the right place.

Traditional music

For the ultimate Irish experience, nothing beats the 'trad seisún', as the traditional music sessions are locally known. The best crop up in some of the most iconic historic pubs in Ireland such as Dublin’s Victorian gem, The Stag’s Head – and some of the oldest, such as Dublin’s Brazen Head or The Quays in Galway. Muscle through the rowdier peripheries and nestle cheek-by-jowl with music-loving locals, the more talented of whom might spontaneously join in on whistle, fiddle or flute.


If that's not up your alley, seek out the open turf fires and hidden corners of Galway’s Tigh Neachtain and you’ll be hard pushed to go home. Some trad sessions are informal affairs, such as in the John Hewitt in Belfast where, if the night is right, you’ll find locals passing the time with a tune or two. Others guarantee nightly entertainment: O’Donoghues in Dublin was famously Rihanna’s favorite, while the professional set-up of The Auld Dubliner in Dublin’s Temple Bar always draws a lively crowd.

Music venues

While the Irish respect the traditions of their past, they certainly don’t live in it, and there’s a rich contemporary music scene to explore. Dublin has no shortage of well-curated intimate stages, from the converted cinema at The Sugar Club to the black box of the Workman’s Club. But it's Whelan’s that has a particularly special place in music lover’s hearts, having been a mecca for emerging indie talent for generations. As fan bases grow, you’ll catch those same bands in later years over at Vicar Street.

Up in Belfast, The Limelight and The Empire are hotspots for live action...

Galway’s scene is more compact but no less vibrant, thanks to the West End’s Roisin Dubh (a true stalwart where you might find multiple performances to choose from in one night) and Monroe’s Live and the Latin Quarter’s 800-year-old Kings Head, with its choice of live music and comedy. Up in Belfast, The Limelight and The Empire are hotspots for live action, while the Oh Yeah Music Centre takes things up a notch, housing a great music venue, recording studio and music exhibition all under the one roof.

Johnnie Foxes Hooley Experience
Music events

For a high-octane, techicoloured extravaganza, you should check out at least one of the several all-singing, all-dancing dinner and show events offered around the country. Perched in the green hills above Dublin, Johnnie Fox’s pub is a special spot, with ridiculously nice views, blazing open fires, thick white-washed walls and a mean seafood chowder on the menu. But it's their Hooley Experience [pictured above], one of Ireland’s longest running, that most out-of-towners come for: dinner comes with a generous serving of Irish traditional and folk music, from rousing ballads to come-all-ye sing-alongs, and some epic Irish dancing.


Closer to the city center, Nancy Hands pub offers Nancy's Shenanigans, with some storytelling thrown into a similar line-up of atmospheric entertainment. Galway’s Trad on the Prom show harnesses the breakneck energy of traditional music, song and dance, with performers from global phenomenons such as Riverdance, Lord of the Dance and The Chieftains dancing up a frenzy on the one stage.

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