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Nights out in Ireland come in various shapes and sizes. The crowded pubs of Dublin’s Temple Bar – scene of a million-and-one stag dos – tend to be aimed squarely at city-break visitors, and stand in stark contrast to the un-gentrified pubs of rural Ireland, where peat fires still burn and there are traditional music sessions.
If the latter is the kind of experience you’re after, it’s well worth doing a bit of research beforehand to establish on which nights certain pubs encourage music sessions. If you find yourself at an authentic night, where drinkers with fiddles and other instruments outnumber those without, it’s something very special.
Guinness remains omnipresent throughout, but has a lower share of Ireland’s drinks market than it did a decade ago (roughly 20% now compared to 30% then). This illustrates a couple of contrasting points. The black stuff is still a major part of a night out in Ireland, but the sheer variety of other options behind the bar is rising, helped partly by the prominence of everything from small-batch craft brews to artisan whiskies.
Certain cities are particularly renowned for their nightlife. Ireland’s second city Cork has a generous supply of busy, atmospheric pubs and clubs, and in the west Galway City is renowned for its young, student-heavy population, which brings a lively energy of its own.
Elsewhere, Kilkenny is a cultured cathedral city with a compact but animated centre, while of course capital city Dublin still enjoys a reputation for Ireland’s best nightlife.
Naturally, despite the old joke that God invented whisky so the Irish wouldn’t rule the world, evening entertainment in Ireland isn’t purely about the pubs. Dublin has an excellent theatre and arts scene – the Theatre Royal dates way back to the 1660s – while Cork has regular opera, music, dance and drama of its own.