The snug is an integral part of Irish pub design. The feature dates back to the Victorian era when a private space was needed for those who did not want to be seen in a public bar. This included women, the clergy, and perhaps police.
These days the small rooms function as a small private space that can fit only a handful of people and offers private and direct access to the bar. While there are many remaining original Victorian era snugs there are plenty of newly created snugs that fit the bill nicely.
There are also a number of small rooms or alcoves that have been named ‘the snug’ despite not being attached the the bar. This would suggest that the design and function of the snug is changing somewhat and there now exists the old and new style of snugs. We’ve decided to include both the traditional and the new in this list and we’ll let you know which is which.
If we’re missing any new or old snugs, please let us know via social media or through firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ll start with The Palace, this fine example of the Victorian era pub in terms of the main bar itself and of course, the snug. This snug is on the smaller end of things with space for around 4-6 people to sit comfortably. There’s a door into the bar that can be closed should you want it. This snug is decorated in paintings and photos of famous literary and journalism figures to have graced the doors of this pub, including Patrick Kavanagh and Con Houlihan.
There’s no way of knowing whether the snug is occupied save to take a look in the door or ask at the bar, so you’re likely to get a few interruptions of unknown heads if you do manage to get the snug.
You can see a 360 video that we did of the snug here. Link.
The Swan on Aungier Street dates back to 1661 and its current design originates in the Victorian period, the heyday of the snug. Their snug area has an entrance at the Aungier st end of the building and a doorway into the rest of the main bar as well. The table in the area is an interesting modified barrel around which you can comfortably sit several people, as well as more standing nearby.
Other features include an old bell that was used to call for service and drawers where tea and other items would have been stored. The floor is a mixture of hard wood and mosaic that is on display throughout the pub.
Toners on Baggot Street’s snug has actually won an award for being Dublin’s best. It was also featured in an RTE segment on the show ‘Capital D’ as an example of an excellent snug. And excellent it is. The back panel bears a quote from W.B. Yeats poem ‘The Lake Isle of Inisfree’. This is famously the only pub the poet ever visited. He and Oliver St John Gogarty shared a drink in the snug.
Today it looks much the same as it always has, with a decent amount of room for maybe 6-8 people. There’s a view behind the bar where you can order your drink and admire the fine wood work of the bar top and the various drawers that would at one point have contained tea leaves and other items.
Doheny and Nesbitt
Doheny and Nesbitt has the distinction (to our knowledge anyway) of having the most snugs, 4 in total. 2 exist in their original Victorian front bar and 2 more in the replica Victorian bar at the back. All provide comfort and a degree of privacy.
One of the snugs in the front bar has framed cheques from the 1980s when during a banking strike pubs became the unofficial banks of Ireland. These cheques were kept hold of as a keepsake to remember this unique quirk of pub history.
Bowes snug on Fleet Street was at one point the newest snug in the city. We’ll have to check, but since Bowes is in fact an original Victorian era pub this ‘new’ snug may simply have been replacing one that used to exist in the same part of the pub.
This snug is devoted to whiskey and is the perfect setting to enjoy one of the 200 or so that they stock (including their own). On the wall you’ll see a map of the world with different whiskey making traditions represented.
The Old Storehouse
The Old Storehouse is the only pub on this list to have a snug within a snug, fulfilling the criteria of both old and new style snugs. They have a snug bar to the right as you walk in and within that snug there is an old style snug. It’s semi cut off from the rest of the bar and has access to order a drink at the side as well. This is the only snug that is good in winter as well. There’s a large window that opens out to let some fresh air in.
Kehoes has a large and perfectly preserved example of a snug. There’s 3 tables in here, so you might need to scooch past someone to get to the hatch to the bar.
You can still see the old match strike and service bell on the walls.
The Lucky Duck
The Lucky Duck is a pub built on the ruins of another. A lot of money was put into taking this building and site and turning it into the fine pub it is today. As part of these renovations, a new snug was installed at the front of the bar. If the old style snug was designed to give privacy from those within the bar, this new style is designed to put you on show to those outside.
It’s on the larger end of snugs and is a good place for a pint and a toastie.
Neary’s has a room to the left of the main bar that is known as the snug. While larger than the average snug, it could possibly be classified as a room in itself rather than a subdivision of the main bar. However, it still meets the criteria or an old style snug, with access to the bar.
The Stag’s Head
The Stags Head, much like the aforementioned Neary’s has a snug much bigger than the average. It’s a Victorian era pub but the snug doesn’t necessarily match up with others in the city. Take a look up in here to see some very nice stained glass.
Chaplins has the newest snug in the city to the right of the bar. It’s been busy every time we’ve been in so we can’t claim to have sampled it fully, but it looks to differentiate itself from other snugs by having high stool seating. Traditionally snugs have lower seating so that you don’t put your head above the parapet. Again, modern snugs aren’t necessarily about hiding away from the rest of the pub.
Ryan’s Parkgate Street
Ryan’s of Parkgate Street might have a claim at having the most ornate and well preserved snugs in the city. They’re also some of the brightest (during the day at least), being located directly below skylights.
The pub has 2 snugs and both have the capability to lock the door, providing certain privacy and making sure you don’t get anyone opening the door and looking in to see if it’s free. The snug on the right has a rope attached to the door where old ‘Bongo’ Ryan used to open the door if he judged you worthy of using it.
McGrattans off Baggot Street has a room to the left of the bar that can fit up to 10-12 people comfortably. Open the swing doors and you’re greeted with red leather seats, a table or two and of course a hatch into the bar through the wall. This is a good spot for a gathering of friends where you don’t mind being a bit on top of each other.
Walshs in Stoneybatter have a snug to the front of the building on the left as you look at it. You might not even realise it was there if you’re more accustomed to the main bar areas. That means the architect did their job right I suppose. It’s a narrow snug with seating in an L shape and has a few stools. The door to the room has ‘snug’ written in glass on it and once inside you’ve got access to the bar via a similarly decorated door .
Fallons snug in the Coombe is a coveted spot. From the snug you can look out and see people walking past with disappointed looks on their faces because you beat them to it. There’s no door on this snug, but the wall provides enough cover and sometimes no door means no interruptions from wandering snug fanciers.
O’Neills Suffolk Street
The snug at the front of O’Neill’s on Suffolk Street was immortalised in James Joyce’s short story ‘Counterparts’ in which a local clerk drops in for a drink, the first on a pub crawl around the city. This is a larger space than others and offers 2 entrances/exits directly onto the street or into the main bar.
The Waterloo has 2 examples of the more modern definition of snug, both removed from access to the bar. They are named after Patrick kavanagh and Brendan Behan, 2 famed Irish writers who were known to drink here in yesteryear. One of the snugs has a view out onto Baggot Street, making it a fine people watching spot.
Searsons has been trading for over 150 years and is part of the fabric of Baggot Street. Even the largest pubs also have a snug area for those that enjoy a bit more confinement. It’s worth reading Eamon Casey’s history of Searsons on their website. Link.
The Hairy Lemon
The Hairy Lemon snug shares similarities with The Waterloo and other modern snugs in that it has a partition, isn’t connected to the bar, and faces onto a window. It seems that now people want to be seen in the pub.
Slatterys has many interesting features, including the snug area, and also a room with its own door that runs behind the bar. This room is a hallway that would have also have served as a snug. In fact, The Long Hall on Georges Street once had such a room and derives its name from this feature.
Lemon and Duke
Lemon and Duke could mostly be said to be a very modern bar, but they still pay homage to the Irish pub tradition with their snug area to the left of the bar. The area is cut off from the main space with dividers and offers a good deal of seating and standing.
Downstairs in the rock bar of Bruxelles is ‘Philomena’s Snug’. This room is an alcove that runs under Phil Lynnott’s statue on the street above. His mother, Philomena opened the snug in his honour and the pub named the room after her.
57 The Headline
While Bruxelles snug is lower than the bar and other areas, ‘the snug’ area in 57 The Headline is raised above the main bar area, simultaneously putting you on show to those standing dead-on in front of it, but shielding you from other angles.
There’s one large table in here around which a small group can gather. Look around and admire the botanicals and other props associated with Glendalough distillery and other Irish producers.
Jimmy Rabbitte’s falls into the category or the new style of pub and shares similarities with The Lucky Duck and The Hairy Lemon. There’s a private door, a hatch into the bar, a decent amount of seating (but not too much), and like the more modern designs it has a window.
The Royal Oak
The Royal Oak is a pub worth traveling to. Tucked in along the road beside the IMMA and the Royal Hospital Grounds it’s a wonderfully small and welcoming spot (for dogs as well as humans). Towards the back of the pub is a snug area that is the perfect spot for a few pints after one of the area’s many cultural pursuits.
To the front of Hely’s on Dame Street is a small area beside a window that fits the criteria of the new style of snug.