Any visitor to Dublin will probably have high on the list of their places to visit the now world famous Temple Bar district in the heart of the city; renowned for its shopping, restaurants, night life, and, off course, its pubs.
The Palace Bar is one of the many pubs in this area, but it is also by far the oldest, being in existence since 1843.In fact, it is one of the oldest pubs in Dublin still in existence today in its original form. The Brazen Head, located in Lower Bridge Street (at the far end of Temple Bar) is actually the oldest, dating back to the time it was a coaching stop in the 11th century, but it has obviously undergone many renovations since.
If it's the garish bright lights and thronging masses of youngsters desperately trying to have a good time that you're looking for, then the Palace will not be the scene for you. However you would be missing a real treat if you passed it by, as it would be fair to say that the Palace embodies all that is best in a genuine old time Irish pub; a design and format that hundreds of bars all over the world have tried (mostly unsuccessfully) to emulate.
From the minute you walk in the front door it is obvious it is something special, taken straight out of the pages of a past age. It has a long, narrow wood panelled front bar, with a magnificent old marble counter, and lined with a bank of old fashioned hand pumps. Nowadays these pumps are only for show, as unpressurised beer has not been sold in Dublin since the early 1960's, but they still add a bit of character to the décor.
No beer stained carpets in this watering hole. The floors throughout are all tiled, and if you go in "early doors" the smell of the disinfectant used in the cleaning water can sometimes be a trifle overwhelming.
Sections of the bar are partitioned off into little alcoves by mirrored panels, so if you're not in a chatty mood, or want a bit of privacy to nurse the previous night's hangover, you can slip into one of these.
The back bar is called the snug, but in fact is far too large to live up to that description. It has a large window right in the middle of the high ceiling, so it is always very bright and airy. The bar is festooned in all sorts of antique memorabilia, from old whiskey bottles and casks, copper serving jugs for ale, and a delightful "His Master's Voice" type wind up gramophone. The mirrors throughout are the original engraved variety, again copied by souvenir shops the world over, and advertising such reminders of a bygone age as "Power's Pure Pot Still Whiskey".
The beers on sale include the obligatory Guinness, its Cork counterpart Murphy's, and Kilkenny. Incidentally, it has the cheapest and best pint of Guinness in the whole Temple Bar area.
This pub is the long time favourite of writers and journalists going back generations, as it is literally a stones throw from the old front door of the "Irish Times" in Dolier Street, the premier newspaper of the country. (The Times have now moved to new modern offices in Tara Street, which is still very close to the Palace.)
In times past a certain Editor in Chief of the Times, called Mr. Smylie, used to use a corner of the bar called intriguingly the "intensive care unit" as his main office, as it would be to here he would retreat in order to nurse the previous day's hangover, and to revive his flagging spirits with what the Irish like to call "a cure". Instead of receiving their assignments from him in his office at the Times, the hacks used to have to come here in order to be given their assignments for the day.
It is still used to this day by the journalists from both the Times, and their main rival publication the Irish Independent, as their watering hole of choice. In even earlier times it was the haunt of such famous Irish literary figures as Beckett, W.B. Yeats, Kavanagh, and Oscar Wilde, to name but a few, and we are constantly reminded of this by the dozens of framed pictures and photographs (some signed by the gentlemen themselves) that line all the walls.
If you ever make it to Dublin, it's a pub you'll not want to pass by.