Alcohol-free nights out in Dublin

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Nicola BradyNicola Brady is a travel writer based in Dublin. She writes regularly for the Irish Independent, The Irish Times and Condé Nast Traveller, and has contributed to books on Dublin and Ireland for DK Eyewitness.
A table of mocktails and dinner dishes at Board.
People at the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin city

Dublin may be known for its nightlife, but that doesn’t mean the evening has to revolve around drinking.

Whether you’re a non-drinker or simply looking for some alcohol-free activities, there are plenty of ways to have a night out in Dublin without booze. There are independent cinemas and late night cafés, theatres and bowling alleys, even a safe space where you can throw an axe. And that’s not counting the pubs that are well-stocked with non-alcoholic options (along with stacks of board games).

Whatever you’re in the mood for, here are some ideas to help you plan the ultimate alcohol-free night in Dublin.

Play a game

For a chill, games night with incredible food, head to Board on Clanbrassil Street, a dedicated alcohol-free bar. Pick a game from their lengthy menu of classics like Catan, Articulate and Hungry Hungry Hippos while munching down on a deliciously cheesy pizza. And if one game piques your interest, you can buy a copy there to bring home for future games nights. They also host events like speed dating, chess tournaments and quiz and bingo nights. 

Fans of vintage Pac-Man and Donkey Kong will be in seventh heaven at Token, a games bar with a heavy rotation of classic arcade games and pinball machines. While they do serve alcohol, they also have a wide range of zero percent options behind the bar, from great beers like the Lervig No Worries IPA, to a selection of mocktails. It’s also one of the best spots in town for vegan junk food, including seitan spice bags and plant based chilli fries.   

Or bring your booze-free gaming to The Back Page in Phibsborough, where you'll find ping-pong, pool and table football alongside a mocktail menu that includes a zero-percent gin and tonic, Aperol spritz, whiskey sour and mojito. (There are alcoholic drinks, pizza and chicken wings on offer, too.)

If you want to work off a bit of excess energy, head to the Axe Club by Connolly station. You’ll get to throw axes against a target while the music blares in the background. It’s a strictly no-alcohol venue, but they serve Two Fifty Square coffee and non-alcoholic beer from Wicklow Wolf.   

Media captionSip mocktails over pizza and games at Board.

Late night cafés

One of the longest running alcohol-free venues in Dublin, the Clockwork Door is an informal space where you can pop in, pay by the hour and stay for as long as you like. With mismatched furniture, shelves stuffed with books and board games, and an endless supply of tea, it feels a bit like a friend’s living room. They also run comedy nights, acoustic sessions, and a Pop Up Gaeltacht, where you can practice your cúpla focal.   

Just a short walk along the Quays is The Music Café, where you’ll often find a musician performing on the tiny stage and baristas whipping up coffees into the evening – it’s open until 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays, 7pm on Sundays, and 8pm otherwise. If you’d prefer a cup of tea, head over the river to the Tea Garden on Ormond Quay, an oriental-inspired tearoom where you can try out over 40 varieties of tea while relaxing on comfortable mats and pillows on the floor. 

Go to the movies

Sure, the city has its share of multiplex cinemas, but there are multiple unique and independent cinemas with exceptional programming and great food for a fun night out. At the over 100-year-old Stella Cinema in Rathmines you can take in a new release or a classic film while reclining on a swish armchair, a couch, or even a bed, while nibbling on snacks like kimchi fries and Oreo milkshakes.  

As well as a schedule of new movies, the Light House Cinema in Smithfield hosts frequent special events, like all-night franchise marathons and themed seasons for genre fans. They also run a monthly Cinema Book Club, where screenings of films adapted from books are discussed in the (excellent) café afterwards. Serious cinephiles flock to the Irish Film Institute in Temple Bar, where frequent guest talks and festivals run alongside arthouse screenings and indie new releases. Plus, the onsite café is great value for money and is open until 9.30pm.   

Media captionEnjoy a movie in style in the Stella Cinema or the Light House Cinema.

Pubs and bars with great non-alcoholic options

Thankfully, the days of non-drinkers being stuck with lukewarm soft drinks are no more. Loads of Dublin pubs have a great selection of non-alcoholic drinks on offer, like Against the Grain on Wexford Street. This craft beer hall is an outpost of the Galway Bay Brewery and they have plenty of zero percent beers behind the bar. 

If you're in the mood for a night out in a smart bar but don't fancy an alcoholic drink, give Lemon and Duke on Duke Lane Upper a go. Alongside their classy, industrial-style interiors, they also have plenty of luxurious mocktails to quench your thirst, including their "Apple Nojito" and "Not a Whiskey Sour."

Media captionTake a sip of one of Against the Grain's non-alcoholic beers.

Plan an escape

Escape rooms have popped up all over Dublin, each with their own niche. Every room is themed at Escape Dublin on Aungier Street, so you might find yourself trying to crack the code in a Witchcraft and Wizardry school, or working alongside Sherlock Holmes. At Adventure Rooms Dublin you have an hour to solve the puzzles in six themed rooms, which can each accommodate two to seven people. There’s even the Escape Boats in Grand Canal Dock, where floating on the water adds an extra element of adventure. 

A dose of culture

Not all museums close their doors in the evening. The National Gallery of Ireland is open until 8.30pm on Thursdays, often with evening events on offer, and the National Museum of Ireland Archaeology is open until 8pm on Thursdays during the summer. It’s also worth keeping an eye out for First Fridays at the Museum of Literature Ireland where, on the first Friday of every month, the museum hosts an evening of live music and readings until 9pm. Admission is free from 6pm. The Chester Beatty is open until 8pm on Wednesdays when there are often special talks and events. 

You could also catch a play or a concert in one of Dublin’s theatres and venues, from the touring shows in the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre to the quirkier productions in the Abbey. Don’t forget the smaller theatres too, like the trio of stages in Temple Bar - Smock Alley, Project Arts Centre and The New Theatre – as well as the Viking Theatre in Clontarf. 

Media captionEnjoy exhibitions and events after hours at the National Gallery of Ireland and the Chester Beatty.

Get active

Head out of the city centre and you'll find plenty of high-octane activities to keep you occupied in the evening. There’s a real retro feel to the bowling alley at ALSAA Sports Centre, which was founded in 1963 by a group of Aer Lingus employees (hence the location out by Dublin Airport). It’s a popular spot with the city’s bowling leagues, so, don’t feel inadequate if everyone around you is bowling strikes. There’s a more modern atmosphere at the Leisureplex, where the lights are dimmed but the pins are illuminated in neon. They have locations at Tallaght, Coolock, and Blanchardstown, where you can also squeeze in a game of Q-Zar laser tag.  

Media captionGo for a strike at the Leisureplex.

If you want to try your hand at rock climbing, head out to Awesome Walls in Finglas, one of the largest indoor climbing centres in Europe. Newbies can learn the ropes with an instructor but more experienced climbers are free to roam the bouldering and lead walls on their own. In Dundrum, Rainforest Adventure Golf is a popular date spot in the evenings and it’s all indoors, so you can play throughout the year. You can try your hand at hurling, Gaelic football and handball at Experience Gaelic Games in Drumcondra to get a taste of Ireland’s traditional games and build up a sweat in the process.  

Take a walk

Want to see more of the city and its surrounds? Here are some of the best walks and cycles in Dublin