Looking for a budget friendly hostel in the heart of Cork in Ireland? Then the Bru Bar and Hostel is a great choice, if you don’t mind a good party and don’t mind the craic! The Bru Bar And Hostel is a good, clean, basic hostel that will serve many backpackers needs very well, and is perfect for those travellers on a tight budget, but a culmination of a few small problems, lack of amenities and dated ways may see it left behind as other hostels raise the bar and race ahead into the 21st Century.
As hostels go, the Bru Bar is a pretty good one with a lot of things going for it. Its city center location – right smack bang in the middle of Cork – is one of them. Located just a couple of short minutes walk from Parnell Place bus station and about five minutes away on foot from the train station and the city center, you really can’t get more central than that.
The staff themselves are friendly, welcoming and helpful, which is always a make or break criteria for many places. They have a desk located right next to the bar itself which is open 24 hours, and are always available to answer questions when needed.
The next big criteria is cleanliness, and to be fair the Bru Bar has this covered. The rooms and the bathrooms are spotless, clean and modern, and I tried a couple of different four bed dorms, one with an attached bathroom and one with the bathroom just outside the dorm.
If I was backpacking here a decade or more ago I’d say that is pretty much all you need, and at this very reasonable price point for an Irish hostel the Bru Bar would be an ideal place to stay.
But it isn’t the turn of the century any more. Backpacker hostels around the world have seriously upped their games in recent years as competition has grown increasingly fierce, and the lack of little touches and a blatant refusal to move with, or even keep up with, the times really let this place down.
There are no individually lockable lockers, just underbed bins for each person. So make sure you bring your own security measures if this is important to you. Each room has a small cluster of plug sockets at one end of the room instead of each bunk having their own individual sockets, so this means you can’t charge your phone by your bed (unless you are in the bunk next to the plugs), and if someone wants to charge more than one thing (say a phone and an ipad), that means there aren’t enough plug sockets for everyone.
The common room is barely fit for purpose at all and seems more like an afterthought than anything else. In a dingy back room of the pub, there are old pub tables, an uncomfortable bar seat along one wall and that’s pretty much it. They have a small TV with a small collection of decade old DVDs to rent (at €2 a go!) and a lone, aging computer that has more in common with an old Commodore Amiga than a modern PC. This is a huge shame as a computer is really needed as the dismal wifi is slow as hell and cuts out frequently. It is so bad you may as well just not use it, which just isn’t acceptable in 2018.
Now these seem like tiny, insignificant nit picky things, and they absolutely are. Any one of them aren’t huge problems on their own, but when other hostels are seriously upgrading standards (with many outside of Europe reaching boutique hotel or homestay quality) it is these little things that can make a huge difference.
I wouldn’t say these things should put you off staying here at all, after all it is clean and cheap which is just want you want from a hostel, but they do stop it from being a great hostel. This is a real shame, and may stop it from competing with other hostels who do upgrade their standards and service.
Paradoxically, one of the biggest problems with Bru Bar comes from one of its biggest strengths and unique selling points.
I don’t know who had the idea to put a backpacker hostel above a rowdy Irish pub, but like many great ideas it hovers between genius and insanity and you are never really sure which way it will go.
If you are the type of backpacker who will stay out till the early hours every single night and will want to experience the rowdy atmosphere of a live band playing every night, then this will be a great choice for you. However, if at any point you do need to sleep before two in the morning, then you will really struggle with the live band playing until the early hours and the rowdy revellers shouting and partying right below your window. Every night. Non stop.
My first night there I loved it, I went downstairs, watched a fantastic live band and joined in the revelling with the locals and other backpackers. But on my last night when I had to get up early to catch a flight, the massive flaw in staying here became glaringly obvious.
At the end of the day, it is a nice clean bed to stay in and the price is reasonable, but it doesn’t really offer much else at all. If it is the right place for you to stay in however will entirely depend on your wish to party all night or get up at a reasonable hour to explore.
The Bru Bar and Hostel is located on McCurtain street, Cork, Ireland.
Ready to book? The Bru Bar and Hostel’s website can be found here.