18 Reasons To Love Literary Dublin

Dublin, Ireland, was designated as a UNESCO City of Literature in 2010. Here are some of the top lit-tastic reasons why all book people should make the pilgrimage to Dublin.

1. The Gresham Hotel

Stay at the Gresham Hotel. It’s centrally located; has conference rooms named for Wilde, Beckett, Shaw, and other native sons; and it is the setting of one of the most revelatory scenes in the story “The Dead” from James Joyce’s Dubliners.

2. Temple Bar Book Market

Every Saturday and Sunday, there’s a little book market at Temple Bar Square with stalls of antique, collectable, and contemporary books for sale: new and used, there are literary treasures for every budget and every reader.

3. James Joyce Centre

Visit the James Joyce Center to peruse the exhibits, watch a short film, see the original door to 7 Eccles Street—home to the fictional hero Leopold Bloom, and to buy tickets to various James Joyce–centric walking tours of Dublin.

4. IMPAC

Established in 1994, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award is given each year to an outstanding work of fiction. Recent winners are Kevin Barry, Jon McGregor, and Colum McCann.

5. Mulligan’s Pub

Grab a pint, or a whiskey, or both at Mulligan’s on Poolbeg Street, a pub that hasn’t changed much since the likes of James Joyce and Brendan Behan were regulars.

6. National Library of Ireland

With its beautiful stained glass entryway depicting great writers of the Western World, the National Library of Ireland’s structure on Kildare Street is both a work of art and a working library. The domed reading room looks like it would have 100 years ago. Shhhhh…

7. Sweny’s Chemists

Readers of James Joyce’s Ulysses will recognize Sweny’s, a tiny frozen-in-time pharmacy that sells used books and its trademark lemon soap. It’s now the friendly home of literary readings and events.

8. Kennedy’s Bar

Kennedy’s on Westland Row is one of Dublin’s oldest bars, dating back to 1850. Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and Brendan Behan were all customers of Kennedy’s back in the day. Today, you can take a seat at the bar and drink in the history.

9. Oscar Wilde Statue in Merrion Square

Sculpted by Danny Osborne under commission from the Guinness Ireland Group, this rendering of Oscar Wilde faces his childhood home, just across the street at 1 Merrion Square.

The Georgian brick building with it’s gorgeous ironwork at 1 Merrion Square, now held by American College Dublin, is where author and dramatist Oscar Wilde lived from 1855–1878. The restored building is now used for exhibitions and other cultural events.

Other celebrated writers who once called Merrion Square home: William Butler Yeats and George William Russell (a.k.a. Æ).

10. Thomas Moore, Immortalized in Metal and Fiction

On College Street by Trinity College, you’ll find this striking statue of poet and lyricist Thomas Moore, known for writing the lyrics to the songs “The Minstrel Boy,” “The Last Rose of Summer,” and “The Meeting of the Water.”

The spot where the statue of Thomas Moore stands was immortalized in Ulysses with the line “Hot mockturtle soup and steam of newbaked jampuffs rolypoly poured out from Harrison’s” —a shop that no longer exists on Westmoreland Street. However, Joyce also showed his disdain for Moore in Ulysses with Leopold Bloom noting the statue’s placement: “[T]hey did right to put him over a urinal: meeting of the waters,” alluding to Moore’s well-known song.

11.

The Dublin Writers Museum holds an incredible collection of literary artifacts, including portraits and playbills, pipes and typewriters, letters and 1st-edition books, and Samuel Beckett’s telephone and James Joyce’s piano.

12. Old Library at Trinity College

You’ll want to see the Book of Kells with your own eyes, of course, but you can’t leave the Trinity College campus without a visit to the Old Library. Built between 1712 and 1732, and containing 200,000 of the library’s oldest volumes, it’s as beautiful as it is historic.

Note the organizational design of the Long Room at the Old Library: letters marking each shelf, pre-dating the Dewey Decimal system by about 100 years.

13. Marsh’s Library

No visit to literary Dublin would be complete without a trip to Marsh’s Library, with it’s knowledgeable docents and librarians. Founded in 1701 by Archbishop Narcissus Marsh, and containing thousands of important books and papers, Marsh’s Library is welcoming to tourists and to scholars doing research—and it also operates a conservation bindery.

Not only is the collection of antique books and artifacts beyond compare, Marsh’s Library stands solidly in the 21st century with a selection of their rare manuscripts and historic printed works available to the public to read for free in the Books of Dublin app.

14. Trinity College

Novelist, playwright, and poet Oliver Goldsmith stands outside the main gate to Trinity College, book in hand. Known for his works The Vicar of Wakefield, “The Deserted Village,” and “The Good-Natur’d Man,” Goldsmith attended Trinity College, as did Jonathan Swift, Samuel Beckett, and Oscar Wilde.

While you’re in town, check out the schedule at the School of Drama, Film and Music theater at Trinity, named after another celebrated alum, playwright Samuel Beckett.

15. St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Gulliver’s Travels author Jonathan Swift was dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral from 1713 to 1745. Today, you can see Swift’s death mask, a cast of his skull, and early editions of some of his published works, including A Tale of a Tub.

16. James Joyce Statue

This modern-era statue on North Earl Street is notable, not just for the iconic rendering of James Joyce, but for the writer’s gaze. Joyce’s focus is directed at the General Post Office on O’Connell Street, focal point of the Easter Rising of 1916.

17. Book Shops

And Dublin has tons of great indie book shops for every kind of reader and collector: Hodges Figgis, Noble & Beggarman, The Winding Stair, Ulysses Rare Books, and Books Upstairs, to name but a few.

18. And More from “Dear Dirty Dublin”

You can round out your lit-nerd experience by catching a show at the Abbey Theatre, visiting the Chester Beatty Library (and its most excellent gift shop), taking in the sights from the Sean O’Casey Bridge, heading to Portobello for a tour of the National Print Museum and a stroll by George Bernard Shaw’s childhood home on Synge Street, or just sitting down for a cuppa at Bewley’s and feeling the literary history all around you.

(All photos Julie Blattberg.)

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