Literary Strolls : Dublin, Ireland

“When I die, Dublin will be written in my heart.” –James Joyce

Dublin may have written itself on James Joyce’s heart, but Joyce’s history is equally written across the landscape of the city itself. Most notably, a statue of the famous author stands in the center of the city, though his bust can also be found in St. Stephen’s Green, and the author lived in 20 different houses across the city in his lifetime. Which is all a roundabout way of saying that as much as Dublin has seeped into Irish literature, Irish literature has seeped into Dublin city. As a relatively small city, it’s both possible—and highly recommended—to hit the key literary highlights in one day.

  • Close up of the bust of writer James Joyce in St. Stephens Green, Dublin.

    Start with breakfast at Bewley’s Café, a coffee shop and restaurant founded in the 1840 and known as a popular hangout spot for Dublin’s literati–James Joyce even mentions it in Dubliners. (Though the original Grafton Street location is currently closed for renovations, a second location on St. George’s Street is open for business.)

  • Once properly caffeinated and fueled up, head over to the Chester Beatty Library, which boasts an impressive collection of rare books, prints, manuscripts, and art dating back to about 2700 BC. As a bonus, you can see Dublin Castle along the way (and stop in for a tour if it strikes your fancy).
  • Because looking at bronzes and old manuscripts (not to mention traipsing across a city) is bound to work up an appetite, stop by Hatch and Sons (on the north side of the park) for a bite before leaving St. Stephen’s Green. Though there are no obvious literary tie-ins that this author could find, the quaint underground café serves food all day and provides a welcome change from the standard pub fare to be found across the city. (Insider tip: Order a blaa. Really. Trust me. They’re delicious.)
St. Stephen’s Green in central Dublin
  • After visiting the library, duck down to St. Stephen’s Green to stroll among the posh ivy-covered townhouses—but don’t be distracted by the architecture, for tucked into the park are the aforementioned bust of James Joyce as well as a statue of W.B. Yeats (situated in the Yeats memorial garden). The park is full of other statues worth visiting while you’re there, including a harrowing tribute to the victims of the Famine that is not to be missed.
  • Heading back out into the afternoon, make a beeline for the National Library of Ireland. Actually—not a beeline, because you’ll want to detour a few blocks over to Merrion Square to see the statue of Oscar Wilde’s house there, situated on the northwest corner of the park facing Oscar Wilde’s one-time home. After that photo op, though, do head to the National Library, where you can see a drool-worthy reading room before heading to the rotating exhibits downstairs.

    Courtyard of Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.
  • After stopping at the National Library, duck over to Trinity College for a campus tour—which includes a stop in the very famous, very impressive, very wonderful Long Room of the Trinity College Library. With wall-to-wall bookshelves, stacks to the ceiling, spiral staircases, and the musty smell of old books, it’s a bookworm’s delight. After the tour, you can poke around campus a bit to get a feel for that good old school institution (no pun intended) before heading off for a pint and a meal at O’Neill’s up the street.
  • Your last stop of the day will take you back to a few of the spots you’ve already visited, but present them in a new light. The Dublin Literary Pub Crawl, which starts at The Duke Pub, offers an affordable way for imbibers to explore the literary history of Dublin (and the many ways it intersects with the public house’s history in Dublin). With quick stops at a variety of pubs and key literary sites (including Trinity College and O’Neill’s), you’ll be glad to have taken the time to explore so many locations in depth earlier in the day. The tour offers good drinks, good stories, good history, and good company—making it a proper nod to Irish traditions at the end of a long, literary tour of Dublin.
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