Literary Attractions in Dublin
Fans of James Joyce and other Irish writers can keep themselves busy exploring Dublin’s many literary attractions and pub crawls.
Do you picture all writers starving in drafty attics with nothing but rejection slips to show for their efforts? Think again. In Ireland, the government actually offers a tax exemption to writers and artists to encourage their presence and productivity in the Emerald Isle. With this kind of national support, along with the famous Irish knack for spinning a good yarn, it’s no surprise that so many gifted storytellers hail from the Land of Saints and Scholars, including four winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Dublin in particular, with its comparatively dense population, has produced more than its share of literary lions, including James Joyce, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw and Bram Stoker, and proudly celebrates its literati with statues of its most famous scribes sprinkled throughout the city.
Literary Pub Crawl
If you’d like to soak up some of the culture but don’t know your Yeats from your Joyce, not to worry! A Literary Pub Crawl through the city will help you get your bookish bearings. Professional actors lead the tour, quoting from Brendan Behan, Samuel Beckett and other esteemed Dublin writers. You’ll stop at some of Dublin’s most historic literary hot spots, many of which serve alcohol—hardly a surprise, considering that plenty of Ireland’s authors lubricated their pens with a libation or two.
Trinity College and Dublin Writers Museum
For those of a scholarly bent, there’s no better place to explore Dublin’s literary heritage than at Trinity College, Ireland’s oldest university. Wander among the buildings where Gulliver’s Travels writer Jonathan Swift once studied. Stroll down the same cobblestone path that Dracula author Bram Stoker used to walk, keeping a close eye out for vampires! And don’t forget to visit the Old Library for a peek at the Book of Kells, a manuscript as popular as any alumnus author. Top off your literary sojourn with a visit to the Dublin Writers Museum, which will give you an excellent overview of the city’s famous writers.
If the theater is your thing, pay a visit to the Abbey Theatre. Located just off O’Connell Street, the Abbey has been known as a writer’s theater for more than 100 years. Founded in 1904 by Irish writers including William Butler Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory, it has launched the careers of many Irish playwrights, though not always smoothly. John Millington Synge’s daring play The Playboy of the Western World caused riots when it premiered here in 1907 for its negative portrayal of Irish country dwellers. Just 20 years later, Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars caused an uproar for seemingly promoting pacifism toward the British. Nowadays, both plays are regarded as Irish masterpieces and are still staged at the Abbey.
Of course, no Dublin Odyssey would be complete without some adoring attention to Ireland’s most famous writer, James Joyce. Though he spent most of his adult life in continental Europe, Joyce remained loyal to the city of his birth, saying, “When I die, Dublin will be written in my heart.” Dubliners have taken Joyce into their hearts as well, commemorating the author and his remarkable novel Ulysses with an annual Bloomsday celebration. Every June 16, loyal Joyce fans dress in Edwardian garb and retrace the footsteps of Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of Ulysses, in his fictional wanderings through Dublin on June 16, 1904. If the timing of your Dublin visit doesn’t coincide with this journey, you can still celebrate Joyce’s masterpiece with a visit to the James Joyce Tower in Sandycove, or simply wander past the statute of the bespectacled author proudly displayed on North Earl Street.
Now, perhaps you’ve been wondering if Dublin’s famous authors are strictly a thing of the past. Happily, talented writers are still alive and well in the city. Northern Irish poet Seamus Heaney now resides in Dublin, as do novelists Roddy Doyle and Maeve Binchy. Contemporary playwright favorites include Brian Friel, Martin McDonagh, Conor McPherson and Frank McGuinness. Feminist poet Eavan Boland was born in Dublin, and chick-lit phenoms Marian Keyes and Cecilia Ahern call the capital home. Who knows—you might even spot a real live writer among the statuary!
After all your literary explorations, you may feel the need to actually read one of the celebrated Irish books to see what all the fuss is about. If so, there are many great bookstores to explore. Hodges Figgis is Ireland’s oldest bookstore and has a good selection of titles by Irish authors. The Winding Stair is worth a visit for those who love to browse. On Saturdays, head to the heart of the city and browse through the selection at the Temple Bar Book Market. A book from Ireland’s capital makes a lasting souvenir of your travels through literary Dublin.
Themes: Art and Museums