Dublin is a city stacked with literary history…
Ireland has had so much influence on the literary world, with the influence of Irish writers spanning the globe. The likes of James Joyce and Oscar Wilde have walked the streets of Dublin, while brilliant writers such as Roddy Doyle still do! This literary culture has given rise to an assortment of amazing locations to visit if you’re obsessed with books.
More of these locations will be reopening after May 10, going by the government’s announcement for museums and libraries, so you’ll soon once again be allowed to see more of the beautiful literary spots across the city.
PLEASE NOTE: Some procedures for reopening museums (regarding tickets, booking, entry) are subject to change, depending on each museum, given the recent announcements. Check each site’s reopening details prior to booking.
1. Oscar Wilde statue, Merrion Square
Dressed in the flamboyant fashion that was characteristic to Oscar Wilde, his statue is almost as vibrant and striking as the actual man it commemorates. The statue is sensitive to the memory of Wilde, in that it immortalises his character, rather than the difficulties he faced as a gay, Victorian man. Just across the road from this commemorative statue is the house that Wilde was born in, which has now become the museum, Oscar Wilde House. So, if you’re off to see the house then the statue is not to be missed — and, actually, it’s worth a visit in and of its own.
2. Museum of Literature Ireland, St. Stephen’s Green
Commonly known as MoLI, this museum has only existed since 2019. The Newman Building, home to MoLI, has long since been associated with literary culture in Dublin and many famous writers have walked through the front doors during its existence. Writers such as the playwright Samuel Beckett are featured in the collection, but there is a strong emphasis on the works of James Joyce, one of Ireland’s best-loved writers. For such a small island, Ireland has had such a huge impact on the world of literature as a whole and this museum is a proud display of said influence.
You can also refresh yourself at the onsite café and have a wander in the beautiful garden outside. An adult ticket costs €10, but there are discounts available for some. For more information and to buy tickets, visit the website.
3. Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again Exhibition, Bank of Ireland Cultural and Heritage Centre
Seamus Heaney is well-known worldwide and even won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1995. You may expect to see original manuscripts of his works, and there are plenty of those on display. Additionally, however, more intimate aspects of his life are displayed to the public in this exhibition, such as notes that he wrote to himself. The articles on display were left to the National Library of Ireland (NLI) by Heaney himself, so that they could be accessed by all. It is therefore fitting that there is no entrance fee to view the exhibition. You can find more information, such as opening times, on the NLI website.
4. Dublin Writer’s Museum, Parnell Square North
Open since 1991, the Dublin Writer’s Museum is still relatively young. It was opened with the aim of encouraging an interest in Irish writers and the literature they have produced. Subsequently, it contains the works of, and displays about, both living and deceased Irish writers. Along with a gallery, featuring paintings of famous Irish writers, there is a section that can be better described as a museum of literature. Additionally, you can grab a coffee, mooch around the library, and buy some books onsite. More information is available on the website and entry is €7.50 per adult.
5. The James Joyce Centre, Merrion Square North
This museum houses a plethora of informative exhibitions on the life and works of James Joyce, including the door to number 7 Eccles Street, from Ulysses. A recreation of his rooms in Paris gives visitors a flavour of Joyce’s actual material surroundings during the period in which he finished writing Ulysses. It was also the place from which he was forced to flee when the Nazis occupied Paris. Whether you’re a die-hard fan of Joyce, an Irish history enthusiast or just someone looking for something interesting to do, the James Joyce Centre has a lot to offer. The price for an adult ticket is €5 and you can find more information on the website.
6. Davy Byrnes, Duke Street
‘Nice quiet bar. Nice piece of wood in that counter. Nicely planed. Like the way it curves.’ – Leopold Bloom, in James Joyce’s Ulysses.
Not everyone is as enthusiastic about the wooden bar as the eccentric Leopold Bloom but there are plenty of other delights that await at Davy Byrnes. The pub is of course famous for having been frequented by James Joyce and it’s easy to see why. Granted, it has changed a lot since it inspired Leopold Bloom’s explosion of expression in Ulysses but there is some pretty tasty food on offer, plus a pint or two of whatever you fancy. The extra sprinkle of special is the fact that, when you’re sat in Davy Byrnes, you could be sat in the exact spot once graced by the genius that was James Joyce.
Note: Outdoor service at bars and restaurants is due to resume on June 7, 2021, subject to change. There is no set date for the restarting of indoor service.
7. The Long Room, Trinity College
This 18th century library is astonishingly beautiful. It’s where 200,000 of Trinity College Dublin’s oldest books live, in spectacular surroundings. The library is lined with busts of prominent men such as Jonathan Swift and there are artefacts of huge political, social and cultural importance stored here. For example, a copy of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic, raised by Patrick Pearse outside of the General Post Office. This signaled the beginning of the Easter Rising. Nobody with an interest in literature, history or both history and literature should miss a chance to visit this library. The website offers more information.
8. Chester Beatty Library, Dublin Castle
Admission to the Chester Beatty is free (with a suggested donation) and the amount on display here is amazing. Rare manuscripts from across the world are displayed here and the emphasis is on representing Irish history as a whole, reflective of multi-cultural Ireland. There are books on display from countries like Japan and Iran, with strong visual cultures, which translates into beautiful illustrations on the pages of the displays. This library really is a feast for the eyes. Their website provides a lot of detail on what is displayed at the library and gives a taste of what to expect.