Dublin – the Irish capital city with a huge heart – has produced some of the finest literary stars of our time. The legendary authors and poets hailing from Dublin include Oscar Wilde, James Joyce and the Nobel Prize for Literature winners William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett. Bram Stoker – of Dracula fame – was even born in Clontarf, Dublin. Dublin is a must see travel destination for all literature fans and is considered to be one of the literary capitals of the world (formally designated UNESCO City of Literature in 2010). Visitors can explore the city’s literary heritage by following what has come to be known as Dublin’s Literary Trail:
Book of Kells in Trinity College Library
You’ll find Trinity College (Oscar Wilde’s former university) in the heart of Dublin and within the 18th century Old Library of Trinity College is the famous Book of Kells, a manuscript of four Gospels of the New Testament. The text is written in Latin and the manuscript beautifully illuminated. The book dates back to the Celtic monks of approximately 800AD. The book is one of Ireland’s greatest treasures and a masterpiece of calligraphy and Insular illumination.
Visitors can see the Turning Darkness into Light Exhibition, the Treasury where the manuscript is kept and the Long Room which is home to 200,000 of the oldest books kept on ancient oak bookshelves.
Dublin Writers Museum
Here 300 years of the city’s literary history is preserved through manuscripts, letters, books and personal artifacts which belonged to Dublin’s finest wordy-wise elite. The museum contains rare and little known items as well as bringing to light facts that few people know about well known Dublin writers.
Among the exhibits are items belonging to Oscar Wilde who attended Trinity Collage and Samuel Beckett. Not only the contents of the museum but the museum building is worth seeing. The Georgian mansion has fine architectural features that complement the exhibits. The museum is next door to the Irish Writer’s Union and the living writers draw inspiration from the museums exhibits. The history of Irish literature, the different movements and leading writers are displayed here, there is a section focused on children’s literature and the museum covers Irish writers up to the 20th century (but not living writers).
The James Joyce Centre
This centre promotes the work of Dublin’s greatest modern writer and aims to bring a better understanding of the life of Joyce and his work. It holds lectures, activities and exhibits relating to this Irish icon and whether visitors are students of literature or casually interested the center has something to offer. Housed in an 18th century townhouse the James Joyce Centre is run by members of Joyce’s sister’s family. Here you can see Joyce family portraits in the Kenmore Room; temporary and permanent exhibitions of Joyce’s work and items relating to his life (including rather macabrely his death mask).
This was Ireland’s first public library opened in 1701, the supposedly haunted library has remained unchanged since its establishment. You can see the original oak bookshelves in the Queen Anne building where over 25,000 rare books are kept. The manuscript collection goes back eight centuries. In the first gallery of the library you can see a portrait of the library’s founder the Archbishop Marsh, in the second gallery are three historic wired alcoves and the library has exhibits of various literary treasures.
National Library of Ireland
The library holds the largest collection of Irish documents and books in the world with many rare and precious items relating to the country’s history and heritage. There is printed matter, manuscripts as well as more modern methods of preserving the valuable Irish literary heritage through photographs, drawings, ephemera and digital records. The library presents regular award winning exhibitions and visitors are welcome to sit and peruse the library books as well as enjoy the exhibits.
Chester Beatty Library
This is a library and an art museum, on display are manuscripts, prints, drawings, miniature paintings and rare books. The library covers work from around the world, not just from Ireland. The museum has won prizes in the past for being European Museum of the Year and Irish Museum of the Year. On display among the literary items are works from Asia, Africa and the Middle East as well as European medieval and renaissance manuscripts. The museum and library are a celebration of the diversity and richness of human creative expression.
Dublin Literary Pub Crawl
If you want to take your literatery homage up a gear then this award-winning tour takes you through the streets of Dublin in the footsteps of Dublin’s greatest writers. The tour or show progresses from pub to pub accompanied by professional performers who incorporate songs, readings and performances of the works of Dublin’s most famous writers. As you can imagine Irish writers enjoyed a drink every now and again and the pubs along the tour route offer not only refreshment but the topic for each stop along the way. The tour is informative witty, personal and unique. For more information and booking ring +353 1 6705602
Go for an evening of Irish Folklore & Storytelling! In Dublin’s oldest pub, The Brazen Head (20 Bridge Street Lower, Dublin 8) you can enjoy a cosy candle lit dinner while being entertained with some Irish storytelling, traditional folklore and Irish music. Recently voted the best nightlife entertainment in Dublin this is a great way to learn about the history and traditions of Ireland and listen to live performances of Irish ballads. Prices are €44 per adult.
Bloomsday is celebrated on June 16th every year in Dublin. The Bloomsday Festival celebrates the Irish author James Joyce’s novel Ulysses which was set on 16th June 1904 and the book’s central character Leopold Bloom. The James Joyce Centre runs the events which include street parties, reenactments of scenes from the book, readings, performances and pub crawls. You’ll probably get to see plenty of people dressed up in Edwardian costume and dressed as characters from the book. The festival is celebrated in other countries by Joyce enthusiasts but no city does it with the finesse and enthusiasm of beautiful Dublin.
Where to stay
There are many hotels in Dublin ranging from the budget hostels, luxurious or mid priced (try the Jurys Inn Dublin or the Louis Fitzgerald hotel). The city is very compact and very walkable but for short stays it’s best to choose accommodation within the city centre.