Dublin’s Literary Landmarks

Ireland’s capital is imprinted with the history of its many notable writers. Here's where to find the storied legacy:

The venerable streets of Dublin were sources of continual inspiration for the city’s iconic native writer, James Joyce. His groundbreaking novel, “Ulysses,” was partially penned in an attempt to chronicle Ireland’s capital “brick by brick,” as this modernist masterpiece follows everyman-hero Leopold Bloom throughout his meandering journey across Dublin on June 16, 1904, interacting with myriad characters in wildly varied (and rather intimately recorded) settings, many of which are today marked with plaques citywide. Today, Bloom’s journey is celebrated by Joyce fans on Bloomsday (June 16, of course), when they don Edwardian duds and recite passages from this weighty tome at the exact sites where the excerpts were set.

Joyce is the most celebrated author of Dublin’s long history, but many other titans of literature were also born in the Hibernian metropolis, including Jonathan Swift, William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett. Here is a roundup of some major monuments paying tribute to Dublin’s best-known wordsmiths, featuring many places that were these writers’ frequent haunts:

Saint Patrick's Cathedral dates back to 1220. (©Josemaria Toscano/Shutterstock)

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral—Jonathan Swift became dean of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral 300 years ago and filled this role for more than three decades, all the while moonlighting as an impassioned political satirist. Now famed worldwide as the author of Gulliver’s Travels,” Swift wrote most of his works while living at this hallowed site that still welcomes congregants today and also offers guided tours to international visitors and presents frequent choir concerts. At one end of the well-tended public gardens beside the cathedral, the “Literary Parade” showcases a row of memorials for many great Dublin writers.
Saint Patrick’s Close, Dublin 8, 353.1.453.9472

Trinity College bustles with future literary greats. (©Failte Ireland)

Trinity College—As Ireland’s leading university since the 16th century, countless brilliant minds were fostered at this dignified institution in central Dublin, including many of the city’s pre-eminent writers. Here in these stately gray buildings: Jonathan Swift earned his B.A. in 1686; Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde were classmates in the mid-1800s; and Samuel Beckett lived on campus between 1926 and 1931. However, Trinity College’s most significant literary claim to fame is “The Book of Kells”—a 1,200-year-old religious manuscript, gorgeously illustrated by Irish monks—which is stored and displayed in the library.
College Green, Dublin 2, 353.1.896.1000

The stronghold immortalized in the opening pages of "Ulysses" (©Robert Nicholson/James Joyce Tower and Museum)

James Joyce Tower—On the coast of the Irish Sea eight miles south of the capital, Oliver St. John Gogarty—a Dublin poet, athlete, man-about-town and champion of the Irish War of Independence—rented a decommissioned fort at Sandycove (built to repel Napoleon’s navy) in 1904; soon afterwards he invited his friend, James Joyce, to come stay there with him. This ill-fated roommate situation provided ample material for the first chapter of “Ulysses,” and today this is a museum dedicated to Joyce and his brief time in residence there, with the rooftop gun platform offering its rhapsodized panoramic views.
Fortyfoot, Sandycove Point, Dún Laoghaire, 353.1.280.9265

Regulars at McDaids Pub usually have a story to tell. (©Nick Robertson/Where)

Dublin's Pubs—After decades of serving as characteristic settings for Ireland’s literary culture, some Dublin pubs are now historical sites for the authors who chatted and chugged there. Joyce spent enough time at Davy Byrnes to make it a backdrop for a scene in “Ulysses,” where Leopold Bloom dines on a gorgonzola sandwich with a glass of burgundy. McDaids was a frequent hangout for debauchery-inclined, Dublin-born playwright and novelist Brendan Behan, and poet Patrick Kavanagh was also a regular here. Nowadays, Grogans is a favored gathering place for Dublin’s avant-garde writers and raconteurs.
Davy Byrnes: 21 Duke St., Dublin 2, 353.1.677.5217. McDaids: 3 Harry St., Dublin 2, 353.1.679.4395. Grogans: 15 South William St., Dublin 2, 353.1.677.9320.

Dublin Writers Museum—This grand brick edifice holds no known affiliation with a historical writer, but instead houses a fascinating collection of artifacts and personal effects from many Dublin wordsmiths, such as a first edition of Stoker’s “Dracula,” a program from the 1892 world premiere of “Lady Windermere’s Fan” by Wilde, a telephone used by Beckett in his Paris apartment, a typewriter owned by Brendan Behan and many other relics, all enhanced with informative placards and a self-guided tour. The bookshop which adjoins the Dublins Writers Museum offers an excellent selection of works by almost all of Dublin’s literary luminaries.
18 Parnell Square, Dublin 1, 353.1.872.2077

Nick Robertson
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