Exploring Literary Dublin: A Journey through its Iconic Libraries and Vibrant Literary Hangouts

Welcome to Dublin, the city that breathes literature on every street corner! Immerse yourself with me in the captivating world of its libraries and places of literary conviviality, true cultural treasures to explore without further delay. Follow me for a unique stroll through the heart of Dublin’s literary scene, where each page turned has a new emotion in store for you.

Walking in the footsteps of literary giants

Strolling along North Earl Street towards O’Connell you will come across the statue of James Joyce. Leaning on his cane, his head slightly tilted, he observes the city through his emblematic glasses. Dublin is dotted with literary monuments paying homage to Joyce, Stoker, Yeats, Swift, Beckett and Wilde.

A few steps from Joyce, a troupe of Irish drummers in traditional kilts punctuate the street with their percussions. Passersby stop to observe them, adding to the cultural and artistic atmosphere of the city.

Dubliners and their love of reading

The Irish, and particularly the inhabitants of Dublin, have a deep passion for literature. The country holds the world record for the number of Nobel Prize winners in literature per capita. Bookstores can be found on every street corner, from the flashiest to the dustiest.

In parks, on public benches, in cafes and even in bars, it is common to see people immersed in a book rather than on their phone. There is even an Irish whiskey called Writers’ Tears.

Marsh’s Library

Located in a pedestrianized lane near St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Marsh’s Library is Ireland’s first public library, founded by Archbishop Narcissus Marsh in 1707. Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels, was one of the first library guards.

The current Director, Jason McElligott, guided us through the old books on the wooden shelves. McElligott has written works on Cromwell, censorship, and book theft, and is currently working on a future volume of Bram Stoker’s lost diaries.

The Long Room, our first stop, turned out to be a bibliophile’s dream. Rows of ancient books stretch from floor to ceiling, wooden ladders supporting each shelf. The air is filled with the smell of old books.

Saving old books

We were able to observe a gentleman carefully cleaning books, reminding us of the need to preserve these treasures in the face of climate challenges. A young woman was busy reinforcing the spine of a book with string, a temporary solution while awaiting complete restoration.

One corner of the library housed closed cells, intended for “suspicious” readers to prevent book theft. We couldn’t help but joke, wondering if James Joyce had been one of these “suspects”.

Chester Beatty Museum

THE Chester Beatty Museum, located near the Dublin Castle, houses a private collection of illuminated manuscripts and cultural treasures belonging to Sir Alfred Chester Beatty. The collection, generously gifted to Ireland in 1953, features exquisite Islamic art with intricate calligraphy and miniatures that transport one to fantastical landscapes.

Their exhibitions also include Irish Christian manuscripts such as the Lindau Gospels and delicately illustrated Japanese scrolls.

Trinity College and the Book of Kells

THE Trinity College of Dublin is another essential stop, especially for its famous Book of Kells. Currently, the Long Room is currently being restored, but a modern exhibition, the Book of Kells Experience, offers an immersion in the history of this 1,200-year-old manuscript.

In a 360-degree theater room, an immersive film follows the journey of Book of Kells from the Isle of Iona to Kells Abbey, highlighting its cultural and historical significance.

The Trinity Trails

After a coffee break in one of the campus cafeterias, we embarked on a tour of the “Trinity Trails”, discovering the great historic halls and architectural treasures. Inside the Museum building we were greeted by the skeletons of two Megaloceros, representing a fascinating view of ancient Irish fauna.

The historic Long Room

Our last visit to campus was Old Library with his famous Long Room. Rows of old books contrast with busts of literary giants. One of the centerpieces is Brian Boru’s Harp, a national symbol seen on Irish coins and Guinness products.

Exploring literary pubs

To end this literary day, nothing like a literary pub crawl. We started at “The Duke” on Duke Street, where our hosts immersed us in a scene of Waiting for Godot by Beckett.

The tour took us from pub to pub, recounting anecdotes about Joyce, Beckett and other literary giants, before ending at the legendary Davy Byrne’s, immortalized in Ulysses. There, we discovered a first edition of Ulysses, a literary treasure under glass.

Useful information

Regular flights connect American cities to Dublin, often with a stopover in Iceland for an affordable price. For accommodation, although the south bank of the Liffey is popular, Georgian houses to the north offer safe and economical options, with landmarks such as the Spire to find your way.