A Modern Literary Guide to Dublin, Ireland

Scamper through Dublin’s storied streets and creative quarters, book in hand, with our guide to the city’s ever-evolving literary landscape.

Welcome to Baile Átha Cliath, the capital of a country so steeped in literary tradition that the Irish word for storyteller, seanchaí, translates into English as "custodian of tradition". Dublin is as famed for its lyrical storytelling as it is for its storied streets, where Joyce, Wilde and Yeats once prowled. Not without good reason did Unesco name it a city of literature, after all.

This year, Dubliners are grabbing their glad rags to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Joyce's pièce de résistance, Ulysses, hosting films, exhibitions and cultural celebrations. Don't forget, though, amid all the fanfare, that the local literary scene has continued to flex and grow since the fabled book's publication.

Yes, this is the city of Joyce, Wilde and Yeats, but it's also the city of Sally Rooney's troublesome twentysomethings, the backdrop to Colm Tóibín's bestsellers, and home to an ever-flowing literary scene as embedded in the urban fabric as the meandering waters of the much-loved Liffey. So, we've taken it upon ourselves to take to the streets in search of the bookish spots you shouldn't miss, from diminutive hotels perfect for weekend writing retreats to slam poetry sessions that showcase the city's fresh talent. Sidestep the old masters and get to know the city's latest literary crowd - it's time to discover Dublin's new narrative.

Where to stay, eat and go on a modern literary tour of Dublin, Ireland

To stay

hotel

Kellys Hotel

Hide away in the lively Creative Quarter at this 16-key stay. Located behind an emerald-green door, this whitewashed, minimalist, three-storey property is bookended by the L'Gueuleton bistro below and a quirky residents' bar upstairs. Based in the city's red-brick artisan heart, you only have to step outside to find a plethora of cafés offering a warm welcome to pen-wielding prospective novelists. Tiptoe across the strange bridge at the top of the hotel to enter the renowned No Name Bar via a rabbit-hole entrance - on Fridays, it feels like a loft party of in-the-know Dubliners, and the perfect people-watching spot for some literary inspiration.

Address

36 South Great George's Street D02 T328

The Lady Jane Suite at The Wilder Townhouse, Dublin

hotel

The Wilder Townhouse

The Wilder (named for Oscar) is a material reimagining of the author's famous flamboyance. This quirky red-brick boutique stay houses 42 Victoriana-styled rooms dressed up in jewel-toned fabrics inspired by Wilde's raffish attire. You'll find dressmakers' dummies teetering in corners and acres of plum-coloured velour throughout. Bathrooms are airy, tiled extravagences with generous tubs and rainfall showers. Distinguished original features feature heavily - think diminutive townhouse fireplaces, polished-up corner cabinets and parquet flooring - while the residents-only Garden Room restaurant and debonair Gin Bar downstairs offer all the evening elegance needed for a dapper city stay. With the city's best nightlife right outside the door, it's a perfect rake's retreat.

Address

22 Adelaide Road D02 ET61

The Penthouse bedroom at The Dean in Dublin, Ireland

hotel

The Dean

Devotee of the contemporary novel? Book here. The Dean does away with whimsical motifs and historical nods, favouring smart styling and an urbane ambience. You'll find Tracey Emin on the walls, John Coltrane vinyls in the rooms and O'Donnells crisps beside the mini fridge. There's a distinct Americana cool in the styling - and vibe. Make no mistake, this is a night owl's perch, with DJs taking to the decks at the weekend and the noise of Harcourt Street noticeable on Friday nights. Book a "punk bunk" room for a weekend with friends, or luxuriate in one of the moody suites upstairs to escape the inevitable buzz below.

Address

33 Harcourt Street Dublin 2

To eat

Fish Shop in Dublin

restaurant

Fish Shop

Dublin's drink offering takes all the press when considering the city's gourmet experiences, but beyond the black stuff, seafood straight from the Irish Sea should be top of your tasting list. Once you've circumnavigated the city's literary map, crossing paths with the statue of Molly Malone a few times, head to Fish Shop for a taste of the fictional fishmonger's lyrically memorialised cockles and mussels. Below an unobtrusive sign, this Smithfield pit stop plates up top-notch Sligo cockles, Killary Fjord mussels and fish and chips.

Address

76 Benburb St, Smithfield, Dublin 1, D07 X3PN

The Walnut Whip at Mr Fox in Dublin, Ireland

restaurant

Mr Fox

Equipped with a Dahl-esque name, our favourite thing about this subterranean joint is its playful take on childhood desserts. The creations cooked up on the pastry chef's table have a Willy Wonka whimsicality: fudgy chocolate cakes capped with a circle of buttery caramel, ultra-refined walnut whips, and perfect half-moon caramel and custard tarts. While you're in Parnell Square, swing by the Irish Writers Centre for an evening of poetry and prose at one of its Takin' The Mic nights. In summer, the centre also runs workshopping sessions with the city's coolest literary mag, The Stinging Fly.

Address

38 Parnell Sq West, Rotunda, Dublin 1, D01 X9T0

This image is on holiday

restaurant

Blas Café

This is the place for lingering brunches and lunches where you can tap away on your fictional fancies while scoffing a serious sandwich.The ham and cheese toasties come with house-baked meat, cider jam and dijon mayo, plus a side serving of free WiFi and staff unbothered by hours-long layovers. The high-ceilinged industrial space can be found behind a shabby black door on the Liffey's northern side - look for the muddle of vintage-clad students sipping coffees out front. They'll most likely be nursing hangovers with an Iron Hash - a black pudding and potato medley, topped with poached egg, paprika yoghurt and salty parmesan sprinkles.

Address

26 King’s Inns St, Rotunda, Dublin 1, D01 P2W7

To do

Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

Explore Sally Rooney’s Trinity College Dublin

Rooney has a tendency to lead characters through the greystone arches and historic quadrangles of an unnamed university. Normal People's Marianne and her sometimes-lover Connell dance around the complications of their relationship on a verdant quad that resembles College Green; Frances and Bobbi in Conversations with Friends are students at a seat of learning that seems spookily similar to Trinity. And, considering this is Rooney's alma mater, we're pretty sure we're not making assumptions when we say the author may have picked up ideas from this university's leafy confines. Pen a few thoughts during a coffee break at nearby café Clement & Pekoe, then seat yourself on the green to watch the sauntering student body - no promises you'll find your own Sligo boy.

A man doing slam poetry

Be all ears for some slam poetry

Our literary guide wouldn't be complete without a recommendation to catch this creative city's young literary talent on stage. Dublin's spoken-word scene is second to none in its ingenuity, and you'll find poetry held in the same high esteem as music at the city's open-mic nights. Head to Monday-night Circle Sessions at the International Bar on Wicklow Street, where rising linguistic hotshots take to the stage from 8pm to try out their material in front of an audience.

Trinity College Dublin's Long Room, Ireland

Visit a library – or three

Stroll past the Henry Moore sculpture dedicated to WB Yeats on St Stephen's Green and, just around the corner, you'll find Marsh's Library, Ireland's oldest public library, which sits behind St Patrick's Cathedral. Head inside to totter between towering book stacks in search of the cages that once held book thieves thwarted in their attempts to make off with the library's literary treasures, then switch public elegance for institutional majesty with a trip to the 200,000-book wood-panelled Long Room at Trinity. Boasting two floors of loaded, 65m-long shelves, it is also the home of an embellished ninth-century manuscript of the Book of Kells. Finally, take your pad and pen into the aquamarine confines of the National Library of Ireland's circular reading room. The literary papers of Brooklyn author and playwright Colm Tóibín are housed inside.

MoLi in Dublin, Ireland
Image credit; Donal Murphy

thingstodo

Catch up on some bookish culture at The Museum of Literature Ireland (MoLI)

On the southern side of St Stephen's Green, the recently opened Museum of Literature Ireland houses immersive exhibitions on the city's greatest storytellers. A long time in the works, it's a temple to Joyce and the National Library of Ireland's extensive collection of curios linked to the author, but the exhibitions are a far cry from stuffy bookshelves and glass-cased first editions. Joyce is here in neon quotations and scale models, but so, too, is an ever-changing showcase of the city's more contemporary literary movers and shakers. We found ourselves lingering over the recordings of contemporary Irish scribes talking about their work, before taking a few hours to dive into our paperback in the tranquil gardens behind the museum.

Address

UCD Naughton Joyce Centre, 86 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, D02 XY43

To drink

The exterior of The Palace Bar in Dublin, Ireland

bar

The Palace Bar

Dublin's literary elders were oft-to be found shoring themselves up with a dram or two, and a favourite watering hole of the 20th century's best scribes was this mahogany-clad whiskey merchant. Under the patronage of a renowned Irish Times editor (the newspaper offices are a broadsheet's width away), this grand old Victorian public house became a rendezvous point for the city's whip-smart intellectual set. Today, the newspaper's offices remain a quick walk away, and the pub, popular among its writers.

Address

21 Fleet St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, D02 H950

No.27 Bar & Lounge in Dublin

bar

No.27 Bar & Lounge

Nicknamed "Dublin's Living Room", this sophisticated drinking den inside the grand old Shelbourne Hotel has literary ghosts propping up its well-polished bar - Seamus Heaney, Paddy Kavanagh and Brendan Behan were all regulars in days gone by. Sip on the famed Shelbourne Bramble, a gin, raspberry and apple connection, then chase it down with a finger of Method & Madness Single Malt, a fragrant, barley-noted whiskey from one of the country's best microbreweries. There are oysters here, too, served with a Guinness sabayon.

Address

27 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, D02 K224

To shop

Lilliput Bookshop Interior

shopping

The Lilliput Press

Dublin is flush with bookshops. For sheer scale, try the sprawling Chapters. For zines, journals and a chance to run into the bespectacled staff behind the Dublin Review of Books, you'll want to head to Books Upstairs. Following the ink-stained footsteps of Leopold Bloom or the difficult duo from Conversation with Friends? Head to the distinguished shelves of the four-floored Hodges Figgis. Our favourite, though, is The Lilliput Press, a bookshop run by one of Ireland's oldest independent publishers. Head here for wonky shelves packed with historical non-fiction and Emerald Isle memoirs.

Address

62 Sitric Rd, Arbour Hill, Stoneybatter, Dublin 7, D07 AE27

Irish Design Shop in Dublin, Ireland

shopping

Irish Design Shop

There's no literary connection to make at this sleek homewares store - we just couldn't write a Dublin guide without mentioning its gallimaufry of Irish-made goods. Let's call it a narrative of Ireland's craftsmanship. Opened in 2008 by Clare Grennan and Laura Caffrey, the store showcases Ireland's most eye-pleasing contemporary makers, with ceramicists, woodworkers and jewellers all represented. Leave space in your suitcase for heritage wool throws spun beside the Nenagh River, and a moor-green graphic print of the Wicklow landscape from Offaly native Emily McKeagney.

Address

41 Drury St, Dublin 2, D02 TE80

Three Irish novelists to read

How to gut a fish, Shelia Armstrong

Sheila Armstrong

Armstrong's recent fiction debut, How To Gut A Fish, is an evocative collection of haunting short stories. The Dublin-based author plays with the surreal by placing it squarely into the everyday, employing sharp prose delivered with a lyrical flow. It's a book you'll read, then read again.

The cover of Ruth & Pen by Emilie Pine

Emilie Pine

The University College Dublin drama professor rose to prominence in 2019 with her word-of-mouth essay collection Notes to Self, which dissected Pine's intimate experiences in tackling the hard-hitting topics of addiction, fertility, feminism and sexual violence. Her first foray into fiction, Ruth & Pen, is out in May.

Nora: a Love Story of Nora and James Joyce  by Nuala O'Connor

Nuala O’Connor

Forget Joyce - O'Connor's fifth novel turns the binoculars of literary history on Nora Barnacle, the wife and muse of the Irish scribe. Nora: a Love Story of Nora and James Joyce is a fictionalised account of the duo's relationship, charting the seasons they spent together through thick, thin and a touch of filth. Expect a moving portrayal of a woman previously hidden in the great writer's shadow.

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