A Modern Literary Guide To Dublin, Ireland

A Modern Literary Guide To Dublin, Ireland

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

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.

Don’t forget, though, amid all the fanfare of past tales, that
the local literary scene has continued to flex and grow. 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.

With that in mind, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to tour 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
contemporary literary crowd – it’s time to discover Dublin’s new

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

To stay


Kellys Hotel

Hide away in the lively Creative Quarter at this inviting stay.
Located behind an emerald-green door, the whitewashed, minimalist
property’s 16 bedrooms are sandwiched between 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


36 S Great George’s St, D02 T328

The Lady Jane Suite at The Wilder Townhouse, Dublin


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


22 Adelaide Road, D02 ET61

The Penthouse bedroom at The Dean in Dublin, Ireland


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.


33 Harcourt St, D02 WC81

To eat

Fish Shop in Dublin


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 mussels and fish
and chips.


76 Benburb St, D07 X3PN

The Walnut Whip at Mr Fox in Dublin, Ireland


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
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


38 Parnell Sq W, Rotunda, D01 X9T0

To do

Trinity College Dublin, Ireland


Explore Sally Rooney’s Trinity College Dublin

Rooney has a tendency to lead characters through the grey-stone
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 squeeze.

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’s The 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.



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
, 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
circular reading room. The literary papers of
Brooklyn author and playwright Colm Tóibín are housed inside.

MoLi in Dublin, Ireland
Photo credit: Donal Murphy


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.


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

To drink

The exterior of The Palace Bar in Dublin, Ireland


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 is still popular among its writers.


21 Fleet St, Temple Bar, D02 H950

No.27 Bar & Lounge in Dublin


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 and 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


27 St Stephen’s Green, D02 K224

To shop

Lilliput Bookshop Interior


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.


62 Sitric Rd, Arbour Hill, Stoneybatter, D07 AE27

Irish Design Shop in Dublin, Ireland


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.


41 Drury St, 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, was published last

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.

This article was updated on 16 March 2023. It contains
affiliate links, which means SUITCASE may earn a small commission
if you click through and book.

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