Dublin's artistic heritage is second to none.
If you love to read and write, it's fitting that you head to Dublin, a UNESCO City of Literature. Has there ever been a city more influenced by its writers and shaped by the arts? The renowned Irish literary tradition, boasting four Nobel Prize winners, is constantly looking forward, embracing new styles and forms of writing. While in Dublin, take the time to acquaint yourself with the founding fathers and mothers of Irish literature – and reap the benefits of their inspiration!
Practical Info for the First Timer.
My hotel of choice is the Clayton Hotel Cardiff Lane. I've stayed their on each of my last two trips to Dublin and both times I had a fantastic experience. It's just across the river from the airport shuttle bus and it's on a main bus route that goes right by Trinity College if you'd rather not walk the 10-15 minutes to the city center. I love that it's not right in the heart of Temple Bar, which greatly contributes to getting a rare quiet night's sleep in the city centre.
If you can book in advance, I recommend reserving a room on a higher floor so you can enjoy a fantastic city view from your balcony. If you're use to the tiny hotel rooms of continental Europe, you're in for a treat - the rooms are generous and spacious, with queen size beds (a fantastic change from the usual two single beds pushed together), a seating area, plenty of storage, and my favourite hotel amenity of all - a bath tub!!! Dublin may be a very exciting city but sometimes it's just nice to soak in a hot bath and get a solid night's sleep.
Dublin is a major hub for Europe's low cost airlines and getting there is easy and affordable. Once you arrive in Dublin, skip the pricey taxis into town in favor of the airport shuttle bus. As mentioned, it stops directly across the river from the hotel and at just about every other major landmark in town, making it an easy and affordable option. Once in town, city buses are an easy way to get around but be mindful that the fare isn't a flat fee - you'll have to tell the driver where you want to go and pay the fare accordingly.
Book of Kells
The written word has dominated Ireland for over a thousand years! Take a step back to 800AD and see one of the most beautiful books ever made. The Book of Kells is four volumes of lovingly illustrated vellum pages containing the Latin texts of the Four Gospels and is on display at the Old Library at Trinity College Dublin.
Bonus! The Book of Kells is only one highlight at Trinity College Dublin. Marvel at the many exhibits in the Old Library and to wander the cobblestone paths of the campus.
Dublin Writer's Museum
Swift or Sheridan? Shaw or Wilde? Yeats, Joyce or Beckett? If your time is limited, the Dublin Writer’s Museum will help condense centuries of history into one magnificent collection of books, letters, art work, personal artifacts, and more (see if you can find Mary Lavin's teddy bear!) The stunning museum architecture will encourage you to linger, as will the Chapterhouse Café, whose scones I can heartily vouch for!
Bonus! If you plan on also visiting the James Joyce Center, you can take advantage of a special combined rate to the two facilities
The Abbey Theatre
As the first state-subsidized English theatre in the world, the Abbey has always stood out as a unique institution. Founded by Lady Augusta Gregory and WB Yeats, it courted controversy at a very early age. One of its very first productions was John Millington Synge’s Playboy of the Western World, whose unprecedented portrayal of scandalous events in rural County Mayo caused riots in Dublin in 1907. Never one to shy from a little drama, the Abbey has been a steadfast supporter of Irish playwrights ever since.
Bonus! William Butler isn’t the only Yeats in Abbey history! His brother, Jack, illustrated Synge’s books, designed sets for the Abbey, and had three of his own plays produced there, but is most distinguished as an outstanding painter. You can see his work at the National Gallery of Ireland, including The Liffey Swim, for which Yeat’s earned Ireland’s first Olympic Medalist, as painting was an exhibition event at the 1924 Paris Olympics.
Following in Famous Footsteps
While writers may spend endless hours at their desks, in Dublin you can pound the pavement instead! Take to the pretty cobblestone streets on a literary walking tour (or pub crawl, as it may be!) The James Joyce Center offers Dubliners guided audio tours, ranging from 2 hour mini- excursions to 10 hour epic adventures. For those looking for a little lager with their literature, The Duke Pub is the launch point for the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl.
I always look forward to this tour every time I’m in Dublin – it’s always fresh, entertaining, and even a wee bit educational. I'd like to say that the tour guides are fantastic but "guide" is in no way an adequate word. They're passionate, enthusiastic, and full of good cheer. They're superb actors, mimics, and singers - but they are horrible when it comes to putting on a Canadian accent! I love that the tour goes year round (as so many walking tours wimp out in winter) and they make such a strong effort to welcome each and every participant.
Even if you're not one for walking tours - or literature, for that matter - I think you'll love this tour. Every pub in Dublin has a story (in fact, they probably all have thousands of stories!) but it can be a difficult for a first time visitor to figure out where to go. It's great to have a guide and a group by your side and it's the perfect way to soak up a lot of Dublin character in a short amount of time. It gives great insight into the heart of the city and it's just awesome fun. On our last visit we were laughing with every story and had such a great time getting to know our fellow travelers. One pro tip: Unless you're a beer drinking superstar, order half pints or small drinks at each pub. The stops are short and the pubs are busy - I was never able to finish a full pint.
Bonus! Irish literature is celebrated throughout the city through public art. The statues of Joyce and Wilde are the most famous, but dedicated fans can find even more!
Your Next Stop?
Dublin is the perfect city to go read and write and I’m hoping that you will draw on the city’s rich cultural legacy to create some new masterpieces of your own!
Are you a reader? What cities inspire you the most?
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