Guinness & Joyce! A Literary Guide to Dublin, Ireland.

How is beer and the most famous Irish author James Joyce connected? The following quote is from  his masterpiece “Ulysses”:

"A good puzzle would be to cross Dublin without passing a pub."

And he’s right. We didn’t succeed. What a shame…

seagull in dunblin

The book “Ulysses” by Joyce is mostly known for being unreadable, but it’s so tightly connected with Dublin and so important an artwork, that this alone attracts many travellers to the city. But even if you haven’t read or know anything about Joyce, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Yeats and the others, trailing a city through it’s famous writers will tell you a lot about the identity of a country. If you don’t care about writers, this is where Colin Farell was born…



And let’s start with the beer, since beer and books go well together (also Whiskey). There are more than a 1000 pubs in Dublin. But follow the author James Joyce and the James Joyce Pub Award given in 2000 to the “authentic Irish pubs”. If Joyce say it’s good…

We went through the (in)famous Temple Bar area, but it was a little too crowded for us. I recommend the old Stag’s Head looking like 1895 with a beautiful ceiling in the snug room and Victorian interior. A pub probably existed here in 1770!

beersign in dublin

One cider is named after Richard de Clare – known as Strongbow- who (surprisingly?) wasn’t a writer, but an Anglo-Norman nobleman – although the nickname might be a mistranslation. You’ll find him buried in the Christ Church Cathedral.


Another – not so obvious – connection to the writers are the new harbour area Docklands. On a sunny Sunday, this a fine walking tour and nice to see something different architecture than the rest of Dublin. You’ll also find EPIC the immigrant museum here.
bridge in dublin
The bridge looking a like a harp (the national symbol of Ireland found on Ryanair, Guiness and in Trinity College) is called Samuel Beckett Bridge. Samuel Beckett was an Irish writer in the absurd tradition. He went to France… The bridge is built by the architect Calatrava, who also build World Trade Center and the Olympic Stadion in Athens.
sculpture of a man
Memorial to the big famine in the Docklands


But the most important attraction for me was The Book of Kells and the library in Trinity College. So before you start drinking too much, head for Trinity College built in 1592. This is one of the top sights, but also a key institution for the literary legacy of Ireland.

You can book a guided tour, or just go yourself for 14 euro either way. I like to do things on my own, even though I know I missed out on a lot of info. Expect a lot of visitors.

trinity college

A small exhibition describes the importance of the book and it’s really good I think. Even if you are not that into books as me. Unfortunately, you can only see the pages on which the book is open. But some pages. And if you visit another time, I think they plip to different pages.

book of kells
Golde delicious Book of Kells

The Book of Kells is an Irish treasure: it’s a 1200 year old book and the most famous illuminated Bible. It was written in an abbey in Scotland, but after a Viking attack the abbey moved to Kells near Dublin. That means it’s one of the oldest books in the world! It is intricately written and decorated by hand.

trinity college library
Like something out of Harry Potter

The long room has 200.000 of the oldest books in a 65 m long beautiful old-book-smelling room. I love it. It reminds me of when I worked in the Royal Cast Collection in Copenhagen… Built early 1700’s, this is one of the coolest and most instagrammable libraries in the world!


Many of the famous Irish writers were students here. James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker (the guy with Dracula and Courtney Love (kind of a writer)). As Samuel Beckett wrote (the guy with the bridge): “Dublin university contains the cream of Ireland: Rich and thick.” Hmm…

In the library, busts are placed on both sides and you’ll find Homer, Plato, Milton, Isaac Newton, Shakespeare and so on. You also find Jonathan Swift of course. And no: no women (except me in the picture above).

bust of jonatan swift

Just like Einstein House in Bern, I feel smarter just by being here.


‘How many have read “Ulysses”?’, the guide in the Little Museum of Dublin asks. Only 1 says yes. ‘How many have attempted?’; 2 says yes. There’s good reason for asking this question on a guided tour through the history of Dublin. Oh, and by the way: The 1 person was me!

dublin little museum

The Little museum of Dublin is a museum for the modern story of Dublin; rated Dublin’s best museum experience by irirsh Times and #1 museum in Ireland on TripAdvisor. So we opted for this instead of the National Museum. Take a guided tour. Our guide gave us a tour of women history in Dublin.

dublin museum (3)-horz.jpg

Of course, the literary giants are present here as well. The most important item (if you ask me) is a copy of the first English edition of James Joyce’s “Ulysses” opened on last page, so you can say you have read the end.


As you can see above, Ireland wasn’t the land of opportunity. Almost all the writers left Dublin. Except for Swift. Maybe that’s why he is so more exposed than his more famous colleagues… But I do think, he’s underestimated: “Gullivers’ Travels” is not just a fun story, but a serious critique of society and values of his time.

Close to the museum is St. Stephens Green. As you can see, once again I bumped into James Joyce, but Yeats is also there alongside the . The park is not that big, but nice – probably a great spot in summer.


Around the park are beautiful Georgian houses.


Instagram is overflowing with the beautiful Dublin doors in red, greean and blue adn with good reason. Dublin was the most beaituful Georgian in the 18th century British Empire. You’ll also see later architecture in the same style, but then it’s technically not Georgian. It’s wannabe…

dublin door (2)-horz.jpg

One of the original Georgian houses, that were saved belonged to a dance academy, whos owner is depicted in James Joyce’s “Ulysses”.  So when it was up for sale, it was bought and turned in to James Joyce Centre. They have great souvenirs – if you like Joyce… If you can visit Dublin on Bloomsday – do it. And take a Ulysses-tour.

dublin museum (12)

The museum is mainly for big fans of James Joyce. It’s not that big a museum, but it tells about Joyce, his works and you can find the actual door from Eccles Street 7. Where Bloom lives in “Ulysses”.james joyce centre

Of course, I bought my souvenirs here: a notebook (for travels) with Joyce made by Irelands’ oldest bindery and a totebag. If you haven’t any of his works, start with “The Dead”.


You may have heard of St. Patricks Day. St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and the day is held on his supposed death day. Although, you might think he wouldn’t be to happy about Ireland, since he was from Britain, but captured by Irish pirates. Later he chased all the snkaes out of ireland, which is why you don’t see any…


St. Patrick’s Cathedral is from 1200 and the largest and tallest church in Ireland. I was really looking forward to this, but was kind of dissapointed. It was not that big, not that much too see, Swift’s tomb was inaccesible, it was quite expensive, but worst of all the beautiful Gothic room was aesthetically destroyed by a big gift shop and some decorations in the ceiling. Not good!

dublin church (4)-vert

Of course, you also find writers here. The garden next to the Cathedral has a literary hall of fame, and Jonathan Swift is buried inside the Cathedral. He’s buried under the floor, but you can see his epitaph, editions of his works, and if you are a big fan: his deathmask and a cast of his skull!

dublin church (11)


Okay, time to go back to the beginning: beer! Sláinte!

dublin guiness (2)

Bonus info: Dublin means Black Pool (really cool) from a pool in the Castle garden behind me here…

dublin castle (3)

If you like taking the literary road, try  visit Venice, Italy with death as a guide!

Do you use books for travel inspiration?

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