Dublin is a city that can proudly boast to being home to many of the literary greats over the centuries. It’s a city steeped in history and culture, and this can be seen wherever you happen to wander. The buildings and monuments are a constant reminder of some of the great works of literature that have stemmed from this fair city. In Merrion Square there’s a monument to Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), notable for plays such as The Importance of Being Ernest and An Ideal Husband, an if you wander past the Grand Canal you will see Patrick Kavanagh sitting on the banks. Learn about Dublin’s literary past and have a pint or two along the way in some of the city’s best known pubs! Read on for more…
What better way to get a taste of the culture and the origins of Irish Literature than by partaking of a pint of the black stuff in a Dublin inn that was once frequented by some of the most talented writers the world has ever known. Literary Ireland spans from Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), author of Gulliver’s Travels, up to Roddy Doyle (1958-) winner of The Booker Prize 1993 for Ha Ha Ha. Even better still bring along a copy of Ulysses to keep you company along the way!
Pub crawl tours around Dublin have become a popular tourist magnet over the years but why not make up your own route and decide on which famous writers you would like to learn more about? Your tour can have you passing historical buildings and areas of Dublin that provided influence in many great pieces of literary excellence such as James Joyce’s Ulysses. And you can enjoy a ‘tipple’ in some of the oldest drinking establishments Dublin city has to offer along your (merry) way!
South of the River Liffey you’ll find O’Neills on Suffolk Street, this pub is over 300 years old and is a good starting point for your very own literary pub crawl of Dublin. It’s located on what was originally a mound of earth and home to the Norse Parliament. O’Neills is mentioned in James Joyce’s famous novel Ulysses, which describes a day in the life of Leopold Bloom (June 16th 1904) and his view of Dublin. This pub has changed hands over the centuries but it has retained its character and charm.
From here a short distance away on Duke Street, just off Grafton Street, is the well-known establishment The Duke. It’s situated close to Trinity College and a short walk from the main thoroughfare of O Connell Street. This pub boasts a reputation as having been regularly frequented by the likes of Joyce, Kavanagh, Beehan and many others. It’s renowned for being a lively spot and a good place to soak up the Irish pub culture.
Find out more about the Duke Pub.
Davy Byrnes is also situated on Duke Street and is a pub saturated in Irish history and culture. The premises was first licensed as a pub in1789 and purchased in 1889 by Davy Byrnes, whose name has remained above the pub to this day. James Joyce was a regular visitor to the pub and formed a friendship with Davy himself.
“He entered Davy Byrnes. Moral Pub. He doesn’t chat. Stands a drink now and then. But in a leap year one if four. Cashed a cheque for me once” (Joyce, Ulysses, 1922).
This is a very popular place to be on Bloomsday, 16th June, where many people come to enjoy a Gorgonzola sandwich and a glass of burgundy, as Bloom did himself in 1904. An added piece of literary information related to Davy Byrnes was that Brendan Beehan was arrested outside the pub for being involved in a brawl.
Find out more about Davy Byrnes Pub.
A short distance from here is McDaids Pub on Harry Street, just off Grafton Street. McDaids is well known throughout Dublin for its superb pints of Guinness and its lively atmosphere. It was a favourite haunt of the famous literary author Brendan Beehan and it’s said that some of the characters in ‘The Plough Boy’ and ‘The Hostage’ were based on people Beehan had become acquainted with in McDaids. It was also a popular haunt of Patrick Kavanagh, JP Donleavy and Flann O Brien. The interior of the pub has remained relatively unchanged and therefore you get a good idea of how Brendan Beehan may have felt sitting there enjoying a drink while thinking up more great works of art.
Find out more about McDaids Pub.
A few minutes walk from Grafton Street, on South Great George Street, and housed in a magnificent listed building is the Long Hall Pub. This is a very popular local pub and one of Dublin’s oldest watering houses. It’s traditionally decorated and will give you a good feel for what pubs were like in Ireland many years ago. It’s renowned for having a warm and welcoming atmosphere and all who visit are made to feel like part of the furniture.
Ten minutes walk from Grafton Street, on Baggot Street, is the old style traditional pub Toners. It’s well known as supposedly being the only pub the famous Irish poet, WB Yeats frequented. Yeats was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923 and was also one of the founding members of the Abbey Theatre. Two of his well-known poems are ‘The Wanderings of Oisin’ and ‘The Second Coming’. Yeats was said to have enjoyed the odd sherry in Toners, perhaps pondering on his unrequited love by Maud Gonne! Toners has an old rustic feel to it with original stock drawers still behind the counter and a traditional stone floor. Patrick Kavanagh was also a regular visitor to Toners. Kavanagh was a famous Irish poet and novelist; two of his most popular productions were ‘The Great Hunger’ and ‘Raglan Road’.
Find out more about Toners.
To have a reputation as having great literary significance in Dublin, beautifully sums up The Palace Bar. Situated on Fleet Street, a short walk from Grafton Street and Temple Bar. This is a traditional bar with a difference. It’s Pre-Victorian and therefore has a different feel to many of the other Dublin pubs. The Palace Bar is an old pub dating back to the early 19th century. It is steeped in literary history and is famously known for being home in the 1940′s to ‘The Fourth Estate’ (educated people whose interest is in literature). This get together of the ‘who’s who’ of Dublin literary society was held in the back room of the pub with its spectacular stained glass, and still to this day it has retained a strong historical feel. The Palace was a favourite spot for Patrick Kavanagh, Brendan Beehan and Flann O Brien. It remains a popular hang out for journalists probably hoping for some inspiration so as to embark on their first Booker Prize winning novel. It has a reputation as being one of Dublin’s favourite pubs and has remained untouched and untainted by the modern era.
Mulligans Pub situated on Poolbeg Street, just off Burgh Quay, is a pub that has refused to change with the times. Its interior is dated but its atmosphere is alive and kicking. It was mentioned in Ulysses but perhaps what it is better known for is its numerous famous visitors over the years. Although they may not be considered literary geniuses they would have been many literary pieces done in their honour! JF Kennedy frequented the pub in the 1940′s when he worked for the Hearst Newspaper Chain. Other visitors included Judy Garland, Maureen O Hara, Cecil Sheridan and Eamon Andrews who were but a few of Mulligans clientele.
‘The Society for the Preservation of the Dublin Accent’ used to hold their meetings here and you can see a plaque in commemoration to them on the wall.
Contact details for Mulligans Pub.
Other pubs with literary connections to look out for on your wanderings through this area are The Brazen Head, on Bridge Street and Grogans situated on South William Street.
A full list of Dublin pubs.
This area of Dublin has high quality accommodation with hotels and guesthouses in abundance. It might be a good idea to book your accommodation before embarking on your literary pub-crawl!
Have a look at our Dublin city hotels page.
A word of warning if embarking on this literary tour of Dublin pubs, it might be an idea to do it over a couple of days or abstain from the black stuff in some of the establishments. By the end you’ll hopefully be influenced enough to attempt a Nobel Prize winning novel yourself!