Walk in the footsteps of artistic legends with our tried and tested tour.
Ireland’s famous literary son, James Joyce, once said: “When I die, Dublin will be written in my heart”. The capital of the Republic of Ireland has been the home and inspiration for a long list of artists. Whether you’re interested in books, film or music, the city is a cultural hotspot.
Ireland has a small population of five million but boasts world-class actors, dancers, musicians, and, of course, writers. Liam Neeson, Michael Flatley, Rihanna (yes, really) and Samuel Beckett, to name a few. Plus, the Booker Prize 2023 winner was Limerick’s Paul Lynch.
Dublin is the largest city in the country, but easy to navigate on foot. The streets feel like villages that make up a city. Put aside your weather worries, as we didn’t use an umbrella once and found fireplaces when it was cold. The all-year-round destination hosts unique events. For example, Bloomsday sees locals dress in Edwardian costumes to celebrate Joyce’s book Ulysses.
Locals were happy to talk (and even sing) to us, which would never happen in the likes of London or New York. Despite the political turmoil during the Troubles or recent riots, the Dubs, which means locals, were friendly. Plus, you’re bound to bump into an ex-expat, who may well know your home – we found a hotelier and taxi driver who once lived in Dubai.
As the Irish say, fáilte (welcome).
Hugh Lane Gallery
At Hugh Lane Gallery, Irish artists are firmly in the spotlight. Created in 1908, it is the world’s first public gallery of modern art. The Francis Bacon Studio recreates his studio, from the paint-splattered walls to the messy papers.
The gallery also hosts international exhibitions. Andy Warhol Three Times Out brings together more than 250 works, which include the Insta-friendly silkscreens of Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe. Michael Dempsey, Head of Exhibitions, shared: “It’s not a retrospective, but it is thematically curated to show the relevance of Warhol’s work today. He was interested in true and fake images, which is important today with social media and how images are disseminated.” The exhibition runs until 28 January 2024.
Irish Emigration Museum
The Irish Emigration Museum is like a 23andMe DNA test come to life. When we travelled around town, this was the most recommended museum – and the locals were right. The rooms cover art, entertainment, sport and politics, and we were in awe of just how many big names come from the small island.
What do John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama and Joe Biden have in common? They all have Irish ancestors. While serving as President of the United States, they visited Ireland and cemented the special relationship between the two countries.
The highlights come from the lesser-known heroes, from Violet Constance Jessop who survived tragedies on RMS Titanic, HMHS Britannic and RMS Olympic, to James Barry who performed the first recorded caesarean. Plus, the shocking story of how Irish women were conned to emigrate to Australia and marry convicts.
Museum of Literature Ireland
Museum of Literature Ireland is an ode to Irish literature. The site was the original home of University College Dublin. Director Simon O’Connor explained: “Language is like an Olympic sport in this country. We are Irish. We have a history of writers who went to England and were virtuosic with the language. English is a colonial language, but we like to think that we colonised the English language.”
The secret garden is where Joyce had his graduation and it opens up to Iveagh Gardens. Tip: have lunch at The Commons Café, and you might spot a contemporary writer.
Trinity College Dublin
Trinity College Dublin’s alumni reads like a who’s who of Irish literature. Former students include Bram Stoker, Jonathan Swift and Samuel Beckett. As we walked around the multicultural campus, we heard accents from around the world. Despite being in the heart of the city, it is a superb spot for a serene walk.
Admire the Ruskinian Gothic building, and visit Trinity College Library. The library is home to every book published in the country and is brimming with rows and rows of old books. Visitors can also see the Book of Kells, which dates back to 800AD.
At this hidden gem, you can follow in literary footsteps. In Joyce’s Ulysses, the lead character Leopold Bloom stops off at Sweny and buys a bar of soap. Now, those in the know – including the President of France, Emmanuel Macron – have been there, done that and signed the guest book.
Owner PJ Murphy entertained us with a traditional Irish song. He shared how his family were friends with the Joyces. Eager to befriend customers, he speaks multiple languages and is learning Arabic. If it wasn’t hard enough reading Ulysses in English, he hosts readings in different languages. Look out for forgotten prescriptions from the past, and buy that bar of soap.
Oscar Wilde Memorial Statue
The Irish are famous for their wit, and one writer who embodies that is Oscar Wilde. He once said: “I can resist everything except temptation”. The statue is easy to spot in Merrion Square, as it often has plenty of photographers. Just like his personality, it is colourful and made out of green jade. Near the square is his childhood home Oscar Wilde House, and popular haunt Kennedy’s.
The Merrion Hotel
Whenever we told locals that we were staying at The Merrion, they were excited on our behalf. Located opposite Parliament House, the luxury hotel has hundreds of years of history and was the birthplace of the Duke of Wellington. The Grade I Georgian building is home to one of the largest private collections of 19th and 20th-century art in Ireland. Book a self-guided audio art tour or a guide from The National Gallery of Ireland. Plus, Art Tea takes place in the Drawing Room and the treats are inspired by the artists.
If you have time to travel, visit Malahide Castle and Gardens, with its 800-year heritage or Newbridge’s Silverware Museum of Style Icons, which are approximately one hour from the city centre.
Open your heart to Dublin.
GO: Visit www.ireland.com for more information.