All things Joyce in Dublin and beyond


Whatever else you plan to do to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, March 17 is a grand time to plan a trip to Ireland over June 16, known to all aficionados of James Joyce as Bloomsday.

Joyce’s groundbreaking book “Ulysses” takes place entirely on June 16, 1904, which happens to be the date that Joyce had his first date with Nora Barnacle, who later became the writer’s wife. Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of the book, knows none of this and the book does not address it, but much of Dublin celebrates the date every year.

How popular is this event? In 2004, just before the 100th anniversary of Leopold Bloom’s literary meanderings, some 10,000 people showed up for a free Irish breakfast on O’Connell Street, enjoying sausages, rashers, toast, beans and black and white puddings, all in honor of Bloomsday.

Annual events in Dublin include readings and dramatizations of “Ulysses,” walking tours that visit locations named in the book, special dinners at local restaurants and pub crawls, some attended by fans dressed in period costumes. The James Joyce Centre, on North Great George’s Street in Dublin, routinely sponsors special events for Bloomsday. (See

When I made my first Bloomsday trip, I stayed for five days, immersing myself in all things Joyce. Here are eight important stops or your itinerary.

1. James Joyce Centre. Opened in 1994, the center is in a restored house that was built in 1784. In the early 1800s, Denis J. Maginnis rented a room in the house, where he taught dancing under the name Denis J. Maginni.

Joyce knew the man, and in “Ulysses,” he wrote about him, describing Maginni as wearing a “silk hat, slate frockcoat with silk facings, white kerchief tie, tight lavender trousers, canary gloves and pointed patent boots, walking with grave deportment.”

You can visit the Maginni Room in the center, which also houses a Joyce reference library, portraits of Joyce’s family members and photos of the real people on whom Joyce based many of his characters.

2. Dublin Writers Museum. Opened in 1991 in a Georgian house on Parnell Square North once owned by George Jameson, this small museum honors Joyce as well as other famous Irish writers. Take advantage of the informative audio tour – it’s free.

3. James Joyce statue. A life-sized statue is on North Earl Street, just off bustling O’Connell Street. A bust of Joyce is on display in St. Stephen’s Green, a popular public park near Grafton Street.

4. Sweny’s Chemist Shop. Many a walking tour of Dublin includes a stop at the shop, which operates as a museum. In “Ulysses,” Bloom buys a bar of lemon-scented soap, and it’s still a big seller. Right around the corner is Finn’s Hotel (now closed), where Nora Barnacle worked as a chambermaid. Look for the sign on Clare Street.

5. Oliver St. John Gogarty’s Pub. You can hear traditional Irish music at this pub on Fleet Street in the Temple Bar neighborhood. Joyce immortalized Gogarty in “Ulysses” as “stately, plump” Buck Mulligan. Another pub in the book is Davy Byrne’s, on Duke Street, where Bloom stops for a Gorgonzola cheese sandwich and a glass of Burgundy.

Three stops outside of Dublin are worthy on any pilgrimage to honor Joyce.

6. Howth. In Dublin, head for a DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transport) station and buy a ticket on a train traveling north. Howth Head, about nine miles from the city, is where Leopold Bloom proposed to Molly among the rhododendrons.

7. Bray. Head south about 12 miles on the DART to see Bray, where Joyce lived with his family from 1888 to 1891. In “Ulysses,” Joyce describes Bray Head as “the blunt cape that lay on the water like the snout of a sleeping whale.”

8. Sandycove. The DART also will take you to Sandycove (about nine miles from Dublin), to see the Martello tower where Joyce lived for a week. “Ulysses” opens in this very tower, which is now a James Joyce Museum. Do climb the winding staircase to the top of the tower, but don’t expect to be the only person up there quoting the opening lines from the book.

As I left the tower, I overheard a wonderful conversation between a man and his son, whom I guessed to be about 11.

“Dad,” said the boy, “What is `Ulysses’ about?”

“Well,” said the man, “It’s about everything.”

It is – and if you love the book, you will enjoy spending Bloomsday in Dublin



1 City 5 ways

from Delta Airlines Sky Magazine

There’s more than one way to discover Dublin.

Where to Stay // The Brooks Hotel
The Ormond Hotel from James Joyce’s Ulysses is no more, but you’ll find this friendly little boutique hotel in central Dublin to be the perfect base for any Leopoldian dawdling.

Morning // Reading Room at the National Library
Stephen Dedalus is Joyce’s Telemachus to Bloom’s Odysseus; he has an epic conversation about Shakespeare in The National Library’s as-impressive-in-real-life Reading Room.

Afternoon // James Joyce Tower & Museum
Take the DART train to Sandycove to the Martello Tower, site of the opening scene in Ulysses and now a charming museum dedicated to the writer.

Dinner // Davy Byrnes
In Ulysses, Joyce’s masterpiece about Ireland’s daddy issues, Leopold Bloom stops in here for a glass of burgundy and gorgonzola sandwich.

Where to Stay // Ballyfin
After a painstaking eight-year restoration, Ballyfin is a reminder of Ireland of the 1820s, when Jane Austen/Downton Abbey-style gentlefolk lived just outside of sooty Dublin.

Morning // Golf at Portmarnock
The website talks of “those dimpled fairways threading their way through that classic fescue.” We wish we had a decent brogue to do it justice —not to mention swing.

Midmorning // Kevin & Howlin
Since 1936, the Kevin family has been providing the finest Donegal tweeds for Irish sportsmen and women. For some new duds, head here.

Afternoon // The Curragh
Whether draught or sport, a true Irish gentleman knows his breeds in The Land of the Horse. The Curragh in Kildare remains Ireland’s most important Thoroughbred racetrack.

Where to Stay // Four Seasons
This lovely hotel is located in the Ballsbridge neighborhood, possibly the best habitat in the city for the beautiful Georgian-style “Dublin doors.”

Morning // Book of Kells at Trinity College
The Kells is a magnificent 1,200-year-old illuminated Bible. Honor the monks who labored over it by taking a few notes in its dimly lit room.

Lunch // Fade Street Social
Dylan McGrath’s gastropub on Fade Street celebrates the character of Irish food through an innovative small-plates menu.

Afternoon // Tibradden Wood Zip Line
Zip around and commune with the bird life above Tibradeen, the highest point in Dublin’s old pine forest 15 minutes from Dundrum Town Centre.

Where to Stay // The Dylan Hotel
In south City Centre, The Dylan is a smart little hotel tucked near the first British army barracks to surrender to Michael Collins in 1922.

Morning // GAA Museum
In Ireland, hurling isn’t just a game; it’s a creed and a movement. This museum in Croke Park is a shrine to the Gaelic Athletic Association’s contributions to the culture and its goals.

Afternoon // Glasnevin Cemetery
This is one of the first cemeteries to allow the burial of both Catholics and Protestants, including many Irish rebels and statesmen such as O’Connell, Parnell, Collins and De Valera.

Evening // Abbey Theatre
Opened in 1904, Ireland’s national theater led the cultural revival of Yeats and Synge. It remains relevant, producing new work by Elaine Murphy, Pat Kinevane and more.

Where to Stay // The Clarence Hotel
Bono and the Edge bought the Clarence back in their Zooropa days and transformed it into one of Dublin’s premier boutique hotels.

Evening // Olympia Theatre
Tom Waits recorded “The Piano Has Been Drinking” in this beautifully restored theater. And whether it’s Die Antwoord or Tame Impala, it still books the best gigs.

Dinner // 777
Right in the center of Dublin’s “Hipster Triangle,” 777 is a tequila bar that caters to the new variety of fully sleeved punter. Try the oysters with chili sauce.

Late Night // Whelan’s
Whelan’s is a Dublin music-scene institution. And it stays open late—you know, late enough for “one more.”

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