Where the River Liffey meets the Irish Sea you’ll find the capital city of Dublin. Its laidback charm mixed with locals’ knack for storytelling means Dublin has produced many talented writers. Few are celebrated so vocally in the city as James Joyce, whose 1922 novel Ulysses is considered by many to be the finest piece of literature ever written.
The novel, set on these very streets over a single day - the 16th June 1904 - is a modernist look on life which focuses on the characters Leopold Bloom and Stephan Dedalus. Based loosely on Homer’s epic Odyssey, Dublin plays an important role in the novel. Given the success of the book, it’s no surprise that Bloomsday (16th June) is celebrated each year in Joyce’s native city in loving tribute. Many of the Dublin landmarks mentioned in Ulysses are still standing today, and are frequently visited on Bloomsday by literary fans and scholars alike. If you’re planning on touring Dublin then you should certainly include these locations.
James Joyce Centre
Inside an attractive four-floor Georgian townhouse on North Great George’s Street you will find The James Joyce Centre, a superb museum dedicated to the life and works of the author. The centre houses furniture from Joyce’s Parisian apartment, as well as interactive displays including short documentaries about his life and work. The main draw though, certainly for Ulysses fans, is the original front door of 7 Eccles St, home to Leopold and Molly Bloom.
Princes Street is one of Dublin’s chief thoroughfares, running off O’Connell Street. It was here at the offices of the Freeman’s Journal that the Aeolus chapter was set. Central and close to the river, Princes Street was once home to one of Ireland’s most famous theatres, Capitol Theatre, which was in fact built on the original land of the Freeman’s Journal. Just a short walk away on North Earl Street you can see the James Joyce statue.
Another of Dublin’s famous streets on our Joyce tour is Grafton Street, just south of the River. Grafton Street features in Ulysses’ tenth chapter, Wandering Rocks – a meditation on ‘the path not taken’ by a number of locals as they wander through. Close by as well are the grounds of Trinity College – Ireland’s oldest university campus - where you’ll find some of the city’s finest architecture.
Ormond Hotel is the setting for the eleventh chapter, Sirens, though the place has been completely remodelled since Leopold’s stay back in 1904. Despite no longer being open today, hotel guests and visitors can step into the nearby Sirens Bar and enjoy a drink on the north bank of the Liffey. There is also a plaque on the old building, commemorating Joyce and the novel.
Despite its publication almost a century ago, Ulysses continues to resonate with readers and is often well-placed in any discussion of the greatest ever novels. Its enduring appeal is not only a testament to the skill of James Joyce, but also to the city of Dublin itself; arguably the novel’s star. All this together makes Dublin one of the world’s must-see literary capitals.