Your guide to Bloomsday 2024

Media captionExplore your inner Joycean this Bloomsday Festival.
A group of Joyceans celebrating Bloomsday in Edwardian outfits
Media captionExplore your inner Joycean this Bloomsday Festival.

If you’re lucky enough to visit Dublin on or around Bloomsday (June 16), you’re in for a treat.

Bonnets, boaters and bustles are the dress code for this quintessentially Dublin celebration, which has grown from a single day into a weeklong festival commemorating one of the capital’s literary giants, James Joyce, and his most famous work. Recreating the diverse characters and locations, encounters and events that come to life in the pages of Joyce’s masterpiece Ulysses, the city’s streets and cultural hubs strive to outdo each other.

To help you plan, here’s everything you need to know about Bloomsday and a selection of events to enjoy this year.

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The history of Bloomsday

Set in 1904, the epic novel, Ulysses, follows the life of Leopold Bloom, his wife Molly and the people he meets as he goes about his business, hawking advertising space for a daily newspaper, the Freeman’s Journal.

The day is June 16. Fifty years later in 1954, Irish writers Patrick Kavanagh, Flann O’Brien and Anthony Cronin decided to honour the anniversary by visiting some key locations in the masterpiece. These included the Martello Tower at Sandycove, now a museum to Joyce’s life and work, and Davy Byrne’s pub in the heart of Dublin where Bloom dined on kidneys and offal. Along the way they peppered the journey with readings and references. What had been intended as a once-off outing has become a much-loved literary tradition and one that has spread far beyond the capital, with recitals, performances, re-enactments and other events taking place on this day around the globe. In Dublin itself, Bloomsday is now marked by annual festivities that have been curated and organised since 1994 by the James Joyce Centre

This year’s Bloomsday Festival runs from June 11 to June 16 and offers plenty of opportunities to indulge in a little Joycean culture. There are exhibitions, dramas, strolls, re-enactments and theatrical experiences, some ticketed, others free. Some are even running through the summer months beyond the festival itself.

Media captionGet involved in the festivities at The James Joyce Centre.

Take a walking tour

One of the festival's most popular events is a guided Bloomsday walk on June 16, following the paths that Leopold Bloom took through his Dublin on that fateful day. Beginning at the Gate Theatre, Pat Liddy’s lively two-hour guided Bloomsday Walk offers a fun and simplified introduction to the story. For a deeper dive, other expert guided walks delve into specific episodes and locations of Ulysses. There’s the Footsteps of Leopold Bloom walking tour and Introducing Joyce’s Dublin Walking tour, both running daily throughout the festival from the James Joyce Centre.

Catch a reading or some drama

In Dalkey Castle, the Dalkey Schoolroom scene comes to life with a guided walk of the Nestor episode. Aficionados will know that Sweny’s Pharmacy in Lincoln Place is where Leopold Bloom bought his wife a cake of lemon soap for fourpence. It's a tad more expensive these days but you may be treated to a reading or an Edwardian melody if you visit on June 16.

Media captionCatch a reading in Sweny's Pharmacy.

One of the many things Joyce did well was tackle difficult topics with a sense of wit, which is brilliantly shown in his short story "Grace", a satire of 20th century Catholic society in Ireland. Bewley's Café on Grafton Street is bringing this piece to life in all of its hilarity with the help of actor and comedian Terry O'Neill (June 10-16). 

Many lifelong fans of Joyce’s Ulysses have never read the book, but that doesn’t stop them wanting to immerse themselves in its befuddling and dazzling language and in the myriad of themes through readings or theatrical performances. For a simplified, yet entertaining, telling of the famous tale, make your way to the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) on Bloomsday for Robert Gogan's Strolling Through Ulysses, a comical tour through the events and characters of Joyce'c fictional world (June 16).

Media captionCelebrate Bloomsday at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA).

Movie buffs will find an eclectic programme of Joycean themed shorts, feature films and documentaries at Ireland’s most literary film festival, Bloomsday Film Festival. Running from June 13 to 16, it takes place at the James Joyce Centre and the Irish Film Institute, as well as online.

Enjoy a musical performance

Building momentum for Bloomsday, Irish folk artists Jim Murphy and Gráinne Hunt are coming together on June 11 at the James Joyce Centre to perform Joyce's Dubliners in a whole new way – through song. Made up of 15 songs in total, the duo's critically acclaimed album The Stern Task of Living retells the tales of each of Joyce's short stories.  

On June 13, you can enjoy A Joycean Evening at Dalkey Castle, where a troupe of actors will perform extracts from Ulysses, Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and more. They’ll be joined by baritone Simon Morgan and soprano Dona Malone. 

On Bloomsday itself, solo guitarist Joseph Chester will play Fragments of Lucia at the Smock Alley Theatre, his acclaimed guitar suite inspired by the life of James and Nora’s daughter, Lucia. Every year on Bloomsday, excerpts from Ulysses are read by her graveside. That same evening, the bells of Christ Church Taney in Dundrum will ring out “Heigho! Heigho!” as featured in the novel. 

Media captionSee unique pieces from Joyce's life at the James Joyce Tower and Museum.

Bookmark a special event

Joyce's words have not only inspired fellow writers but also artists of all types of media. From June 11-16, visual artist Suzanne Freeman will take over a section of the James Joyce Centre with her exhibition of work that delves into the motifs, themes and characters showcased in Ulysses. In a series of 18 display cases, Freeman recreates each episode of the novel through simple, everyday objects, calling attention to the weight they carried in the telling of the story. 

Media captionDiscover and enjoy the James Joyce Centre on Bloomsday.

Like much of his work suggests, Joyce held Ireland close to his heart – especially his beloved Dublin – and his affections never waned, despite his self-imposed exile to Paris. Join Assistant Professor of English at DCU Ellen Howley in the EPIC Museum where she follows Joyce's life in Paris and shows all the ways his work displayed his longing to return home (June 13).

Community capers

Many neighbourhoods have their own celebrations, with theatrical trails and community events celebrating their locality’s link to Ulysses or Joyce himself. Rathgar, the birthplace of the man himself, will be celebrating the occasion with their own Bloomsday Festival, free of charge. The village square will be filled with people donning their best Joycean attire as well as readings of Ulysses, live jazz music, food stalls and face painting for the kids.

Another village proud to show off their Joycean roots is Ringsend - the setting of Joyce and Nora Barnacle's first date in 1904. To commemorate the occasion, the Ringsend and District Historical Society are putting together a two-day celebration of free events which are open to the public, including outdoor folk sessions, a horse and carriage parade and a Bloomsday Brunch. Plus, there will also be a special unveiling of a plague and seat in honour of Joyce and Nora's first date. 

Explore Joyce’s Dublin

Not in town for Bloomsday? There’s always next June – or you can build your own literary experience of the city with our guide to Joyce’s Dublin.