5 famous novels set in Dublin

Girl admiring the books at Long Room of Trinity College, Dublin

Dublin has produced many legendary writers but the city itself has often been at the heart of the plot.

The capital’s iconic cobblestoned pathways, lively pubs and stunning coastline have provided a backdrop for world famous works of literature. Here’s a look at some of our favourite novels set in Dublin’s fair city.

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James Joyce – Ulysses

If you've battled through this notoriously tricky read, it's likely to have left you with a vivid impression of Dublin. From a bustling O’Connell Street to peaceful Sandymount Strand, Ulysses captures the city of Joyce’s time. Every June 16th, the single day when all the book’s events take place, the capital hosts Bloomsday. Become part of the story as you visit Sweny’s Pharmacy for lemon soap and hear readings on a walking tour ending at the James Joyce Tower and Museum in Sandycove. Pop on a straw boater and join in as the capital celebrates this literary landmark.

Roddy Doyle – Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha

A master of the Dublin dialect, Roddy Doyle has been sharing our colourful turns of phrase with the world since his 1987 debut. Many of his books have since become much loved movies (think The Commitments), but 'Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha' remains his masterpiece. In a fictional Barrytown based on real life suburb Kilbarrack, 10-year-old Paddy Clarke’s life is full of mischief and heartbreak. More than just pretty postcard locations, you’ll experience the sights and sounds of a Dublin working class childhood near beautiful Bull Island. 

Media captionAppreciate the sights of Bull Island.

Flann O'Brien – At Swim-Two-Birds

It took the world a while to come around to the genius of Flann O'Brien. The posthumous success of 'The Third Policeman' put the spotlight on a writer whose style perhaps best expresses Dublin’s famous sense of humour. But his most valued work is 'At Swim-Two-Birds' with its touches of fantasy and mythology. We follow the story of a young, lazy (and frequently drunk) college student who lives with his grumpy uncle in Dublin. The hilarious tale showcases many familiar city landmarks including Trinity College and Grogans Castle Lounge, a local favourite for its creamy pints and toasted sandwiches.

Media captionWalk around the grounds of Trinity College.

Sheridan Le Fanu – The Cock and Anchor

Subtitled ‘a chronicle of old Dublin city’, Gothic horror innovator Le Fanu's 1845 novel influenced both James Joyce and Bram Stoker. Set in Dublin in 1710, the story follows its hero O’Connor as he pursues his one true love, Miss Mary Ashwoode. Plots with the Devil and a sinister storyline means this is one best read in a well lit room with the doors safely locked. Dublin Castle and The Bleeding Horse pub on Camden Street make chilling appearances in this spooky read.

JP Donleavy – The Ginger Man

Once considered so raunchy it was banned both in Ireland and the USA, this 1947 novel is now recognised worldwide as a modern classic. Set in 1940s Dublin, The Ginger Man follows the decadent life of Sebastian Dangerfield, a loose tongued, womanising American studying at Trinity College. Along with Dangerfield’s scandalous behaviour, the distinctive narrative provides a spirited account of the city post World War II. Inspired by many of Dublin’s notable drinking establishments, it’s thought that O'Donoghue's and Toners on Baggot Street are alluded to in the novel’s pages.

Media captionStop off at Toners on Baggot Street for a drink.

Explore Dublin city

Now that you’ve discovered where to relive some of Dublin’s most famous novels, find festivals and events in Dublin and start planning your Dublin City break.