Dublin, for many, is about books, pubs and pints. It is a city where (mostly) men have gathered for centuries into the pubs to grumble about life, women and literature. It is a city of which one famous writer (yes, James Joyce) said that it is impossible to walk across the city without passing a pub on every street (actually, it is possible, but will take some effort). For me, Dublin was always about books (mostly). But strangely enough, for a city of its size and with all its literary connections, Dublin did not have an abundance of awe-inspiring bookshops. Nevertheless, there were few of those cosy little nooks that invite you to step in every time you happen to pass by.
So, dear reader, step in, and visit a few!
Secret Book & Record Shop, 15 Wicklow Street
This was one of my favourite ones in Dublin. Partly because it gave me the feeling that you have to know the city a little bit to find in here, partly because it reminds me of those golden years of bargain book hunting in the late1990s. In fact, you can still buy CDs and even LPs from here! Yes, the sentence does require an exclamation mark. I’ve done some good finds here, like Thomas Aquinas and Donna Tartt, and this is the place where I pop in on my visits every time I go to Dublin.
Chapter’s Bookstore, 1 Parnell Street
When I visited the hidden book shop I used to have this game that fate would just miraculously put a book in front of me if it was worthy of my attention. Should I find something that really caught my eye, I would buy and read it. But visiting Chapter’s you don’t need to leave anything to fate as Chapter’s has everything. Chapter’s is a quite big book shop on two floors. On the first floor, there are new releases and stationery, on the second-floor, piles and piles and rows and rows of second-hand books. Here, especially Irish fiction is very well presented, as is literature theory, arts and detective stories.
Winding Stair Bookshop, 40 Ormond Quay Lower
This is a perfect Dublin bookshop in a perfect Dublin location: by the river Liffey, next to the Ha’Penny Bridge. Winding Stairs is a little shop specialized in Irish literature and literature magazines. At the back there is a cosy little area to flip through your findings and at the front, you can sip on a cup of tea by the window. Upstairs, there is also a restaurant by the same name. So, basically, you can spend a good half a day just in this corner of Dublin.
These are my personal favourite ones while in Dublin, but there’s more!
Hodges Figgis is a historic one being Ireland’s oldest bookshop and dating from 1768 – although, now owned by Waterstones. From Hodges Figgis, near Trinity University and Grafton street, you’ll find the largest collection of Irish literature in the world.
For a hardcore collector, I recommend the Ulysses Rare Books, conveniently located at Duke Street where you can also visit Davy Byrne’s Pub if you are in Dublin for James Joyce. Gutter Bookshop in Temple Bar’s Cow’s Lane and in Dalkey are constantly winning Irish awards for independent bookshops whereas Books Upstairs is a long time favourite for many. You can also find a small amount of Irish literature in Sweny’s Pharmacy, which I recommend to pop into just because it’s atmosphere.
Gutter Bookshop in Temple Bar’s Cow’s Lane and in Dalkey are constantly winning Irish awards for independent bookshops whereas Books Upstairs is a long time favourite for many. You also find a small amount of Irish literature in Sweny’s Pharmacy, which I recommend to pop into just because it’s atmosphere.
For stationery, don’t walk past The Pen Corner, near Trinity College. This historic pen shop (yes, that’s a sentence everyone should use daily!) has welcomed stationery enthusiasts since 1927. And who might be the most famous of these stationery enthusiasts? Try Grace Kelly, Clark Gable, Kurt Cobain and Seamus Heaney just to mention a few.