The Top 4 Libraries to Visit in Dublin
Type of traveller: bookworm
Destination: Dublin, Ireland
Joyce, Swift, Stoker, Wilde, Beckett, Yeats… so many writers and poets have trodden around Dublin! It was not by chance that Dublin was nominated UNESCO City of Literature in 2010. Apart from boasting a great number of internationally acclaimed writers, Dublin hosts several literary events and it is the home of three literature museums and many independent bookshops. In this post, I’d like to focus on what I deem to be the top four libraries to visit in Dublin, from the renowned Trinity College Library to the historic Marsh’s Library.
The Library of Trinity College Dublin
It’s impossible not to be fascinated by the majestic library in the heart of Trinity College Dublin. Built in the 18th century, the Long Room treasures around 200,000 of the library’s oldest books, and since 1801 the library holds the right to claim a free copy of every book published in Ireland and Britain. Along its 65-metre aisle, fourteen marble busts of illustrious men austerely observe the visitors wandering around with their cameras. When I visited the Old Library for the first time, I immediately felt catapulted into a mystical and magical world akin to Hogwarts, and it’s probably for this reason that Trinity College Library remains my favourite. Included in the price, you can admire the Book of Kells, a 9th century illuminated manuscript containing the Gospels. But beware: until March 2020 the Book of Kells will not be displayed due to ongoing conservation plans of the library, thus a discount of 15% will be applied. For more information, please click here.
General info: the Long Room is a very popular destination, so during high season there are likely to be queues to enter.
Tip for travelling-families: a great way to introduce children to the story of the Book of Kells may be the viewing of the animation movie The Secret of Kells. Nominated for an Academy Award in 2009, the movie tells the story of Brendan, a 12-year-old boy who lives in the Abbey of Kells in the 9th century. With the Viking invasion approaching, Brendan will try to complete the precious manuscript and to save it from destruction. During his adventures, Brendan encounters Aisling, a magic creature of the forest, who will help him in his mission.
Chester Beatty Library
Within the historic grounds of Dublin Castle, you can visit the cosmopolitan Chester Beatty Library. Originally a private collection of Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, an American magnate and philanthropist, the library has been acquiring and maintaining precious and rare manuscripts, drawings, and miniatures since the 1950s. Despite being called “library”, it is a museum where religious Eastern manuscripts are exhibited. Personally, as a visitor, I appreciated the illustrative panels that explain the differences among religions of which sacred books are displayed.
On the ground floor, you can find a nice little shop selling handmade gifts and the Silk Road Café, which mirrors the multiculturalism of the museum by offering dishes from various cuisines. It’s an excellent place to relax and enjoy some tea and a sweet, trust me!
A stone’s throw from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, you can delve back into a Potterish setting at the historic Marsh’s Library, a true hidden gem of Dublin. The tour consists of three rooms where everything was left untouched for three centuries. Opened in 1707 and now home to 25,000 books, the library was a point of reference for great writers of the past, such as Bram Stoker. I was lucky enough to visit the library during a temporary exhibition on Stoker in which the books he borrowed from the library were displayed. Spoiler alert: many readings contained references to Transylvania, surely inspiring his writing of Dracula.
General info: the entry fee is €5, €3 for students and senior citizens. You cannot take photos indoors.
National Library of Ireland
The elegant National Library of Ireland is located in Dublin city centre, on Kildare Street, and its goal is to collect and preserve all materials of national interest which today amount to 10 million books, photos, newspapers, stamps, and illustrations. Do you think you have Irish origins? The National Library offers free services to help you discover your genealogical tree, thanks to the documents, Catholic Parish Registers and the newspapers here preserved.
General info: since it is still a functioning library, visitors can access the free events and exhibitions organised by the library, but they have to join specific tours to enter the Reading Room. On the official website, you can access a virtual tour of the library that will give you an idea of the building. I’ll leave the link here in case you are interested!
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