Jan 30, 2024

Dublin’s Literary Pub Crawl

Molly Wetsch explores some literary pubs in Dublin and discusses their atmospheric appeal.

Molly WetschDeputy Literature Editor
William Murphy

As a UNESCO City of Literature, you’d be hard-pressed to find a place to have a pint in Dublin that hasn’t been haunted by an author or two, or featured in classic Irish literature — or both. So a journey was embarked upon, risking both social battery and bank account, to determine which of Dublin’s literary pubs will make you feel like a Joycean main character. 

An attempt was made to leave out the usual haunts we all know and love (nothing against McDaids, Palace Bar or Toners!). While we all love a pint or five in the old favourites, let’s be honest, it would be nice to have a break from photo-opping tourists and Ulysses fanboys. The following literary pub crawl is to be undertaken at your own risk, lest you be suddenly struck with the desire to write the next great Irish novel.

The Brian Boru (Hedigans)


Leopold Bloom mentions more than a handful of pubs in Ulysses, but only a few are still open today. One of them is mentioned only briefly in the iconic novel, The Brian Boru, also known as Hedigans. It is the slightly more underground companion to Gravediggers of Glasnevin, only a ten-minute walk from the local favourite. This particular pub may have been chosen for the first stop due to its proximity to both Glasnevin Cemetery and Gravediggers: even the best of us cannot resist the best pint in Dublin.

The Brian Boru may not have had much more than a passing notice in Joyce’s magnum opus, but after a pint or two in the bar, you might feel like you’ve been transported to Bloom’s Dublin. Maybe it’s the ghosts of Irish past just metres away in the cemetery, but the environment of the place was even more enjoyable and lively than expected. One can imagine in the warmer months, it’s even lovelier to sit in the outdoor area.

Cat and Cage

The Cat and Cage pub was, admittedly, a rogue choice to an extent. The literary association with this Drumcondra pub is loose, but fascinating. Pub-lover and renowned Irish author Brendan Behan was a sign painter by trade, and undertook the task of painting Cat and Cage’s sign but did such a poor job that he only received half of his pay. The sign has since been touched up, but the legacy remains. Author Seán O’Casey was also known to enjoy time in Cat and Cage and even mentioned the pub in his autobiography, lending a full chapter to a particularly wild night. 

Upon sitting in the pub, it’s clear that it’s one of the oldest in Dublin. The bar is preserved beautifully, and though the interior dates back to the 17th century, it’s a comfortable place to enjoy a pint. It also doesn’t hurt that the bar staff know how to serve a good drink. Sitting at the bar in the Cat and Cage may have cemented itself as a staple in literary pubs and potentially the most enjoyable stop on the crawl.

Mullingar House

Joyce’s final work, Finnegan’s Wake, takes place largely in an unnamed pub near Phoenix Park. Mullingar House in Chapelizod claims to be that very pub, and so this, of course, had to be verified with a visit. Situated just steps from the park, Mullingar House is in a great location for post-walk pints with a friend or two.  Unfortunately, while prior owners of the pub embraced its Joycean ties, its transfer to new ownership in the early noughties has given way to higher-end renovations and less focus put on historical preservation.

It’s recommended to book a table, which was helpful as food was direly necessary at this point in the crawl. To Mullingar House’s credit, both the food and the pint were delicious, but the literary vibes were simply nonexistent. Renovation efforts have turned the pub into less of a gathering place and more of a fancy dinner venue.

The Waterloo Bar

The aforementioned author Behan was one of the most famous boozers of Dublin’s literary community and haunted several pubs, frequently accompanied by will-they-won’t-they bestie Patrick Kavanagh. Really, if you wanted to do a pub crawl solely based on Behan’s famous favourites, you’d likely be successful. The Waterloo Bar in Ballsbridge was preferred by Kavanagh, though they often drank in the pub together.

Before heading to the final stop, one must stop to admire the cartoonish portrait of Kavanagh and Behan stationed proudly outside the entrance, a good omen that the pub is preserving its literary history.

The Waterloo has been remodelled since Kavanagh and Behan darkened the doorway, but the interior is still atmospheric, particularly the front bar. The perfect mix of old and new, the Waterloo maintains its status as a great place to get a drink, whether you’re looking for writing inspiration or somewhere to meet friends after a match in the Aviva.

As the crawl came to an end long past usual bedtime hours, it was time to reflect on the venues visited and beverages consumed. While all had their merits, few maintained the atmosphere that blossoming authors may crave. However, the route undertaken gave a truly comprehensive view of literary Dublin and heading outside the norm was well worth the trek.

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