If you’re a bookworm travelling to Dublin, Ireland chances are the famous Old Library at Trinity College is on your radar to visit. Even if it isn’t yet, you’ve probably seen photos of what the Long Room (called that because it is nearly 65 meters in length) looks like—a dark academia dream space with lush wood bookshelves from floor to ceiling with busts standing watch.
Built over the span of 20 years, the library was completed in 1732 and had only a single level of bookshelves. However, since the library was granted the right to a free copy of any book published in Ireland and (later) the United Kingdom the shelves became full incredibly quickly. So, by the 1860s the roof was raised to allow for more space. Today it is filled with over 200,000 books and is a tourist attraction for literary lovers, architecture geeks, and everyone in between!
Tips for Visiting Trinity College Dublin
Getting there. The campus is right in the middle of the city and you can’t miss it—it is a beautiful space to wander through. Writer and philosopher Edmund Burke will greet you on the Grafton Street entrance and from there you walk through to a the main part of campus and you’ll immediately see the Campanile in front of you; this is how you’ll know you’re in Library Square. Facing the bell tower, you’re going head right towards the entrance to the Trinity College Library.
Buy your ticket in advance. Not only will this ensure that you get in, you can choose your date and timeslot to make it work for your itinerary. At first glance it can be confusing if you want to visit the library but you can only see a combined ticket with the Book of Kells. That’s the one you want! Prior to accessing the Long Room, you will go through an exhibit of—you guessed it—the Book of Kells. Here you’ll learn about this illuminated manuscript. I was particularly struck at how they made colourful ink back in the 9th century. Don’t worry: you can go at your own pace and if you feel like it, breeze through to the library.
The worst part about visiting Trinity College Library is…
Be prepared that you aren’t going to get the photos you want. As I mentioned above, you’re probably familiar with the images of the Long Room but you’ll never get your photos free of other tourists. It can be incredibly crowded. My best tip is to try and angle yourself at an angle in front of the bookshelves. It is still worth a visit as you walk up and down the room admiring not only the architecture and sculpture, there are displays in the centre of the room that outline Irish history. This includes a 15th century oak and willow harp, the emblem of Ireland. And not only does visiting the Old Library at Trinity College give you a chance to marvel at literary architecture (and plan your own home library!), but also walk in the shoes of Irish writers like Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, and Samuel Beckett.