The history of Ireland is a complex one. And nowhere is that more apparent than in the capital, Dublin. This ancient city, founded in 841 by Viking settlers, has seen invasions and uprisings galore over the centuries. Once a colonial city of the British Empire, Dublin was the center of the Irish movement for independence and is now the capital city of a proud and fiercely independent nation.
In other words, Dublin is a fantastic place for history buffs to explore. Irish culture is unique, and the best museums in Dublin are those that celebrate the history and people of the country and the city. Luckily, you'll find many Dublin museums that will give you an insight into Irish history and culture. And best of all, some of the top museums in the city have no entry fee, making them some of the best free things to do in Dublin too.
Read on to learn more about the best museums in Dublin. And don't forget to leave your bags behind at a Dublin luggage storage. Many of the museums in Dublin don't allow large bags and don't provide luggage lockers, so your best bet is to take advantage of a Bounce suitcase storage while you explore Dublin's culture and history.
National Museum of Ireland
The National Museum of Ireland is a real highlight of the city, and one of the most important cultural institutions in the entire country. This museum, spread over four locations, is devoted to the entire sweep of Irish history, and the vast collection here is probably the best place to get a deeper understanding of the tumultuous history of the country. Don't miss the Kingship and Sacrifice Exhibition, which takes visitors on an exploration of prehistoric Ireland through recovered mummified bog bodies that once inspired Nobel prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney, among others. It's fascinating, though slightly ghoulish place to visit.
The National Museum features several different wings that are devoted to a variety of scientific pursuits. As well as the history and archaeology section, you'll find the Natural History Museum here, known locally as the Dead Zoo. The collection of taxidermied animals here lets you take a trip around the world and explore natural history without leaving Ireland. Thanks to its impressive fossil collection, it's also one of the best things to do in Dublin with kids.
And did we mention it's completely free to visit? There are few better bargains for visitors to Dublin than this impressive museum.
National Gallery of Ireland
If you find yourself with a rainy day to spend in Dublin, the National Gallery of Island is a truly impressive cultural institution that, like the National Museum, is completely free. Here, you'll be able to admire the national collection of paintings, drawings, and sculpture. As you'd expect, the National Gallery focuses on work by Irish artists. However, you'll also find work by internationally renowned creators like Caravaggio, Titian, and Rubens, among others. If you're an art lover, you can't afford not to visit this stunning collection. But even if you're not that big a fan of art, you're virtually guaranteed to find something here that may give you a new appreciation for visual arts.
It's rare for a country to be as identified with a single commercial brand the way Ireland is with Guinness. This legendary black stout is one of the country's most famous exports, and can be found around the world wherever Irish people have settled. Guinness has its origins right in Dublin, and the Guinness Storehouse celebrates the long heritage of brewing in the city on a guided tour of this old brewery. You'll learn how Guinness is made and why it became such an iconic part of Irish culture. You'll also learn more about how the production of beer shaped the history of the city from the 18th century onward. Perhaps best of all, you'll get to taste some of what the brewery produces in the onsite bar, which is about as Irish an experience as you could have.
Chester Beatty Library
This fantastic museum, located on the grounds of Dublin Castle, is something of a hidden gem. That's even after it became the only Irish museum to be awarded the European Museum of the Year award. Named after its founder, an American philanthropist and bibliophile, the Chester Beatty Library is home to thousands of exquisite rare books the date back as far as 2700 BC. The atmosphere of this gorgeous library makes it worth exploring all by itself. But the books and other curiosities collected from around the world make this a fascinating place to see, and undoubtedly one of the best museums in Dublin. Oh, and this stunning collection is also completely free to visit.
Dublin Writers Museum
James Joyce. Oscar Wilde. Samuel Beckett. W. B. Yeats. Bram Stoker. The list of world-famous Irish writers is incredibly long. For centuries, this tiny country has punched well above its weight on the international literary scene, producing some of the world's best-loved and most well-regarded works of literature.
No surprise, then, that Dublin has a fantastic museum devoted to this incredible heritage. The Dublin Writer's Museum honors the Irish writers who contributed so much to world literature. You'll see rare first editions and learn more about the life and work of Ireland's many literary stars. The museum also hosts readings and dramatic performances by Irish writers, so it can be a surprisingly entertaining place to visit.
Ireland's top university has played a huge role in the culture of the country ever since it was founded by Queen Elizabeth I. The impressive grounds of Trinity College exude a sense of learning and serenity you wouldn't expect to find so close to central Dublin. Additionally, the University is home to the Book of Kells, the stunning illuminated medieval manuscript that is one of Ireland's greatest cultural treasures. Plus, the library of Trinity College routinely features on lists of the world's most beautiful, and the well-manicured lawns and ancient buildings are a great place to simply wander and soak up the atmosphere. Often, you'll be able to take a free guided tour of the University led by a current student. And, with such a high population of young people in the area, this neighborhood is a great place to try some of the best street food in Dublin.
Dublin Castle was built in the 13th century, but its origins go back further all the way to the Viking period. It was the castle that gave the city its name, after the dark pool, or dubh linn in Irish, on the castle site. The castle is still used for the inauguration of Irish presidents and contains several museums, including the Garda Museum dedicated to the Irish police force. Many of the castle's most impressive rooms are open to the public, making it a great place to explore the political history of Dublin and of Ireland as a whole.
Little Museum of Dublin
If you're looking for something a little more quirky, the Little Museum of Dublin is the place to go. Located next to the pleasant park of St. Stephen's Green, this museum is devoted to Dublin in the 20th century. You'll learn a lot about Ireland's contributions to popular culture in the Little Museum, and the immersive exhibitions use film, music, and a variety of other media to take you on a whirlwind tour of the last hundred years. It's no wonder it's one of the most popular museums in Dublin city and the perfect museum for those who aren't already confirmed museum fans.
Museum of Irish Whiskey
Ireland's range of alcoholic drinks is impressive. As well as the world-famous Guinness, Ireland is known globally for its production of whiskey. In fact, while Scotland is usually the first place most people think of when they think of whiskey production, the Irish claim to have invented whiskey first. And even today, some of the most famous brands in the world such as Jameson are made in Ireland.
This interesting museum takes you through the history of alcohol distillation in Ireland, from the very first rural stills up to today's multinational corporations. You'll learn all about the different processes involved in crafting the perfect whiskey, and discover brands you may never have heard of before. And of course, you'll have the opportunity to taste a range of Irish whiskeys and perhaps find a new favorite.
Irish Museum of Modern Art
If you prefer your art on the more contemporary side, the Irish Museum of Modern Art is an absolute must-visit. Commonly known as IMMA, this museum displays the cutting edge of modern art to anyone who visits. IMMA boasts an ever-changing selection of exhibitions that brings both internationally-renowned and lesser-known modern artists to public attention, so there's always something going on here. Like many of Dublin's best museums, admission is free, and you can even take a guided tour to learn more about the art without spending a penny.
General Post Office
Dublin's General Post Office still serves its primary function of handling the city's mail. But anyone with even a passing acquaintance with Irish history will know that the GPO was also the site of the 1916 Easter Rising, in which Irish leaders took up arms in a failed rebellion against their British rulers. The GPO now holds a small but fascinating exhibit devoted to the brave men and women who fought for Ireland's freedom, and it's fascinating to learn about history in a building that still bears the scars of the conflict.
EPIC: The Irish Emigration Museum
The Irish Diaspora has shaped the history of the world, especially the New World. Successive waves of Irish immigration change the course of American, Canadian, and Australian history, along with that of many other countries. It's estimated that around 70 million people across the world have Irish ancestry, which is astonishing for a country with a current population of only six million. Whether you're of Irish descent or not, you can learn more about the causes and history of emigration from Ireland at EPIC. This state-of-the-art attraction uses immersive exhibits to tell the stories of those who left Ireland to escape famine, persecution, or went in search of a better life. And if you do have Irish blood, the attached Family History Center will help you learn more about your ancestors.
What are the best free museums in Dublin?
Dublin has so many spectacular free museums that it's difficult to choose which to visit. Of course, the National Museum of Ireland is hard to beat, offering as it does a sweeping panorama of Irish history and culture, along with the always popular Natural History Museum. At the same time, the Chester Beatty Library is an underrated gem where you'll discover treasures you never knew existed, and the National Gallery of Island is the perfect place to visit for art lovers.
What are the best museums in downtown Dublin?
The National Museum, the National Gallery, Trinity College, and Dublin Castle are all centrally located in Dublin city center. You could easily walk from one to another and spend hours exploring these attractions.
Are there any cheap museums in Dublin?
Dublin has so many free museums that's easy to immerse yourself in Irish history without spending a lot of money. Along with the museums offering free entry, you'll find cheap admission at the Dublin Writers Museum, which only costs €7.50 for an adult ticket. The General Post Office Museum is also a relative bargain at €13.50 per adult ticket.