The Little Museum of Dublin
New, small, and setting Dublin’s museum scene alight over the past few years, The Little Museum of Dublin sits in a Georgian terrace on St Stephen’s Green and goes about being a museum in a slightly different way. This accompanied-tour-only spot, which features just a handful of rooms scattered with exhibits (and the occasional more formal exhibition downstairs), tells the history of the city in comfortably under an hour. It does it well, too, by referencing soccer World Cups and long-defunct TV shows, as well as independence, tenement houses, poverty, and the fight to bring contraception to Ireland. A true cultural insight.
The Little Museum of Dublin, 15 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin, Ireland, +353 1 661 1000
The Chester Beatty Library
The name is a misnomer (it’s definitely not a library) – the free-to-enter Chester Beatty Library hosts a revolving selection of exhibitions that often relate loosely to Dublin at best. That shouldn’t put you off: Lonely Planet has called this one of the best museums in Europe, and its revolving door of attractions sourced from around the world, from Japanese Samurai culture to Middle Eastern art, is compelling. The roof garden’s a great little Dublin secret too.
The Chester Beatty Library, Dublin Castle, Dublin 2, Ireland, +353 1 407 0750
The Museum of History and Archaeology
Located right outside Ireland’s parliament (the Dail), this state-run, free-entry museum looks primarily at Irish history that’s centuries old. It explores Vikings and the powerful local warrior Brian Boru, displays the remains of contorted ancient ‘bog’ bodies pulled from Ireland’s marshland, and delves into the church and its influence, for example. Look out for the old urn of butter rescued from hundreds of years underwater too and the men’s high-heeled shoes designed to walk atop the streets’ ancient grime. This museum is one in which you can kill a few hours.
The Irish Museum of Modern Art
An unusual modern art museum hosted in a former hospital a little out of the heart of Dublin, IMMA is a worthy aside for those of a more leftfield, contemporary artistic bent, and for those with children in tow, as it offers the chance to explore the art alongside mazes, extensive gardens, and interactive sculpture. Exhibitions regularly rotate, and some of the art here is notably weird, especially in its oblique glances at Irish culture from a colourful sideline. Charming, effortlessly so.
The National Gallery of Ireland
Currently, the National Gallery of Ireland is home to an exhibit of more than half the Vermeer paintings still of this earth; however, it is also the home of Irish art, at least in its less contemporary sense. There are centuries worth of works to explore here, including some lesser-known pieces by more internationally renowned painters such as Monet and Picasso. It’s probably the likes of local star Jack B Yeats that will give the best sense of the city’s art world, though. For example, check out his depiction of the mad annual sporting contest the Liffey Swim.
Another one outside of the heart of the city, and very much a case of history superbly placed in context, Kilmainham Gaol will be of interest to any Irish history buff, as arguably the point of origin of the state itself. After an unpopular 1916 uprising was suppressed by British forces, the execution of its leaders was deemed an overreaction locally and turned the tides of public opinion that eventually led to Irish independence. The site is a rough, slightly claustrophobic former prison that’s pretty memorable in its own right, being utterly laden with dark history.
Kilmainham Gaol, Inchicore Rd, Kilmainham, Dublin 8, Ireland, +353 1 453 5984