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.
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