The Top Museums to Visit in Ireland

Waterford’s Medieval Museum
Waterford’s Medieval Museum | © William Murphy / Flickr
Kate Phelan

Ireland’s many museums focus on aspects of its history, ranging from its prehistoric origins through to the struggle for sovereignty that brought about the founding of the Irish Free State in 1922 – and beyond. Here are just a few of the best.

1. The National Museum of Ireland

Museum, Park, Zoo

The Broighter Gold boat, National Museum of Ireland, Dublin | © Ardfern/WikiCommons
© Ardfern/WikiCommons

National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology
Ireland’s National Museum consists of four different premises, each with a specific focus. On Dublin’s Kildare Street, The National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology houses a rich collection of prehistoric artefacts from home and abroad, most notably items of Celtic art and a selection of incredibly well-preserved Iron Age ‘bog bodies’ exhumed from Irish peat bogs.
National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology, Kildare Street, Dublin, Ireland, +353 1 677 7444

The Museum of Decorative Arts and History | © William Murphy / Flickr

2. Glasnevin Cemetery Museum

Cemetery, Museum

Glasnevin Cemetery Museum, Dublin
Courtesy of Glasnevin Cemetery Museum
Voted Ireland’s number one museum in the 2016 TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards, and a previous winner of Best International Museum at the UK’s Museum and Heritage Awards for Excellence, Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery Museum, opened in 1832, offers a fascinating insight into Irish history.
It was one of the first burial grounds to open after the repeal of a law forbidding Irish Catholics from burying their dead in their own cemeteries. The very man who fought to repeal that law, political leader Daniel O’Connell, is now buried here, along with other well-known cultural and revolutionary figures such as Michael Collins and Constance Markievicz. The museum’s ‘Milestone Gallery’ contains the life stories of 200 people buried here.

3. The Medieval Museum

Museum

Waterford’s Medieval Museum
© William Murphy / Flickr
A key attraction in Ireland’s oldest city, The Medieval Museum lies in the award-winning cultural area of Waterford known as the Viking Triangle. The only medieval museum in the country, it’s home to artefacts such as The Great Charter Roll of Waterford (1373) and Europe’s only complete set of medieval cloth-of-gold vestments. The museum also holds two original medieval chambers within its limits, reached via a spiral staircase dating back to the 13th century.

4. The Hunt Museum

Building, Museum, Park

Night time view of the front of the Custom House from Clancys Strand | © The Hunt Museum/WikiCommons
© The Hunt Museum/WikiCommons

Limerick city’s Hunt Museum consists of a renowned collection of artefacts bequeathed by the historian and antiquarian John Hunt and his wife, Gertrude. Currently based in the Georgian Custom House building by the River Shannon, the museum holds antiquities and artworks that date back as far as Ireland’s Mesolithic era and ancient Egypt. Other notable pieces include works by Jack B. Yeats, Renoir, Picasso, and Irish fashion designer Sybil Connolly.
The Hunt Museum, Rutland Street, Limerick, Ireland, +353 61 312 833

Nighttime view of the front of the Custom House from Clancy’s Strand | © The Hunt Museum / WikiCommons

5. The Blasket Centre

Museum

Courtesy of The Blasket Centre

Situated on the Dingle Peninsula’s stunning Slea Head Drive, The Blasket Centre museum contains exhibits relating to the history of the Blasket Islands, populated until the 1950s by a self-sustaining Irish-speaking community. The centre itself has a panoramic view of Great Blasket Island, which was the home of three of the most famous Irish language writers – Peig Sayers, Tomás Ó Criomhthain and Muiris Ó Súilleabháin.
The Blasket Centre, Ballynaraha North, Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland, +353 66 915 6444

Courtesy of The Blasket Centre Archive/Cartlann Ionaid an Bhlascaoid

6. The Chester Beatty Library

Building, Library, Museum

The Chester Beatty Library | © William Murphy/Flickr
© William Murphy/Flickr

Throughout his lifetime, early 20th-century mining mogul Sir Alfred Chester Beatty travelled the globe amassing a world-class collection of Islamic and Far Eastern rarities, from Arabic texts and muraqqa albums to Japanese picture scrolls. His most precious possessions also include biblical papyri and prints by European artists such as Albrecht Dürer. Located on the grounds of Dublin Castle, the Chester Beatty Library is the only Irish museum to date to earn the title of European Museum of the Year (it won in 2002.)
The Chester Beatty Library, Clock Tower Building, Dublin Castle, Dublin, Ireland, +353 1 407 0750

The Chester Beatty Library | © William Murphy / Flickr

7. Céide Fields Visitor Centre

Museum

The world’s oldest known field systems can be found in County Mayo, along with an award-winning visitor centre, complete with enlightening exhibitions and an audio-visual show. Guided tours, 45–60 minutes, are also available of the surrounding landscape, where stone-age houses, stone walls, and tombs have been kept in incredible condition, buried beneath a peat bog. After a tour, visitors can warm up in the museum’s tea rooms.
Céide Fields, Ballycastle, County Mayo, Ireland, +353 96 43325

The Céide Fields | © Rowan McLaughlin / Flickr

8. The Little Museum of Dublin

Museum

Little Museum of Dublin, Ireland
© Kevin George / Alamy Stock Photo
The Little Museum of Dublin is worth visiting for the location alone – it sits inside a beautifully appointed Georgian townhouse on St. Stephen’s Green – but its exhibitions illuminating the rich history of the city are the real attraction. Current exhibits include one dedicated to the development of the GAA (Gaelic Athletics Association) in Dublin and another that takes a close look at the city’s most famous band, entitled U2: Made in Dublin.

9. Titanic Belfast

9. Titanic Belfast
© Nico Kaiser/ Flickr

Opened in 2012, the vast Titanic Belfast is one of Ireland’s newer attractions but has already been hugely successful, attracting more than 800,000 visitors during its first year and being named Europe’s Leading Visitor Attraction at the prestigious World Travel Awards in 2016.
Built on the site where the ship itself was constructed prior to its ill-fated 1912 maiden voyage, the impressive, angular exhibition space holds within it nine interactive galleries, all reflecting on the history of one of the most famous maritime disasters in the world.
Titanic Belfast, 1 Olympic Way, Queens Road, Titanic Quarter, Belfast, Northern Ireland, +44 28 9076 6386

Titanic Belfast | © Titanic Belfast / Flickr

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