10 Best Museums To Learn About Dublin Art, Culture, History And More
By Emily Carson
Dublin Local Expert
Museums are usually the first port of call when compiling a sightseeing itinerary and there are more than ever to choose from when you arrive in a new city. Dublin's museum scene contains all the regular museum-goer haunts, a national gallery, museum of natural history and plenty of historial museums as well.
To boot however, we also have plenty of spots that celebrate our rich cultural history from the Dublin Writer's Museum to the Hugh Lane Gallery and the James Joyce Centre. Within you'll find fascinating documents and works from some of Ireland's most famous and talented artists and really immerse yourself in Irish culture.
While it's fantastic to have such emphasis on the arts and those who have shaped the Irish arts scene there is another industry that continues to make us famous the world over. Places like the Jameson Distillery and the Guinness Brewery are a constant source of entertainment and knowledge for tourists and Dublin locals alike and they certainly make for a fun day out. If you want some respite from the information-heavy houses of learning like the National Museum of Ireland then these might be the perfect venue. But if you're all about a crash course in history and architecture never fear, there are plenty of places to get your info quota in the capital.
Irish Museum of Modern Art
While it takes a little bit more of a pilgrimage to get to the Irish Museum of Modern Art it is more than worth the journey. Located in the 17th century Royal Hospital Building both the building and the grounds are styled like that of Les Invalides in Paris and provide a stately backdrop to the contemporary installations within. IMMA boasts over 400,000 visitors a year and a mixture of both permanent exhibitions and temporary collections from many prominent contemporary artists. Admission is free and the public transport links are more than adequate but if it seems like too far to go there is a new wing of IMMA opening in the National Concert Hall on Earlsfort Terrace that looks set to house some of its most exciting work. (353-1-612-9900)
Dublin Writers Museum
It's no secret that Dublin and Ireland in general have a rich literary history and the Dublin Writer's Museum is here to celebrate it. Located nearby to the Hugh Lane Gallery on Parnell Square you'll find artefacts from the writers themselves, portraits and timelines of the great Irish literary movements and a library packed full of rare and precious books including some first editions with writing from the author's themselves inside. The museum features not only Irish writers but international writers who made a contribution to Irish literary history and, in particular, shaped Irish literature through a Dublin perspective. You can feel the history seeping through the walls here, it is a wonderful resource in a beautiful house. (353-1-872-2077)
Natural Museum of Ireland - Natural History
Natural History Museums are commonplace in every European capital and there's a good reason why. Both adults and children alike love to marvel at the animals and creatures of yesteryear and Dublin has one of the most impressive zoological exhibits. Located within the same complex as the National Museum of Ireland, the natural history building has been operating since 1856 and was restored in 2010 to allow visitors to get more up close and personal with the collection. Exhibitions include a focus on Irish fauna, a view into the underwater world and an exhibition on the steps of evolution. It's always a wondrous experience and well worth a look. (353-1-677-7444)
Guinness Brewery / Guinness Hop Store
The Guinness Storehouse is somewhat of a stalwart of the Dublin tourism scene, and despite it being one of the more expensive options on offer it does really provide a well-rounded tour and experience for your money. Taking you through the brewing process of this world famous emblem of Ireland, you get to experience not only how Guinness is made but also how it's been portrayed in the media over the years. The Storehouse building itself is impressive but it's the Gravity Bar, with its 360 view of the city, that is the real highlight. Enjoy the scenery with the pint of Guinness you've just learnt how to expertly pour, perfect. (353-1-453-6700)
Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art
The Hugh Lane Gallery is one of Dublin's other great, free attractions that features the collectors collection which he bequeathed to the State along with over 2000 works of contemporary and modern art. The main attraction is the painter Francis Bacon's studio which was relocated in its entirety from London and gives an incredible insight into the cluttered, haphazard nature of the artist's method. The building itself, located on North Parnell Square is beautiful and airy - the perfect place to peruse slowly. There are plenty of educational talks and drawing classes on offer as well for anyone looking to engage on another level. (353-1-874-1903)
The Old Jameson Distillery
The Old Jameson Distillery is located in what used to be the original distilling premises for the world-famous whiskey. Nowadays its main function is as a museum with some of the original distilling equipment intact and a guided tour of how whiskey is distilled. You'll get to know John Jameson and how his vision and temperament came to shape the way the distillery was run. The lack of distilling on the premises means you won't be overheated or feel faint as a result of the whiskey fumes and at the end you'll have to opportunity to drink a free Jameson or, if you volunteer yourself at the beginning of the tour, have a tasting on the house. (353-1-872-5566)
James Joyce Centre
The Jame Joyce Centre is located on North Great George's Street in the North Georgian Quarter and was built in the late 18th century. While Joyce himself never lived in this establishment he was connected to it through the Dance School that was run by Prof. Dennis Maginni, a character who appeared several times in Joyce's novel Ulysses. Joyce's family lived in a house not dissimilar to this Georgian building and it contains all of Joyce's addresses, an interactive tour of Joyce's Ulysses, Joyce's death mask and a range of documentaries and artefacts from Ulysses that will satisfy any diehard fans needs. (353-1-878-8547)
The Little Museum of Dublin
The Little Museum of Dublin is the newest addition to the museum scene, opening its doors in October 2011. Occupying a Georgian townhouse and dedicating itself to remembering the 20th century, the Little Museum has over 400 artefacts that have been generously donated by many Dubliners to give a well-rounded reflection of Dublin's progress over the last century. The collection contains art, photography, advertising, letters and ephemera that give a fabulous insight into the city and its people. It also plays host to lectures and debates from many interesting speakers and at only 5 entrance fee for adults it hardly breaks the bank either. (01-6611000)
National Gallery of Ireland
Dating back to the mid-19th Century and packed full of fantastic pieces, the National Gallery of Ireland is one of the best ways to spend an inclement afternoon in Dublin. You can take your time exploring the many wings of art and sculpture that it has on offer for free. Take a free audio guide from the information desk or take a free tour to properly immerse yourself in the European and Irish masterpieces, you'll soon find that many hours have passed along with the bad weather. Be sure to make use of the free family packs that provide your kids with paper, pencils and activity sheets to keep the young ones as enthralled as you are. (353-1-661-5133)
Irish Jewish Museum
This independently funded museum follows the history and culture of the Jewish community in Ireland through the ages. Located in the trendy suburb of Portobello and a short walk from the Grand Canal this is a great place to stop into while walking around the area. It's walls contain the remnants of an old synagogue and substantial memorabilia and testimonials from Jewish communities around Ireland. The museum is also free but accepts donations with gratitude. (085 706 7357)
About Emily Carson
Emily grew up in Dublin, and studied French and English Literature at the University of Edinburgh. During her university years, she lived in both Scotland and France, but traveled around Europe and Southeast Asia. She returned to Dublin after her studies to find it growing culturally (in spite of the economic downturn). While Dublin was once criticized for its expensive nature, a new wave of inventive and affordable restaurants have popped up as well as interesting and exciting cultural events that prove that Dublin is still progressing and rivals other major European capitals.
Read more about Emily Carson here.