My Favourite Free Museums in Dublin
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St. Patrick’s Day is coming up soon, which has me reminiscing about my time in Ireland. Dublin can get a bit pricey (especially if you’re drinking Guinness in the pubs all day long). If you want something cheap to do in Dublin (or if it’s raining, which happens) here are some free museums to visit. These are all museums I visited (some several times) while I was in Ireland. They’re all free for the most part, but there may be special exhibits with an extra cost. If you can donate a few € to keep these museums running I’m sure that helps them a lot. Be sure to visit the website for these museums to check their hours of operation. There are of course paid museums in Dublin as well, which I’ll feature in an upcoming post.
Note: The Liffey River divides Dublin into a north side and a south side. I’ve divided the museums into those on the north side of the river, and those on the south side of the river. Most are still within the city centre, but for each museum, I’ve listed nearby train and Luas stations (the Luas is the above-ground tram). You can take the bus, but walking or taking the train/Luas will be the easiest way to reach most of these museums (particularly those on the south side). The addresses linked in this post will open to the museum’s location on Google Maps. I also made a Google Map of these museums (and put in the nearby Luas/train stations). Feel free to download or save the map to your phone to help you get around Dublin.
Museums on the North Side
Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane
The Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane is an art museum on the north side of Dublin (but still in the city centre). It has several paintings and works from artists all over the world. It features both permanent and rotating exhibits. My favourite permanent exhibit was the one on Irish artist Francis Bacon. The Hugh Lane houses many of his works and has a re-creation of his art studio. It gives you information on Bacon’s influence on the impressionist and surrealist movements. The Hugh Lane is a small museum and is great to wander through for an hour or so.
Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane is located at The Charlemont House, Parnell Square, Dublin 1. If you’re taking the train the closest station is Connolly (about a 20-minute walk). If you’re taking the Luas it’s close to the Parnell Luas Stop on the Green Line. From there it’s about a 5-minute walk.
National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts and History
The National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts and History are run by the Irish government and has two museums in the same building. One half of the building houses the Decorative Arts Museum. The other half houses the History Museum. The Decorative Arts Museum has displays of items like furniture, clothing, and arts and crafts. It’s an interesting way to see how life in Ireland has changed over the years. Unfortunately, I never made it to the History side of the museum. On my next visit to Dublin, I’d want to visit that part of the museum. Since there are two museums here be sure to give yourself time to see both (unlike me).
The National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts and History are located at the Collins Barracks, Benburb St, Stoneybatter, Dublin 7. This museum is further out of the city centre, but it’s easy to get to on the Luas. Take the Red Line and get off at the Museum Luas stop. From there it’s about a 3-minute walk.
Museums on the South Side
Irish Museum of Modern Art
I don’t mind visiting art galleries, but I’ll be the first to admit that modern art really isn’t my forte. Then again I don’t know much about art in general (one reason why taking an art tour is a good idea if you’re an art noob like me). The Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) is an art museum featuring contemporary works from Irish and international artists. They have both permanent and temporary exhibits. IMMA is also next to The Gardens at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, which are great to wander around if it’s nice out. I only visited this museum once, but if you’re a fan of art (particularly modern art) then take a couple of hours to check out IMMA.
The Irish Museum of Modern Art is located at the former site of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Military Rd, Kilmainham, Dublin 8. IMMA is outside the city centre, but it’s still easy to get to. Take the Luas (the Red Line) and get off at James’s Luas Stop. From there it’s about an 8-minute walk. Note there’s a small canal you’ll cross on the Bow Bridge, but you won’t have to cross the river if you get off at the James’s Luas Stop.
Chester Beatty Library
The Chester Beatty Library was one of my favourite free museums to visit in Dublin. Alfred Chester Beatty (known as Chester Beatty) was an American businessman and philanthropist. He moved to Dublin in 1950. In 1953 he started a library of his collections of rare books, manuscripts, and pieces of art from around the world. After his death in 1968, the Irish Government was given his collection. The Chester Beatty Library was open on the grounds of Dublin Castle in 2000. While there is admission to go inside Dublin castle the grounds are free to explore, and the Chester Beatty Library is free. The Chester Beatty Library also offers tours, and they have a rotating exhibit along with the permanent one. I didn’t realize how much I liked looking at old books (and book illustrations) until I went to the Chester Beatty Library. I returned here several times while I was in Dublin.
The Chester Beatty Library is located on the grounds of Dublin Castle, Dublin 2. There isn’t a train station nearby (the closest would be Tara Street or Pearse, either one’s about a 20-minute walk). The closest Luas would be the Dawson Street Stop on the Green Line (about a 15-minute walk).
The National Photographic Archive
The National Photographic Archive (sometimes called the Gallery of Photography) is a small photography gallery located in Temple Bar. It’s actually run by the National Library of Ireland (more on them in a bit). I only stopped in here once for a quick look around. Aside from photographic archives they also have a small photography exhibit, which changes throughout the year. As well they offer paid photography services like courses, a darkroom, printing, and other photography support. If you’re in Temple Bar take a break from the overpriced pubs and check out The National Photographic Archive.
The National Photographic Archive is located at Meeting House Square, Temple Bar, Dublin 2. The closest train station would be Tara Street or Pearse (either one’s about a 20-minute walk). The closest Luas would be the Dawson Street Stop on the Green Line, which is about a 15-minute walk.
The Science Gallery
The Science Gallery is a museum run by Trinity College. It’s kind of like if a science museum and an art gallery had a baby. This isn’t a science museum for kids. Not that kids can’t come here, but the exhibits are generally geared towards adults. There are one or two science-based exhibits about a particular in-depth topic. Exhibits change every few months. Whenever I was in the area I always liked to pop into The Science Gallery to see what was new. The last time I was there they had an exhibit on extinct and endangered animals, and an interesting exhibit on medical biohacking (this was a couple of years ago, so I’m sure these exhibits have changed). There are often lectures at The Science Gallery about a variety of scientific topics as well (those would have an extra cost to attend). This is a unique museum for the scientifically curious.
The Science Gallery is located at The Naughton Institute, Trinity College, Pearse Street, Dublin 2. If you’re taking the train it’s about a 7-minute walk from Pearse Station. If you’re taking the Luas it’s close to the Trinity Luas Stop on the Green Line (also about a 7-minute walk).
National Museum of Ireland – Natural History
The National Museum of Ireland – Natural History is another Irish Government-funded museum. It’s what some people refer to as The Dead Zoo. It’s a small museum about natural history, involving taxidermied animals. There are two floors to this museum. The first is about Irish animals and the second features animals from around the world). This museum isn’t very big, and you could see this museum in a short period of time. I’ll admit there are definitely better Natural History museums out there. So if you don’t have the interest or time I’d say this is a museum you could skip.
The National Museum of Ireland – Natural History is located at Merrion Street Upper, Dublin 2. If you’re taking the train the closest station is Pearse (about an 8-minute walk). If you’re taking the Luas it’s close to the Dawson Street Luas Stop on the Green Line (about an 11-minute walk).
National Museum of Ireland – Archeology
The National Museum of Ireland – Archeology is another museum run by the Irish Government. It’s also right next to the Natural History Museum, so you can see both in a couple of hours. This museum is one of the bigger free museums in Dublin. There many artifacts and exhibits here about various periods in Ireland. There’s stuff from the early Neolithic and Bronze ages. There’s a massive exhibit about the Viking period of Ireland. It features artifacts from the Celtic and the early Christian period in Ireland. There’s also a small exhibit about Ancient Egypt. I visited this museum several times and always loved it. One thing I will say is this museum lacks accessibility – there’s no lift/elevator for the upper floor exhibits. This museum also doesn’t give a ton of historic context for all their exhibits. One video in the Clontarf 1014 exhibit started with the narration of, “everyone knows about the Battle of Clontarf.” All I could think was “uh I don’t, what’s that?” So here’s the Wikipedia page on that battle so you’ll know what that’s all about.
The National Museum of Ireland – Archeology is located at Kildare Street, Dublin 2. The closest train station would be Pearse, and would then be a 10-minute walk. If you’re taking the Luas it’s close to the Dawson Street Luas Stop on the Green Line (about a 4-minute walk).
National Gallery of Ireland
The National Gallery of Ireland is an art museum, which is also very close to the National Museums of Archeology and Natural History. It has historical sculptures and paintings by Irish artists like Maclise, Burton, Leech, and Henry. It also houses work from other European artists such as Goya, Caravaggio, Van Gogh and others. When I visited some of the exhibits were closed (assuming for restorations), so I didn’t get to spend too much time here.
The National Gallery of Ireland is located at Merrion Square West, Dublin 2. The closest train station would be Pearse, and from there it’s a 6-minute walk. If you’re taking the Luas it’s close to the Dawson Street Luas Stop on the Green Line (also about a 6-minute walk).
National Library of Ireland
The National Library of Ireland is close to the National Museum of Natural History and the Archeology Museum. Also, the National Gallery is close by too. This area is really like the unofficial museum quarter of the city. The National Library of Ireland is a library but doesn’t offer lending services. It’s more of a call ahead for a research paper type of library. For the general public, there are a couple of exhibits the library has that are free to check out. One is on-site and it’s about Irish author and poet William Butler Yeats. There’s also an exhibit about World War 1 that’s outside the main building (but in the area if you’re interested – I didn’t see this exhibit).
The National Library of Ireland is located at 7-8 Kildare St, Dublin 2. The closest train station is Pearse and is then a 10-minute walk. If you’re taking the Luas it’s close to the Dawson Street Luas stop on the Green Line and is then a 4-minute walk. If you want to visit The World War 1 Exhibit it’s at 2-3 Kildare St, Dublin 2. This is about a minute walk from the main building (shown above) for The National Library of Ireland.
Things To Know
If you’re planning to visit Dublin you can book your hotel here. If you’ll be in Dublin for a few days and are looking for a day trip consider taking the train to the small coastal town of Donabate.
What’s your favourite museum in Dublin? Do you enjoy free museums as much as I do?