HERE ARE THE BEST MUSEUMS IN IRELAND
There are many reasons to book a vacation in incredible Ireland. From its unbelievable coastline and ocean road trip routes to the incredible Irish hotels, stately homes and castles, Ireland is a unique and beautiful place to visit. And learning more about the country’s history can also be a wonderful way to complete your trip. So make time for some of Ireland’s top museums when you’re here.
If you can tear yourself away from the glorious countryside, head to the cities and immerse yourself in Irish antiquity and culture. Here are the must-visit museums to add to your travel itinerary which are certainly some of the best museums in Ireland.
THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF IRELAND, DUBLIN
This is one of the biggest and best museum collectives in Ireland and consists of four different complexes, three of them located in Dublin. These are The National Museum of Ireland for Archaeology, The National Museum of Ireland for Decorative Arts & History, and The National Museum of Ireland for Natural History (the final complex is the Museum of Country Life in Castlebar, Co. Mayo).
All three of these sites are worth a visit if you’re staying in the city or within easy reach. From displays on prehistoric Ireland and examples of folk costume or artifacts to specimens of animals from around the world, there is so much to discover within these museum buildings. The best thing is, admission to all museum branches is free. It’s a great day out for the whole family, and there’s no limit to how many times you can visit each venue.
Tuesday to Saturday (10am-5pm)
Sunday & Monday (1pm-5pm)
Archaeology – Kildare Street, Dublin, D2
Decorative Arts & History – Collins Barracks, Benburb Street, Dublin, D7
Natural History – Merrion Street, Dublin
DALKEY CASTLE & HERITAGE CENTRE, DALKEY
Situated in County Dublin and 40 minutes south of the City of Dublin, award winning Dalkey Castle and Heritage Centre can be found overlooking the acclaimed heritage town of Dalkey. History springs to life at Dalkey with actors bringing the past to life for visitors. Bespoke luxury experiences can be arranged including fully immersing yourself in the life of Maeve Binchy, world-famous author from Dalkey.
Open six days a week, all year round.
Closed every Tuesday.
JANUARY – MAY & SEPTEMBER – DECEMBER
Monday to Friday: 10.00 – 17.30
Saturday, Sunday & Public Holidays: 11.00 – 17.30
JUNE, JULY & AUGUST
Monday to Friday: 10.00 – 18.00
Saturday, Sunday & Public Holidays: 11.00 – 18.00
THE CHESTER BEATTY, DUBLIN
This was once the private library of Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, a successful mining engineer, collector and philanthropist from America who was born in 1875 and died in 1968. As well as a museum, The Chester Beatty is also a research library enjoyed by scholars from all corners of the world.
Arguably one of the best museums in Europe, The Chester Beatty promotes the appreciation and understanding of world cultures. Visitors will find manuscripts, rare books and all sorts of treasures from Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Asia. There is lots to do and see with an intercultural learning programme as well as a wide variety of activities for all ages and backgrounds.
Monday to Friday 9:45am – 5:30pm
Wednesday 9:45am – 8:00pm
Saturday 9:45am – 5:30pm
Sunday 12:00pm – 5:30pm
Closed Mondays: Nov – Feb
Closed 1 Jan; Good Friday; 24-26 Dec
Silk Road Cafe
GLASNEVIN CEMETERY MUSEUM, DUBLIN
Another top museum to visit in Ireland is in Dublin and is the Glasnevin Cemetery Museum, voted ‘Ireland’s Number One Museum’ in the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards in 2016. It was also winner of ‘Best International Museum’ at The Museum and Heritage Awards for Excellence. So this has definitely got the people’s approval.
You and your family can take a tour of the cemetery, look at displays inside the museum, or trace your family tree online. Be sure to pop into the Milestone Gallery, which features the interesting life stories of the 200 people buried at the site. Some of the well-known names include political leader Daniel O’Connell, Irish revolutionary Michael Collins, and Countess Constance Markievicz. If you’re interested in the most significant political figures throughout Ireland’s history, this is a fine museum to add your list.
Monday to Sunday (10am-5pm)
The Tower Café
Finglas Road, Dublin
IRISH WHISKEY MUSEUM, DUBLIN
The Irish Whiskey Museum opened in November 2014 and has very quickly become a popular place for tourists to visit. Now it is one of the top 25 Museums to visit in Europe. There are various guided tours that run daily where you can learn all about the whiskey through the ages. Each of the 4 different rooms represents a different period of Irish history. At the end of the tour you can taste what you have learnt all about and see if you can tell the difference between three or four different Irish whiskeys.
Tours run daily (10.30am-5.30pm)
Bar and Retail Store
119 Grafton Street, Dublin 2
THE NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM, DUBLIN
The museum itself is an old maritime church that was built specially for seafarers as a place of worship. It is one of the very few custom built places of worship for seafarers that still remains intact today. There a various exhibits for visitors to enjoy including The Prisoner’s Dock which gives a first hand impression of how the building used to be as a church. Naval personnel who were petty offenders were allowed to go to church but were seated in the Prisoners’ Dock.
The National Maritime Museum of Ireland,
THE MEDIEVAL MUSEUM, WATERFORD
Waterford is a seaport city famed for its ancient walls and evocative street art. The walled core created by the Vikings in 914 AD remain to this day, and The Medieval Museum is a great place to learn more about past settlements.
Inside the museum, visitors get to travel back in time and explore the oldest wine vault in Ireland (built in 1440 by Peter Rice), Choristers’ Hall and the medieval chambers (dating back to 1270), as well as The Mayors’ Treasury (with objects from as early as 1080).
Marvel over historic items such as the relic of the True Cross, the sword of King Edward IV, the Luker chalice (previously lost for many centuries), King Henry VIII’s famous hat, and much more.
Monday to Friday (9.15am-6pm)
Cathedral Square, Waterford
THE HUNT MUSEUM, LIMERICK
Home to one of Ireland’s greatest private collections of art and antiques, Limerick’s Hunt Museum is a must for anyone interested in Irish or world history. The artefacts, left by historian John Hunt and wife Gertrude, date as far back as the nation’s Mesolithic era, and also ancient Egypt. From works of art by Renoir and Picasso to clothes and sketchbooks of Irish fashion designer Sybil Connolly, there are so many things for the curious mind to devour.
Visitors can explore the main collection, visit the interesting 3D library, or enjoy the different exhibitions throughout the year. Admission is a very reasonable €5.00 for adults, €3.50 for children, €2.50 for concessions, or €12.00 for a family saver ticket. It’s free of charge on Sundays, with 2-4-1 offers every Monday.
Monday to Saturday (10am-5pm)
The Custom House, Rutland Street, Limerick, V94 EV8A
DUBLIN WRITERS MUSEUM
Literary fans should not miss the Dublin Writers Museum, home to the biggest collection of features, lives and works of Dublin’s most famous writers. Set within a stunning 18th century mansion building in the city center, this venue provides an immersive experience.
Some of the literary figures who are featured include Swift and Sheridan, Shaw and Wilde, Yeats, Joyce and Beckett, and more. Inside, there will be artefacts belonging to the writers themselves, portraits, and an incredible library filled with precious books. Many of the books housed here are rare first editions, and some are hand-written by the authors.
There’s even a children’s room, displaying literature dating back hundreds of years. Tours are also available (in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish or Dutch), and rolling exhibitions take place every season. For any families traveling to Dublin on a vacation, this museum is a must.
Monday to Saturday (9:45am–5pm)
The Chapterhouse Café
18 Parnell Square North, Rotunda, Dublin, D01 T3V
MUSEUM OF FREE DERRY
Not only is this museum unique in its concept, but it is also housed inside one of the most remarkable modern pieces of architecture in the city. In fact, the construction firm responsible for the design and build picked up a prize at the Construction Excellence Awards in 2017 for their innovative project.
Inside the museum, you will get to learn about the 1968 civil rights movement in Ireland, with its deep roots in Derry. When the police attacked a peaceful demonstration in Duke Street, the rebellious slogan of ‘You Are Now Entering Free Derry’ appeared on a wall for all to see.
Opened in 2017, this new museum tells the narrative of Bloody Sunday, and features a collection of displays from the Bloody Sunday Trust. They also work alongside walking tour operators for guests who would like to learn even more about the Free Derry story.
Entry prices are just £6.00 for adults with £5.00 for concessions, with discounts for large groups of 10 or more.
Monday to Friday (9.30am-4:40pm)
Saturday & Sunday (1pm-4pm)
55 Glenfada Park, Londonderry BT48 9DR
Opened in 2012, this is one of the newest and best museum experiences in Northern Ireland. It has quickly become one of the world’s top tourist attractions, paying homage to Belfast’s maritime heritage. The museum is a monument to the RMS Titanic, and is located on the site of the former Harland & Wolff shipyard where the ship was built.
The museum building is a striking piece of modern architecture, and the six story building houses nine different galleries, each telling the story of the Titanic in the early 1900s. The Titanic is one of the most famous stories of our time, and visitors can travel back in time to learn more about the ill-fated incident that killed over 1,000 people.
Guests can experience what it was like at the main embarkation ports, what it was like inside the ship, and see an original luncheon menu from the first and final cruise. Guided tours are also available in a number of languages for international travelers.
Titanic Belfast attracted a huge 800,000 visitors in its year of inception. And just a few of the accolades so far are winning ‘Europe’s Leading Visitor Attraction’ at the 2016 World Travel Awards, winning ‘Outstanding Contribution to Tourism’ at the Northern Ireland Tourism Awards, being named ‘Tourism / Hospitality Project of the Year’ at the UTV Business Eye Awards, and achieving 5-Star status with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board.
January to March (10am-5pm)
April to May (9am-6pm)
June to July (9am-7pm)
October to December (10am-5pm)
1 Olympic Way, Queens Road, Titanic Quarter, Belfast
ULSTER MUSEUM, BELFAST
If you’re enjoying a Northern Ireland vacation, Belfast is the city that you should beeline for. It has unique history, great street graffiti, amazing food, top nightlife, and a fine selection of museums and galleries. If there’s one museum you make it to during your stay, it has to be the Ulster Museum. It has a little bit of everything to please everyone, making it the ideal attraction for groups or families.
Ulster has a range of displays appealing to art fans, history buffs, inquisitive kids, or science nerds. Some collection highlights are paintings by Belfast-born artist Sir John Lavery, Viking objects including weapons and silver, a big Edmontosaurus dinosaur skeleton and other remains, a range of artworks from the time of The Troubles, and the George Hackney collection of World War I photos.
There’s lots to enjoy here, and admission is free for everyone. There are also plenty of facilities for guests on site, and Wi-Fi is free throughout the premises. Don’t forget to pop into the museum gift shop if you’re looking for souvenirs to take home, as they have over 5,000 products on sale.
Tuesday to Sunday (10am-5pm)
Coffee shop and bakery
Lunchroom (for packed lunches)
Botanic Court, Belfast, BT9 5AB
GALWAY CITY MUSEUM
Admission to the Galway City Museum is free of charge, with self-guided or guided tours available. If you want to book a guided tour (available in Irish or English), be sure to pre-book before you get here. They last around 30 minutes in total, giving you plenty of time to wander around on your own afterwards, or to enjoy a spot of lunch in the on-site café.
Included in the museum highlights are the Galway Civic Sword (dating back to 1610 from the Charter of King James I), The Great Mace (a piece of ornamental silverwork crafted in Dublin in 1710), and the statue of Pádraic Ó Conaire (an Irish writer and journalist with notable works during the turn of the century).
Some of the long-term exhibitions inside are Prehistoric Galway, Medieval Galway, The Galway Hooker, The Great War, and the Sea Science Wild Atlantic Exhibition. The building itself provides you with breath-taking vistas of the Claddagh, the Spanish Arch, River Corrib and Galway Bay. Making it worth a visit, and a good place to stroll around drinking in the views of the rest of the city.
Tuesday to Saturday (10am-5pm)
Sunday & Monday (closed)
The Kitchen Café
Spanish Parade, Galway, H91 CX5P
LITTLE MUSEUM OF DUBLIN
This much-loved museum tells the story of the capital in the 20th Century. Although a small museum compared to some of the other main attractions, it’s still a must to add to your bucket list. It was rated as ‘Dublin’s best museum experience’ by The Irish Times, and it has also been voted the number one museum in Ireland on TripAdvisor too.
Cute and quaint, the Little Museum of Dublin is set within spectacular historic surroundings. Inside a beautifully appointed Georgian townhouse, making it worth going to for the location alone. There are a number of rooms with illuminating exhibitions, and a total of more than 400 artefacts. Anyone who’s curious enough to come here will unearth a collection of art, photography, old prints and advertising, historic letters and unique collectible items.
The museum is suitable for children as well as adults, and tickets are reasonable at €10 for adults or €8 for concessions and students. But please note that this is a small venue and tours are usually booked up in advance. To guarantee admission, it’s recommended that you book before you arrive.
Monday to Wednesday (9:30am-5pm)
Friday to Sunday (9:30am-5pm)
15 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin, D02 Y066