Ireland Museums and Galleries
National Gallery of Ireland
Merrion Sq. W, Clare St., City Center
Considering Dublin’s small size, the National Gallery is a testament to the central position it allows art and culture. A mix of old and new, the original building on Leinster Lawn has been in place since the 1800s, while the newer hyper-modern Millennium Wing opened in 2002. A huge campus-like space, the gallery has quite the collection of European art, with Velazquez, Rembrandt, Titian, and Van Gogh represented as well as a sizable collection of Irish works. The gallery’s crowning glory, however, is Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ, a long-lost work incredibly rediscovered in the '90s hanging in a Jesuit dining room in Ireland. Booking a tour or reserving tickets is not necessary; you can simply wander in and admire the art at your own pace. For those looking for more structure, the gallery runs a series of educational outreach programs and workshops for adults and kids alike.
Dublin Writer’s Museum
18 Parnell Sq. N, Parnell Square
The Irish know how to write—this is after all the country that gave us Joyce, Yeats, Beckett, and so many others. This museum documents and celebrates the history and achievements of Ireland’s literary talent, past and present. In an 18th-century mansion, amid the Georgian grandeur of Parnell Square, the windows of the museum look over the Garden of Remembrance, a memorial that commemorates a struggle often referenced in Irish literature (brush up on your W.B. Yeats poetry, "Easter 1916" in particular, if you want to know more). The museum is a lovely resource for visitors and city residents looking to learn more about Ireland's great writers and poets. It's an interactive space with regular exhibits, lunchtime theater, readings, and a special room dedicated to children’s literature.
Irish Museum of Modern Art
Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Military Rd., Kilmainham
The Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), Ireland’s premier contemporary museum space is imaginatively, if somewhat ironically, housed in the country’s oldest classical building, the Royal Kilmainham Hospital. It was founded in 1684 as a home for retired soldiers and very much based on Les Invalides in Paris. IMMA’s mission is to merge modern Irish life with contemporary art exhibits, live performances, and educational initiatives that are open and participatory. A recent coup for the museum is securing 50 of Lucien Freud’s greatest works on loan for the next five years. This has spurred a deep dive into the world of Freud with the exhibit itself, a lunchtime lecture series, and a special Freud Project residency (won by Irish artist Bridget O’Gorman and artist, writer, and researcher Sue Rainsford). After a wander through the airy galleries, pick up a hot coffee from the pretty little café and wander aimlessly through the surrounding gardens.
The Hugh Lane
Charlemont House, Parnell Square
The Hugh Lane is the world’s first known modern art gallery, housed in a classically designed Georgian townhouse overlooking the Garden of Remembrance. Small and intimate, this well-curated space features a sizable collection by modern Irish artists, like Louis Le Brocquy, Jack B. Yeats, and Sean Scully, alongside Impressionist masterpieces by Manet, Degas, and Monet. This gallery’s biggest draw is the complete installation of Francis Bacon’s studio, meticulously re-created in all its chaotic brilliance. You can see this installation from all angles thanks to glass panels. It also provides a complete computerized archive—the first of its kind in the world. Browse through the well-appointed bookstore, then step out into the heart of Parnell Square, one of Georgian Dublin’s oldest neighborhoods.
The Little Museum of Dublin
15 St. Stephen's Green, City Center
A small but mighty gem of a museum that does its best to untangle the messy web that is Dublin's history through a series of rooms in a Georgian residence right on St. Stephen's Green. Each room traces different threads of the city's fabric including some of its more famous occupants (there's an entire room dedicated to born and bred Dubliners U2). For an informative but fun cultural activity with kids and teens, the guides are excellent raconteurs and bring 1,000 years of history to life with humor and insight. Afterward, walking down an extra flight of steps to the basement restaurant Hatch & Sons for some stellar Irish fare is never a bad idea.
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