Top 10 Museums in Ireland you should not miss

Ireland has many world-class museums showcasing the country’s rich history, culture, and heritage. 

Ireland has something for every museum lover, from Dublin’s iconic museums to hidden gems in small towns. 

With a mix of national and smaller specialty museums, Ireland offers visitors the chance to immerse themselves in Ireland’s compelling history and culture. 

Here are the top 10 museums in Ireland that should not be missed:

1. National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology (Dublin)

The National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology is part of the National Museum of Ireland, which consists of four sites across Ireland. 

The Archaeology Museum in Dublin boasts Ireland’s most extensive collection of ancient artifacts from 7000 BC. 

The huge collection includes iconic ancient treasures like the Tara Brooch and Ardagh Chalice. 

Exhibitions cover Ireland’s prehistoric past through the Viking and medieval periods. 

The museum highlights include ancient gold jewelry, Bronze Age tools, Iron Age bog bodies, and Christian treasures from early Irish monastic sites.

2. National Gallery of Ireland (Dublin)

Home to over 17,000 artworks, the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin ranks as one of the finest art museums in Europe. 

The museum houses an immense collection covering the 14th to 20th centuries. 

You can find masterpieces like works by Caravaggio, Vermeer, Goya, Rubens, Monet, Picasso, and van Gogh. 

Irish artists well represented include Jack B. Yeats, Sir John Lavery, and Roderic O’Conor. 

The museum highlights are the Yeats Room, with famous Irish portraits and the Gallery of Modern Art, touting Ireland’s leading 20th-century artists.

3. Titanic Belfast (Belfast)

Located at the site where the iconic RMS Titanic was built, Titanic Belfast relives the famous ship’s tragic maiden voyage. 

This enormous museum covers the history of Belfast’s shipbuilding industry and the Titanic’s construction and sinking over nine interactive galleries. 

You can find exhibits, including the Ocean Exploration Centre with full-scale replicas of the Titanic’s deck chambers, cabins, and grand staircase. 

Visitors can virtually tour the shipyard, “drive” a live-action submersible and try out the ship simulator.

4. Book of Kells (Dublin)

Dating from around AD 800, the beautifully illustrated Book of Kells is one of Ireland’s national treasures. 

It contains the four gospels of the New Testament with ornate calligraphy and striking imagery. 

This precious work is housed at the Trinity College Library along with the Book of Durrow and other ancient manuscripts. 

The Long Room at the Old Library is another highlight – a 65-meter gallery lined with 200,000 of the library’s oldest books.

5. Kilmainham Gaol (Dublin)

Once a notorious and crowded prison, Kilmainham Gaol now stands as both a monument and museum commemorating Ireland’s political and rebellious past. 

Leaders of the rebellions in 1798, 1803, 1848, and 1916 were held and executed here.

Excellent guided tours evoke the gaol’s chilling history and include an exhibition detailing the prison’s restoration. 

The Stonebreaker’s Yard features the cross marking the grave of those executed in 1916 including leaders of the Easter Rising.

6. Irish National Famine Museum (Strokestown)

Ireland’s Great Famine of 1845-1852 sparked a mass exodus from Ireland and remains one of the most pivotal events in Irish history. 

The Irish National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park House somberly commemorates this tragic period. 

Exhibits include letters penned by some of the estate’s tenants during the famine before their harrowing coffin ship voyage to Canada in 1847. 

Their story is told along with the role of the landlord through photos, artifacts, and educational displays.

7. Chester Beatty Library (Dublin)

This impressive museum houses the eclectic collection of mining engineer Sir Alfred Chester Beatty. 

The extensive collection features over 27,000 manuscripts, rare books, miniature paintings, clay tablets and costumes.

You can also find other decorative arts from Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. 

This museum in Ireland highlights one of the earliest gospels written in Greece circa 200 AD and the famous Book of Dimma illustrated by Celtic monks around 800 AD.

8. Irish Museum of Modern Art (Dublin)

Set in the striking 17th-century Royal Hospital Kilmainham, the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) is Ireland’s leading contemporary art gallery. 

The permanent exhibition displays works by leading modern Irish artists from the 1940s. 

The galleries also host exciting temporary shows by top international artists.

You can enjoy other exhibits like the formal gardens, cafe, and a dynamic schedule of special events and workshops.

9. Blasket Islands Centre (Dunquin)

Honoring a unique community lost to history, this museum in Ireland celebrates the lives of the former residents of the remote Blasket Islands. 

Located by the Dingle Peninsula’s westernmost point, the Blasket Centre details what day-to-day life was like for the islanders through photographs and stories.

Poignant exhibits reveal why the government ordered their evacuation in 1953 when the island population dwindled to just 22.

10. Glasnevin Cemetery Museum (Dublin)

Glasnevin Cemetery Museum
Image: Timeout.com

Both a cemetery and museum, Glasnevin Cemetery, gives an enlightening overview of Ireland’s history through the lives of the 1.5 million people buried here. 

The museum details the cemetery’s role in major events like the potato famine, Easter Rising, Irish Civil War, and Northern Troubles. 

Notable graves include revolutionary leader Michael Collins and former Irish Taoiseach Eamon de Valera. 

Walking tours give fascinating insights into the cemetery’s iconic tombs and memorials.

Featured Image: K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

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