The Best Art Museums in Dublin You’ll Want to Visit
Although people visit Dublin for its history and lively pubs, the Irish capital is also the perfect city-break destination for art lovers. Dublin has several art museums worth visiting, exhibiting some of European finest art. Cherry on the cake: these museums are free!
Don’t miss ancient illuminated bibles, Renaissance paintings, 17th-century European masterpieces, famous French Impressionists or inspiring Irish contemporary art. Discover the best art museums in Dublin, they have what it takes to enlighten your stay in the Irish capital.
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Essential Tips for Visiting Dublin
- Getting There | Try comparison site Skyscanner to find the best flight deals. It also has a handy tool to help you find the best route to Dublin, especially when departing from an airport with no direct flight to the Irish city. If you’re travelling from the UK or France, you can also sail to Dublin with Irish Ferries.
- Where to Stay | Check booking.com to find accommodation that suits your budget. I would recommend staying in the city centre (and booking early!) so you won’t have to rely on public transport late at night. Read this guide on the best neighbourhoods to stay in Dublin to find your perfect hotel.
- Getting Around | AirCoach is my favourite bus company to travel from Dublin Airport to the city centre and also the fastest. Dublin Bus website and its free app will help you navigate the city transport network if you ever need a bus. Read How To Get Around Dublin by Public Transport for more tips.
- Planning | Lonely Planet Dublin is always the city guide I recommend buying. For an extensive and detailed list of things to see in Dublin and beyond, I recommend getting The Rough Guide to Ireland. This book has everything in it!
- Travel Insurance | You might need to buy travel insurance before visiting Dublin. Heymondo has a nifty app to help you get the assistance you need while on the go.
The Hugh Lane Gallery
Housed in Charlemont House, an 18th-century townhouse on the North side of the River Liffey, the Hugh Lane Gallery was founded in the 19th century by art collector Sir Hugh Lane. The gallery’s ambition was to provide a dedicated space for and promote contemporary art in Dublin.
19th century paintings from famous French Impressionists have found a fitting place in this art museum devoted to modern art. World renowned pieces by Manet, Degas and Renoir are today some of the gallery’s big draws.
During the 20th century, contemporary art remained the gallery’s main focus. Following the death of famous figurative painter Francis Bacon, his London studio and its entire contents were relocated to the Hugh Lane in 1998 as part of a permanent exhibition. 20th-century art is again the centre of attention in the Sean Scully room where the artist’s abstract work is on display.
The Chester Beatty Library
At the crossroads of history and art, the Chester Beatty Library is home to a world renowned collection of ancient manuscripts. Collected by mining magnate Alfred Chester Beatty and bequeathed upon his death to a trust for the benefit of the public, the richly-decorated books are a real wonder.
The collection has found a home in the Chester Beatty Library, a 18th-century building hiding at the back of Dublin Castle. Over two floors visitors can view beautifully (and painstakingly, I suppose) crafted, 12th-century bibles with colourful historiated initials. Extremely rare Christian biblical papyri from the 2nd-3rd centuries are some of the priceless treasures also on display.
Asia is well represented with 18th-century Turkish qurans in exuberant rococo and baroque styles covered in gold. Japanese manuscripts from the 16th-18th centuries painted in bright colours are also hard to miss. They depict popular fairy tales, folk tales and religious legends that take visitors to another world and time. A must-see for book lovers to include on their Dublin literary walking tour.
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– Irish Pub Etiquette | How to Avoid a Cultural Faux Pas
The National Gallery of Ireland
In the heart of Georgian Dublin, the National Gallery is Ireland’s leading art museum that you shouldn’t miss while on a trip to Dublin. The grand mid 19th-century building houses an extensive collection of European art from the 14th to the 20th century, including art by world-renowned Caravaggio and Picasso.
Christian icons, Renaissance artworks, portraits and landscapes by 17th century Dutch, Spanish, Italian and French masters adorn the walls of the great house lit by crystal chandeliers.
If you have a keen interest in Irish history, do not miss the stunning depiction of the Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife in Waterford by Daniel Maclise. The Battle of the Boyne by Jan Wyck is another must-see masterpiece.
A visit to the National Gallery of Ireland is also the opportunity to get acquainted with Irish art. The city of Dublin features in The Liffey Swim by Jack B. Yeats as the backdrop for his painting. And you might recognise Aston Quay in Dublin Streets: a Vendor of Books by Walter Osborne.
Museum of Decorative Arts
Located in Collins Barrack, an impressive 18th-century decommissioned army base with a view over the Guinness factory, the Museum of Decorative Arts is home to a vast and diverse collection.
From priceless pieces of Asian porcelain to precious Irish silver, the museum is full of little gems that should spark anyone’s interest. The museum interestingly retraces the history of Irish coins and the changes in Irish fashion too.
The museum is also making space for temporary exhibitions that showcase Irish modern art and contemporary fashion. Stunning garments by fashion designer Ib Jorgensen are parts of an ongoing exhibition. Originally from Denmark, he moved to Dublin as a teenager and went on to become one of the brightest stars in Irish fashion, even designing uniforms for Aer Lingus, the national airline.
Irish Museum of Modern Art
Fans of modern art would like to see the Irish National Collection housed in the 17th-century Royal Hospital Kilmainham. The former home for Irish soldiers has been renovated (do not miss its stunning formal garden) and turned into Ireland’s leading institution for the collection of modern art.
Pieces by international and Irish artists have found a home in the former hospital. Diverse artworks from oil paintings to short movies, photographs and sculptures from the collection are exhibited all year long, curated to match the featured theme of the moment.
Artworks can also be seen outside, dotting the museum’s lawn. Blending old and new, modern art invites itself in the museum’s formal garden: colourful shapes of various sizes adorn the garden’s central basin, surrounded by meticulously trimmed hedges and trees.
Thanks to its free art museums, Dublin gives everyone access to art. It is your chance to see unique artworks in Ireland’s best art museums at no cost. Why miss it! If history is also one of your interests, keep discovering the city’s uniqueness with the best hidden gems in Dublin. Happy reading!
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on a link, I earn a little money at no extra cost to you.