Places to visit: Libraries


Chester Beatty Library *****

With free admission and described by the Lonely Planet as not just the best museum in Ireland but one of the best in Europe, the Chester Beatty Library is a must-see on any Dublin visitor’s itinerary. Both an art museum and a library, it features rich collections from countries across Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, and opens a window on the artistic treasures of the great cultures and religions of the world.  If time permits, visit the rooftop garden, a secret Dublin gem. 

Manuscripts, miniature paintings, prints, drawings, rare books and decorative arts complete this amazing collection, all the result of the collecting activities of one man – Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (1875-1968). Egyptian papyrus texts and beautifully illuminated copies of the Qur’an, the Bible, European medieval and renaissance manuscripts are among the highlights on display. In its diversity, the collection captures much of the richness of human creative expression from about 2700 BC to the present day.

Opening Times
Mondays-Fridays: 9.45 am-5.30 pm (Wednesdays late opening to 8.00 pm)
Closed on Mondays for the months of November-February inclusive
Saturdays: 9.45 am-5.30 pm
Sundays: 12 noon-5.30 pm
Closed January 1; Good Friday; December 24-26

Free guided tours are available at 1 pm on Wednesdays, and at 2 pm and 3 pm on Sundays. Tours are on a first-come, first- served basis with no booking required. In the past, tours have been restricted to 15 visitors per tour.

Dublin Castle, Dublin 2.

Tel: 01 4070750.

Admission free.

Irish Architectural Archive

Irish Architectural Archive

The Irish Architectural Archive was established in 1976 to collect and preserve material relating to the architecture of Ireland. There are well over 1,000,000 items in its collections. The Archive is the greatest single source of information on Ireland’s buildings.

The Archive is stored within the largest terraced house on Merrion Square. There is a fine entrance hall, an imposing stone main staircase, and attractive neo-classical plaster work.

The public areas include the Archive Reading Rooms (on the ground floor) and the Architecture Gallery (showcasing a programme of exhibitions which make the Archive’s holdings accessible to all).

Open Tues-Fri 10.00 am-5.00 pm

45 Merrion Square, Dublin 2.

Tel: 01 6633 040

Admission free.

Irish Traditional Music Archive

Irish Traditional Music Archive

The Irish Traditional Music Archive is the national reference archive and resource centre for the traditional song, instrumental music and dance of Ireland. Here is found the largest collection in existence of sound recordings, books/serials, sheet music and ballad sheets, photographs, and videos/DVDs for the appreciation and study of Irish traditional music. The archive also holds a representative collection of the traditional music of other countries.

Visitors may listen to recordings, view DVDs and photographs, read music collections, and research material and topics of interest. The archive is open to all but for study and research purposes only.

Open Mon-Fri 10.00 am-5.00 pm; late opening Thur to 8.00 pm.

Open to the general public one Saturday a month 10.00 am-5.00 pm.

73 Merrion Square, Dublin 2.

Tel: 01 661 9699.

Marsh’s Library ***

Marsh’s Library, built by Archbishop Narcissus Marsh (1638-1713), was the first public library in Ireland. It was designed by Sir William Robinson, the Surveyor General of Ireland, and is one of the very few 18th century buildings left in Dublin that is still being used for its original purpose. Many of the collections in the Library are still kept on the shelves allocated to them by Marsh and by Elias Bouhéreau, the first librarian, when the Library was opened.

The Library was formally incorporated in 1707 by an Act of Parliament called An Act for settling and preserving a public library for ever. The Act vested the house and books in a number of religious and state dignitaries and officials and their successors as Governors and Guardians of the Library.

The interior of the library, with its beautiful dark oak bookcases each with carved and lettered gables, topped by a mitre, and the three elegant wired alcoves or ‘cages’ where the readers were locked in with rare books, remains unchanged since it was built three hundred years ago. It is a magnificent example of a 17th century scholar’s library. The library contains some 25,000 printed books relating to the 16th-18th Centuries.

Open to the public every day except Tuesday and Sunday.

Weekday opening hours (except Tuesday): 9.30 am to 5.00 pm.
Saturdays: 10.00 am to 5.00 pm.
Closed Tuesdays, Sundays and bank holidays. Closed Dec 24-Jan 1.

For groups of visitors who book in advance, specialist tours of the library can be arranged. Educational tours are also available for primary and secondary school students.

St. Patrick’s Close, Dublin 8.

Tel: 01 4543511.

Adults €5; concessions.

National Library

National Library (Kildare Street)

The National Library (Kildare Street) houses books, prints, manuscripts, newspapers, music, ephemera and genealogical material. It is the best collection of Irish documentary heritage in the world.

There are three current exhibitions:

Yeats: The Life and Works of William Butler Yeats – This exhibition has been described in The Irish Times as “one of the most important literary exhibitions yet staged internationally,” opened to unanimous acclaim on May 25, 2006. Since then, over a quarter of a million people of all ages and nationalities have delighted in the experience of this award-winning exhibition.

World War I Ireland: Exploring the Irish Experience – In summer 1914 a war broke out in Europe that would change the world forever. In Ireland, many supported the cause and joined up or travelled to serve in nursing and auxiliary services. Others objected to the war on moral, social or political grounds. By the time the conflict ended in 1918, its impact had been felt through the length and breadth of the country. The exhibition draws on the National Library’s collections of letters, diaries, recruiting posters, newspaper reports, cartoons, handbills and leaflets dating from 1914-1918. With original artefacts, first hand personal accounts and eyewitness testimony, World War Ireland brings visitors dramatically inside the lives of those who experienced the Great War.

Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again – This exhibition, which will run for three years, takes the visitor on a multi-sensory journey from Heaney’s origins through his remarkable poetic career.  The exhibition draws on the National Library’s extensive archive of Heaney documents and features Heaney’s original manuscripts as well as letters, unpublished works, diary entries, photographs, note books, and multi-media recordings. This is the first exhibition to be housed in the new Bank of Ireland Cultural and Heritage Centre within Bank of Ireland’s College Green complex. Open Monday to Saturday, 10.00 am to 4. 00 pm. Last admission is 3.30 pm.

The Kildare Street exhibition areas are open Mon-Wed 9.30 am-7.45 pm; Thurs & Fri 9.30 am-4.45 pm; Sat 9.30 am-4.45 pm; Sun 1.00 pm-4.45 pm; open Bank Holiday Mondays 12 noon-5.00 pm.

For full information about current exhibitions, see

To read about occasional public tours of the Library, see

Kildare Street, Dublin 2.

Tel: 01 603 0200.

Admission free.

Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland

Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland

The Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland was founded in 1849 (as the Kilkenny Archaeological Society). It was granted a Royal Charter in 1869. Its early aims included the conservation of endangered buildings (e.g. Clonmacnoise, Jerpoint Cistercian Abbey). It pioneered a comprehensive effort to photograph the antiquities of Ireland.

RSAI is actively involved in conserving Ireland’s heritage. It maintains a library and archival collections, provides lectures and organises excursions, and publishes a widely respected Journal. The June “summer soirée” and winter Monday evening talks are event highlights. Guests are welcome to attend these events.

The Society is generally open to members only (€75 p.a.). Members are entitled to use the Society’s library, participate in all Society events, and receive a copy of the Journal every year.

The restored library houses a collection of books, journals and archive materials documenting Ireland’s human and built heritage (10,000 printed works;100,000 photographs and drawings). The library is open to readers on Thursdays and Fridays (10.00 am-1.00 pm and 2.00 pm-5.00 pm).

The house has fine meeting rooms overlooking Merrion Square to the front and a restored Georgian garden to the rear (this is the only surviving Georgian townhouse garden in Dublin city, fully restored to its original late 18th-century splendour).

63 Merrion Square, Dublin 2.

Tel: 01 6761749

The RSAI facilities are open to non-members by appointment only. 

Trinity College

Trinity College Dublin *****

Trinity College Dublin  was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I and is an atmospheric 40-acre site in the heart of the city. Treasures on view include the Book of Kells; the Books of Durrow and Armagh; and an early Irish harp. All are displayed in the Treasury and the Old Library/Long Room (which houses 200,000 rare books).

The Book of Kells is Ireland’s greatest cultural treasure and is the world’s most famous medieval manuscript. The 9th Century book is a richly decorated copy of the four Gospels of the life of Jesus Christ.  A must-see is the  Book of Kells “Turning Darkness into Light” exhibition.

Opening Hours
Mon – Sat (Oct – Apr) 9.30 am – 5.00 pm
Mon – Sat (May – Sept) 8.30 am – 5.00 pm
Sun (Oct – Apr) 12.00 pm – 4:30  pm
Sun (May – Sept) 9:30  am – 5.00 pm
Easter Opening Times may vary from this: check the Trinity website for up-to-date details.

Trinity Library, College Street, Dublin 2.

Tel: 01 896 1000.

Online prices: Adults €11 (off-peak) or €14 (peak). You avoid queuing by booking online. It is unclear from the website if a higher admission price applies when you do not book online.

See separate entries for the Science Gallery & the Zoological Museum.

Enjoy student-led walking tours through the four historical squares of the campus. Lasting 35 minutes, the tour provides visitors with an insight into the more than 400-year history of the College, its buildings, its traditions and its life today.  All of the guides are knowledgeable and enthusiastic students of Trinity College Dublin. Tours in the high season (June-September) depart from the front gate daily from 9.15 am (last tour 3.40 pm, last tour on Sundays/Bank Holidays at 3.15 pm). The tour schedule displayed at the “Authenticity Tours” desk at the Front Gate always takes precedence over information available on the website.

Tour ticket €6. Combination ticket (Tour and admission to the Book of Kells and the Old Library) €15. These tour tickets can only be bought in person at the Front Gate (they are not available online). In the low season, regular tours take place on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays only. You must check the Trinity website for accurate details about tour times ( No tours on St Patrick’s Day (March 17th).