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 Hours:
Mon – Sat: 9.45am – 5.30pm; Wed: late opening – 8pm
Sun: 12pm – 5.30pm
Free public tours take place every Wednesday at 5.30pm, Saturday at 11am and Sunday at 3pm. Suitable for individual visitors, families and small groups (under 15 participants).
Booking required only for groups of 7 or more.

Closed on Monday for the months of November-February inclusive.
Closed January 1; Good Friday; December 24-26

Contact & Pricing:
Dublin Castle, Dublin 2
Tel: 01 407 0750
Admission free; suggested donation €10

Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle operated in the past (for 700 years) as a military fortress, a prison, a treasury, the courts of law and the seat of English administration in Ireland.

The State Apartments dominate the south range of the Great Courtyard. They were built as the residential and public quarters of the Viceregal Court and were the seat of the executive and focus of fashionable and extravagant social life. Today the Apartments are the venue for Ireland’s Presidencies of the European Union, for Presidential inaugurations and for prestigious functions.

The Undercroft is sited at lower ground floor level in the Lower Castle Yard, opposite the Chapel Royal. The city walls join the Castle at this point. Here, the archway allowed small feeder boats to land provisions at the postern gate, from larger boats moored on the Liffey. The double archway and postern gate are still visible. Also on view here is the Viking defence bank, within the butt of the Norman Powder Tower. The original Tower was five stories high – the top storey being occupied by the Lord Deputy during the 16th century.

The Chapel Royal is a gothic revival building designed by Francis Johnston. It is famous for its vaulting, its particularly fine plaster decoration and carved oaks and galleries. Admission to the Chapel Royal is free.

Also on this site, in the Revenue Museum one can experience a unique window on the many and varied activities of the Revenue Commissioners, from tax collection to customs controls, over several centuries. In addition to exhibits old and new, the Museum (located in the Crypt of the Chapel Royal) contains audio-visual displays and instructive video games. See if you can find hidden contraband or guess the parts of a house that were subject to tax in days gone by.

Among the many exhibits are the first set of Exchequer Returns for Saorstát Éireann, a poitín still, a stamp duty machine, examples of counterfeit goods and endangered species seized at ports and airports, early computer technology, and a wide range of beautiful measuring instruments. All of these are housed in the atmospheric crypt of the Chapel Royal.

The Garda Museum and Archives are located at the Treasury Building, Dublin Castle. Here visitors will find an interesting exhibition about the history of An Garda Síochána and information on policing in Ireland before 1922.   The museum exhibits include photographs and documents outlining the history and development of policing in Ireland in the 19th/20th centuries.

Opening Hours:
Open seven days a week 9.45am – 5.45pm, last admission 5.15pm.
The State Apartments, the Undercroft and the Chapel Royal are open during these hours. Guided tours run hourly from 10am-4pm, with tickets available online and at the venue. Self-guided or group tours can be booked in advance.
Revenue Museum is open weekdays from 10am to 4pm.
Garda Museum and Archives are open to the public weekdays from 10am to 2pm.

All attractions on this site are closed Good Friday,  25 – 27 December & 1 January.
As Dublin Castle is a working Irish Government building, security, access to rooms and opening arrangements may be subject to change at short notice.
Please check the website for updates before visiting.

Contact & Pricing:
Tel: 046 942 2213 (General enquiries)
01 863 5601 (Revenue Museum)
01 666 9998 (Garda Museum)
Dame Street, Dublin 2
Adults from €8; concessions

Dublin Civic Trust

Dublin Civic Trust

Dublin Civic Trust’s former headquarters is the only surviving Georgian building on historic Castle Street. Now fully restored to its former glory, this handsome merchant town house and shop is one of the last buildings of its type and period in Dublin to remain intact, and was until recently home to the Dublin Civic Trust’s offices and exhibition centre. No. 4 Castle Street is now in private hands.

Established in 1992 as an educational trust with charitable status, the Trust is an independent organisation that works to recognise and protect the city’s architectural heritage. It is dedicated to the principles of building identification, sensitive repair with minimal intervention, and the appropriate use of the city’s historic building stock.

Through conservation courses and seminars, the Trust educates the public about the resource value of period buildings. It promotes best practice for the repair and maintenance of historic buildings. It campaigns for the sensitive development and enhancement of Dublin’s historic city core in a manner that maximises the unique and irreplaceable resource value of Dublin’s historic building stock, streets and spaces.

The Trust produces major policy documents and undertakes consultancy work. It publishes the popular “Period Houses, A Conservation Guidance Manual”. Its series of books on the secondary streets of Dublin is also well regarded.

Since its establishment, the Trust has engaged in many projects relating to the built heritage of the city, including:

  • Recording structures on many of Dublin’s principal and secondary streets, such as Henrietta Street, Capel Street, Dawson Street and Aungier Street
  • Completely restoring five historic buildings (some in danger of demolition) through the Trust’s Revolving Fund; and reinstating additional buildings in conjunction with Dublin City Council
  • Compiling Architectural Conservation Area policies/inventories for Dublin City Council – O’Connell Street & Environs, and Thomas Street & Environs in the Liberties
  • Publishing historical and advisory leaflets on building typologies particular to residential streets in the Liberties area, and hosting lectures about caring for period homes
  • Publishing many inventory and policy documents on built heritage (e.g. an Inventory of Dublin Historic Street Paving and Furniture)
  • An evaluation of the historic core of Dublin as defined by its Georgian squares and major connecting commercial streets, commissioned by Dublin City Business Association.

Current projects of importance include an action plan for historic Thomas Street in The Liberties for Dublin City Council, with an emphasis on maximising its historic building stock; a study of the gable-fronted house tradition in Dublin of the 17th and early 18th centuries; and assessing options for saving a stretch of historic streetscape of North King Street that closes the vista of the north side of Smithfield.

Dublin Civic Trust regularly publishes books, pamphlets and information leaflets on the built heritage of Dublin. Its popular series of books on the secondary streets of Dublin brings the reader through the origins of each street, the history and architecture of their historic building stock, a full building inventory, and a vision for improvement. Other publications focus on specific topics of historical and architectural interest. You can buy these online.

Between 1992 and 2000, the Trust restored a number of historic buildings in the city – some of which were proposed for demolition – through the mechanism of a Building Conservation Revolving Fund. The Fund proved to be an innovative and cost effective method of saving and restoring endangered historic buildings in the city.

In total, five properties were restored by the Trust (Number 10 and 11 South Frederick Street, No. 21 Aungier Street, No. 4 Castle Street). The Trust was instrumental in saving further properties in conjunction with Dublin City Council such as the former City Weights and Measures on Harry Street and the rare mews buildings of Numbers 14 and 15 St. Stephen’s Green. The positive effects of the Fund went well beyond individual buildings, stimulating further improvements in key city centre streets such as South Frederick Street and Andrew Street.

To read a detailed account of the restoration of No. 4 Castle Street, see

Tel: 01 874 9681
18 Upper Ormond Quay, Dublin 7

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).

Opening Hours:
Tues to Fri: 10am – 5pm

Contact & Pricing:
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.

Opening Hours:
Mon to Fri: 10am – 5pm, closed between 1pm and 2pm.
No booking required.

Contact & Pricing:
Tel: 01 661 9699.
73 Merrion Square, Dublin 2
Free admission; donations welcome.

Kings Inns

King’s Inns

The Honorable Society of King’s Inns is the oldest institution of legal education in Ireland. It was founded in 1541 during the reign of Henry VIII when the king granted the Society the lands and properties on which the Four Courts now stand but which were then occupied by a Dominican monastery. When the Four Courts were built in the 1790s, King’s Inns moved from Inn’s Quay to Constitution Hill; the eminent architect, James Gandon, who had earlier designed the Custom House and the Four Courts in Dublin, was commissioned in 1800 to design a new building for the Society on Henrietta Street. It was Gandon’s last public building in Dublin.

The Honorable Society of King’s Inns consists of benchers, barristers and students. The benchers include all the judges of the Supreme and High Courts and a number of elected barristers. King’s Inns is the headquarters of the Benchers and of the School of Law. The primary focus of the school is the training of barristers.

The School of Law is the oldest institution of professional legal education in Ireland. Its reputation is international with a long list of eminent graduates including former presidents of Ireland and of other countries, taoisigh (prime ministers), politicians and, of course, judges and barristers in practice throughout the English speaking world.

Up to 1800 the buildings at Inns Quay provided all that was needed for practice at the bar. There were chambers where barristers lived and worked, a hall for eating and drinking, a library for research, a chapel for prayer and gardens for recreation. Things changed somewhat with the move to Constitution Hill. Chambers and a chapel were to have been built but the plans were never executed. However, many of the 17th century traditions remain or are co-mingled with 21st century developments.

Opening Hours:
Guided tours are rarely available. Each October, as part of the “Open House” weekend, there is usually a tour of all the buildings.
See for full details.

Tel:  01 874 4840
King’s Inns, Henrietta Street, Dublin 1

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.

The library’s official website has some interesting online exhibitions (e.g. “Sole survivors: the rarest books in the world”).

Opening Hours:
Tues to Fri: 9.30am – 5pm
Sat: 10am – 5pm
Closed on Sundays, bank holidays and Dec 24 – Jan 1.
Guided, VIP and group tours are available on request, for an additional fee.

Contact & Pricing:
St. Patrick’s Close, Dublin 8
Tel: 01 4543511
Adults €7; concessions

Newman House

Museum of Literature Ireland (MoLI)

The Museum of Literature Ireland, MoLI, is a major collaboration between UCD and the National Library of Ireland to create a new landmark cultural institution in the heart of Dublin.

Named for James Joyce’s muse Molly Bloom and picturesquely located on the south side of St Stephen’s Green within the original home of the University, Newman House, one of Dublin’s finest historic houses, MoLI celebrates Ireland’s literary culture and heritage.

Immersive multimedia exhibitions, priceless artefacts, including Joyce’s own ‘Copy No.1 of Ulysses’, lectures, performances, education programmes, historic house tours, digital broadcasting, research facilities and a café set in one of the city’s most tranquil gardens make MoLI a major contribution to the local and international literary landscape.

Visitors experience a journey through diverse exhibits examining Ireland’s long poetic tradition, the history of writing in the new Irish State, contemporary Irish writers and young adult fiction. An ambitious temporary exhibition programme, including a rotating partnership with other literary cities, will see changing exhibitions focus on individual writers and works from the past to the present as well as Irish folklore and intangible literary heritage through artefacts, sound, film, new technologies and digital media.

Newman House is the original home of University College Dublin. The building consists of two Georgian town houses (1738, 1765) and a Victorian hall. There are fine interiors & splendid plasterwork. The House is associated with John Henry Newman, Gerald Manley Hopkins & James Joyce.

The Commons is  the museum café run by Domini and Peaches Kemp. Set in the original student dining halls in the basement of Newman House, the restored space is now an all-day Irish kitchen and dining room which opens out onto the garden terrace.  This is a hidden south-facing oasis in the heart of the city centre. The gardens contain two protected trees, most notably the ash tree that James Joyce had his graduation photograph taken against. The gardens also connect to the Iveagh Gardens, sometimes called Dublin’s ‘Secret Garden’.

Historic House Tours – Explore the stunning surroundings and turbulent history of Numbers 85 and 86 St Stephen’s Green on MoLI’s Historic House Tour. Join your guide as they bring you on a journey through these hidden historic rooms, witness these architectural treasures up close, and learn about the many fascinating characters that have passed through over the centuries. – historical background of Newman House

Opening Hours:
Open 7 days: 10am – 6pm, last admission 5pm
Free after-hours events on the 1st Friday of each month.
Guided tour included in ticket (runs every hour).
Historic House Tours on Sundays only at 11am & 3pm.

The Commons Café is open from 10.30am to 5.00 pm Tuesday to Sunday.

Contact & Pricing:
Tel: 01 716 5900
Museum of Literature Ireland, 86 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2
Admission – Adults €14.50; concessions
Historic House Tours – Adults €18; concessions

Leprechaun Museum

National Leprechaun Museum

The National Leprechaun Museum is a light-hearted celebration of Irish fairy tales and folklore. It covers such territory as the festivals of Samhain, Bealtaine and Lughnasa; the Tuatha Dé Danann; Cúchulainn and the Fianna; and ghosties such as the Púca and the Banshee. Exhibits include the rainbow room, a leprechaun well, the Giant’s Causeway, and the rain room.

Opening Hours:
Sun to Thurs: 10am – 6.30pm, Fri & Sat: 10am – 8pm
Day tours start every 30mins (not suitable for children under 6).
Adult only night tours available at 7 & 8pm, Fri & Sat only.
Tours may be sold out weeks in advance, so early booking is recommended.

Contact & Pricing:
Tel: 01 873 3899
2/3 Mary’s Abbey, Dublin 7
Day tours – Adults €18; concessions
Night tours – Adults €20

National Library

National Library

The National Library 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.

Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again – This exhibition 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.

People & Places: Ireland in 19th & 20th Centuries – Look back through the camera lens at 150 years of life in Ireland in images selected from some of our most popular photographic collections.

For full information about current exhibitions, see

Opening Hours:
The National Library of Ireland is located at four separate buildings, within walking distance of each other in Dublin city centre.
All of the buildings are open to the public free of charge.

Exhibitions, tours and special events are available in the different locations.
To read about occasional public tours of the Library, see
Check the website for exact location, opening times and availability of all attractions.

Contact & Pricing:
Tel: 01 603 0200
Kildare Street, Dublin 2
Admission free