Places to visit: Museums

James Joyce Tower

COVID-19 advice: Please follow current government advice and check opening times before travel.

The James Joyce Tower on Sandycove Point is one of a series of fifteen similar Martello towers built around Dublin in 1804 to counter the threat of an invasion by Napoleon. The design was based on that of a tower on Cape Mortella in Corsica which had resisted a British attack in 1794.

The Tower is about forty feet high with walls eight feet thick. There was a single entrance ten feet above the ground which could only be approached by ladder. On top of the tower was a gun deck with a carriage on a swivel. Its eighteen pounder cannon had a range of about a mile.

In 1904 the tower was demilitarised and put up for rent at £8 a year by the War Department. The first tenant was Oliver St John Gogarty, a medical student and budding poet, who moved in in August and invited the twenty-two-year-old James Joyce to join him. Joyce was slow to take up the invitation and did not arrive at the tower until 9 September, by which time their friendship had cooled. They were joined by Samuel Chenevix Trench, an Oxford friend of Gogarty’s.

Joyce’s stay was brief. He was chased out of the tower on the night of 14 September and never returned. A month later he left Ireland for a literary career in Europe. The first chapter of his famous novel “Ulysses”, published in 1922, was set in the tower with characters based on himself and his companions. As a result, the tower became his monument, despite the fact that Gogarty had been the tenant and that it had been visited over the years by many celebrated Irish personalities.

The tower was bought in 1954 by the architect Michael Scott. With the help of a gift of money from the filmmaker John Huston, he and his friends set up the James Joyce Museum which was opened on 16 June 1962 by Sylvia Beach, the first publisher of Ulysses. Over the years the museum collection has grown, thanks to the generosity of many donors. In 1978, an exhibition hall was added to the building and a new entrance was put in at ground level.

At one stage, it seemed that the James Joyce Tower and Museum would cease to exist, as the resources necessary to keep it open were no longer available. Thankfully, the people of Sandycove and Glasthule were not prepared to let such a catastrophe occur. An organisation of volunteers, the ‘Friends of Joyce Tower Society’, was formed with the objective of keeping the tower and its museum open. With the support of Fáilte Ireland (the tower’s current custodian), the Society now operates the tower.

Open Thur, Fri, Sat, Sun 10.00 am – 4.00 pm.

James Joyce Museum, Sandycove Point, Sandycove, Co. Dublin.

Tel: 01 280 9265

Admission free; donations welcomed.

Jeanie Johnston

Jeanie Johnston Famine Ship Museum

COVID-19 advice: Please follow current government advice and check opening times before travel.

The Jeanie Johnston Famine Ship Museum is a replica of a wooden tall ship which sailed between Tralee & North America between 1848 and 1855.

The original Jeanie Johnston was built in 1847 on the banks of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec City, Canada. The cargo ship was purchased in Liverpool by John Donovan and Sons of Tralee, Co. Kerry. As the famine gripped Ireland, the company ran a successful trade bringing emigrants from Ireland to North America and returning with timbers bound for the ports of Europe.

The Jeanie Johnston made her maiden voyage on 24th April 1848 from Blennerville, Co. Kerry to Quebec with 193 passengers on board. Over the next seven years the ship made 16 voyages to North America carrying over 2,500 emigrants safely to the New World. Despite the seven week journey in very cramped and difficult conditions, no life was ever lost on board the ship – a remarkable achievement.

Guided tours only.  MAY TO OCTOBER – Open 7 days, 9.30 am to 5.15 pm.  First tour at 10.00 am, last tour at 4.30 pm . NOVEMBER TO APRIL – Open 7 days, 10.30 am to 4.00 pm. First tour at 11.00 am, last tour at 3.00 pm.

Custom House Quay, Dublin 1.

Tel: 01 473 0111.

Adults €11; concessions.

Little Museum of Dublin

Little Museum of Dublin

COVID-19 advice: Please follow current government advice and check opening times before travel.

The Little Museum of Dublin is full of items donated by ordinary Dubliners and in a relaxed format charts the cultural and social history of Dublin in the 20th Century.

“U2: Made in Dublin”  tells the story of Ireland’s most famous band and features fan-donated musical rarities, signed albums, some great photography, a Trabant car and a Gibson Explorer. Curated by fans of the band, alongside some of Ireland’s best photographers and artists, the exhibition is a tribute to U2’s achievements and a celebration of their roots in the local music scene of the 1970s.

The Editor’s Room is a small tribute to the famous Irish Times editor, R.M. Smylie, and to the much respected “newspaper of record”, the Irish Times. The room contains Smyllie’s desk, his portable typewriter, his desk lamp and many more bits and pieces from 150 years of newspaper history.

You Say You Love Me But You Don’t Even Know Me is an exhibition which re-introduces Northern Ireland to the people of Dublin. Featuring 35 artefacts from the collections of National Museums (Northern Ireland), the exhibition explores different perspectives of ‘Irishness’ without ignoring contested elements of our complex shared history.

The Golden Age of Dublin: James Malton’s Prints of Dublin  – In the 1790s a young English draughtsman decided to create a group portrait of Dublin. James Malton’s timing was impeccable, as the second city of the British Empire was then among the most splendid in Europe. But Dublin went into a long decline after the Act of Union in 1800.

Malton died at the age of 38, and it wasn’t until many years after his death that his aqua-tint plates were coloured. Today we owe the very idea of Georgian Dublin to this remarkable artist. His work is admired by millions of people every year, yet little is known about Malton himself. This exhibition explores the life of a man whose work has become, as the Irish Times noted recently, “ubiquitous to the point of invisibility.” It is also a miniature biography of Dublin at the height of its golden age.

Open Mon–Sun & Bank Holidays 10.00 am–5.00 pm (the last tour each day is at 4.45 pm).

Closed over the Christmas holiday period.

15 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2.

Phone 01 661 1000.

Adults €10; concessions.  Very popular guided tours available on the hour, every hour (at no extra charge). There is a tour in French every morning at 10.30 am. 

Why not avail of the Green Mile walking tour of St Stephen’s Green? The Green Mile tour tells the story of a square which has been at the centre of Irish history for hundreds of years. Every year 8.1 million people walk through the park; it has long served as a backdrop for public and private drama, as well as being the setting for many great love stories. The tour begins with a short presentation at the Museum. Participants then embark on a 60-minute walk in the company of an expert local guide. The tours take place every day at 11.30 am. Advance booking is essential (Adults €10; concessions –

Women’s History of Ireland – discover the untold story of Ireland’s influential women. Women have always played a part in Ireland’s history- but their contribution has not always been recognised. Ann Tomlin shares the fascinating role of women in Irish history. Join Ann every Tuesday at 1.00 pm, as she tells the story of Ireland’s famous female pioneers, from Mary Heath and Countess Markievicz to Maureen O’Hara and Mary Robinson.


National Maritime Museum

National Maritime Museum

COVID-19 advice: Please follow current government advice and check opening times before travel.

The National Maritime Museum celebrates Ireland’s maritime heritage. See lighthouse lights, the SS Great Eastern display, artefacts recovered from the wreck of the RMS Leinster (torpedoed in 1918 with 500 deaths), and models of the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company ships.

The museum’s greatest artefact is probably the building itself – it is one of the few custom built places of worship for sailors remaining intact in the world to-day. There are interesting exhibitions on wildlife around the Irish coastline, a maritime art gallery, a recreated ship’s radio room and a Titanic exhibition.

The Museum houses an extensive collection on all aspects of maritime heritage, from the massive anchor in the museum courtyard to tiny models put together by lighthouse keepers in the many lonely hours spent on duty. The museum is run by volunteers and by members of the community employment scheme.

The Halpin Exhibition: Captain Robert Halpin is an Irish maritime legend. He was born in Wicklow town on 17th February 1836, the youngest of 13 children. At 11 years old he went to sea. His first trips were on sailing ships, but Halpin saw that the future lay in steam.

His career had its ups and downs. In June 1865 he was appointed chief officer of the Great Eastern, the world’s largest ship. The ship was designed to carry 4,000 passengers, plus crew and could travel around the world without refuelling. It was powered by sails, plus paddle wheels and also a screw propeller. It had five engines with a total power of 8,000 hp. It had six masts named after the days of the week from Monday to Saturday, which could carry a huge amount of sail.

Eight years after it was launched, the Great Eastern it was refitted as a cable laying ship. It laid the first successful telegraph cable across the Atlantic from Ireland to the United States, being about the only ship afloat that could hold the necessary amount of cable for such a task. First under Captain James Anderson and later under Captain Robert Halpin it laid over 48,000 km (30,000 miles) of telegraph cable from 1866 to 1878. It ended life as a floating music hall and gym.

Robert Halpin spent many years as a highly respected commander of the Great Eastern. When he retired from the sea he bought Tinakilly House in Wicklow and became involved in politics. He died in January 1894.

Open 7 days 11.00 am – 5.00 pm
Closed Good Friday and Christmas Day

Mariners’ Church, Haigh Terrace, Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin.

Tel: 01 2800969 (11.00 am-5.00 pm).

Adults €6; concessions.

National Museum Archaeology

National Museum (Archaeology)

COVID-19 advice: Please follow current government advice and check opening times before travel.

The National Museum (Archaeology) is the national repository for all archaeological objects found in Ireland. It is home to over two million artefacts. See outstanding examples of Celtic and Medieval art, such as the Ardagh Chalice, the Tara Brooch and the Derrynaflan Hoard. Admire the finest collection of prehistoric gold artefacts in Europe.

Permanent collections at the Museum:
The Treasury
Ór – Ireland’s Gold
Prehistoric Ireland
Kingship and Sacrifice
Viking Ireland
Medieval Ireland 1150 – 1550
Ancient Egypt
Ceramics and Glass from Ancient Cyprus

Temporary Exhibitions at the Museum:
Clontarf 1014: Brian Boru and the Battle for Dublin – the Battle of Clontarf was fought a thousand years ago, on Good Friday (23rd April), 1014.  Popular perception sees the battle as a great victory where the Christian king of Ireland, Brian Boru, defeated the pagan Vikings and drove them out of Ireland. But is this correct? The exhibition explodes myths and presents the evidence we have for what actually happened at Clontarf, what led up to the battle and what resulted from it.

Glendalough: Power, Prayer and Pilgrimage – Glendalough is one of Ireland’s most important monastic sites.  The story of St Kevin became intertwined with landscape, buildings and objects as Christianity transformed medieval Ireland. Twenty-six objects which have never been exhibited before celebrate this special place.

Colmcille: Sacred objects of a Saint – 1500 years of devotion – Shrines of objects associated with saints were revered in the medieval period. These objects (“relics”) were held in containers known as reliquaries. This exhibition celebrates one of Ireland’s three patron saints through a selection of famous artefacts associated with him. These objects are enigmatic treasures, many of which were made over 1000 years ago. This exhibition also celebrates the remarkable story of their survival.

Open Tues-Sat: 10.00 am-5.00 pm; Sun & Mon: 1.00 pm–5.00 pm.
Open on Bank Holiday Mondays.
Closed Good Friday, 25 Dec.

Kildare Street, Dublin 2.

Tel: 01 677 7444.

Admission free.

National Museum Collins Barracks

National Museum (Collins Barracks)

COVID-19 advice: Please follow current government advice and check opening times before travel.

The National Museum (Collins Barracks) houses the  national Decorative Arts and History collection, charting Ireland’s economic, social, political and  military progress through the ages. Displays range from silver, Asian Art, ceramic and glassware pieces to weaponry, furniture, and examples of folk life and costume.

A very interesting complex of buildings in its own right, the museum at Collins Barracks is extensive and warrants at least a half-day visit. A full day’s outing for visitors to Dublin could include an initial tour of the superbly atmospheric Kilmainham Gaol (only ten minutes away from Collins Barracks), followed by lunch in Brambles Café (on site at the National Museum), and concluding with a leisurely afternoon taking in the attractions listed below.

2022 permanent exhibitions include:

  • A Dubliner’s Collection of Asian Art – The Albert Bender Exhibition (a highly important Asian art collection given to the National Museum during the 1930s by the great Irish-American Albert Bender)
  • The Asgard – discover the historic Asgard yacht, learn about the 1914 Howth gun running episode and the Irish Volunteers, and meet Erskine Childers and Roger Casement
  • Reconstructed Rooms: Four Centuries of Furnishings
  • Eileen Gray – Regarded as one of the most influential 20th Century designers and architects, Eileen Gray (an Irish woman) was renowned in France as a designer in lacquer furniture and interiors. She began to experiment with architectural forms in the late 1920s. Hers was a new approach to shape, line, the use of colour, materials and textures; and the human sensibility of her work continues to inspire designers today.
  • The Way We Wore (250 years of Irish clothing and jewellery)
  • Out of Storage – this double-height gallery is designed to give the visitor an impression of the range of artefacts in the reserve collections of the National Museum. The 500 pieces displayed were chosen to reflect the collecting policies of the Museum through the years.
  • Irish Silver – this exhibition traces the development of the silversmith’s craft from the early 17th Century to the present day. It addresses the evolution of design and examines the mining, assaying, and crafting of this precious metal. It also illustrates the various uses of silver – religious, domestic and ceremonial – and by means of vignettes seeks to place the objects in their historical and economic context.
  • Reconstructed Rooms: Four centuries of furnishings from the Georgian era to contemporary Irish furniture design
  • Curator’s Choice: 25 special objects from the Museum’s collections chosen by the Museum’s own curators. Particularly noteworthy are the Fonthill Vase (the earliest documented piece of Chinese porcelain in Europe),  a 2,000 year old Japanese ceremonial bell , and the decorative gauntlets worn by King William at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
  • Airgead – 1,000 Years of Irish Coins & Currency
  • Irish Country Furniture – this exhibition displays the furniture typically found in the traditional rural Irish home (including a re-construction of a country kitchen). It shows a range of styles from different areas of the country, the functional nature of each piece, and the skill of native Irish craftsmen. The display also highlights the evolution and development of traditional furniture and furnishings as Ireland’s social and economic circumstances changed through the 19th and 20th centuries.
  • Soldiers  & Chiefs (The Irish at War at Home & Abroad, 1550-2001). This very extensive exhibition uses original artefacts, letters, replicas and audio accounts to show the influence of Irish military participation over the centuries in a host of wars, both at home and abroad.
  • Irish wars 1919 to 1923 – An online exhibition which explores a selection of the newly displayed objects which feature in the Soldiers and Chiefs exhibition. The exhibition covers such themes as civil disobedience, imprisonment, hunger strike, propaganda, women in warfare and the effects of the conflict on civilian populations.
  • Down to Earth – Exploring Ireland’s Geology: An exhibition that tells the story of how scientists have developed their understanding of our planet over the last 175 years. The museum is the holder of a vast geological collection yet little of it has been seen by Museum audiences in over fifty years. A partnership with Geological Survey Ireland is bringing these precious samples back into public display and includes real mineral specimens collected in nineteenth-century Ireland and observed through the lens of modern science. 

Current temporary exhibitions:

  • Contemporary Collection of Design & Craft – an exhibition illustrating the best of Irish contemporary craft and design from both home and abroad
  • 21st Century Irish Craft – an exhibition showcasing the best of Irish ceramics, glass, furniture, wood turning, jewellery, accessories and silverware
  • Recovered voices: the Stories of the Irish at War, 1914-15 (About 21,000 Irishmen were already serving in the British Army when war broke out in 1914. ‘Recovered Voices’ explores what happened to them and the other 47,000 who joined in the first few years of the war. From the lush green fields of France in the summer of 1914, through that first Christmas in the trenches, to the sun dried beaches of Turkey in 1915, this exhibition unveils the complexity of Ireland’s part in World War One).
  • Ib Jorgensen:  A Fashion Retrospective – From the 1950s to the 1990s, Jorgensen was one of Ireland’s leading fashion designers, attracting a clientele from amongst the wealthiest and most stylish women in the country.
  • Proclaiming a Republic: The 1916 Rising – Available as a virtual show only. The exhibition explores the background to the 1916 Rising and introduces the visitor to the nuances of contemporary political events – the rise of the Catholic élite; the push for Home Rule along with the counter-moves of unionism; the increasingly nationalistic  tone of the arts and cultural movements of the period; and the political growth of republicanism.
  • Alison Lowry: Hidden Truths – an artistic response to the legacy of mother and baby homes and Magdalene laundries
  • Little Houses – an exhibition of artworks created through a collaborative partnership between the Stoneybatter Youth Service and the National Museum. The artworks were created by young people from the community close to Collins Barracks during the series of Lockdowns since March 2020. The exhibition is a visual record of their experiences of the pandemic and its impact on the community, and wider society.
  • Studio & State – This exhibition features for the first time Sir John Lavery’s paintings of the Treaty signatories (loaned by the Hugh Lane Gallery) next to contemporary artefacts of the time from the Museum’s own collection. Museum objects include the fountain pen reputedly used by Michael Collins to sign the original Treaty document and propaganda handbills. Studio & State explores events between July 1921, when the Truce was agreed in Dublin, and January 1922, when the Anglo-Irish Treaty was narrowly ratified in Dáil Éireann.  The negotiations for and signing of the Treaty were crystallising moments for Ireland in the twentieth century. The Treaty was both a vehicle of peace as well as a catalyst for civil war. Sir John Lavery’s paintings provide an unparalleled record of this pivotal moment.

Open Tues-Sat: 10.00 am-5.00 pm
Open Sun & Mon: 1.00 pm-5.00 pm
Closed Good Friday and 25 December. Open Christmas Eve 10.00 am-12.00 pm.

Collins Barracks, Benburb Street, Dublin 7.

Tel: 01 677 7444.

Free admission.

Click here to consult the calendar of special events

National Museum Natural History

National Museum (Natural History)

COVID-19 advice: Please follow current government advice and check opening times before travel.

The National Museum (Natural History) is located on Merrion Street. The building was constructed in 1856 to house the Royal Dublin Society’s growing collections, which had expanded continually since the late 18th Century.

The building is a ‘cabinet-style’ museum designed to showcase a wide-ranging and comprehensive zoological collection, and has changed little in over a century. Often described as a ‘museum of a museum’, its 10,000 exhibits provide a glimpse of the natural world that has delighted generations of visitors since the doors opened in 1857. Kids rate this venue a 5-star experience.

The building and its displays reflect many aspects of the history and development of the collections. It was originally built as an extension to Leinster House, where the Royal Dublin Society was based for much of the 19th Century. The building was designed by architect Frederick Clarendon.

In 1877 ownership of the Museum and its collections was transferred to the state. New funding was provided for the building, and new animals were added from an expanding British empire during the great days of exploration.

The Natural History division cares for the state collections in the disciplines of zoology and geology. The botanical collections of the Museum were transferred to the National Botanic Gardens in 1970.

The Natural History collections comprise approximately two million specimens. The largest of the collections, in terms of numbers, is the extensive insect collection, which accounts for about half of all specimens. There is a surprising amount of material from outside Ireland, much of this a legacy of the 19th Century British Empire, when Dublin was one of its most significant and populous cities, and Irish scientists and keen amateurs staffed the largest navy in the world and were involved in numerous expeditions to far away places.

The collections are used as a reference resource by staff and research visitors, and play an important role in the identification of specimens such as insect pests that may have considerable economic significance. Staff carry out field work, publish their own research and assist visitors who are also involved in scientific publications. Time is also spent acquiring new examples of the Irish fauna through regular fieldwork.

The ground floor is dedicated to Irish animals, featuring giant deer skeletons and a variety of mammals, birds and fish. The upper floors of the building were laid out in the 19th Century in a scientific arrangement showing animals by taxonomic group. This scheme demonstrated the diversity of animal life in an evolutionary sequence.

The main collections on display are:

  • Irish Fauna
  • Mammals of the World

The museum has been closed for some time to permit major conservation and renovation works to take place.  The ground floor of the Natural History Museum re-opens on August 2nd 2022. The rest of the Museum continues to be a building site.

The Office of Public Works have built a roof access platform underneath the glass ceiling to investigate the roof and understand the structure of the building, which is over 160 years old. The work needed to fix this Victorian museum will take some time and is part of a larger-scale refurbishment project of the entire building, which is planned under the National Development Plan. (The museum will close again some time in 2023).

Note that you now need to pre-book your ticket (which is free) to visit the museum. A booking system is necessary because the capacity of the museum building is limited. Booking helps officials to manage numbers and keep staff and visitors safe. The museum has a late Thursday evening opening (until 8 pm) for the month of August 2022 only.

Open Tues–Sat 10.00 am-5.00 pm, Sun & Mon 1.00 pm–5.00 pm.
Closed Good Friday, Christmas Day.

Merrion Street, Dublin 2.

Tel: 01 677 7444.

Admission free.

National Print Museum

National Print Museum

COVID-19 advice: Please follow current government advice and check opening times before travel.

The National Print Museum is a museum of printing craft skills. It has a collection of over 10,000 objects that covers the whole range of the printing craft in Ireland. The collection consists of printing machinery and artefacts including printing blocks, metal and wooden movable type, ephemera, photographs, books, pamphlets, periodicals and one banner. The collection policy covers from the introduction of movable type to Ireland (in the 16th century) to the present day.

Open Tues-Fri 10.00 am – 4.00 pm
Sat, Sun 12.00 pm – 4.00 pm
Closed Mondays, Public Holidays and Bank Holiday Weekends (Saturday-Monday inclusive)
Closed 21 Dec-Jan 1

Self-guided tours. Also guided tours for individual visitors and pre-booked groups (see below). The tour takes you through the history of printing, and the museum’s three part print-shop style exhibition (composing, printing and finishing areas). Caution – parking on site is very limited and parking “clampers” are active.

Guided tours most days at 12 noon (€5 per person)

Garrison Chapel, Beggars Bush Barracks, Haddington Road, Dublin 4.

Tel: 01 6603770.

Admission free.

National Transport Museum

National Transport Museum

COVID-19 advice: Please follow current government advice and check opening times before travel.

The National Transport Museum is Ireland’s only comprehensive collection of public service and commercial road transport. It contains some very rare and some unique items. The oldest items date from 1883, the newest from 1984. There are five main standalone categories – Passenger, Commercial, Fire & Emergency, Military, and Utility. There are 180 vehicles in stock, and 60 on display.

Open Sat, Sun, Bank Holidays 2.00 pm-5.00 pm. Also open 26 Dec – 1 Jan 2.00 pm-5.00 pm.

Heritage Depot, Howth Demesne, Howth, Dublin 13.

Tel: 01-832 0427 (during opening hours) or 085 146 0499.

Adults €4.50; concessions.

Number 29 Fitzwilliam St

Number Twenty Nine Fitzwilliam Street Lower

Number Twenty Nine Fitzwilliam Street Lower is a Georgian House Museum. You go on a self-guided tour from the basement to the attic. The rooms are furnished with original artefacts from 1790-1820, illustrating how life was lived in the late Georgian era by upper middle-class Dublin families. The museum is sponsored by the Electricity Supply Board (ESB) in partnership with the National Museum.

The Museum has been “temporarily closed” for some years to facilitate the construction of a new ESB Head Office Complex. Information about the proposed reopening date is impossible to obtain. It seems reasonable to conjecture that the museum will never reopen. [In early 2021, the ESB applied to convert the museum building into three luxury apartments. In February 2021, Dublin City Council refused planning permission, stating that: “The proposal would reduce the range of cultural and tourist activities in the city core and would set an undesirable precedent for the loss of further cultural facilities in the city”.]

In the past, the museum was open mid-Feb to mid-Dec Tues-Sat: 10.00 am-5.00 pm. Closed Sun, Mon. Guided tours (on a first come, first served basis) took place each afternoon at 3.00 pm; group tours were on a pre-arranged booked basis (11.00 am).

Here is a video tour of the House:

Fitzwilliam Street Lower, Dublin 2.


Adults €6; concessions.