Dublin may be a city best known for its relentless nightlife and drinking scene, but there’s a whole lot of culture to discover amid the festivities. Ireland has a long and varied history — and not all of it pleasant. For a little island on the edge of Europe, there’s a lot to learn and discover. A day of wandering around the best of Dublin’s cultural hotspots also has the handy bonus of giving you an easygoing respite between the gauntlet of pub crawls.
Chances are, if you’re visiting Dublin, you’ve got your nights fully booked. But what to do during the day? Well, for a small city, Dublin has a lot going for it, and unlike its continental European counterparts, most of its museums are free. Hop on to BUCKiTDREAM to see if any other intrepid travelers have explored Dublin’s cultural offerings, and get inspired by their pics and stories. Then keep that BUCKiTDREAM planner handy as we take you through the best of the Fair City’s museum scene!
If You Only Have One Hour The National Gallery of Ireland houses Ireland’s collection of Irish and European art. It’s located on Clare Street, off the west side of the picturesque Merrion Square, right next to the esteemed Trinity College. It’s a quaint and unintimidating museum, which can be tackled in under an hour, and has none of the queues or crowds that one might associate with larger galleries, such as the Louvre in Paris or the Uffizi Gallery Museum in Florence. Despite this, it’s got a couple of masterpieces to its name that the latter two establishments would kill to have in their collections. The first is “The Taking of Christ” by Caravaggio, which was discovered in the attic of the Dublin Jesuit’s house in the 1990s, and the second is Dutch maestro Vermeer’s “Lady Writing a Letter.” And, of course, if Irish masterpieces are your thing, there’s no better place to head than the National Gallery.
If You’re a History Buff Surprisingly rigorous in its presenting of Irish 20th-century history, the National Museum of Ireland Decorative Arts & History offers a fascinating journey through the hard-won, often bloody, formation of the Irish Republic. It’s also known as Collins Barracks, as the site was previously an army barracks named in memory of Irish military leader Michael Collins after his assassination in 1922. The museum presents many artifacts from the early 1900s, a turbulent time for Ireland as it waged war against Britain and then against itself during a vicious civil war. Any history buff is sure to find a treasure trove of information here, but the museum is also family-friendly and features enough fun exhibits to keep the kids happy. For the less historically inclined, there’s also a stunning collection of Asian art, featuring original woodblock prints from Japanese ukiyo-e artist Hiroshige.
If You Like Bog Bodies and Viking Artifacts Another branch of the National Museum of Ireland is Archaeology, located in the center of town, right next to the government buildings on Kildare Street. The museum lobby is impressively decorated with a huge zodiac mosaic on the floor, and things get no less dramatic once you get inside the main exhibits. Featuring a stunning collection of artifacts and treasures churned up from the Irish soil over several decades, the archaeological museum hosts such priceless discoveries as the Ardagh Chalice and the Tara Brooch. The museum’s most striking exhibit, however, is undoubtedly the three (well, two and a half) Irish mummies locally known as the “bog bodies.” Startlingly preserved due to being entrenched in 100 percent pure Irish bog and peat for thousands of years, these mummified bodies are equal parts fascinating and creepy.
If You Want to Discover the Best Small Museum in Ireland One of Dublin’s many hidden gems, the Little Museum of Dublin is located on St. Stephen’s Green, the old center of Georgian Dublin. Featuring all sorts of fascinating Irish knickknacks and possibly one of the most charismatic tour guides in the country, this little museum is well worth your time. Unfortunately, as it’s not a state-funded institution, there’s an entry fee, but it’s a small price to pay to visit one of the city’s most popular and endearing attractions.
If You’re a Fan of Leprechauns Although no one knows whether leprechauns are real, there’s a certain fascination with them that Irish tourists just can’t seem to shake. Some forward-thinking folks have capitalized on that enduring intrigue and set up the National Leprechaun Museum of Ireland, Aa engaging trip into Irish folklore that provides fun for all the family. What could have been an exploitative cash-in is an enlightening and charming look into Irish myths and legends that take the form of a live-action story with 12 chapters to explore. If you’re looking for something lighthearted to take the edge off a hangover, head to the city’s north side and hunt down the National Leprechaun Museum (the novelty-size furniture is seriously fun to clamber on).
These are just a few of the cultural charms that can be found in Dublin’s fair city. It’s not just about the drink, the craic and the ceo, you know! For more Irish inspiration, check out The Definitive Guide to James Joyce’s Dublin and The Five Best Traditional Pubs in Dublin, and get busy BUCKiTDREAMin’ your way to the Emerald Isle!