Cool Museums of Dublin Will Delight You
Cool Museums of Dublin Will Delight You
Are you ready to explore some cool museums of Dublin? If you’re a fan of ancient history, rare books, or rock n’ roll, here are some fun places to visit.
First, let’s start with some fascinating glimpses of ancient and medieval times. From there, we’ll get to more modern places.
National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology
The National Museum showcases Irish archaeological treasures. In fact, it houses one of Europe’s finest collections of Bronze and Iron Age gold artifacts and medieval Celtic metalworks.
Interestingly, a main reason why so many of these pieces survived is because people deliberately stored them in bogs and on dry land sites. Ireland and Northern Europe are known for their unique bog landscapes, which can preserve just about anything, including human bodies.
Kingship and Sacrifice: Irish Bog Bodies
In addition to man-made treasures, the National Museum displays ancient mummies known as “bog bodies.”
Most bog bodies date back to the Iron Age, roughly 2,000 to 2,500 years ago. When turf battles arose back then between two Irish rulers, one sometimes murdered his rival. Or, competing rulers sometimes offered human sacrifices to the gods in order to mark out “their” turf. In either case, survivors usually arranged for the victim’s body to be tossed into a nearby bog. There, the rotting vegetation and cold, acidic, oxygen-free conditions kept away decay and preserved the victim’s skin.
In 2003, peat cutters found Old Croghan Man in a bog in County Offaly in Ireland. Based on tests of his remains, he appears to have lived between 400 and 175 B.C. Also, he seems to have experienced a very violent death. Yet, because of the swampy soil where he remained for centuries, his skin and torso are largely intact today.
Long Room Library at Trinity College
Built in the early 1700s, the Long Room Library at Trinity College holds over 200,000 books. In addition, you can see there one of the last remaining copies of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic, announced at the start of the ill-fated Easter Rising. Also, the Library holds the oldest harp in all of Ireland, likely from the 15th century.
Book of Kells
Around the corner from the Long Room Library, you’ll find one of Ireland’s most famous objects, the Book of Kells. Decorated with Celtic and Christian iconography, this illuminated manuscript dates to around 800 A.D. While its exact origin remains a mystery, most scholars believe that Christian monks on the Isle of Iona in Scotland made it.
The Book of Kells features the four gospels, hand-transcribed on treated calf skin. Amazingly, experts estimate that the monks needed the skins of 185 calves to produce the book.
Although it can be hard to see the vellum pages and elaborate calligraphy in the dimly-lit exhibit space, it’s still worth a visit. But before you go there, you might want to temper your expectations. Especially if you visit during peak times, you’ll have a tough time getting close to the display case. For better luck, try visiting there in the late afternoon, when the crowds thin out.
James Joyce Center
While you might not think of the James Joyce Center as one of the cool museums of Dublin, it should be top of mind.
James Joyce is one of Ireland’s most famous and beloved authors. He captured the essence of Ireland through his vivid portrayals of its people and places.
To learn more about Joyce, visit the the James Joyce Center, which is dedicated to his life and works. Best of all, take one of the Center’s many walking tours, which change every week.
We took The Dubliners tour, based on Joyce’s book of short stories. The guided walk takes you to places like the building where Joyce grew up, a school he attended, and places featured in The Dubliners.
As we strolled local streets, our tour guide told us how Joyce’s father’s alcoholism and the Catholic Church influenced Joyce’s development as a young man.
As an adult, Joyce believed that the Roman Catholic Church and England had held Ireland back for many years. At the turn of the twentieth century, Ireland was one of the poorest countries in all of Western Europe. Joyce wrote about Ireland’s suffering through the people of The Dubliners.
For many years, Joyce tried to publish The Dubliners. But at that time, censors refused to allow some of the topics he wrote about to appear in print: drunkenness, child and spousal abuse, gambling, prostitution, and suicide. Even Joyce’s use of actual street names and names of places was taboo.
In fact, it took Joyce nine years of questing to find someone who would finally publish his work.
Chester Beatty Library
If you want to get glimpses of world cultures, check out the Chester Beatty Library.
Located at the back of Dublin Castle, the Library houses a trove of rare books, prints, and illuminated texts. Among its holdings, the Library features works from Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and East Asia. Of special note, you can find here some of the best examples of illuminated Islamic art in the world, such as Qu’rans dating back to the 8th century.
As we walked through the galleries, we paused here and there to look more closely at individual pieces. While many works grabbed us, this choral book from 13th century Italy stopped us in our tracks. It’s hard to imagine a work from so long ago that still looks so pristine.
Kilmainham Gaol (pronounced “jail”), established in 1796, is a former prison that’s rich in Irish history.
According to Trip Advisor, the prison is the #1 attraction in Dublin. Why? Visitors can experience its forbidding conditions and learn about key events that shaped Irish history.
In its early days, during a time of widespread poverty, poor people were put in prison for “crimes” like stealing a piece of bread or a turnip in a field. Moreover, men, women, and children were housed together, up to five in a cell. Each cell had only a single candle for light and no heat.
Over its 128 years, the prison held many of the key people involved in the campaign for Irish independence. Most notably, the British imprisoned and executed 15 leaders of the famous Easter Rising here in 1916. The image below shows the outdoor yard where the British executions took place.
The Wall of Fame – Irish Rock N Roll Museum
Located in the Temple Bar cultural district, the Irish Rock N Roll Museum traces the history of Irish rock music. Launched in 2003, it celebrates musicians who have influenced not only Irish music but also the world music scene. As you approach the museum, the Wall of Fame appears head on.
Of special interest, you can get a sneak peak at the Temple Lane Studios, where Kanye West, Rhianna, and others record their work. Also, visitors can practice their own rock n roll singing on a nearby vintage stage.
Now that we’ve visited some of the coolest museums of Dublin, it’s time to eat. If you want a casual meal, try the Gotham Cafe. Located near Trinity College, Gotham Cafe offers a big menu with lots of vegetarian options, including pizza. Plus, the service is friendly and relaxed.
Gresham Hotel Dublin
If you like historic hotels, try the Gresham Hotel Dublin. Located on busy O’Connell Street near the River Liffey, it’s one of the oldest 4-star hotels in the city. In fact, many famous people have stayed at the Gresham, like the Beatles and Princess Grace of Monaco. During your Dublin visit, you can enjoy an afternoon tea in the plush lobby of the hotel.