A Guide To The Outstanding Chester Beatty Library In Dublin

Chester Beatty Library dublin
Photos via the Chester Beatty Library on FB

the Chester Beatty Library is arguably one of the best museums in Dublin.

Once the private library of Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, the museum is now a beacon for curious locals and tourists alike.

The Chester Beatty Library is home to everything from treasures from Europe and ancient manuscripts to rare books and much, much more.

Below, you’ll find everything from the Chester Beatty Library opening hours to what to see when you arrive. Dive on in!

Some quick need-to-knows about The Chester Beatty Library

Although a visit to the Chester Beatty Library is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

Handily enough, the Chester Beatty Library is bang in the middle of the city centre within the grounds of Dublin Castle. It’s a 10-minute walk from both Trinity College and the Ha’penny Bridge and a 15-minute walk from the National Gallery of Ireland.

2. Free to visit

The Chester Beatty doesn’t charge an entry fee to the museum or any of its wonderful exhibitions, but like most cultural attractions, it relies on the generosity of its 300,000 plus visitors. Find info on how to support here.

3. What to expect

There’s endless things to see at the Chester Beatty Library, from Egyptian Books of the Dead AND contemporary Chinese woodblock prints to programmes and activities that foster and encourage learning. More on the exhibitions below.

4. Chester Beatty Library cafe

The Chester Beatty Library cafe (Silk Road) is worth nipping into. The menus focus on Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. Home cooking is the order of the day and everything is made from fresh ingredients. Vegetarian and coeliac-friendly dishes are readily available. 

5. The tours

Want to get the best out of your visit with a walk through the museum with an expert? Guided Tours are now available at the Chester Beatty. They take place on Wednesdays at 5.30pm and Saturdays at 2pm. As places are limited, you must book beforehand to guarantee a space on this knowledgeable experience.

6. Opening hours

The Chester Beatty Library opening hours are as follows (note: it’s closed Mondays from Nov to Feb along with Good Friday and Jan 1st):

  • Monday to Friday: 9:45am – 5:30pm
  • Wednesday: 9:45am – 8:00pm
  • Saturday: 9:45am – 5:30pm
  • Sunday: 12:00pm – 5:30pm

About the Chester Beatty Library

Chester beatty free museum dublin
Photo copyright @ Trustees of the Chester Beatty Library

The Chester Beatty Library opened in Dublin in the year 2000, marking the 125th anniversary of Sir Alfred Chester Beatty’s birth.

Born in New York, Chester Beatty was a self-made mining magnate whose ancestors were Irish. He began collecting from an early age.

An incredible collector

He was one of the greatest collectors of the 20th century. He relocated to Dublin in 1950, bringing his collection with him. He became an Irish citizen in 1950 and continued to add to his collection throughout the 50s and 60s before dying in 1968.

He was given a state funeral, the first Irish citizen to be given one. The institution was awarded European Museum of the Year in 2002.

Present day

There are two galleries in the museum where the collections are displayed – Sacred Traditions and Arts of the Book. They feature manuscripts, miniature paintings, drawings, rare books and Persian, Islamic, East Asian and Western artworks.

The museum is a premier source for both Old and New Testament scholars and its priceless objects include one of the first surviving volumes of the first illustrated Life of the Prophet and the Gospel of Mani.

Things to see and do at the Chester Beatty Library

The reason that the Chester Beatty Library is up there as one of Dublin’s top tourist attractions is due to how utterly outstanding the collection is.

This is the type of place that immerses and amazes you from beginning to end. Here’s what to keep an eye out for.

1. The places collections

Chester Beatty Dublin
The Chester Beatty Library by Pierre Tribhou. Licensed via Creative Commons

The places collections bring together artefacts from China, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, India, Iran, Japan and South-east Asia.

The French collection, for example, includes French manuscripts, prints and printed books, such as illuminated Books of Hours, royal commissions such as books from Marie Antoinette’s library and early 20th century fashion plates.

2. The world faiths collections

Chester Beatty Library dublin
Photos via the Chester Beatty Library on FB

Explore world faiths – Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Ancient Egyptian beliefs.

Within the Ancient Egyptian beliefs collection, you will find the oldest scroll in the Chester Beatty collection, which comes from the New Kingdom Egypt era (c. 1550-1070 BCE) has two significant literary works—a battle between sibling gods and love songs.

3. The Exhibitions

Chester beatty free museum dublin
Photos via the Chester Beatty Library on FB

The museum hosts regular and temporary exhibitions. Currently, those include Arts of the Book in the gallery, which shows East Asian, Islamic and Western manuscript and printing traditions.

Highlights from East Asia include a collection of Chinese jade books, Japanese picture-scrolls that depict fables and legends, and deluxe woodblock prints. There is an audio-visual programmes to complement the exhibition.

Places to visit near the Chester Beatty Library

The museum is a short walk away from endless things to see and do (some of the best restaurants in Dublin are also nearby).

Below, you’ll find plenty of places to explore after you’ve had your fill of the Chester Beatty.

1. Dublin Castle (5-minute walk)

dublin castle tours
Photo by Mike Drosos (Shutterstock)

Located off Dame Street, Dublin Castle was built in the early 13th century on the site of a former Viking settlement, Dublin Castle was used for centuries as the headquarters of the English, and later British, administration in Ireland. After Ireland’s independence in 1922, Dublin Castle was handed over to the new Irish government and is now a government complex and tourist attraction.

2. Christ Church Cathedral (5-minute walk)

Christ Church Cathedral tour
Photos via Shutterstock

Christ Church Cathedral was originally a Viking Church and is almost 1,000 years old, Dublin’s oldest working structure. It has a beautiful interior, a medieval crypt and many important treasures. You can take part in a self-guided or fully-guided tour to make the most of your visit.

3. St Patrick’s Cathedral and Marsh’s Library (10-minute walk)

St Patrick's Cathedral dublin
Photo left: SAKhanPhotography. Photo right: Sean Pavone (Shutterstock)

St Patrick’s Cathedral is the national cathedral of the Church of Ireland and both the grounds and interior are a joy to explore. Nearby is Marsh’s Library – the oldest library in Ireland.

4. Dublinia (5-minute walk)

dublinia tour
Photo left by Lukas Fendek (Shutterstock). Photo right via Dublinia on Facebook

Dublinia is the city’s Viking museum. Travel back in time to the Viking and medieval periods to find out more about the city’s fascinating history. You can even climb an original medieval tower.

FAQs about visiting the Chester Beatty Library

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Where is it located?’ (Dublin Castle) to ‘What is there to see inside?’.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

Is the Chester Beatty Library worth visiting?

Yes, yes and yes! The collection here is truly outstanding and you’ll be immersed and amazed from start to end.

What are the Chester Beatty Library opening hours?

The Chester Beatty Library opening hours are Monday to Friday: 9:45 – 17:30. Wednesday: 9:45 – 20:00. Saturday: 9:45 – 17:30. Sunday: 12 – 17:30.

Emma Baird is a lifestyle editor and novelist. She has worked in the communications industry for more than 25 years, and loves animals, the countryside and lingering in a great pub for the food and the craic.

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