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14 Best Free Musuems in Dublin (+ Galleries) in 2024

14 Best Free Musuems in Dublin (+ Galleries) in 2024

If you’re looking for free museums in Dublin that are worth exploring, you’ve landed in the right spot!

There’s endless things to do in Dublin, but by God Ireland’s capital can be expensive for tourists and locals alike.

If you’re looking to save a few bob, there’s some great free museums in Dublin where you can whittle away an enjoyable hour or three.

Some, like the Chester Beatty, are well known while others, like the Grand Lodge of Ireland, are often missed.

The best free museums in Dublin

Grand Lodge of Ireland

Photos by Stinglehammer (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Although there are heaps of great museums in Dublin, many charge an entrance free, which stops some people visiting.

Thankfully, there are a handful of very worthwhile free museums in Dublin, which you’ll discover below.

1. The Natural History Museum

The Dead Zoo

Photos courtesy James Fennell via Ireland’s Content Pool

You’ll find what is arguably the best of the free museums in Dublin tucked away in Merrion Square in the heart of the city.

Dublin’s Natural History Museum is a treasure trove for nature enthusiasts and history lovers alike. Before you enter the building, take a moment to admire it from the outside.

The building, which is a fine example of Victorian architecture, was built in 1856 to house the Royal Dublin Society’s growing collections.

Nicknamed ‘the Dead Zoo‘, the museum boasts an impressive collection of over two million specimens, ten thousand of which are currently on display.

Visitors can admire taxidermied animals and perfectly preserved skeletons from a wide variety of animal species, many of which have been preserved in original Victorian-era display cases.

2. The Chester Beatty

Chester Beatty

Photos courtesy of Chester Beatty via Ireland’s Content Pool

The next of our free museums in Dublin, the Chester Beatty, can be found within the grounds of the historic Dublin Castle.

It’s here that you’ll discover the mind-boggling collection of Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, an American mining magnate and celebrated art collector.

Beatty’s collection spans centuries and continents and is home to everything from ancient Egyptian papyrus texts and illuminated medieval manuscripts to breath-taking art from across the world.

Having just recently visited, I still find myself thinking back on the sheer volume of items that can be found in this wonderful collection. 

Fancy exploring Dublin on foot? Follow our self-guided walking tour of Dublin!

3. National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology

Archaeology Museum

Photos via National Museum of Ireland on FB

The National Museum of Ireland (Archaeology) is one of the more popular free museums Dublin has to offer, and you’ll find it on Kildare street.

It was established in 1890 and it’s home to an extensive collection of artifacts that span from prehistoric to medieval times.

Located inside another beautiful Victorian building, keep an eye out for the famous Tara Brooch and the stunning Ardagh Chalice – two prime examples of ancient Irish craftsmanship.

You’ll also stumble upon ancient bog bodies (yes, bog bodies!), Celtic artifacts and several interesting exhibitions which run throughout the year,

Few free museums in Dublin offer an experience as immersive as the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology.

4. The Irish Museum of Modern Art

Irish Museum of Modern Art

Photos via Shutterstock

The Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) is a vibrant cultural institution situated in the historic Kilmainham Royal Hospital complex, a short walk from Kilmainham Gaol and the Guinness Storehouse.

Even if you have no interest in art, it’s worth visiting IMMA to see the building alone – this is arguably the finest 17th-century building in Ireland.

Established in 1991, IMMA is dedicated to contemporary and modern art. It’s here that you’ll find a collection of works from both Irish and international artists.

The museum’s collection features paintings, sculptures, photography, video art, and installations, showcasing a wide range of artistic styles and themes.

Although tours of IMMA are free, there are some ticketed exhibitions, but you can avoid these if you like.

5. National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts & History

National Museum of Ireland - Decorative Arts & History

Photos courtesy of 256 via Fáilte Ireland

The National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts & History is located at Collins Barracks in Stoneybatter, around a 10-minute walk from the Jameson Distillery.

Housed in a former military barracks, this museum showcases an extensive collection of decorative arts, fashion, furniture, and historical artifacts which offer an insight into the daily lives of Irish people over the centuries.

As you step into the vast exhibition halls, you’ll encounter an impressive array of items, including intricate silverware, delicate ceramics, and stunning textiles that reflect the artistic and creative achievements of Ireland’s past. 

One of the museums highlights is the “Proclaiming a Republic: The 1916 Rising”  exhibition which explores the pivotal events of the Easter Rising.

6. The National Gallery of Ireland

National Gallery Dublin

Photo left: Cathy Wheatley. Others: James Fennell (Tourism Ireland)

The first of the galleries in this guide is the excellent National Gallery of Ireland, which is located on Merrion Square.

A haven for art enthusiasts, the National Gallery was founded in 1854 and it boasts a collection of over 16,300 artworks.

Visitors will find works from artists spanning from the Middle Ages to the contemporary era, including Caravaggio, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Monet, and Van Gogh.

If you’re looking for free things to do in Dublin, you can’t go wrong with an hour of two here.

7. The Geology Museum in Trinity

Geology Museum in Trinity

Photos © Tourism Ireland

One of the more frequently overlooked free museums in Dublin is the Geology Museum in Trinity College.

It’s understandable, to be fair – the college is home to two of the most notable attractions in the city – the Book of Kells and the Long Room Library.

Trinity’s Geology Department, which was founded in 1777, houses over 100,000 specimens, including:

  • Irish Silurian and Carboniferous invertebrates
  • Mesozoic ostracods
  • Upper Palaeozoic miospores

The rock and mineral collections date mainly to the 1820s and the Museum Building also showcases everything from geological displays to a giant Irish Deer.

8. The Garda Museum at Dublin Castle

The Garda Museum at Dublin Castle is another of the lesser-known free museums Dublin has to offer.

It’s here that you’ll be given a fascinating insight into the history of Ireland’s police force – An Garda Síochána. 

The collection contains a mix of artifacts, photographs and memorabilia and it offers an insight into the Garda since its establishment in 1922.

The museum opens between 10:00 – 14:00 Monday to Friday (hours may change). You ring the doorbell for entry.

9. The Hugh Lane Gallery

Hugh Lane Gallery

Photo left: Sailko. Top right: Rwxrwxrwx. Bottom right: antomoro (Creative Commons)

The Hugh Lane Gallery on Parnell Square is similar to the Chester Beatty in that it houses an incredible, once private, collection.

Originally founded by Sir Hugh Lane in 1908, the museum has grown to become one of the most popular free galleries in Dublin.

Visitors to the Hugh Lane can explore a range of artworks, including paintings, sculptures, and installations from both Irish and international artists.

Works from the likes of Francis Bacon and Jack B. Yeats are on display. One of the most impressive sections of the gallery is the recreation of Francis Bacon’s studio (bottom right photo above).

Related read: See our guide to the best art galleries in Dublin

10. The Custom House

Custom House

Photos via Shutterstock

The Custom House is Dublin architecture at its finest and you’ll find it on the north bank of the River Liffey.

The impressive building was designed by James Gandon and completed in 1791. It originally served as the headquarters for the Commissioners of Custom and Excise.

Architecture aside, it’s inside the Custom House that you’ll discover some fascinating exhibitions, including:

  • The Michael Collins exhibition
  • The James Napper Tandy exhibition
  • The ‘Rebuilding the Custom House’ exhibition
  • The First Fire exhibition

During its lifetime, the Custom House has witnessed many of the city’s most notable events (it’s even been burned to the ground and rebuilt!).

11. James Joyce Tower and Museum

James Joyce Tower and Museum

Photos courtesy Peter Cavanagh via Fáilte Ireland

Most of the free museums in Dublin mentioned in this guide are located within the city centre, however, our next one is located at Sandycove Point in Dún Laoghaire.

The James Joyce Tower and Museum is a literary landmark dedicated to the renowned Irish writer, James Joyce.

The now-iconic tower served as the setting for the opening of Joyce’s “Ulysses,” making it a site of great literary importance.

The museum is situated inside the historic Martello tower which dates to the 19th century and inside you’ll find everything from first editions and portraits to Joyce’s tie and more.

12. National Library of Ireland

National Library of Ireland

Photos courtesy Failte Ireland

The National Library of Ireland on Kildare Street is another treasure trove of history, literature, and Irish culture.

Established in 1877, the library cares for a staggering 12 million+ items including a vast collection of books, manuscripts, maps and photographs.

The library hosts a number of permanent and temporary exhibitions, including:

  • Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again
  • People & Places: Ireland in 19th & 20th Centuries
  • Yeats: The Life and Works of William Butler Yeats

13. Pearse Museum

Pearse Museum

Photos courtesy Aidona Photography via Fáilte Ireland

Pearse Museum, located in Saint Enda’s Park in Rathfarnham, is another of the free museums in Dublin that sits well outside the city centre.

It was here that Pearse, the leader of the 1916 Rising, lived and ran his Irish-speaking school from 1910 to 1916.

Visitors can first admire the restored school building, its classrooms, and the surrounding gardens.

The ‘main event’ is then the museum which is home to an array of artifacts, memorabilia, and personal items belonging to Patrick Pearse.

14. The Grand Lodge of Ireland

Grand Lodge of Ireland

Photos by Stinglehammer (CC BY-SA 4.0)

We’re going to round-off this guide with one of the more unique free museums Dublin has to offer – The Grand Lodge of Ireland.

You’ll find it on Dawson Street and it’s here that the governing body for Freemasonry in Ireland is located.

Founded in 1725, it is one of the oldest Masonic organisations in the world and it oversees numerous Masonic lodges throughout Ireland.

Tours take place at 15:00 every weekday and you don’t need to book.

Looking for interesting facts about Dublin? The Grand Lodge of Ireland holds the position of the world’s second most senior Grand Lodge.

Update: Apparently there is a contribution of €5 per person required – we’re not sure if this is mandatory

FAQs about Dublin’s free museums

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Are all museums in Dublin free?’ to ‘Which is the best?’.

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.

What museums in Dublin are free to visit?

The Natural History Museum, The Chester Beatty, The National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology and The Garda Museum are an example of some of the free museums Dublin has to offer.

What are some overlooked free museums in Dublin?

The James Joyce Tower and Museum, The Pearse Museum and The Grand Lodge of Ireland are three of the more overlooked free museums Dublin has to offer.

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