Introducing guest blogger Cath from Travel Around Ireland
Dublin has been a city for more than a thousand years, and with that comes a long history. Combined with that of the island of Ireland and history buffs are well catered for in the Irish capital. If you are hoping to explore historical places in Dublin during a trip to Ireland, then you won’t be short of things to do with this list.
This post is part of our Explore My City series – come and visit cities around the world through the eyes of locals
Historical Places in Dublin to Explore
If you are a history fan or simply have an interest in learning more about Dublin and Ireland as a whole, there are plenty of historical places to visit in Dublin as well as museums dedicated to various periods throughout Ireland’s history.
These buildings, places and museums help visitors discover more about Ireland’s history through fascinating exhibitions, displays and guided tours. Many of them are family-friendly, and some have been specifically designed with children in mind.
So, if you want to combine sightseeing and history, these are some of the best historical places to visit in Dublin, with or without kids.
National Museums of Ireland
If you are wondering what to do in Dublin, Ireland while learning about the island and its long history, a great place to start are the National Museums in Ireland. There are three located in Dublin and they are:
- Natural History Museum
- National Museum of Archaeology
- National Museum of Decorative Arts and History
Kids will love the Natural History Museum where they can learn about the wildlife that have made the shores and seas around Ireland their home, as well as animals from further afield. Known locally as the Dead Zoo, it is a great place to visit, especially if it is raining outside. Check out the antlers of the Giant Deer, now extinct, and check to see if there are any talks taking place during your visit.
Families with older kids will enjoy the Museum of Archaeology, especially the Treasury Exhibition and the Viking Exhibition.
Addresses: Merrion Street, Dublin 2 (Natural History), Kildare Street, Dublin 2 (Archaeology), and Collins Barracks, Dublin 7 (Decorative Arts & History).
When it comes to the historical sites Dublin has, you cannot get more historical than Dublin Castle. This important building in Irish History is in the centre of the city and was the seat of British Rule in Ireland between 1204 and 1922.
Dublin Castle is not just a castle. It is a large complex comprising the castle itself, government buildings, a conference centre, museums, and beautiful gardens.
Until Ireland gained independence from Britain in 1922, it was the official residence of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (or governor of Ireland), and his official residential rooms can be viewed during guided tours of the State Apartments as they are known.
Visitors can also visit the Revenue Museum, Garda Museum (police), and the Chester Beatty Library, one of the best free museums in Dublin City Centre. This library houses an extensive collection of religious and secular works of art from across the world.
Dublin Castle is open to the public except during state functions and visits, and even a wander through the grounds and gardens is a welcome relief from the busy city outside the walls.
Address: Dame Street, Dublin 2.
One of the top 10 things to do in Dublin is visit Kilmainham Gaol. This historic jail in Dublin, Ireland, was opened in 1796 to replace an older city jail and was in operation until 1924, when it was decommissioned by the Irish Free State.
What makes Kilmainham Gaol so important is the political prisoners it held after the 1916 Easter Rising, after which came the Irish Civil War, two important events in Ireland’s fight for independence.
Kilmainham Gaol can be visited via guided tours, which sell out fast, so pre-book your tickets to avoid disappointment. Tour guides bring visitors through the maze that is this former prison while sharing stories about former inmates and events that took place within its walls.
After, there is a museum dedicated to sharing Irish nationalism through artefacts, exhibitions and displays.
Note that for families travelling to Dublin with kids, Kilmainham Gaol is not suitable for young kids due to some of the stories and places visited on the tour.
Address: Inchicore Rd, Kilmainham, Dublin 8
St Patrick’s Cathedral
One of the major landmarks in Ireland that is easily recognisable is also one of the best historic sites Dublin has to offer.
St Patrick’s Cathedral is one of the two cathedrals in Dublin City Centre and was founded in 1191. It was a Roman Catholic Cathedral until the Reformation, after which it became a Church of Ireland cathedral.
As well as its architecture, St Patrick’s Cathedral is closely tied to the author Jonathan Swift who wrote Gulliver’s Travels. He was dean of the cathedral in the early 18th century, and he is buried at St Patrick’s Cathedral.
Free guided tours of the cathedral take place throughout the day and are a great way for visitors to learn more about this grand building and its history and place in Dublin.
Note that there is a small fee to enter the cathedral.
Address: St Patrick’s Close, Dublin 8
Trinity College and the Book of Kells
When it comes to historical landmarks in Dublin, one of the most important is Trinity College, located in the centre of the city.
Trinity is the oldest university in Ireland and a very prestigious one and was established by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592. As well as architecturally pleasing buildings and the Campanile, Trinity is also home to one of the most important religious manuscripts in the world, the Book of Kells. There are daily guided tours of the campus during which visitors can learn more about the number 1 university in Ireland.
Housed in a special exhibition of its own, the Book of Kells attracts thousands of visitors every year. Visitors start in an exhibition which details the elements of this illuminated Gospel manuscript. Displays include how the paper and ink were formed, characters that were used in the Latin script to illustrate the words and more.
Following time in the exhibition, visitors can view two pages of the manuscript in a light-controlled room. The pages are kept in an atmospherically controlled glass case, and no photography of the pages is allowed.
This historically important manuscript and its exhibition are hugely popular with visitors to Dublin and often sell out, so pre-booking is highly advisable to avoid disappointment.
Whether you want to enjoy the architecture within the campus, visit the Book of Kells, or enjoy a stroll through the grounds on a sunny day, Trinity College is a great historical place in Dublin to visit.
Address: Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin College Green Dublin 2
National Botanic Gardens
Another interesting place to visit in Dublin that has historical importance are the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin.
Located 5km northwest of the city centre, the gardens were opened in 1795 and are home to over 20,000 species of plants, trees and millions of dried specimens.
The Victorian greenhouses are architecturally important and are what makes the botanic garden at Glasnevin historically important to the city. Originally built of wood to house the increasing collection of tropical plant species, the wooden structures were later replaced with iron structures.
These were restored in the early 2000s after they fell into disrepair. Today, visitors can enter these glasshouses to view the collection of tropical species while enjoying the architecture of the glasshouses.
The gardens have plenty of plant species to view outside these historical buildings, and it is a great place to visit when the weather permits.
Address: Glasnevin, Dublin 9
Christ Church Cathedral
One of the most iconic historical sites in Dublin is the other cathedral in the city centre. Christ Church Cathedral was founded in the early 11th century, and the original wooden structure was replaced with stone in the late 12th century by Strongbow, leader of the Norman Invasion of Ireland.
Like the other cathedral, Christ Church Cathedral was a Roman Catholic Cathedral until the Reformation in the mid-1500s. Christ Church was expanded over the centuries and underwent restoration to become the building it is today.
Visitors can enjoy the wonderful architecture from outside and within. The cathedral contains the tomb of Strongbow himself, has the largest crypt of any cathedral in Ireland or Britain; and there are guided tours of this historically important building for visitors to learn about the cathedral its history and to visit its crypt.
Address: Christchurch Pl, Wood Quay, Dublin 8
Although it is a replica, the Jeanie Johnston is a great place to visit in Dublin if you are interested in Irish history and one of the darkest periods of the country’s history.
What lies on the north dock in Dublin is a replica of the 19th-century ship which has been classed as a Famine ship. Originally a cargo vessel trading between Tralee in County Kerry and North America, when the Great Famine hit Ireland, she began taking emigrants to North America in 1848.
Unlike many other ships taking emigrants to the Americas, Jeanie Johnston never lost a soul onboard, something that happened on many other ships, earning them the label of coffin ships.
Today, the replica is a living museum dedicated to sharing tales of the crew and emigrants who sailed on her. Along with the Dunbrody Famine Ship in County Wexford, these two ships help educate visitors about the journeys Irish emigrants faced during the bleak Famine years and are fascinating places to visit.
Address: Custom House Quay, North Dock, Dublin 1
If you are looking for fun historical things to do in Dublin, then heading to Dublinia, especially with kids, is ideal. Another living museum, Dublinia, brings Viking and Medieval Dublin to life.
Visitors first enter the world of Viking Dublin with a replica Viking longship and house to enter. Character actors are on hand to interact with visitors and answer questions, while kids are encouraged to dress up as Vikings.
The next part of Dublinia travels to Medieval Dublin, and visitors can experience the sights, sounds and smells of a busy city street. They can also learn about the crimes and punishments of the era and peer inside the ‘medicine’ cabinet of a medieval doctor.
Artefacts from these periods are also on display for visitors to see, being on loan from the National Museum of Archaeology. And at the end, visitors can climb the steps of a medieval tower to enjoy views across the city.
To experience Dublin during two of its important eras, head to Dublinia for a historical experience never to forget.
Address: St Michaels Hill Christ Church, Dublin 8
Malahide Castle & Gardens
Malahide Castle & Gardens is another of the great historical places in Dublin, Ireland to pay a visit to. Located 14km north of the city centre, Malahide Castle is a medieval castle that sits on 260 acres and has an 800-year-old history.
The building of the castle began in the late 1100s and was the home of the Talbot family for over 700 years.
Guided tours of the castle can be taken by visitors to see some of the exquisite rooms and learn about the history of the castle and the family that called it home for centuries. The grounds are home to the Talbot Botanic Gardens, a fairy trail, and a model railway museum is housed in the Casino House.
Malahide Castle also plays host to concerts and events, especially during summer, so check their website for news of forthcoming events during your visit to Dublin.
If you are looking to get out of the city centre but continue your historical tour of Dublin, head to Malahide Castle and Gardens.
Address: Back Rd, Broomfield, Dublin
So, whether you have been wondering what you absolutely must see in Dublin in one day or longer, and that has historical importance in the city or that of the country, this list of historical places in Dublin to visit should help you decide what to put on your itinerary for Dublin.
About the Blogger
Cath is an Irish expat who returns to Ireland annually to visit family and explore more of the island with her husband and young son. She shares her exploration, local knowledge and experiences with travellers seeking to visit Ireland. Travel Around Ireland is a website dedicated to helping other travellers plan their perfect visit to Ireland.
With thanks to Cath for her contribution to our guest series. You may also like to read about European Destinations that are even better in winter or our guide to the Oldest Towns in Europe.
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