The arts have always reigned supreme in Dublin, the vibrant seaside capital of the Republic of Ireland. The city seems to have a preternatural ability to produce high-caliber artistic talent (from Oscar Wilde to My Bloody Valentine), so when we visited, it was with a focus on its art scene. From visual art to architecture, there’s no shortage of inspiration to fill a short trip, which should include the stops we’ve highlighted here.
While non-essential travel to Ireland is not recommended right now, (be sure to visit gov.ie for current COVID-19 travel requirements and restrictions) we recommend bookmarking the spots below for a future trip to the dynamic city. In the meantime, many galleries and museums are offering digital experiences such as online exhibitions and virtual talks—a great way to introduce yourself to Ireland’s creative landscape from afar.
Tucked away on a quiet lane near Grafton Street, Kerlin Gallery—which is now open, with no appointment needed—is considered one of Ireland’s leading contemporary art galleries and remains a fixture at major international art fairs. Exhibitions by renowned artists from the Emerald Isle and abroad are spread out over two airy levels, allowing for an intimate yet impactful viewing experience. Kerlin’s online viewing rooms also allow those further away to tour its current exhibitions (including conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner’s first solo show in Ireland in 28 years) from anywhere in the world.
Aloft Dublin City
Admired for fusing technology and design within everything from in-room amenities to live events, Aloft’s Dublin outpost is located in the historic Liberties district, which is known for whiskey production. Centrally located yet far enough from the main tourist hustle to feel like an under-the-radar gem, the hotel features several bars and restaurants—including a gastropub. There are also several notable spots to dine less than 10 minutes’ walk away: including The Fumbally, Spitalfields and Bibi’s Cafe. A little further is Mother’s Tankstation Gallery, and Dublin Liberties and Teeling Whiskey distilleries are all within walking distance. It’s also just a quick cab ride to Grafton Street and Temple Bar. North of the River Liffey, the brand’s Moxy Dublin City has all the design-forward energy of its sister properties.
Also in the neighborhood—less than a block from the hotel—Hen’s Teeth is a colorful cafe, diner, shop and creative studio. There are plenty of goodies to bring home on offer here, from natural wine to ceramics and limited edition prints by local and international artists. The studio, which shares the space, regularly collaborates with brands, creatives, chefs and designers on a variety of projects (from fine art prints to immersive experiences) and currently has a collection of apparel available that they made with iconic Japanese brand BEAMS. If you prefer to linger in the space, the diner has a rotating menu of upscale light bites and will begin offering outdoor dining in June.
Irish Museum of Modern Art
Opened in 1991, IMMA itself is a sight to behold, with its classical exterior presenting a striking contrast to the contemporary galleries within its walls. Inspired by Les Invalides in Paris, the building was once the 17th century Royal Hospital Kilmainham, a home for retired soldiers from the Irish Army that was later used as a storage space for the National Museum of Ireland. Today, IMMA houses the country’s national collection of modern and contemporary art, with more than 3,000 works on display. The museum just re-opened for in-person visits, but those further away can experience the online collection from home and participate in an array of virtual events and talks.
Windmill Lane Studios
U2 fans may be familiar with Windmill Lane, the iconic recording studio where the Dublin-born band laid down some of its best-known tunes. While the studio moved from its original, graffiti-covered building on Windmill Lane to its current Ringsend Road complex in 1990, its legacy lives on and continues to attract some of the world’s biggest talents, including Kylie Minogue and Lady Gaga. The studio recently opened its doors for intimate public tours that offer a glimpse into the recording and production process. In-person visits are currently appointment-only and adhere to strict social distancing and masking requirements.
Art Tour and Tea at the Merrion Hotel
One of the more unique art experiences in Dublin is at The Merrion, a historic five-star hotel just steps from St Stephen’s Green and the National Gallery of Ireland. You don’t need to be a guest to immerse yourself in the hotel’s impressive private collection of 19th and 20th century Irish and European art, which features works by some of Ireland’s most beloved artists (including Jack B Yeats, Louis le Brocquy and Sean Scully) and adorns the hotel’s halls and public spaces. Stop by the concierge to arrange a self-guided audio tour. A special tea service in the drawing room, inspired by the works you’ve just experienced, brings the experience full circle.
The Long Room at Trinity College Library
Trinity College is one of the best known stops in Dublin, but it’s worth the visit—particularly for bibliophiles. The Old Library is special for a couple of reasons. On the ground floor, you’ll find The Book of Kells, a sacred manuscript created by Celtic monks around 800 AD that’s considered one of Ireland’s national treasures. But the library’s main chamber, the Long Room, is a true architectural masterpiece. Under massive vaulted ceilings, you’ll find more than 200,000 of the library’s oldest books, as well as a rare copy of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic and Brian Boru’s harp, the national symbol of Ireland (you may recognize it as part of Guinness’ branding). As you leave the campus, you can also pop into the Douglas Hyde Gallery for a quick dose of contemporary art. The Book of Kells and Old Library have just reopened to visitors, but virtual tours also continue.
Hero image courtesy of IMMA