Your Complete Guide to Exploring the National Gallery of Ireland

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I’ve always been captivated by the National Gallery of Ireland. It’s not just a museum, it’s a treasure chest of art, history, and culture. Nestled in the heart of Dublin, it’s home to some of the most significant works of European art. In this article, we’ll delve into the rich history of this iconic gallery and explore its vast collection.

What makes the National Gallery of Ireland stand out is its impressive collection of Irish and European art. With over 16,300 pieces, it’s a must-visit for art enthusiasts and history buffs alike. We’ll take a closer look at some of the gallery’s most famous pieces, and the stories they tell about Ireland’s vibrant past. So, let’s embark on this artistic journey together, and discover why the National Gallery of Ireland is a gem in the crown of Irish culture.

History of the National Gallery of Ireland

When I wander through the impressive halls of the National Gallery of Ireland, I can’t help but soak in layers upon layers of history. The Gallery’s roots stretch back to the mid-19th Century, with the initial idea for its establishment conceived in 1854.

Believe it or not, it’s birth was the result of the Great Industrial Exhibition held in Dublin during that period. This event sparked conversation about the need for a public gallery that would celebrate art and inspire the nation. It led to the formation of the Dublin Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts. This Society, full of ambitious and visionary members, were the driving force behind the creation of the Gallery.

What you’ll find fascinating is that the construction of the building didn’t follow the traditional way. It started with one room in 1864, eventually spreading across four interconnected buildings by the 20th Century. I must let you know that many reputed architects lent their skills and vision to give a shape to this massive institution. Among them, Francis Fowke, Thomas Manly Deane and Millar & Symes left an indelible mark in shaping the Gallery’s architectural persona.

Now you may ask about the collection. It began modestly with 112 works, predominately from the collection of the Royal Dublin Society. Over time, it expanded vastly via significant donations, bequests and purchases. In 1914, the gallery got a shot in the arm when Sir Hugh Lane died on the sinking of the Lusitania and bequeathed his collection of modern art, hugely enhancing the quality and range of the gallery’s collection.

Over the course of time, the National Gallery of Ireland has weathered many storms such as political unrest, budget constraints and structural renovations. Yet, it stands strong, adorning the Dublin cityscape as a glittering gem of Irish cultural legacy.

Let’s now delve deeper into some of the most outstanding masterpieces housed in this marvellous institution.

Collection Highlights


The National Gallery of Ireland is indeed a treasure trove of masterpieces. Hosting over 15,000 pieces, the painting collection constitutes the heart of the gallery with its breadth and diversity. The works span from 14th Century European art to contemporary Irish pieces, presenting an exciting journey through the evolution of art over centuries.

Amongst these, it’s impossible to ignore the mesmerising works by Ireland’s own, Jack Butler Yeats. His unique expressionist style adds richness to the collection. Similarly, the Dutch Golden Age is vividly represented by Jan Steen and his genre paintings, capturing the social and cultural dynamics of the 17th Century. One can also spot the trend-setting art of Pablo Picasso, a name that needs no introduction.


The sculpture collection presents an equally engaging insight into the world of art. With more than 2,000 sculptures, the exhibits range from ancient Greek and Roman periods right up to contemporary pieces. It’s in this collection where you’ll find the Roman funerary monument, a snapshot from 2nd Century AD, proudly standing amidst other equally captivating sculptures.

Notably, Auguste Rodin’s The Kiss is a must-see, famous not only for its sheer size but also for encapsulating the complexities of human emotion. From bronze cast figures to stone carved gargoyles, each piece narrates a story of its own, making a visit to the gallery nothing short of an adventure.


The gallery also ventures into modern forms of art through its photography collection. With over 4,500 pieces, it comprises a mix of everything from early Daguerreotypes to contemporary digital prints. The gallery’s photography section showcases the evolution of this artistic medium, reflecting societal changes and personal expressions over time.

Contributions from pioneering photographers like John Joly present an intriguing journey through black and white photography, replete with historic context. In contrast, the incorporation of works by modern contributors like Ciaran Murphy emphasises the unending possibilities of photography as a tool for storytelling. A visit can reveal the interplay between light and dark, composition and subject matter, making it a highlight of the gallery’s broad collection.

Exhibitions and Events

Throughout my frequent visits, I’ve come to appreciate the dynamic nature of the National Gallery of Ireland, underlined by the various exhibitions and events it hosts.

Current Exhibitions

This expansive art institution currently boasts several live exhibitions, each offering a unique exploration into various art forms. Among these is the ‘European and Irish Art from the 14th to the 20th Century’ which unveils masterpieces from world-renowned artists such as Vermeer and Turner. Noteworthy too is ‘Yeats: The Life and Works of William Butler Yeats’, an audio-visual exhibition that has captured the hearts of literary and art enthusiasts alike.

  1. European and Irish Art from the 14th to the 20th Century
  2. Yeats: The Life and Works of William Butler Yeats

Upcoming Events

Inspiring visitors to interact with art in diverse ways, the gallery plans several exciting events. One of the most anticipated is ‘Art Late Nights’ – a nocturnal exploration of the gallery where interested participants can enjoy guided tours and workshops. Especially captivating is the upcoming ‘Children’s Art Workshops’ where children will learn to create their own works of art using various techniques under expert guidance.

According to my information, here are key details for the above-mentioned events:

Events Dates
Art Late Nights 1st October – 1st November
Children’s Art Workshops 20th September – 20th October

Beyond these outlined events, the National Gallery of Ireland has myriad offerings in the pipeline that continually redefine how art is perceived, appreciated, and created. It truly embodies the promise of a vibrant artistic experience.

Educational Programs

Art education and the opportunity to engage with creativity are fundamental features of the National Gallery of Ireland. The gallery’s sustained focus on providing inclusive, exploratory, and insightful educational programs makes it a pioneering institution in Ireland’s vibrant arts landscape.

Tours and Workshops

Delve deeper into the world of art through guided tours and creative workshops offered throughout the year at the National Gallery of Ireland. From behind-the-scenes peeks and expert-led exploration of art history, to hands-on workshops spanning various mediums, there’s something to satisfy every artistic curiosity.

I’ve taken part in several of these dynamic workshops myself and have found them to be both highly informative and engaging. They open doors to often overlooked nuances that truly enrich the gallery experience. For the little ones, there are also Children’s Art Workshops that aim to foster an early love for art and creativity.

School and Group Visits

Here’s where things get even more exciting. The National Gallery of Ireland offers tailor-made, curriculum-aligned visits for school groups. These customised experiences are everything you expect them to be – interactive, educational, and outright fun. Taught by experienced educators, they offer direct engagement with works of art, cultivating critical thinking and interpretive skills among students.

Beyond school visits, the gallery also facilitates group tours for adults, demonstrating its dedication to encourage lifelong learning. These tours are designed to introduce large groups to the masterpieces held within the gallery, providing meaningful, thought-provoking encounters with art.

For booking and guidelines on these visits, refer to the National Gallery of Ireland’s official website, ensuring a smooth and enlightening experience during your time there. Trust me, it’s well worth the visit!

Remember, art is an evolving dialogue that aims to spark conversation, challenge perceptions, and foster connections. And the National Gallery of Ireland provides a vibrant canvas for all of this to come to life. So, go ahead, book a visit, take a tour, get stuck into a workshop. Let the magic of art sweep you off your feet.

Visiting the National Gallery of Ireland

A visit to the National Gallery of Ireland is a journey through time, filled with discovery, inspiration, and rich cultural insight.

Opening Hours and Admission

The National Gallery of Ireland is known for its broad accessibility, staying open seven days a week. Monday to Saturday, doors swing open from 9.45am to 5.30pm, while Sunday visitors are welcome from 11.30am to 5.30pm. It’s worth noting, the late opening on Sundays is designed to accommodate ongoing maintenance work, ensuring the gallery maintains its top-notch standards.

Even more inviting, there’s no admission fee to access the gallery’s permanent collection, making it a must-see for both locals and tourists alike. Special exhibitions sometimes carry a charge, but it’s a small price to pay for such exclusive glimpses into the art world.

Remember, last admission is 15 minutes before closing time, so be sure to account for this in your planning.

Getting to the Gallery

Centrally located on Merrion Square in Dublin City Centre, the National Gallery of Ireland is a breeze to reach. If you’re catching the Luas, get off at Dawson Street. From there it’s just a six-minute walk to the gallery. For those on a Dublin Bus, plenty of routes make stops at Merrion Square. If you’re driving, there’s no on-site parking, but you’ll find plenty of public car parks nearby. My personal favourite is the Setanta Car Park, a short five-minute walk away from the gallery.

Facilities and Accessibility

When you visit the National Gallery of Ireland, you’ll find an array of visitor facilities designed to enhance your experience. The Millenium Wing houses the gallery’s visitor centre, complete with an information desk, where you can pick-up maps and flyers detailing current exhibitions.

Cafés offer places to relax and contemplate the art just seen, with options ranging from a quick coffee at the Espresso Bar to a leisurely lunch in the bright, modern Gallery Café. For souvenir seekers and book lovers, the gallery shop is a treasure trove of art-inspired gifts, books, and prints.

Accessibility is a priority here. With lifts providing access to all levels and wheelchair availability at entrances, the gallery ensures everyone gets to enjoy the art. Additionally, assistance dogs are welcome throughout the gallery and audio guide devices are available for hire to enhance the visitor experience.

In essence, the National Gallery of Ireland has given thought to all aspects of your visit, ensuring a convenient, engaging, and enriching experience.


I’ve found that the National Gallery of Ireland isn’t just a treasure trove of art, it’s also a welcoming space for all. It’s easy to get to and they’ve made sure it’s accessible for everyone. With no charge to explore the permanent collection, it’s a must-visit for art lovers and casual visitors alike. The added perks of on-site cafes and a gallery shop only enhance the overall experience. The National Gallery of Ireland truly is a gem, offering a rich and engaging cultural experience that’s hard to beat. I’d highly recommend a visit; it’s sure to leave you enriched and inspired.

What are the opening hours of the National Gallery of Ireland?

The National Gallery of Ireland is open seven days a week. However, for specific opening hours, it’s recommended to visit the gallery’s official website as they may vary.

Is there an admission fee to visit the National Gallery of Ireland?

No, there is no admission fee to access the Gallery’s permanent collection. There may, however, be a fee for special exhibitions.

How can one get to the National Gallery of Ireland?

The article offers directions to the gallery. For exact location and specific transit information, refer to the official website or a trusted map service.

What facilities are available for visitors at the Gallery?

Visitors to the National Gallery of Ireland can benefit from cafes, a gallery shop, lifts, and wheelchair availability.

How does the National Gallery of Ireland accommodate accessibility?

The National Gallery of Ireland emphasizes accessibility by providing facilities like lifts and wheelchairs. It is committed to making its collection, building, and services accessible to all.

Olivia Sinclair

Olivia Sinclair

Olivia is the founder of The Dublin Buzz, believing that you don't need to spend big in Dublin to have a great time. She began with a weekly free event newsletter to showcase some of the great things to do for free in Dublin each week.