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City museums are a great way of getting to know a place you’re visiting. They typically give an intimate portrayal of what it was like to live in the city in the past. The best ones connect these stories with the modern day, give you more ideas for places to go to on your visit, and even provide conversation fodder for your encounters with locals. The Little Museum of Dublin does all of this and more. It provides a warm welcome to Dublin & its inhabitants by sharing an excellent people’s history of 20th century life in the city.
About the Little Museum of Dublin
The Little Museum of Dublin is located in an old Georgian townhouse right on St. Stephen’s Green in the center of Dublin. It can usually only be seen by guided tour (book tickets here). St. Stephen’s Green is a lovely place to spend some time before your visit if you have to wait. The regular entry fee is €10, but it’s included free with the Dublin Pass. The staff at the Little Museum of Dublin also do walking tours of St. Stephen’s Green called the Green Mile tour, should you wish to learn even more about the area. This can be combined with a ticket to the museum.
The Little Museum of Dublin opened in 2011 after a public campaign to gather artifacts of Dublin life. Over 5,000 items were collected, resulting in the people’s history museum you see today.
While many city museums of varying quality exist around the world, The Little Museum of Dublin stands out amongst them due to their focus on three things: history, hospitality and humour. The museum doesn’t just recite history, the tour guides tell warm & funny stories in true Irish tradition. There’s no better welcome to the city, especially if it’s your first time in Dublin.
The Little Museum of Dublin is so serious about hospitality that they even offer the “City of a Thousand Welcomes.” Visitors to Dublin can sign up for a welcome cup of tea or a pint with a local resident, as a way of introducing them to the city.
Permanent exhibitions & tour of the Little Museum of Dublin
The tour of The Little Museum of Dublin, which takes 29 minutes, begins with an introduction in the drawing room of the townhouse. Here, your tour guide will give an overview of the museum & 20th century Dublin history. Have a candy, sit on a couch, and begin to feel at home in Dublin as you listen to stories.
This history of Dublin begins with the turn of the 20th century. Needless to say, the 1916 Easter Rising plays a major part. Elsewhere in Dublin, you can visit other famous landmarks relating to Irish independence such as Kilmainham Gaol & Glasnevin Cemetery. Just outside, St. Stephen’s Green is also an important site of the Easter Rising. Both sides stopped their gunfire each day to allow groundskeeper James Kearney to feed the ducks in the park.
The 20th century saw a variety of famous figures visit Dublin, including Queen Victoria & John F. Kennedy. The museum houses items related to these historic visits.
Famous Dubliners also get their due, with exhibits devoted to James Joyce, Mayor Alfie Byrne, and others. Scattered throughout, you’ll find mementos relating to each period, covering music, politics, & more.
There’s also an entire room dedicated to U2 called “U2: Made in Dublin,” should you not wish to try to find Bono in Dalkey. The permanent exhibition includes music & memorabilia from throughout the legendary Irish rock band’s whole career.
With the dedicated devotion to sharing the story of 20th century Dubliners, The Little Museum of Dublin reminded me of the People’s History Museum I’d visited in Manchester earlier in my trip, but with an even warmer & more personal experience.
Temporary galleries at the Little Museum of Dublin
The ground floor of the Little Museum of Dublin hosts a temporary gallery. These rotating exhibitions have covered an eclectic mix of topics such as Guinness during World War One, 1950s Irish fashion designers, the 1990 World Cup team, and costumes in Irish movies.
When I visited, the temporary gallery had an exhibition called “A Little History of the Dublin Pub,” a topic of great interest to me. I walked around wishing I had a pint in my hand, and not just because Guinness was the sponsor.
The exhibition provided a nice history of Dublin’s drinking establishments, such as The Brazen Head, Ireland’s oldest pub, which I would visit later on my hunt for Dublin’s best craft beer. I also learned several interesting facts about pubs in Dublin. For example, did you know that the Coroners Act of 1846 mandated that pubs must store corpses in their cellars when asked? Thankfully, this law no longer exists, so you can drink that full-bodied Guinness knowing it wasn’t stored next to full bodies.
It was in this room that I learned about Dublin’s Victorian pubs. There are only 16 surviving Victorian pubs in the city. Upon hearing this information, some people might be inspired to visit each of these pubs while in Ireland. So that’s precisely what I did. After leaving the Little Museum of Dublin, I headed straight for The Swan Bar, the first stop on my tour of all 16 Victorian pubs in Dublin.
The Little Museum of Dublin is an excellent history of the city. Whether you’re just visiting or you’re a Dublin resident, you’re sure to learn something interesting on the tour, and come out of it with many new ideas for places to explore.
Here are some great Dublin tours & other things to see & do in the city.
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Dublin, check out these Dublin hotels & AirBnbs.
Surprised you didn’t mention how controversial that Alfie Byrne exhibit the Little Museum of Dublin is. Most Dubliners regard Alfie as a fascist, what with his ardent support of Hitler and Mussolini. The exhibit is a near complete whitewash of Alfie.
My intent was to list some exhibits, but I realize now that “legendary” may have implied some kind of endorsement, so I’ve removed that word.
I’ve tried to find some background on his supposed ardent support, and aside from a Wikipedia discussion here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Alfie_Byrne (where the curator of the Little Museum of Dublin does mention that he did support Franco in the 1930s, but there is no proof for the other two), and a singular blog post, I am not seeing much. I’d be interested in learning more about that from primary sources, if you’re aware of some.