One of the best things I found during my stay in Ireland was the Little Museum of Dublin. I liked it so much, in fact, that I went twice!
It’s a two story townhouse located right on St Stephen’s Green, and is literally packed wall to wall with history.What makes this place so special, though, is that everything on display has been donated by Dubliners. So it feels a lot like you’re learning about the history of the city by hanging out at a friend’s house.
Your entry ticket includes a half hour whirlwhind tour through Dublin history, as told by one of their storytellers. They actually wind up an old air raid siren from WWII to mark the beginning of each tour, which is a brilliant strategy for securing the attention of a large group.
My guide, Sam, truly was blessed with the gift of gab. He had us in stitches laughing one minute and fighting back tears the next. He also broke out into song.
The tour is based out of two rooms, with each decade arranged chronologically along the walls. Sam moved from one section to the next, picking out which stories to tell.
There was so much history to cover, and we only brushed the surface of what. Even so, I was beyond impressed with the way he brought everything to life.
After the tour, you’re free to roam around the rest of the townhouse. Each room hosts a rotating exhibition highlighting a specific slice of Dublin’s history.
My favourite of them was The Editor’s Room. It cleverly recreates the office of Robert Smyllie, who was Editor of the Irish TImes from 1934-1954. It has its share of artifacts, such as his actual typewriter and desk and an original front page of the paper on VE Day. It also brings it to life in less obvious ways, though.
There are boxes to open, crosswords to solve, bookshelves to scour, magnifying glasses to peer into, and puzzles to solve. I feel like I could spend days exploring and still find some little thing that I hadn’t noticed before.
I honestly had so much fun discovering just how much there was to discover in this little room!
There was also The Alfie Byrne Collection, which remembers the life of an extrordianariy man who has been largely forgotten today.
Alfie served as Lord Mayor of Dublin for a decade straight. He was known as “The Shaking Hand of Dublin” due to his eternal canvassing both on the streets and in ballrooms. He was an enigmatic figure at the time, attending up to thirteen events in one evening. He once joined a Dublin fire brigade to help put out a raging fire in a nearby town, and even was featured in a short story by James Joyce.
But perhaps more importantly, Alfie was deeply devoted to the people he served. He came from working class roots, and always campaigned hard for the poorest of the city at a time when living conditions in tenements were at their worst.
Just next door is U2: Made in Dublin. It’s curated entirely by fans and features rare live recordings of the band alongside narration from Tom Dunne.
I honestly didn’t know a lot about U2 before , but I had a lot of fun exploring the exhibition and gained a whole new appreciation for the band.
The ground floor had a massive new exhibition called Judging Shaw. I’ve read bits and pieces of Shaw’s work before, but I loved how the exhibition truly brought him to life as a real person, complete with little quirks and contradictions.
On the weekends, your entry also includes The Green Mile at 11am. It’s a hour long walking tour of St Stephen’s Green expertly guided by Donal Fallon, and gives you the opportunity to understand the depth behind Dublin’s prettiest park.
I went on the The Green Mile during my second visit to the museum, and Donal was kind enough to still give us the tour despite the torrential rain and whipping winds outside. We were the only five people crazy enough to be out in the park during the storm, but I also think it speaks volumes as to just how good their tours are.
Just below The Little Museum is a cute restaurant called Hatch & Sons, which conveniently gives you a discount on your order if you show them your museum ticket.
The menu is filled with locally-sourced Irish classics. I got a mug of tea and the traditional beef roll with rapeseed mayo, which was so satisfying on a drizzly autumn afternoon. Everything I saw (and smelled) from the other tables looked just as delicious, though, so I don’t think you could go wrong with anything from Hatch.
If I lived in Dublin, I would truly have a membership and go to The Little Museum all the time. It’s easily one of the coolest places I’ve been, and I really hope that its model gets picked up in other cities.
When you do visit, be sure to book your tickets online in advance. I got super lucky both times, but their tours are both small and popular, so sell out pretty quick.