These Are the Best Museums in Ireland to Visit with Kids
February 27, 2021
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Museums are great places to visit with children and many of them have interactive exhibits or activity sheets for younger visitors. Museum visits also tend to be free or low cost and, because they are indoors, they are perfect for a rainy day. We have a rich culture and heritage, with plenty to offer all interests, so take a look at our pick of the best museums in Ireland to take the kids to so you can plan for fun days out!
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Who said learning can’t be fun! From Vikings and dinosaurs to boats, books and even butter (yes, really!), Ireland has a wealth of history and culture to experience for all ages. Many of these museums around the country have interactive aspects, tours and opportunity for some hands-on fun, all while soaking up some new facts and knowledge.
Don’t forget to let us know if you have any more gems we should add to our list!
Explore the GAA Museum at Croke Park with its exhibition galleries that vividly illustrate the story of Gaelic games, from ancient times to present day. Exhibitions include the Sam Maguire and Liam MacCarthy Cups, the official GAA Hall of Fame, and lots more.
Test your hurling and football skills in the interactive games zone – a must for museum visitors of all ages!
Tip: Don’t miss testing your GAA skills in the interactive games zone.
The Round Tower Clondalkin is one of only four remaining round towers in County Dublin. The Visitor Centre museum brings the story of The Round Tower Clondalkin and the surrounding area to life through an exciting interactive experience. The fun and educational exhibition can be enjoyed through eight distinctive themed spaces in the refurbished 19th century Mill Cottages.
Suitable for all ages, the Round Tower Clondalkin experience incorporates public gardens, and an exhibition and gallery space.
Tip: Enjoy lunch at The Café which has indoor and outdoor eating.
The Little Museum of Dublin, conveniently located on St. Stephen’s Green, is truly a little gem, telling the story of the capital over the last 100 years from the visit of Queen Victoria to modern day.
Over 5,000 items are displayed over 3 floors. Entry to the museum is by guided tour only, so book online to be sure of entry. There are worksheets available for children of all ages, and interactive artefacts that they will enjoy.
Tip: Make time to see the U2:Made in Dublin exhibition while you are there.
EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum tells the story of the Irish diaspora. Using the latest interactive technology, you can follow the story of 78 million people and 10 million journeys, through the themes of migration, influence, motivation and connection.
Children and adults alike, will be wowed by the interactive nature of the displays. This is an epic way to learn about great Irish influencers, from authors to scientists, and business people to sports men and women.
Tip: Don’t miss getting your passport stamped throughout the tour and sending it as a virtual postcard.
GPO Witness History Museum
Made famous during the Easter Rising in 1916, the GPO is now home to the Witness History Visitor Centre which offers an immersive and interactive look at Irish history from the late 19th century to modern times.
There are exhibits on the Easter Rising of 1916, the Irish War of Independence, the Irish Civil War and the peace process in Northern Ireland.
Tip: Use the audio guide to get more insights into the exhibits.
At Dublinia, travel back to Viking and Medieval Dublin, witness the sights, sounds and smells and unearth the city’s archaeology in the History Hunters exhibition!
A full programme of events takes place at weekends during the summer, including Family First Saturdays with workshops, puppet shows and much more.
There’s also Viking Dublin Tours, Medieval Dublin tours and heaps for families to do at Dublinia.
Tip: Buy the combination ticket to visit Christchurch too.
National Print Museum, Dublin
The National Print Museum offers a range of guided tours, workshops and educational resources for young people. The Museum’s permanent exhibition is laid out in the same style as an old print shop with a Composing Area, Printing Area and Finishing Area.
The Museum also hosts a variety of exciting workshops throughout the year, such as Introduction to Letterpress, Calligraphy, Bookbinding, Printmaking – Etching, Japanese Woodblock Printmaking and many more.
Tip: Create your name to take home using the printers letter blocks.
National Maritime Museum of Ireland, Dublin
Experienced guides will bring you on a voyage of discovery at the National Maritime Museum, enthralling you with stories of discovery, heroism, war and disasters at sea. You will learn about maritime history, exploration, navigation, radio, deep-sea cable technology, nature, wildlife and view art inspired by the sea.
See the 10-tonne revolving Baily Optic, try the electrified steam engine, and pause to reflect at the Titanic exhibit, the re-created radio room, the Royal Navy prisoners docks and the war memorial.
Try your hand at sailor’s knots, or learn how they lift heavy weights. Afterwards visit the shop and café for a treat.
Tip: Don’t miss being photographed with the pirate!
IMAGINOSITY HAS NOT REOPENED SINCE COVID
Imaginosity, Dublin Children’s Museum is a child-centred creative, educational and interactive space, suitable for children up to the age of 9 years old and their families.
Three floors of exhibits are educationally designed to inspire life-long learning through play, celebrating children’s imaginations, on the journey from curiosity to discovery.
Number Twenty Nine Lower Fitzwilliam Square is home to the ESB’s Georgian House Museum. Visitors take a tour from the basement to the attic, through rooms which have been furnished with original artefacts as they would have been in the years 1790 to 1820.
At the time of writing the museum is undergoing renovations and is due to reopen to the public in 2020. For now, significant exhibits from the museum are housed in the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts & History in Kildare Street.
Tip: If you miss the guided tour be sure to pick up a leaflet with the history of the house.
Strokestown Park, House & Gardens and Irish Famine Museum, Roscommon
Strokestown Park houses the Irish National Famine Museum, a historical archive of the famine years in Ireland and an interesting visitor attraction for families.
Using the documents and objects from Strokestown as a basis for the interpretation, the National Famine Museum tells the story of the Irish Great Hunger, eviction, migration, the assisted emigration scheme enacted by Major Denis Mahon of Strokestown Park and the story of his murder in November 1847. The gun that fired the fatal shot is also on display.
Strokestown House is open daily and visitors will get a real insight into days gone by at this Georgian Palladian mansion in which many of the original furnishings can still be seen.
Visitors can take a stroll through the 6 acre walled garden and surrounding woodlands.
Tip: Check out the Victorian Nursery complete with toys.
The National Museum of Ireland – Country Life Mayo
See what schools were like, the toys children played with and how they marked special events like Halloween & Christmas. Learn about how people lived in the towns and countryside, cut turf, caught fish and worked in the home.
Take part in free workshops and family programmes for all ages. And enjoy the dressing up and reading areas too.
Tip Enjoy the gorgeous grounds and a lake, with a playground, and a sculpture trail, perfect for taking a stroll with the kids.
The Science Centre and Observatory at Birr Castle has many interactive displays including early photography, engineering and astronomy.
Here you will also find The Great Telescope, the project of the Third Earl of Rosse. It was built during the early 1840’s and was the largest reflecting telescope in the world for more than 70 years. People travelled from all over the world to view what lay beyond the earth and it is considered one of Ireland’s greatest scientific wonders.
Tip: Leave time to visit Ireland’s largest treehouse in the grounds of the castle.
The Irish Agricultural Museum is housed within the grounds of Johnstown Castle and displays one of the most comprehensive collections showcasing farming and rural life in Ireland with everything from tractors to kitchens! Visitors can:
Admire the large collection of beautifully restored tractors, carts, ploughs, threshing machines, stationary engines and dairy equipment
See recreated workshops of traditional trades including blacksmith, cooper and wheelwright
Learn about ‘The Great Famine’ through an exhibition which vividly reveals what life was like before, during and after the famine
Discover the chequered history of Johnstown Castle and its estate
Enjoy the largest display of Irish country furniture
Compare farmhouse kitchens through the ages
Take part in quizzes and trails (suitable for children)
Tip: Pack a picnic to enjoy in the museum courtyard or spectacular gardens. And be sure to visit the castle which has tours of 8 rooms and gives a fascinating insight into a bygone era.
Interactive Coal Mining Museum at Castlecomer Discovery Park, Kilkenny
Before there was any adventure park at Castlecomer, there was coal. To be precise some of the best coal to be found in the British Isles.
The Coal Mining Museum houses a multi media exhibition and display that takes you on a journey through Castlecomer’s coal mining past. Starting with the formation of the coal 300 million years ago, it brings the visitor through more than 300 years of coal mining history to the closure of the mines in 1969.
Tip: Be sure to build in time to enjoy some of the many activities on offer at Castlecomer Discovery Park!
Located within the Newbridge Silverware Visitor Centre, the Museum of Style Icons hosts numerous collections and artefacts relating to Stars of the Silver Screen and many modern day artists – including Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Grace, Princess Diana, Michael Jackson, Michael Flatley, the Beatles and many more.
Now rated as one of the top 5 free tourist attractions in Ireland, the Museum regularly hosts visiting collections from around the globe and admission is free. There are guided tours available daily also, with u12s free with an adult (booking required).
Tip: Indulge in a tasty lunch or treats in the Silver café.
Located in Ballina, the Jackie Clarke Collection showcases one of the world’s leading collections of historical Irish material. Discover 400 years of Irish history through the self-guiding family friendly interactive touch screens.
Discover something new about your family history by searching the in-house census and eviction records. Learn about Irish Native trees, organic vegetable gardening and the importance of our hedgerows in the Urban Walled Garden. Admission is FREE and you can enjoy lunch in cafe after your visit.
Tip: Use the Memory Pod where you can record and share your stories and memories.
Located in heart of the city at Spanish Arch, where the River Corrib meets the Atlantic Ocean, Galway City Museum offers interactive and educational exhibits for all ages to enjoy.
The museum is spread over three floors and visitors can discover more about the history and archaeology of Galway. In addition learn more about marine life at the interactive Marine Science – The Wild Atlantic Exhibition.
During school holidays and at weekends the museum run a program of events and workshops, many of which are free, so be sure to check out what is on before you visit.
Tip: Enjoy a tasty brunch, lunch or treat at The Café at the Museum.
Uncover the forensic archaeologist in you with a visit to the Kerry County Museum, full of interesting exhibits and historic artefacts, with lots of fun activities for families.
Each object on display in Kerry County Museum tells its own story from a beautiful sunflower pin worn by the fashion conscious in the Bronze Age, to duelling pistols used by the Liberator, Daniel O’Connell, in the early 19th Century.
Located in Tralee in the Ashe Memorial Hall it houses various exhibits from the award winning Antarctica Exhibition depicting many colourful characters including the heroic Annascaul man, Tom Crean’s Antarctic journey to the excellent Geraldine Experience.
Tip: Kids should follow Pangur Bán’s Trail through the museum to make their visit extra special.
The Hunt Museum in Limerick houses one of Ireland’s largest private collections of art, decorative art and antiques dating from the Mesolithic period, Iron Age, Bronze Age and up to the present day. There are pieces from all over the world including work by Pablo Picasso and Henry Moore.
Tip: Ask for their Treasure Hunt sheet for the kids. The museum also runs a free Arts and Crafts club the first Sunday of most months.
The Foynes Flying Boat Museum is the only aviation museum in Ireland and the only dedicated flying boat museum in the world.
This unique attraction preserves the rich history of aviation and the development of passenger travel. It takes you back to that nostalgic era when Foynes became the centre of the aviation world between 1937 and 1945, and you will enjoy
an authentic 1940’s cinema
the Radio and Weather Room—complete with transmitters, receivers and Morse code equipment
the Brendan O’Regan restaurant
the only full sized replica B314 flying boat in the world
Tip: Try your hand at flying the B314 on the flight simulators with amazing visuals.
Set in the former St Mary’s Church, the Medieval Mile Museum in Kilkenny gives visitors an understanding of the city’s medieval history.
You will find displays of Kilkenny’s civic treasures, interactive displays of the history of Kilkenny and buried secrets in the attached graveyard.
The museum is also home to temporary exhibitions of art, culture and artefacts and runs regular events.
Tip: The Medieval Mile Museum is at the start of the Medieval Mile in Kilkenny, be sure to follow the trail to discover the medieval history of Kilkenny along with its historic buildings and landmarks.
Waterford, Ireland’s oldest city, founded by the Vikings in the last 9th century, is home to the Viking Triangle, a collection of museums dedicated to the history of this ancient city.
The Waterford Treasures Medieval Museum is a tribute to Medieval Waterford and life in the city during that period. Carefully preserving several medieval structures within its walls, the Museum was opened to the public in August 2012. Guided Tours available from historic characters in period costumes.
Tip: Afterwards, stop for a bite at the magnificent Bishop’s Palace, and relax in the stunning gardens surrounding the Bishop’s Palace, which are based on a design by celebrity gardener Diarmuid Gavin.
The unique Butter Museum in Cork tells the story of Ireland’s most important food export, butter. From early days when butter was made at home and preserved in bogs to the modern day success of the Kerrygold brand, exported worldwide.
Visitors will learn how Cork grew to have the largest Butter Exchange market in the world and the early trading of butter across the Atlantic. There are interactive displays audio visuals on the wider dairy culture in Ireland and a keg of 1,000 year old butter on display!
Tip: If you are visiting on a Saturday, there are butter making demonstrations at 12pm.
The Cavan County Museum is located at Ballyjamesduff, Co. Cavan. The museum houses a medieval dug out boat and sheela-na-gigs, galleries on folk life in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, the great famine, Percy French & the GAA. There is a children’s playground, garden, shop and tea rooms also on site.
Tip: Be sure to visit the World War 1 Trench Experience, the largest outdoor replica WW1 Trench open to the public in Ireland and the UK.
Monaghan County Museum houses some interesting items including medieval crannógs native to Monaghan and perhaps one of the most prominent finds of the region: the Cross of Clogher dated to the 14th century. Admission is free and the museum run regular events for families and children.
Tip: There is no on-site parking at the museum, however on street parking is available near the museum.
Ulster Museum, is located in Belfast’s Botanic Gardens, and admission is free. The Ulster Museum offers exhibits to excite, teach and satisfy the curiosity of history buffs with collections from all corners of the globe.
On display is the skeleton of an Edmontosaurus and in the Deep Time gallery you can WOW your child with the only dinosaur bones ever found in Ireland.
Tip: Pick up your free kid’s explorer map, complete with stickers in the welcome area, to help plan your way around the museum!
The Ulster American Folk Park is an outdoor museum which tells the story of emigration from Ulster to America in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Follow the emigrant trail, meeting an array of costumed characters on your way, as you journey from the thatched cottages of Ulster to stepping on board a full scale replica of an emigrant sailing ship, leading to the log cabins of the American Frontier.
Tip: The museum run regular events so be sure to check out what is on before you decide when to visit.
Ulster Transport & Folk Museum, Hollywood, Co Down
At the Ulster Folk Museum you can walk around the houses of people going about their business in the early 1900s. The museum is set in extensive grounds and you can spend all day walking around the various rural buildings.
Kids will love the secret door between the Bank Manager’s house and the bank, as well as the old school room. Explore thatched cottages, farms, schools and shops as you experience life from over 100 years ago. You can talk to costumed visitor guides as they demonstrate traditional crafts and meet farm animals in the beautiful parkland of the Folk Museum.
However, it’s the Transport Museum that really shines for many families, with its brightly painted trains, Titanica exhibition and transport cafe. This is the place to discover more than 500 original artefacts, climb on and off majestic steam locomotives and explore horse drawn carriages, electric trams, boats, motorbikes, fire-engines and vintage cars for an experience your transport lovers will treasure.
If you visit one museum in Belfast with the kids, we recommend this.
Explore the shipyard, walk the decks, travel to the depths of the ocean and uncover the real legend of Titanic in the city where the story began. Housed in an iconic, six-floor building, filled with movies, interactive exhibits, memorabilia and fascinating facts, Titanic Belfast is located in the heart of Belfast, right beside the historic site of this world-famous ship’s construction.
The Titanic experience takes you through nine galleries, telling the story of RMS Titanic, from her conception in Belfast in the early 1900s, through her construction and launch, to her famous maiden voyage and tragic end. The galleries are innovative and interactive to tell the story in a fresh and insightful way. You also get to go on a ride through an atmospheric shipyard (although if you have young children, it’s worth checking busy periods as queues can be as substantial as the thrills).
Whether or not you are interested in Titanic, you’ll find this an imaginative exploration of Belfast in the early 19th century, and watching the footage of the wreck today is a sobering experience.