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National Museum - Decorative Arts & History (Collins Barracks)

Built in 1704, Collins Barracks served as a military base for 290 years before becoming the Decorative Arts and History wing of the National Museum of Ireland. Today, admission is FREE to this popular attraction, consisting of thirteen exhibitions distributed around a central courtyard, where British and subsequently Irish soldiers once paraded. Pace markings, used to help army recruits learn drill movements, are still visible on the courtyard walls. The permanent exhibitions in the museum, listed below, display over 10,000 items of Irish culture, heritage and national history, with a focus on arts, design and military history. Visitors will find a nice café and gift shop on the site. The museum has its own stop on the red LUAS (tram) line, and is close to Heuston Train Station and the Phoenix Park.

Permanent Exhibitions


A restored Norwegian yacht that, in a pivotal event in modern Irish history, was used to import guns from Germany in 1914 to arm the Irish Volunteers against the British forces in Ireland. 

Reconstructed Rooms: Four Centuries of Furnishings

This exhibition contains four different rooms, whose interiors have been furnished and decorated to create a snapshot of life from the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries in Ireland. The visitor gets to see how the furnishings, tastes, and lifestyles enjoyed by the comfortable in Ireland developed from the 1600s to the present day. 

Eileen Gray

This exhibition looks at the life and work of Irish-born Eileen Gray (1878 - 1976), furniture designer and self-taught architect, who was a pioneer of the Modern Movement. 

What's In Store?

The items in this collection actually were in storage for many years before the Museum opened in 1997 -- hence the title! The collection features glassware, pottery, ceramics and other delicate objects -- with many of them coming from around the world, not just Ireland. 

Out of Storage

This exhibition is intended to evoke a museum storage feel. The gallery has an extra tall design, and the objects are displayed in glass cabinets and drawers. 

Airgead -- A Thousand Years of Irish Coins & Currency

Airgead  (Ar-ah-gad) is the Irish word for money. This exhibition features a collection of old Irish coins, ranging from the 10th century pennies of Viking Dublin, through various medieval eras and British monarchs, to the various coins of the Irish Republic and of course euros, used today. 

Irish Silver

The silver exhibit showcases pieces from the 17th to 20th century. Its coinage section displays pieces of currency originating from Viking days, through the centuries, up to the popular ATMs (yes, cash machines!) we use today. Other unique silver items include the Fonthill Vase, William Smith O'Brien Gold Cup, and Lord Chancellori's mace. 

The Way We Wore

"The Way We Wore" encompasses the evolution of 250 years of clothing styles and chronicles the progress made in producing various popular fabrics and other materials. 

Curator's Choice

Articles with particularly interesting backgrounds or histories are grouped into a section known as the Curator's Choice. At various times, this section has displayed such diverse items as a wedding gift from Cromwell to his daughter, King William's gauntlets from the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, and a hurling ball love token. 

Other permanent exhibits

  • The Easter Rising: Understanding 1916
  • A Dubliner’s Collection of Asian Art – The Albert Bender Exhibition
  • Irish Country Furniture
  • Soldiers and Chiefs - The Irish at War at Home and Abroad from 1550 to the present day

History of Collins Barracks

Collins Barracks is the oldest military barracks in Europe and the oldest continuously occupied barracks on the planet. It has appeared in the Guinness Book of Records for being the "Longest Serving Military Barracks in the World". It was designed in 1701 by Thomas Burgh, considered the father of architecture in Ireland. Burgh also designed the Custom House and the Old Library at Trinity College. Construction was completed in 1704. The military complex was handed over to soldiers of the newly-formed Irish state in 1922. Previously known as the Royal Barracks, it was renamed Collins Barracks after Michael Collins, the legendary Irish revolutionary leader and Director of Intelligence of the old Irish Republican Army (IRA). 

Who Was Michael Collins?

Born in Clonakilty in west County Cork, Collins led the guerilla campaign against the British forces in Ireland during the Irish War of Independence (1919 - 1921), ultimately signing the Anglo-Irish Treaty with the British Government in 1921. This treaty created the new Irish Free State. Ireland was no longer part of the United Kingdom, but with a troublesome caveat: the Free State did not include the northeast section of the island, with a Unionist/Protestant majority, although Collins hoped they would ultimately join. This partition of Ireland led to the Irish Civil War (1922 - 1923), in which Collins was assassinated in his native West Cork. See also: What is the difference between Ireland and Northern Ireland?

Opening Hours

  • Tuesday - Saturday: 10am - 5pm
  • Sunday: 2pm - 5pm
  • Mondays: Closed

Closed Christmas Day and Good Friday 



Getting There

Collins Barracks is located in the west part of Dublin city centre, near Hueston Train Station and the Phoenix Park. It is about a 15 minute walk from the Guinness Storehouse. The best way to get to the Museum from the city centre is to take Dublin's tram system, known as the LUAS. It is a 14 minute ride from Abbey Street (near O'Connell Street) on the Red Line. Get off at the stop called Museum. 


Military history event at Collins Barracks. Image by William Murphy.


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