Kilmainham Gaol

Top choice museum

in Kilmainham & the Liberties

If you have any desire to understand Irish history – especially the long-running resistance to British rule – then a visit to this former prison is an absolute must. A threatening grey building, built in 1796, it's played a role in virtually every act of Ireland's painful path to independence, and even today, despite closing in 1924, it still has the power to chill. Book online as far in advance as possible to get your preferred visiting time.

The uprisings of 1798, 1803, 1848, 1867 and 1916 ended with the leaders' confinement here. Robert Emmet, Thomas Francis Meagher, Charles Stewart Parnell and the 1916 Easter Rising leaders were all visitors, but it was the executions in 1916 that most deeply etched the jail's name into the Irish consciousness. Of the 15 executions that took place between 3 May and 12 May after the revolt, 14 were conducted here. As a finale, prisoners from the Civil War were held here from 1922.

Browsing the museum will give you excellent context and access to some of the former prisoners' personal belongings and letters. The enthusiastic guides provide a thought-provoking tour of the eerie prison, the largest unoccupied building of its kind in Europe. The tour finishes in the gloomy yard where the 1916 executions took place. Entrance is via the Kilmainham Courthouse next door.