A magnificent Caravaggio and a breathtaking collection of works by Jack B Yeats – William Butler's younger brother – are the main reasons to visit the National Gallery, but not the only ones. Its excellent collection is strong in Irish art, and there are also high-quality collections of every major European school of painting.
Spread about its four wings you'll find: works by Rembrandt and his circle; a Spanish collection with paintings by El Greco, Goya and Picasso; and a well-represented display of Italian works dating from the early Renaissance to the 18th century. Fra Angelico, Titian and Tintoretto are among the artists represented, but the highlight is undoubtedly Caravaggio's The Taking of Christ (1602), which lay for over 60 years in a Jesuit house in Leeson St and was accidentally discovered by chief curator Sergio Benedetti.
The ground floor displays the gallery's fine Irish collection, plus a smaller British collection, with works by Reynolds, Hogarth, Gainsborough, Landseer and Turner. Absolutely unmissable is the Yeats Collection at the back of the gallery, displaying more than 30 works by Irish impressionist Jack B Yeats (1871–1957), Ireland's most important 20th-century painter.
A good insider tip: in order to protect FW Burton's gorgeous watercolour, Hellelil and Hildebrand, the Meeting on the Turret Stairs (1864) from too much light exposure, it is only displayed twice a week in Room 20, for an hour at a time on Thursdays at 5.30pm and Sundays at 2pm.
Entrance is via the light-filled modern Millennium Wing on Clare St or the refurbished entrance on Merrion Sq West. Here you'll also find a small collection of 20th-century Irish art, high-profile visiting collections (for which there are admission charges), an art reference library, a lecture theatre, a good bookshop and Fitzer's Café.
There are free tours at 6.30pm Thursday, 12.30pm Saturday and at 11.30am, 12.30pm and 1.30pm on Sunday. The gallery also has a free Masterpieces app (available for both Android and iPhone) featuring 80% of its collection.