Dublin City Gallery.

Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin

Top choice in North of the Liffey

Whatever reputation Dublin has as a repository of world-class art has a lot to do with the simply stunning collection at this exquisite gallery, housed in the equally impressive Charlemont House, designed by William Chambers in 1763. Within its walls you'll find the best of contemporary Irish art, a handful of impressionist classics and Francis Bacon's relocated studio.

The gallery owes its origins to one Sir Hugh Lane (1875–1915). Born in County Cork, Lane worked in London art galleries before setting up his own gallery in Dublin in 1908. He had a connoisseur’s eye and a good nose for the directions of the market, which enabled him to build up a superb collection, particularly strong in impressionists.

Unfortunately for Ireland, neither his talents nor his collection were much appreciated. Irish rejection led him to rewrite his will and bequeath some of the finest works in his collection to the National Gallery in London. Later he relented and added a rider to his will leaving the collection to Dublin but he failed to have it witnessed, thus causing a long legal squabble over which gallery had rightful ownership.

The collection of eight paintings (known as the Hugh Lane Bequest 1917) was split in two in a 1959 settlement that sees half of them moving back and forth every six years. From 2015 the gallery has Les Parapluies by Auguste Renoir, Portrait of Eva Gonzales by Edouard Manet, Jour d'Été by Berthe Morisot and View of Louveciennes by Camille Pissarro.

Impressionist masterpieces notwithstanding, the gallery’s most popular exhibit is the Francis Bacon Studio, which was painstakingly moved, in all its shambolic mess, from 7 Reece Mews, South Kensington, London, where the Dublin-born artist (1909–92) lived for 31 years. The display features some 80,000 items madly strewn about the place, including slashed canvases and the last painting he was working on.

The gallery is also home to a permanent collection of seven abstract paintings by Irish-born, New York–based Sean Scully, probably Ireland's most famous living painter.

At noon on Sundays, from September to June, the art gallery hosts concerts of contemporary classical music.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby North of the Liffey attractions

1. Irish Writers Centre

0.02 MILES

Next door to the Dublin Writers Museum, which focuses on the dearly departed, the Irish Writers Centre provides a meeting and working place for their…

2. Dublin Writers Museum

0.04 MILES

Memorabilia aplenty and lots of literary ephemera line the walls and display cabinets of this elegant museum devoted to preserving the city’s rich…

3. Children of Lir Monument

0.04 MILES

In the Garden of Remembrance is a bronze statue of the Children of Lir by Oisín Kelly; according to Irish legend the children were turned into swans by…

4. Garden of Remembrance

0.04 MILES

This rather austere little park was opened by President Eamon de Valera in 1966 for the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. The most interesting…

5. Rotunda Hospital

0.14 MILES

Irish public hospitals aren’t usually attractions, but this one – founded in 1748 as the first maternity hospital in the British Isles – makes for an…

6. Belvedere House

0.15 MILES

This handsome building has been the home of Jesuit Belvedere College (a secondary school) since 1841. James Joyce studied here between 1893 and 1898 (and…

7. James Joyce Cultural Centre


James Joyce is brought to virtual life in this beautifully restored Georgian house. As well as some wonderful interactive details, the exhibits include…