If you are planning a trip to Dublin, one of the coolest new museums to see is the Irish Emigration Museum (EPIC). It opened in 2016 in a reclaimed 19th century warehouse near the Docklands, just east of Dublin’s city center. On the banks of the River Liffey, it tells the unique story of the 10 million Irish citizens who emigrated to other countries and what impact they had on those countries. Not many countries can boast about their cultural influence like Ireland! This museum is a must-see attraction while visiting Dublin, particularly if you have any Irish ancestors!
You can easily walk to the museum from the city center, traveling east along the riverwalk. Right before the museum, you will come across the haunting Famine Memorial.
Seeing these heartbreaking images really prepares you for the museum and drives home why many of the Irish left their homeland.
Don’t miss the empty shoes statue.
There is also a famine ship that you can see on the river at the museum. It is a separate museum/historical site but is well worth seeing.
As you enter the museum, the building itself, the Custom House Quay (CHQ) building, is interesting. Built between 1817-1820, it was used as a storage facility for tobacco, tea, and spirits and was also the site of a historic 1856 Crimean War Banquet for returning Irish troops. The interior is inspiring, with a soaring glass ceiling and shops and restaurants in the center.
The museum is located underground so after checking in and getting your audio guide, head down the stairs to the first exhibit room. Don’t forget to pick up a passport before you begin your tour! This interactive guide keeps your kids interested in each room in the museum, and they will love getting their passport stamped!
The museum has 20 different rooms, ranging from the logistics of leaving to the different cultural traditions that the emigrants brought to their new country. Each room is highly interactive, with lots of touch screens and immersive experiences, all great for kids.
You begin the tour learning about how and why the 10 million Irish left the island, from fleeing famine and poverty to serving in another country’s military.
There are some really interesting exhibits, including this amazing metal sculpture about the departing ships.
Your kids will learn about the hardships that faced the Irish emigrants once they arrived in their new country, from religious discrimination to social barriers. This depiction of the queue that emigrants faced upon arrival and the stories that are shared were poignant.
One of the most interesting rooms was the Conflict room, where we learned how Irish soldiers fought in many of the wars around the world, even in America’s Civil War. There is a great interactive table exhibit here that kids will want to explore.
As you continue through the museum, you will learn more about the ways the Irish have influenced culture, including sports, science, politics, music, dance, eating, drinking, and art.
My kids really enjoyed learning more about the Irish influence on sports around the world.
My favorite room was the music and dance room, where you could follow footsteps on the floor to dance an Irish jig! Another favorite, the eating and drinking room, even recreates an Irish pub!
My younger son was fascinated with the room about the Irish who achieved infamy abroad, including some notorious killers and outlaws. There is a fun game about these criminals that he played over and over!
As a book lover, I loved the storytelling rooms, including an interactive library with Irish authors and books.
Before you leave, don’t miss the Irish Family History Centre in the gift shop, particularly if you have any Irish ancestors! They can help with any genealogy questions and can help you trace your family back to its Irish home.
After visiting EPIC, you will have a better understanding of the proud Irish culture and just how pervasive it is around the world. The 10 million Irish citizens who emigrated to other countries, especially the United States, had a profound and lasting impact on social, economic, and political cultures. Your kids will enjoy learning about these different cultures, especially the fun and interactive exhibits. This museum is a great place to begin your tour of Ireland!
Edited to add: If you cannot visit the museum in person, check out its virtual tour!
- Cost: 16.50EUR/adults; 8EUR/kids; free/kids under 5 (save 10% by booking online); audio guide is 2EUR-well worth it!
- Recommended: all ages
- Tour time: 1 ½ hours
- Gift shop located onsite
- Transportation: The museum is located at the CHQ building in the Docklands, just east of the city center (10-15 minute walk). Also accessible by light rail, train, and sightseeing bus.
- Dining options nearby: The CHQ building has many dining options, including a Starbucks.
- Nearby hotels: A Hilton Garden Inn is located beside the museum. See my Dublin review for other suggestions!
- Nearby attractions: Jeanie Johnston Famine Ship, Famine Memorial, O’Connell Street walk (see Rick Steves’ guidebook for more info), and GPO Witness History Museum
- To learn more about the women highlighted in the EPIC museum, check out this great guide
Books to Read:
- 14 and up:
- The Dublin Saga (The Princes of Ireland and The Rebels of Ireland by Edward Rutherfurd (for older teens)
- A Boy From Ireland: A Novel
- 10 and up:
- 6 and up:
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