Travel tidbits is a series that shares small experiences from a longer trip. By focusing on one or two “tidbits” at a time, I can highlight some less famous, but worthwhile, attractions we’ve come across while traveling. I also hope that breaking it down this way will prove useful for other travelers who don’t need a full itinerary, but are looking for things to see and do in a specific place.
Book geeks and word nerds: let me introduce you to your favorite destination in Dublin. No, not the Trinity College Library and Book of Kells, but its oft-overlooked brother, the Chester Beatty Library. I still recommend Trinity College (and it’s where the photos here are from – no photography allowed in Chester); but if you want to browse thousands of ancient, rare, beautiful books and manuscripts, Chester Beatty is your man.
The Chester Beatty Library houses a massive collection of books and manuscripts from around the world, spanning almost 5 millennia. It’s named after Sir Arthur Chester Beatty, who made a fortune in mining in the U.S. and later began collecting the library’s treasures on his trips around the world. He bequeathed the entire collection for the public benefit, and it’s now used for research as well as public exhibition.
The library contains two permanent exhibitions and sometimes a special exhibition. The permanent exhibitions contain some beautiful book art, including illuminated manuscripts, calligraphy, and picture scrolls. There’s also a large collection of ancient religious texts – mainly from Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism – including some of the oldest known gospel manuscripts.
I could easily spend half a day or more at the library; we arrived a couple hours before closing time and got kicked out as they were locking up. I didn’t even make it to the rooftop gardens, but my travelling companions who were slightly less engrossed in the books say they’re worth the visit, too.
If you’re headed to Dublin and at all interested in books, art, or history, I’d list the Chester Beatty Library as a must-see. It’s located near the center of Dublin in Dublin castle, about a 10-15 minute walk from many of the other major attractions. Admission is free.
Do you geek out over old books? Do you like to visit museums when you travel?