Custom House Visitor Centre recalls 230 years of Irish history, architecture, and trade

New experience at seat of local government

Marking the 230th anniversary of the original opening of the Custom House, Minister Darragh O’Brien, Minister Patrick O’Donovan and Paul Kelly, CEO, Fáilte Ireland, have officially opened a new visitor experience exploring the building, burning and restoration of Dublin’s Custom House. The project has been developed by the Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage in conjunction with the Office of Public Works (OPW) in partnership with Fáilte Ireland.

James Gandon’s architectural masterpiece houses a fully reimagined exhibition created by award-winning designers whose previous work includes exhibitions at Killarney House and Dublin Castle, with contributions from leading Irish historians and academics, featuring a narrative journey revealing a story with many layers, of people, heritage and history, spanning over 200 years.

Photo by Naoise Culhane

The exhibition flows and develops chronologically using each space to tell a chapter in the story, taking visitors from Dublin in the late 1700s through to the 21st century and giving them the unique and authentic experience of being inside the walls of one of the city’s most iconic buildings.

The Custom House Visitor Centre will be a flagship visitor experience in the Docklands area of the city, featuring new and interactive exhibits telling the rich history of the building and showcasing its exceptional architecture.

Photo by Naoise Culhane

The visitor centre, which occupies the entire central area of the building, uses interpretive methods to bring to life the story of the Custom House, which is the longest-serving purpose-built government building in Ireland.

Minister O’Brien said: “The Custom House opened in 1791 and it took ten years to build. Initially the headquarters of the Commissioners of Custom and Excise, by the twentieth century, it was the headquarters of local government in Ireland. As a pillar of the ruling British administration, the building was targeted and burnt by the IRA on the 25th May 1921; a key action of the Irish War of Independence. The government of the independent Irish state resolved to restore the building, completing these works by 1928. It is fitting that we pay tribute to the rich history of this fine building, and honour it with a modernised exhibition. I am delighted to open this beautifully refurbished Visitor Centre today for the people of Ireland, and for our visitors from overseas.”

Minister O’Donovan said “The opening of the Custom House Visitor Centre will enable everyone to experience and view up close the magnificence of this iconic landmark and learn about its involvement in Ireland’s history as it watched over the Dublin skyline for the last 230 years.”

Aoife Deery at the launch of the new visitor experience exploring the building, burning and restoration of Dublin’s Custom House. Photo by Naoise Culhane

Paul Kelly, Chief Executive at Fáilte Ireland added “Investment in engaging, world-class attractions like the Custom House Visitor Centre adds to the diverse heritage tourism offering of Dublin. Fáilte Ireland is pleased to support the development of this fascinating attraction in one of Dublin’s most iconic buildings. Bringing Dublin’s story alive in such an authentic way will entice domestic and international visitors to visit Dublin, to explore the city and stay for longer for many years to come.”

The Custom House has been, and continues to be, a centre for government and policy making since it opened in 1781, and for many years it was a hub for imports and exports.

The new visitor experience will take visitors on a narrative journey through the building itself, highlighting the magnificent architecture and using first-hand accounts, personal stories, and artefacts to tell the story of the building and the city from the 1700s up to the present day.

Photo by Naoise Culhane

The exhibition shows how the building witnessed some of the most momentous events in Irish history, from the 1916 Easter Rising to the birth of the Irish Free State and eventually the Republic of Ireland. The fulcrum of this story being the burning of the Custom House in May 1921, which is brought to life though captivating audio visual interpretation and artefacts from the period.

Meath Dáil deputies Noel Dempsey and the late Jimmy Tully served as Minister for Local Government and were based at the Custom House.

Full details on opening hours/admissions are available on