Published on 

New Custom House Visitor Centre to tell 230 years of Irish history, architecture, and trade

On the week that marks 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, today, 15th November 2021, 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) and 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.

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. The project was funded by the Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage with additional investment under Fáilte Ireland’s Strategic Partnership with the OPW.

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

Speaking at the launch, Minister Darragh 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.”

Speaking at the launch, Minister Patrick O’Donovan said “The opening of the Custom House Visitor Centre today 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.”

Paul Kelly, Chief Executive at Fáilte IrelandaddedInvestment 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.

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.

The Custom House Visitor Centre will be open to the public in November 2021. Full details on opening hours/admissions etc. are available on



For Photos, contact Dorothea Depner 087 947 5552


For more information, please contact: 

Sean Dunne, Press Officer, DHLGH / 087 246 4366


Dorothea Depner, Press Officer, OPW / 087 947 5552

Trudi McDonald, Communications Officer, Fáilte Ireland / 086 067 3964


Notes to the Editor



Visitors Services


The OPW manages over 70 visitor sites around the country including some of the most iconic historic locations like the Rock of Cashel, Dún Aonghasa and Castletown House, while in Dublin there is Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin Castle and Pearse Musuem.


A full list of the OPW’s visitor sites is available on together with up-to-date information on opening hours, booking requirements, contact details, etc.  Please check with the individual sites prior to travelling as some restrictions remain in place at certain sites.


Custom House Restoration Works

In preparation for the centenary anniversary of the burning of the Custom House, Dublin in May 1921, OPW Conservation Services and Building Maintenance Services (BMS) coordinated and carried out a programme of planned maintenance works to the exterior of the Custom House.

The works included cleaning and repointing of granite paving and steps to the surround landscape, painting of 315 linear meters of cast-iron railings, full refurbishment of all windows to the Liffey façade, painting of all 536 windows and external doors, and specialist cleaning and localised repairs of the stone façade.

BMS also managed initial enabling works at the Custom House Visitor Centre in advance of the main works, which had the added complication of COVID-19 restrictions arising during this time.  BMS have provided their expertise and skills to restore all external windows and doors using traditional joinery restoration methods and upgrade all internal doors. This included the beautiful early C20th teak doors with brass and glass vision panels, which required very careful restoration with assistance from Conservation Letterfrack. These works were carried out both on-site and in the BMS joinery workshop at Collins Barracks, involving the BMS joinery unit, glazers and painters.


Fáilte Ireland

As the National Tourism Development Authority, Fáilte Ireland’s role is to support the long-term sustainable growth in the economic, social, cultural and environmental contribution of tourism to Ireland. Tourism is of critical importance to the national economy and to regional development and employment. Pre-coronavirus, the sector generated revenue of €7.5billion annually and supported 260,000 jobs nationwide while contributing €1.7billion to the Exchequer.


We work in partnership with Government, State agencies, Local Authorities, representative groups and industry, to develop tourism across Ireland by creating destination development plans and networks, investing in infrastructure, activities, visitor attractions and festivals. Fáilte Ireland also provides consumer and buyer insights, mentoring, business supports and training programmes and buyer platforms to help tourism businesses innovate and grow.


In addition, Fáilte Ireland supports Business Tourism, managing the bidding for and securing of larger conferences, meetings and events to be hosted in Ireland.

We are also responsible for domestic holiday marketing across four regional experience brands: Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East, Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands and Dublin.