Heading to the Emerald Isle but find yourself on a tight budget? No need to worry- there is certainly no shortage of things to do in Dublin that will immerse you in the city’s rich history while saving you a few quid. Here are some of the best free things to do in Dublin!
1 || Sit in a pub and listen to live music.
Alright, while a pint of the good stuff may not technically be free, the experience that comes with it certainly is and it’s not one to miss out on. Step out of the rain and enjoy some Irish trad music – you’ll no doubt be singing along to the songs by the time you leave. You can find live music in nearly any pub around the city center, from Gogarty’s to Whelan’s. Who knows, maybe a local will offer to buy you a Guinness. The Irish, after all, are known for being friendly and talkative by nature, and they’ll no doubt make you feel right at home.
2 || Feed the ducks in St. Stephen’s Green.
St. Stephen’s Green is a rectangular park in the city centre, sitting adjacent to Grafton Street. It is 22 acres and the largest of Dublin’s Georgian garden squares. The park has a rich history, having originally been opened in 1663. It was later redesigned and opened in 1880, and an initiative by Sir A.E. Guinness opened the park to the public. Today you’ll find both locals and visitors alike flock here to enjoy the sun on the green lawns. The park’s ponds are home to ducks, swans and more. Take a stroll under the green canopy and stop to feed the birds.
3 || Visit one of the national museums.
There are three branches of the National Museum of Ireland that can be found in Dublin, and all offer free admission to visitors. The National Museum of Archaeology can be found on Kildare Street, and it exhibits artifacts from prehistoric, medieval, and viking Ireland. The National Museum of Decorative Arts and History is housed in the historic Collins military barracks. On Merrion Street, the National Museum of Natural History houses a comprehensive zoological collection that explores animals both native to Ireland as well as exotic specimens.
4 || Or admire some art at IMMA or the National Gallery.
The Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) is located in Kilmainham and offers free admission to it’s permanent collections. The National Gallery of Ireland can be found closer to the city centre, with entrances on both Clare Street and Merrion Square West. It is home to a sprawling collection of Irish and European art. Visitors can even make use of the Gallery’s library and extensive research services for free Monday through Fridays.
5 || Explore the campus at Trinity College.
While you’ll need a ticket to visit the famous library and Book of Kells (well worth it), you can still explore the rest of Trinity College Dublin’s historic and architecturally stunning campus for free. Trinity is Ireland’s oldest university, founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I. It is one of the seven ancient universities of Britain and Ireland, modeled after Oxford and Cambridge. Occupying 47 acres in the city centre, its campus is as stunning as it is historic. Enter through the main threshold on College Green and stroll through the quads, admiring the Campanile and hallowed halls of the buildings.
6 || Explore history at Glasnevin Cemetery.
Located on the city’s north side, Glasnevin Cemetery spans 124 acres where more than 1.5 million people have been buried. First opened in 1832 , Glasnevin served as a space where both Irish Catholics and Protestants could offer their dead a dignified burial (this had previously been difficult for Catholics under the repressive Penal Laws). This Victorian park is a perfect place for those interested in exploring Dublin’s history as many prominent figures are buried here, including Eamon de Valera, Michael Collins, Charles Stewart Parnell, Daniel O’Connell, and more. A tour via the cemetery’s museum may cost you, but it is free to wander the grounds.
Be sure to stop at James Kavanaugh ‘The Gravediggers’ pub after for one of the best pints of Guinness you can get in Dublin!
7 || Then picnic at the National Botanic Gardens.
Ireland’s National Botanic Gardens are located just next to Glasnevin Cemetery, so it is easy to make a day of the two. Here in this stunning park, you’ll find several wrought iron greenhouses and herbariums, holding more than 20,000 specimens! Entry is free, so if the weather is nice, pack a picnic and enjoy the flora and fauna!
8 || Read at the National Library, or Chester Beatty Library.
The Old Library at Trinity College isn’t the only reading room worth visiting in town. Rather, both the National Library and Chester Beatty offer free admission to visitors. Located on Kildare Street adjacent to Leinster House, the National Library is a reference library where visitors can make use of Irish collections, exhibitions, newspapers, and genealogy services. The Chief Herald of Ireland and the National Photographic Archive are also attached to the library. Not to mention that the library itself is visually striking.
Chester Beatty Library, located in the gardens of Dublin Castle, has been described as one of the best museums in both Dublin and Europe. The library houses collections from all over the world, including manuscripts, paintings, prints, rare books, decorative arts, and more.
9 || Window shop through Dublin’s creative quarter.
While you’ll find the city’s most prominent department stores on Grafton Street or Mary Street, Dublin’s creative quarter is home to the best vintage, artisan, and local shops in town. Even if you’re just window shopping, it’s worth a stroll through St. George’s Arcade or Powerscourt Centre! The creative quarter stretches from South William to George’s Street and from Lower Stephen’s Street to Exchequer. Here you’ll find cafes, boutiques, studios, amazing restaurants, and more.
10 || Visit the deer (and president) in Phoenix Park.
Phoenix Park, standing at 1,750 acres on Dublin’s north side, is the largest enclosed public park in any capital city in Europe. Originally a royal hunting park in the 1660s, it opened to the public in 1747. Among other things in the park, you’ll find Áras an Uachtaráin (home to the President of Ireland), the Dublin Zoo, the Magazine Fort, Wellington Monument, a prehistoric burial chamber, Victorian gardens, and more. And the best part? You can even get up close and personal with a herd of friendly deer that live here! Admission to the park itself is free, and the main gates are open 24/7.
11 || Walk to the South Wall lighthouse.
There are plenty of free walks around Dublin that will offer stunning panoramic views, such as the trek the Great South Wall Walk out to the Poolbeg lighthouse. This 8 km walk takes approximately an hour, give or take. The South Wall promenade stretches out 4 km into Dublin Bay. From Poolbeg lighthouse at the end of the pier, you’ll be able to see Dun Laoghaire as well as the Wicklow mountains.
12 || Go on a coastal hike.
There are plenty of other free hikes in Dublin’s coastal regions. While it may cost a few euro to take the DART train to the north or south of the city, the free views more than make up for it. In Howth, a coastal hike leads you to stunning cliffs. A path from Bray will lead you along the cliffs towards Greystones or up Bray Head. Read more about these hikes here!
13 || Take a free walking tour.
There are several companies that offer free walking tours of Dublin, like this one or this one. This can be a great introduction to the city, as they explore the history and culture while visiting most of the city’s main attractions, like Dublin Castle to Temple Bar. Just be sure to tip your guide!
14 || Explore the grounds of a castle.
While admission to explore inside Dublin Castle may not be free, there’s certainly nothing stopping you from exploring the grounds. Beyond Chester Beatty Library, you’ll find the Garda Museum, the Revenue Museum, and the chapel.
You can also take the DART train north to Malahide Castle, a stunning 12th century estate surrounded by 260 acres of parkland. Again, entrance into the castle and gardens require tickets, but there’s no fee to wander the grounds. The village of Malahide is worth a stroll too!
15 || People watch in Temple Bar. Listen to the buskers on Grafton.
Dublin’s charm comes from its people as much as it comes from its sights. The Irish are some of the most affable and welcoming people I have ever met. It’s half the reason I moved to Dublin in the first place. Listen to the buskers on Grafton, or watch visitors and Dubs mingle through the pubs of Temple Bar. Take a stroll through the city – you never know what you may find.
What are some of your favorite free things to do in Dublin?