Despite being one of the more expensive destinations to visit in Europe, Dublin is still a fantastic city that’s brimming with culture and a lot of heart.
However, did you know that there are actually so many things to do and see in the capital, that won’t cost you a cent (or at least just a small bus or Dart fare)? Here’s a breakdown of some of the most popular attractions and things that you can check out next time you decide to visit Dublin.
First off, there are four National Museums based in the city and they’re all free!
National History Museum aka The Dead Zoo
Located on Merrion Street, the Dead Zoo holds 10,000 exhibits. It opened in 1857 and displays creatures of all shapes and sizes, with animals native to Ireland and abroad. Catering for both adults and children alike, there’s a Discovery Zone for the young ones, with hands-on areas too. Visit here for opening hours and if you want to get a feel for the place, take a look at the museum’s 360-degree images.
National Museum of Ireland: Decorative Arts & History
It’s a bit out of the way on Benburb Street (you can take the Luas (tram) to “Museum”!) but this museum holds more of the unusual and eclectic mix of exhibits, from decorative arts to historical pieces. Photography isn’t allowed but the exhibits are well presented. It’s definitely geared towards adults than children, as it mightn’t keep their attention span. Directions can be found here.
National Museum of Ireland: Archaeology
An absolute must-see for visitors to Ireland who have even just the slightest interest in history. You will see fascinating bog bodies which are eerily preserved, as well many other Viking artefacts and archaeological objects like the Tara Brooch. Upon entering you’ll immediately be surrounded by gold! More information can be found here.
Experience something different at the Irish Jewish Museum
On Walworth Road in Dublin 8, there’s a museum that’s rather curious! The Irish Jewish Museum contains a substantial collection of memorabilia relating to the Jewish communities in Ireland. The material relates to the last 150 years and is associated with the communities of Belfast, Cork, Derry, Drogheda, Dublin, Limerick and Waterford. You can find out more here. It’s free to visit however donations are gratefully accepted.
Go contemporary at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA)
Located on the grounds of Royal Hospital Kilmainham, IMMA definitely caters to those who love modern and contemporary art. It’s definitely worth checking out what exhibitions are there in advance though as some may be being redone. Afterwards, you can take a stroll through the IMMA grounds.
Explore art at the National Gallery of Ireland
Perfect for art lovers, the gallery holds more than 15,000 works. You can also attend free lectures, tours and workshops. From Caravaggio, Picasso, Vermeer, Rembrandt and Monet, there’s a wide variety of sculptures and paintings on display (you can even see the famous Meeting on the Turret Stairs at certain times of the day). Visit the website here.
Be amazed at The Hugh Lane
The restored studio of painter Francis Bacon is what makes this gallery particularly fantastic. It’s hard to explain without spoiling it, but in a nutshell, it’s gorgeous disorganised chaos! The Hugh Lane’s collection of contemporary art is not to be scoffed at either.
Find your geeky streak at The Science Gallery
Fun, fresh and engaging, the Science Gallery is good craic with ever-changing exhibitions. Some of their previous instalments include FAIL BETTER, with the goal for people to have a public conversation about failure, particularly the instructive role of failure, and RISK LAB which focused on the psychology and mathematics underpinning the risks that surround us, and our ability to assess and understand those risks. Sound intriguing? Have a look at the website for information on their upcoming exhibits.
Be inspired by the Gallery of Photography
Situated in the heart of the city in Meeting House Square, this certainly isn’t as large as any of the national galleries but it’s still worth heading to. As the name suggests, the gallery focuses in on photography with ever-changing exhibits. Take a look here.
Take a break in the National Library of Ireland
Next door to the National Museum of Ireland is the National Library. Their exhibition area is small but can be quite intriguing. Have a look into their reading room. It’s breathtaking and very old-worldly with wooden tables and green lamps! Here’s a link to upcoming exhibits.
Visit the Chester Beatty Library
Bibliophile Alfred Chester Beatty’s collection is quite astonishing. An extensive exhibition of ancient scrolls, books and artefacts can be seen across two floors of the library in Dublin Castle.
Pay your respects at Glasnevin Cemetery
While the museum is fee-paid, the actual cemetery isn’t. It’s a fabulous place to stroll around, that’s full of historical significance with many Irish revolutionaries being buried there (You can read more about it here).
PARKS AND GARDENS
Stroll around the National Botanic Gardens
An oasis in a busy city, the National Botanic Gardens is a premier scientific institution with the National Herbarium and several historic wrought iron glasshouses located within. I love heading here for a walk. It’s particularly lovely in the summertime when there’s growth to be seen in the Walled Garden too (but remember, no picnicking!)
Sit and chill in St. Stephens Green
A favourite for the lunchtime workers in the surrounding area, relaxing in St. Stephen’s Green on a sunny day with a spot of lunch is perfect if you love people watching.
Relax in Dubh Linn Gardens
Definitely one of the lesser known gardens, Dubh Linn is a rather polished piece of landscaping with a much-styled look. It’s a nice spot if you’re looking to just simply reflect or tuck into a book. It’s immaculately clean and you can head along to the Chester Beatty Library right next to it for free too!
Reflect in the Garden of Remembrance
An Gairdín Cuimhneacháin in Irish, the garden is a memorial garden in Dublin that’s dedicated to the memory of “all those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish freedom”. Despite being so close to the city’s centre (located at Parnell Square E) it’s actually a great place to take a breath and pause. You can head to the nearby Hugh Lane gallery which is less than five minutes from it.
Irish National War Memorial Gardens
These gardens are one of the most famous memorial gardens in Europe and are dedicated to the memory of 49,400 Irish soldiers who died in the 1914 – 1918 war. The names of all the soldiers are contained in the beautifully illustrated Harry Clarke manuscripts in the granite bookrooms in the gardens. Directions can be found here.
Go deer-spotting and exploring in Phoenix Park
You could spend hours and hours walking around Phoenix Park just trying to spot wild deer but wandering through it you could also come across stately houses like Áras an Uachtaráin (more on that below), Ashtown Castle and the Papal Cross! Directions to the famous park can be found here.
Visit the President’s Home at Áras an Uachtaráin
Get a sneak peek of how the President of Ireland lives at Áras an Uachtaráin in Phoenix Park. The guided tours of main reception rooms are available almost every Saturday, all year round. Each tour takes about an hour and tours and are on a first-come-first-served basis from the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre. More info here!
See Oscar Wilde at Merrion Square
Walk in the footsteps of playwright Oscar Wilde and see the statue of the writer himself. On Sundays, you’ll spot the Merrion Square Open-Air Art Gallery where you will also art donning the railings as artist share their works for purchase.
WALKS AND CYCLES
Walk through Dublin with a guide in your ear!
Dublin Discovery Trails offer this cool app that lets you explore on your own. You need access to Android, Google play or Apple store software to avail of this free walking tour app but it’s worth it. Download the app to your phone and choose from various walks across Dublin, from the 1916 Rebellion Trail to the Story of Dublin. It’s great for solo travellers who want to see the sights at their own pace. Download the app here.
Explore Trinity College Dublin’s Cobbles
While it will cost you to go see the Book of Kells, you can still wander through the gates and walk along the cobbles. Just don’t walk on the grass!
Sandeman’s New Dublin Tours
Operating rain or shine, Sandeman’s walking tours and well worth checking out. The three-hour tour will take you to many of Dublin’s highlights. Tipping is completely optional but the guides’ enthusiasm is worth it. You can find out more here. (My partner and I did a Sandeman’s tour in Edinburgh and it was wonderful!)
Walk along Dún Laoghaire’s Pier
A Dart’s journey away is seaside town Dún Laoghaire, where I love to head to on a Sunday when the People’s Market is in full swing, but it’s also great for a stroll down the pier. There’s a super view at the end of the pier too, especially at sunset! Treat yourself to the town’s famous Teddy’s icecream while you’re at it.
The South Wall Walk
If you’re looking for something to do on a sunny day or just before sunset, saunter out and walk the 1km stretch to the Poolbeg Lighthouse along the South Wall and into Dublin Bay. It’s glorious.
Howth Cliff Walk
Head to Howth for the day! You’ll have to get the Dart or the bus out but on a dry, sunny day, it’s the perfect outing. Walk along the harbour before climbing away from the village and then around the cliffs. It’s a looped walk too and on a bright, summery day you’ll be blessed with great views of the sea with the coconut scent of the gorse bush by your side. Find out more here.
Cycle around with Dublin Bikes
Open to everyone from the age of 14, the first 30 minutes of using Dublin Bikes is completely free. The trick here is to simply rent it out then return it within a half an hour to nab it without cost. This works individually for each bike so basically, you can cycle around for free if you just hop off and on bikes (handy as well if you don’t want to rely on buses). Find out more here.
Visit the Oireachtas (Ireland’s national parliament)
There are two ways to arrange a tour of Leinster House. You can ask a TD or Senator to sponsor your visit or you can come on a public tour. Public tours are available on days when the Dáil and Seanad are not sitting. You can book your tour in advance or enquire at the visitors’ entrance 15 minutes before the tour time. Note that you must have a photo ID, such as a passport or driving licence on you. Find out more here.
People Watch on Moore Street
“Bananas, one euro!” For those who simply just like to watch people go about their daily business, Moore Street has all the vibrancy and character you need.
Go see an Oscar
That’s right, an Academy Award! If you’ve ever been curious to see what an Oscar actually looks like, head along to the Irish Film Institute where you’ll see an Oscar and an Emmy on display in the foyer. Set Designer Josie MacAvin won the coveted Academy award for Out Of Africa, and the Emmy for her work on the mini- series Scarlett, which was a loose sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s novel Gone With The Wind.
Explore Dublin’s art and graffiti scene
A country of poets and artists, the best of Irish creations are not just confined to galleries and museums. Many of our famous pieces on the street. You’ll have to keep an eye out as many places are ever changing. Check out one suggested route here.
Listen to buskers on Grafton Street
We have a great busking culture in Dublin where musicians and performers from Ireland and abroad take to the streets and give it all they’ve got.
What a city! Are there any places that I’ve missed out on? Let us know in the comment section below.