By Amanda Little
Explore Dublin, the bustling capital of Ireland, without breaking the bank. Any big city will have plenty of attractions, but picking out the ones that are easy on the wallet is the hard part. So here's a list of free attractions for the next time you're in Dublin!
Culture and history available to all.
Known as the “Dead Zoo,” the National Museum for Natural History houses many taxidermy creatures, as well as an exhibit dedicated to the mummified people found in peat bogs throughout the country. Visitors can also find a collection of fine Celtic metalwork, such as the Tara Brooch and the Ardagh Chalice. Bear in mind, all government-run museums are free, so don’t limit yourself to just the Natural History Museum.
A moment of quiet in a bustling city.
Wander the quiet halls of the Chester Beatty Library, which holds artifacts and antiques that have been donated to the city of Dublin. Boasting original illustrated copies of holy books like the Bible and Qur’an, the library also has an exhibit on the culture and development of the written word over time. Don’t stop there though! Make your way to the roof where a peaceful meditation garden overlooks the city.
Art and science collide!
Step just within the gates of Trinity College to find the Science Gallery where science and art collide. Exhibits are designed to be engaging and push visitors to ask questions, discuss the displays, and pick apart the theories of how science and everyday life meet in many aspects.
Go for a stroll among the Irish green.
Take a break from the bustling city to find peace among the thriving flora of St. Stephens Green. Enjoy a stroll through all that is green and growing at the head of Grafton Street, and maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of the family of swans that frequent the pond. If you’re looking for something a little quieter, you should head to the other park very close by, which is free thing number five!
Say hello to Oscar Wilde.
Pay a visit to Dublin's favorite son, Oscar Wilde, in the elegant Merrion Square. The Irish author can be seen reclining on a rock directly across from his former home at 1 Merrion Square. A stone's throw from Merrion is Iveagh (iv-ee-ah) Gardens, a hidden gem beloved by Dubliners. All city parks close at dusk though, so mind the bells that signal the closing of the iron gates.
Tour the college that houses the Book of Kells.
Enter the intellectual sanctuary of Trinity College, Ireland's oldest university. With some free student-lead tours, art galleries, and cricket matches, this is a place everyone wants to see while in Dublin. You could also wander the grounds yourself, but if you want to see the Book of Kells for free, you have to ask a student to take you.
Visit the home of the Irish President!
In Ireland, even the president’s house is open for exploration, and for free no less. Tucked away in Phoenix Park, Aras an Uachtarain (House of the President) resembles the White House in Washington, D.C. Tickets are handed out on a first-come, first-served basis, so make this stop one of your first.
Take a day to devote to quiet contemplation.
Find your way through galleries all across the city. You can stop in at Hugh Lane Gallery, which happens to be next to the Garden of Remembrance and makes for a nice change of pace. The Royal Hibernian Academy Gallery also hosts an annual exhibit during the summer and displays works of art by both amateur and professional artists. You can also enjoy the permanent collection in the National Gallery of Ireland, which hosts tours multiple times a day.
Get a taste of local Dublin life!
Make a stop at Meeting House Square, located in Dublin's Cultural Quarter. On Saturdays, the square hosts a lovely open air-market selling produce, cheese, and baked goods. On a dreary day, nothing beats the stall selling hot cider with a shot of Irish whiskey. The square also hosts free festivals, performances, film screenings, and more!
Window shop with free entertainment.
While Grafton Street is a popular shopping mecca, there are plenty of free activities to be had at this bustling thoroughfare. Wander along the pedestrian street and pick out street artists to enjoy. Find full-sized pianos, a fire-breathing magician, Irish violins, and more.
Explore some of the wilderness of Ireland.
North Bull Island is one of Ireland’s most important natural conservation areas, as well as a UNESCO reserve. While getting there requires a short bus ride from the city center, admission is free and the experience is well worth it. Enjoy a walk along the beautiful Dollymount Strand and see if you can spot some of the 180 bird species that populate the island.
Hike through a beautiful park in the middle of a city!
Set aside plenty of time to explore Europe’s largest inner-city park, Phoenix Park! There are also no admission fees to see animals in Dublin Zoo, but the really neat sight is the wild red deer roaming the park. However, you’ll need to dedicate time to looking for them in the woodlands.
Experience Irish royalty.
Dublin Castle is an extraordinary sight with beautiful architecture and lush grounds, but with an entrance fee. Instead, skip the castle and head around the back to the Dubh Linn Gardens. Stroll along on gravel pathways, among sculptures, and past wooden benches. If you follow the path, you’ll walk a large Celtic design through the garden and away from the buzz of the city.
Pack your camera and go people watching.
Sit along the Grand Canal and enjoy Dublin life as it moves around you. Observe restaurants spilling over with people, the ebb and flow of crowds attending the Grand Canal Quay theaters, and others such as yourself, finding a moment of quiet in the din. Enjoy the leafy paths along the canal where everything has a nostalgic feel as you walk along.
Take a walk away from the beaten path.
Step into a resting place that is over 200 years old and pick out the graves of some of Ireland’s most prominent national figures. Take your time and admire the markers not only of the people laid to rest, but of the time and history that patch of land has seen.