Ready to enjoy the craic in Dublin but looking to stick to your budget? If so, we’ve got some great suggestions for saving money during your stay in the Irish capital. Here Hostelworld.com’s Rebecca Keenan takes a look at fifteen things to do for free in Dublin, including street entertainment, beautiful parks, free museums and more.
1. Stroll through St. Stephen’s Green
You’ll find St. Stephen’s Green right at the top of Grafton Street, one of the top shopping stretches in the city. This large Victorian park is free to enter and covers and impressive area of around 9 hectares. On sunny days large numbers of Dubliners flock to the park to relax on the grass, chill out on the benches and feed the ducks who frequent the ornamental pond. A great place for a leisurely stroll, the walkways and gardens provide visitors with an oasis of calm right at the heart of the bustling city.
Location: Grafton Street, Dublin City Centre.
Opening hours: Mon-Sat from 7.30am, Sun from 9.30am; closing times vary according to daylight hours.
2. Visit during one of Dublin’s many festivals
Over the years Dublin’s festival calendar has grown immensely, with a different event on every month in the capital city. If you’re planning a visit at the start of the year you can sample some Irish music and culture with the Temple Bar TradFest in January. Or if you’re a film buff then plan your visit around the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival in February. You could also visit Dublin during its busiest period in March for the St. Patrick’s Festival which now runs for a number of days.
In April you’ll find a Literary Festival and the Dublin Bay Prawn Festival; May you’ll find a Dance Festival as well as a Writers Festival. June sees the world renowned Bloomsday Festival in the city as well as the Dublin LGBTQ Pride Festival. There’s the World Street Performance Championship in July, a Ukulely Hooley in August and Culture Night in September. And as winter sets in you can dine indoors on a budget as Dine in Dublin Restaurant Week takes place in October. Get reading in November with the Dublin Book Festival and the say goodbye to the year with the ultimate street party for December 31st with the NYE Dublin Festival.
Location: All over the city.
3. Check out the old school and modern art displayed in Dublin’s national galleries
The two top national galleries in Dublin, namely the National Gallery of Ireland and the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), are both free to visit. At the National Gallery of Ireland the collection includes a wide variety of pieces from the 14th to the 20th centuries including artworks by famous Irish and international artists. Some of the artists whose work is on show here include Jack B. Yeats, Caravaggio, Monet and many more. Over at the IMMA, the 4,500 piece collection is focused on modern art and includes paintings, photography and sculpture.
Location: National Gallery of Ireland – Merrion Square West & Clare Street; Irish Museum of Modern Art – Royal Hospital, Military Road, Kilmainham.
Opening hours: National Gallery of Ireland – Mon-Wed & Fri-Sat 9.30am-5.30pm, Thurs 9.30am-8.30pm, Sun 12noon-5.30pm; Irish Museum of Modern Art – Tues-Sat 10am-5.30pm, Sun 12noon-5.30pm, closed Mondays.
4. Listen to the buskers entertaining passers-by throughout Dublin
Dublin is a famous city in the music world having produced greats like U2, Thin Lizzy and the Frames along with a wealth of singer/songwriters and many, many others. If you want to witness some of Dublin’s musical talent without paying a cent, check out the buskers who set up shop at a number of locations around the city from in and around Temple Bar, to Grafton Street and beyond. From a lone guy with a guitar to elaborate orchestral set-ups, you’ll find it all here. Who knows, you might even hear the next big thing first!
5. Visit Dublin’s free National Museums
Ireland’s rich history and culture are chronicled at a number of national museums located around Dublin. There’s the ‘National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology’ where you’ll be able to see artefacts dating back to prehistoric Ireland including stunning gold pieces and plenty more. The Decorative Arts & History branch is really easy to get to as it is right beside the Museum stop on the Red Line of the LUAS. It’s definitely worth a visit as the collection includes clothing, furniture and coins, alongside a number of displays covering The Easter Rising. Recently reopened after extensive renovations, the Natural History museum features an extensive collection of animals from both Ireland and abroad including mammals, birds and plenty more.
Location: Archaeology – Kildare Street; Decorative Arts & History – Collins Barracks, Benburb Street; Natural History – Merrion Street.
Opening hours: All branches share same opening hours – Tues-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 2pm-5pm, closed Mondays.
6. Check out Trinity College
While you do have to pay to visit the famous Book of Kells in Trinity College’s Old Library, it won’t cost you a cent to wander around the college itself and check out the cobbled quadrangles, old buildings and lively atmosphere.
Location: College Green.
7. Pay a visit to the Science Gallery
Dublin’s Science Gallery hosts a plethora of exhibitions which change on a regular basis. Along with these exhibits, this gallery also hosts a number of talks, workshops and other events.
Location: The Naughton Institute, Pearse Street.
Opening hours: Tues-Fri 12noon-8pm & Sat-Sun 12noon-6pm, closed Mondays.
8. Wander through the Chester Beatty Library
Located in the gardens of Dublin Castle, the Chester Beatty Library is completely free to visit. Not only is it one of Ireland’s top museum but it also boasts one of the best collections in Europe. As you stroll through the Chester Beatty you’ll come across artefacts from a large selection of cultures around the world. Some of the items on display include Egyptian papyrus, medieval manuscripts, copies of the Qur’an and much, much more.
Location: Palace Street, off Dame Street.
Opening hours: May-Sept Mon-Fri 10am-5pm, Sat 11am-5pm, Sun 1pm-5pm; Oct-Apr Tues-Fri 10am-5pm, Sat 11am-5pm, Sun 1pm-5pm.
9. Spend some time in Phoenix Park
If you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of Dublin City Centre what better place to visit than Phoenix Park, which is one of the largest city centre parks in the world. Covering almost 710 hectares, this park is home to large green areas, impressive monuments, numerous colourful flower beds and benches aplenty making it a great spot for a stroll or a relaxing sit. The park is also home to one of the city’s top attractions, namely Dublin Zoo which you do have to pay to visit. Checking out the park itself is completely free of charge.
Location: Main entrances at Parkgate Street & Castleknock Gate.
Opening hours: Main gates are open 24 hours.
10. Get a taste of Georgian Dublin at Merrion Square
Merrion Square is the largest Georgian Square in Dublin. Lining this square you’ll find some great examples of Georgian architecture in the form of redbrick townhouses. Take a stroll around the pretty park area at the centre of the square and you’ll come across a number of statues including one of a reclining Oscar Wilde who was a resident on Merrion Square back in the late 1800s.
11. Check out Dublin Castle
While it does cost money to visit the interior of Dublin Castle, you can check out the building’s impressive exterior completely free of charge. The Castle, which began its life back in the 13th century, acted as the seat of the English administration in Ireland for around 700 years. Today it is used for State functions and it’s also where the President of Ireland is usually inaugurated.
Location: Palace Street, off Dame Street.
12. Go for a wander along O’Connell Street
O’Connell Street is the main street in Dublin and is the city’s main thoroughfare. It’s one of the widest streets in Europe and no visit to the Irish capital is complete without a stroll along this tree-lined street. Along the way you’ll see the towering Spire plus numerous statues dedicated to important figures in Irish history, but perhaps the most important site on the street is the GPO. Dublin’s main post office, the GPO was the headquarters of the Irish provisional government during the 1916 Easter Rising. If you look closely, you’ll still be able to see the bullet holes which remain in the building, a reminder of Ireland’s fight for freedom.
13. Take a free walking tour
Sandeman’s New Dublin Walking Tours offer free walking tours around Dublin taking in some of the city’s main sights. Lasting around three hours, visitors get a good look at a large number of Dublin’s top sights on this free tour including Dublin Castle, Christchurch Cathedral, Temple Bar and plenty more.
Location: Tours meet beside City Hall on Dame Street.
Opening hours: Tours depart daily at 11am & 1pm..
14. Listen to some free live music in Whelan’s
Whelan’s is one of the top live music venues in Dublin and is also one of the city’s most popular pubs, attracting huge numbers of drinkers and music fans each and every week. For those visiting Dublin on a budget, never fear as Whelan’s offer a regular selection of free live music events alongside their ticketed offerings. Look out for the Midnight Hour for free entry before 10.30pm and some of the best in up and coming local talent. A number of acoustic sessions, DJ sets and more can also be enjoyed free of charge.
Location: 25 Wexford Street.
15. Scope out Bono’s digs on a walk from Dalkey to Killiney
If you want to go celeb spotting while in Dublin you might want to talk a walk from Killiney to Dalkey, two of south Dublin’s top suburbs. In Killiney you’ll be able to see the house belonging to Bono of U2 fame. Once you’ve had a look, make sure to hang around Killiney for a while and check out the beautiful beach, while in nearby Dalkey you’ll be able to visit Dalkey Castle, eat at a number of funky restaurants and plenty more.
Location: Both Killiney and Dalkey can be reached on the southside DART line.