20 Best Things to Do for Free in Dublin, Ireland

Dublin, despite its relatively small size, is one of the most vibrant cities in Europe. Throughout the city, neighborhood pubs are high-spirited as live music permeates and pints flow and history can be found in just about every park and bridge. Unfortunately, it also happens to be one of Europe's most expensive cities. While you might have to pay a pretty penny on meals and accommodation, it is possible to plan a budget-friendly itinerary by packing your schedule with many of these free or low-cost Dublin attractions.

01 of 20

Walk the Grounds of Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle in Ireland

TripSavvy / Jamie Ditaranto

Dame Street, Dublin 2, Co. Dublin, Ireland
Phone +353 1 645 8800

Tucked away into the city landscape, Dublin Castle is one of the city's top sights. An emblem of Dublin's medieval heritage, it has two towers built in the 13th century, the most prominent of which is the round Record Tower, or Wardrobe Tower. When you venture inside the castle, you can visit the State Apartments, which were the original resident quarters but are now used for government business. Notable areas inside include the Grand Staircase and the James Connolly Room, which served as an important backdrop during the historical events of the Easter Rising of 1916. The grounds are free to explore, but tickets to go inside must be reserved in advance online.

02 of 20

Peruse the Irish Museum of Modern Art

Irish Museum Of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland
John Harper / Getty Images
Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Military Road, Kilmainham, Dublin 8, Ireland
Phone +353 1 612 9900

The Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) is housed inside the building of Dublin's historic 17th-century Royal Hospital, so it offers an opportunity to see both fine artworks and fine architecture. With over 3,000 pieces by both Irish and international artists in its collection, IMMA displays works that include photographs by Marina Abramović and collages by Robert Rauschenberg. In addition to free admission, the museum offers a free guided tour three times per week.

03 of 20

Reflect on History at the Garden of Remembrance

The cross-shaped reflecting pool at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin, Ireland

William Murphy / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Parnell Square East, Rotunda, Dublin 1, D01 A0F8, Ireland
Phone +353 1 821 3021

Located in Parnell Square, the Garden of Remembrance is dedicated to the memory of "all those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish Freedom." Opened on the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising of 1916, it features a cross-shaped pond and sculpture depicting the Children of Lir, an Irish myth where children are transformed into swans, symbolizing rebirth. A solemn and calm place, the sunken garden is a good place to spend some time reflecting on Irish history.

04 of 20

Visit All the National Museums of Ireland

Irish National Museum in Dublin, Ireland.

iStock / Getty Images

Merrion Street Upper, Dublin 2, D02 F627, Ireland
Phone +353 1 677 7444

Dublin is home to the many branches of the National Museum of Ireland, with different divisions dedicated to Archaeology, Decorative Arts & History, and Natural History. There is also a Country Life Museum, but this is located just outside Turlough, 148 miles (228 kilometers) away in County Mayo.

The Archaeology Museum tells the stories of prehistoric Ireland, displaying everything from Viking treasure to the more macabre but fascinating bog people. The Decorative Arts & History Museum has permanent exhibitions exploring the different eras of Irish history, as well as cultural fields like fashion and jewelry. Earning the local nickname of the "Dead Zoo," the Natural History Museum houses animal fossils, skeletons, and taxidermy mounts from around the world.

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05 of 20

Find One of the World's Oldest Galleries

The Hugh Lane Gallery, officially Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane and originally the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, is an art gallery operated by Dublin City Council

William Murphy / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Charlemont House, Parnell Square North, Rotunda, Dublin, D01 F2X9, Ireland
Phone +353 1 222 5564

The Hugh Lane Gallery, also known as the Dublin City Gallery, is one of the world's oldest public galleries. It was founded by the art collector Hugh Lane in 1908 and it still offers free admission. Its collection features notable paintings by Renoir, Manet, and Morisot. It also has a reconstruction of Francis Bacon's Studio, which was moved there from London. Other permanent pieces to look out for are a large stained glass masterpiece by Harry Clark and the Sean Scully room.

06 of 20

Walk the Campus of Trinity College

Trinity College in Dublin, Ireleand

TripSavvy / Jamie Ditaranto 

Visiting the campus of Trinity College is like walking through Dublin's history. Founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I and modeled after Oxford and Cambridge, it is one of the seven ancient universities of Britain and Ireland and the oldest-surviving college on the island.

Trinity College is free to visit, but you will have to pay for a chance to see the famous Celtic epic "The Book of Kells," which is on display at the college's Old Library. Located on College Green across from the historic Irish Houses of Parliament, you can also take in a bit of the governmental history of Ireland all in one trip to this historic district.

07 of 20

Tour the President of Ireland's House

"Aras an UachtarA!in (meaning house of the president in Irish) in Phoenix park, Dublin, Ireland

L. Lee Rogers / Getty Images

Áras an Uachtaráin, Phoenix Park, Dublin 8, Ireland

Once you're done walking through Phoenix Park, stop by Aras an Uachtaráin, the official residence of the President of Ireland. Constructed in 1751 and most recently enlarged in 1816, this historic home was occupied by British viceroys from 1782 to 1922, and then by British governors-general until Ireland declared its independence in 1937.

Free tours depart from the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre every Saturday on a first-come, first-served basis, and you should always call ahead before planning your trip as official state business will sometimes close the tour unexpectedly. If you do manage to grab a free ticket, you'll be able to see five staterooms and the president's study along with a 10-minute video explaining the property's rich history.

08 of 20

Watch Dublin Street Performers

Dublin percussionists "Hit Machine" busking in Temple Bar

TripSavvy / Bernd Biege

While you're looking at the sculptures and graffiti walls on Dublin's streets, don't forget to stop and watch the street buskers performing. Although tips are greatly appreciated you can watch hours of entertainment free of charge just by wandering around popular tourists areas until you come across a bit of music or dance.

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09 of 20

Visit Glasnevin Cemetery

Glasnevin - not morbid, but a lot of memento mori

TripSavvy / Bernd Biege

Finglas Road, Glasnevin, Dublin, D11 XA32, Ireland
Phone +353 1 882 6500

If you've got a taste for the macabre, consider a visit to the Glasnevin Cemetery, which is just a short walk away from the National Botanical Gardens. This site became the first Catholic cemetery in Ireland when it was opened in 1832, a result of Catholic rights activist Daniel O'Connell pressuring the city to allow for Catholic burial ceremonies to be conducted in Dublin. Over 1 million Dubliners have been laid to rest in this historic burial ground, including notable historic Irish figures like Charles Stewart Parnell, Daniel O'Connell, Éamon de Valera, and Michael Collins.

Visitors can take daily tours of the museum and cemetery, experience a state-of-the-art interactive exhibit, and even find their ancestors in the genealogy area.

10 of 20

Visit the National Gallery of Ireland

National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin

TripSavvy / Jamie Ditaranto  

Merrion Square West, Dublin 2, D02 K303, Ireland
Phone +353 1 661 5133

The National Gallery of Ireland at Merrion Square has an eclectic collection, with some pieces bequeathed by George Bernhard Shaw to the gallery. Art on display includes "big names" as well as lesser-known artists, and the collection is especially strong on Irish art and artists. While entrance to the main collection of the National Gallery is free, there may be a charge for special exhibitions.

11 of 20

See Historic Books and Artworks at the Chester Beatty Library

Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland

TripSavvy / Jamie Ditaranto 

Dublin Castle, Dublin 2, D02 AD92, Ireland
Phone +353 1 407 0750

The Chester Beatty Library is worth half a day's visit on its own. The library is home to samples of artistic, religious, and secular heritage, with a collection of manuscripts and texts that dates back to 2,700 B.C. Its collection of ancient and medieval books and artworks are complimentary viewing, but you may need to pay an access fee to check out the special exhibitions.

Visiting the Chester Beaty Library is especially great for a rainy day in Dublin—of which there are many. Established in 1950 for Sir Alfred Chester Beatty to house his collection of religious texts, this library contains some of the best scholarly articles and texts on the Old and New Testament as well as Islamic and Far Eastern artifacts. 

12 of 20

Spend a Day in One of Dublin's Parks

St. Stephen's Green in Dublin, Ireland

TripSavvy / Jamie Ditaranto 

Saint Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland
Phone +353 1 475 7816

A day spent at the park is the perfect way to people-watch in Dublin. Simply take a seat on a strategic bench in any of Dublin's city center parks and watch as Dubliners go about their routines. On any given day, whole dramas of Shakespearean proportions may unfold in front of you.

St. Stephen's Green is especially known for the lively "performances" given by office workers, tourists, school children, and shoppers. Merrion Square is generally quieter though still lively while the Dubh Linn Gardens are discreetly tucked away, and the Iveagh Gardens are lovely and usually uncrowded.

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13 of 20

Explore Phoenix Park

Fallow deer (dama dama) in phoenix park

Cezary Zarebski Photography / Getty Images

Dublin 8, Ireland
Phone +353 1 820 5800

Although Dublin has many great parks within the city limits, exploring Dublin's Phoenix Park in total could take days. Here, you can see stately houses (including the residences of the Irish president and the U.S. ambassador), Ashtown Castle, wild deer, the Papal Cross, and the Magazine Fort—all within the confines of the world's largest urban park.

Getting to the park is not as difficult as it seems at first—from the Liffey River near Heuston Station, the park is just a five-minute walk. Bear in mind, the real walking starts after you pass through the main gates as there are miles to discover once you arrive.

14 of 20

Take a Trip to Howth Summit and Harbor

A lighthouse at dusk in Howth harbour in Dublin, Ireland

David Soanes Photography / Getty Images

Howth Harbour, Ireland

Howth has it all—bracing cliff walks, spectacular vistas, lots of fresh air, a busy harbor, and even wild seals. If you want to come eye-to-eye with marine mammals, Howth is the place to go. You can spend anything from an hour to a whole day here as there should be plenty going on any day of the year.

While it would be possible to walk to Howth from Dublin's center as it's just a few miles down Dublin Bay, the easier alternative is to take either the bus or hop onto the DART train as both forms of transit to terminate in Howth, and the bus even takes you up to Howth Summit.

15 of 20

Go Sculpture and Street Art Hunting

Marching mouse (one of three) at the Point, next to the 3 Arena

TripSavvy / Bernd Biege

Dublin is jam-packed with sculptures and street art occupying public spaces—including works by Henry Moore—but one has to know where to look. A good place to start is the towering Spire of O'Connell Street and in the neighborhood surrounding Temple Bar.

Alternatively, take a walking tour to explore Dublin's often amazing—though, at times, quickly-vanishing—street art, massive murals, or colorful small additions to the city's walls. Graffiti artists from around the world leave their marks all over Dublin, but city officials are quick to cover up these spray-painted murals, so you never know what you'll see or for how long it'll be there after you leave.

16 of 20

Relax in South Dublin Bay

Dun Laoghaire Harbour's East Pier Lighthouse in Dublin, Ireland

David Soanes Photography / Getty Images

Dublin Bay, Co. Dublin, Ireland

Take a southbound DART from the city center and ride the rails to Dun Laoghaire where you can walk through the harbor and along the promenade to Sandycove, finally arriving at the James Joyce Tower and Museum, which is also free to visit. Another great attraction out in South Dublin Bay is the nudist beach at the "Forty Foot," a popular destination for naturalists from around the world.

Alternatively, you can stay on the DART a bit longer and arrive in Bray, the once fashionable suburb of Dublin known for its Victorian-era promenade located in County Wicklow. From here, you can easily take a cliff walk to Greystones. Both Bray and Greystones are connected by DART so you can return to Dublin without having to retrace your steps. 

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17 of 20

Explore the City on a Walking Tour

Ships sailing along the Liffey

TripSavvy / Kathleen Messmer

Even if Dublin's urban traffic is constantly vacillating between two extremes—either near-standstill or manic speed—the city has a lot to offer for those willing to walk. As long as you avoid crossing the busiest streets without heeding traffic, walking is also a safe and popular mode of transportation in Dublin. However, rush hours on the sidewalks can be difficult to manage for even the most experienced tourist.

Several popular routes are signposted highlighting different aspects of the city. Information on these is available at the Tourist Information Centres, sometimes with free maps. A walk through the main attractions of Dublin should take you about half a day to complete, while a walk along the banks of the Royal Canal past Croke Park, Mountjoy Prison, over the M50, and into Blanchardstown will take you most of a day to complete. Alternatively, you could stroll casually along the River Liffey through the city.

18 of 20

Wander Through Nature on North Bull Island

A sandy pathway through the Marram Grass Ammophila arenaria on a cloudy day on the beach at Bull Island, Dublin. This course grey-green prickly grass is the dominant vegetation on the sand dunes.

Hanging Bear Media / Getty Images

Bull Island, Co. Dublin, Ireland

North Bull Island is a popular destination for nature-lovers visiting Dublin and just a short bus ride away from the city center. At this UNESCO reserve, you can walk down the sandy Dollymount Strand beach that runs the entire length of the 3-mile island or bird-watching in the National Bird Sanctuary that over 180 different species of flying creatures call home. Other attractions include kite-surfing, swimming, golfing at the Royal Dublin Golf Club or the St. Anne's Golf Club, and exploring 19th-century architecture like the Bull Bridge.

19 of 20

Take in the View From the South Wall Lighthouse

The Great South Wall and Poolbeg Lighthouse, Ringsend, Dublin, Ireland

David Soanes Photography / Getty Images

South Wall, Poolbeg, Dublin, Ireland

Still in operation hundreds of years after its construction in 1768, the South Wall Poolbeg Lighthouse was reputedly the first one in the world to operate its beacon by candlelight. Located at the far end of the 2-mile-long South Bull Wall, which was the longest seawall in the world when construction finished in 1795, walking to the Poolbeg Lighthouse is a great way to catch some fresh air relatively close to the city.

To get there from Dublin's city center, you can take the bus toward Sandymount and get off at Seafort Avenue or take a cab to the parking lot for the sea wall itself. From the Seafort Avenue bus stop it's about 3.5 miles (an hour's walk) to the lighthouse.

20 of 20

Smell the Flowers at the National Botanic Gardens

Orchid close up at National Botanic Garden

Miguel Mendez / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 

Glasnevin, Dublin 9, D09 VY63, Ireland
Phone +353 1 804 0300

Located just under 2 miles from the city center, the National Botanic Gardens is another popular free day trip for nature lovers who visit Dublin. Originally established in 1795, Richard Turner added curvilinear glasshouses to the property between 1843 to 1869 which still house the latest in botanical technology including computer-controlled climate rooms that create natural environments that can sustain exotic plants from around the world.

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20 Best Things to Do for Free in Dublin, Ireland