01 of 09
Walk Your Way Through Dublin
Dublin, despite its relatively small size, is one of the most vibrant cities of Europe. It also tends to be one of the more expensive cities. Low air fares are just the start of any journey, and travelers tend to be surprised by the prices in Ireland's capital city. With even budget accommodation exceeding some budgets, traveling on a shoestring seems to be a thing of the past. But there are still things to be had for free or at least for the moderate cost of a day ticket on Dublin Bus or the DART. So, find out about the best places to visit and things to do if you are are spending time in Dublin on a budget.
Even if Dublin's urban traffic is constantly vacillating between two extremes, either near-standstill or manic speed, the city still 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 safe and, especially surprising for US visitors, normal in Dublin. Rush hour traffic on the pavements can... be hell!
For the visitor, several routes are signposted, highlighting different aspects of the city. Information on these is available at the Tourist Information, sometimes with free maps. Alternatively, you might want to try a self-guided tour through the city, that'll show you some great bits of Dublin without costing you anything (though, in the long run, these walks may be sole-destroying):Continue to 2 of 9 below.
02 of 09
Hop on a Dublin Doubledecker
Dublin Bus offers some great routes for tourists - and they include a free tour of Dublin. I am not referring to the regular tours of Dublin here, but the normal public transport routes Dubliners take to work and play. Just grab a great value bargain with a Leap Card (which will also give you access to the rail services of DART and LUAS), a bus map, and then hop on any of the routes going through the city centre. See Dublin from the top of a doubledecker, warts and all. You will be sure to see the city like it really is, in all its sprawling splendor.Continue to 3 of 9 below.
03 of 09
Explore the Museums, Libraries, and Galleries
Located centrally (well, relatively, at least) in Dublin, no less than three National Museums are open free to visitors. And hold some priceless collections to boot. You can visit
- the National Museum in Kildare Street for Prehistoric, Celtic, Viking and Medieval History or
- the National Museum in Collins Barracks for arts, crafts, numismatics and the military history of Ireland.
- And don’t forget the unique Natural History Museum, the "Dead Zoo".
Find out more about all the National Museums of Ireland in this overview (which also includes the Mayo location not relevant here).
But you might want to hurry if you want all this for free. Plans are constantly discussed to make the National Museums take entry fees (due to budget problems). So this free attraction might cost you at a future date.
Also free of charge is the stunning Chester Beatty Library - which is worth half a day's visit on its own. Its collection of ancient and medieval books and artworks is simply gorgeous. There may... be a charge for special exhibitions, though.
The National Gallery of Ireland at Merrion Square has an eclectic collection, some items being bequeathed by George Bernhard Shaw upon the gallery. Art on display includes "big names" as well as lesser-known artists. The collection is especially strong on Irish art and artists. And you may come eye-to-eye with Ireland's great and famous in the portrait gallery. Please take note that while entrance to the main collection of the National Gallery is free, there may be a charge for special exhibitions.Continue to 4 of 9 below.
04 of 09
Visit Some Lesser-Known Churches
While St. Patrick's Cathedral and Christ Church Cathedral do charge an entry fee (outside mass hours), numerous splendid churches are free to visit in Dublin. Including:
Continue to 5 of 9 below.
- St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral, Marlborough Street - hear the Palestrina Choir at mass on Sundays;
- St. Ann's, Dawson Street - loaves of bread are still distributed to the poor;
- Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Whitefriars Street - Carmelite church housing the relics of Saint Valentine, the old romantic;
- University Church, St. Stephen's Green - a Byzantine gem hidden away;
- Our Lady of Lourdes, Sean MacDermott Street - holds the remains of the Blessed Matt Talbot, Dublin's saint-in-waiting.
05 of 09
Observe Dublin Life in Dublin's City Parks
This is for all of those who can take pleasure in simply observing their fellow humans; place yourself on a strategic bench in any of Dublin's city centre parks and just wait. On any given day whole dramas of Shakespearean proportions will unfold in front of you.
Especially St. Stephen's Green is 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 nearly unknown.Continue to 6 of 9 below.
06 of 09
Go Sculpture- and Street-Art-Hunting in Dublin
Dublin is jam-packed with sculpture in public places, including works by Henry Moore - but one has to know where to look. From the towering Spire in O'Connell Street to the cinema usher near the "Screen."
Or explore Dublin's often amazing (though also quickly vanishing, at times) street art, massive murals, or colorful small additions.Continue to 7 of 9 below.
07 of 09
Take a Stroll Through Phoenix Park
Exploring Dublin's Phoenix Park in total could take days, but a few hours walking are enough for most visitors. You can see stately houses (including the residences of the Irish president as well as the US ambassador), Ashtown Castle, wild deer, the Papal Cross, the Magazine Fort ... all those are within the confines of the world's largest urban park.
Getting to the park is not as much of a problem as it seems at first—from the Liffey near Heuston Station it is a walk of just five minutes or so. Mind you, the real walking starts after you pass through the (always open) main gates.Continue to 8 of 9 below.
08 of 09
Howth really has it all - bracing cliff walks, spectacular vistas, lots of fresh air, a busy harbor, and ... 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. There should be enough going on to keep you amused.
While it would be possible to walk to Howth from Dublin's centre (a few kilometres along Dublin Bay, bracing even on good days), the easier alternative is to take either the bus or hop onto the DART. Both terminate in Howth, the bus even taking you up to Howth Summit.Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09
Enjoy South Dublin Bay
Take a southbound DART from the city centre and ride the rails to Dun Laoghaire. Walk through the harbor and along the promenade to Sandycove, finally arriving at the James Joyce Tower and museum (also free to visit). But not before glimpsing naked elderly men braving the cold of the sea at the "Forty Foot".
Or take the longer ride out to Bray, the once fashionable suburb with its Victorian promenade. A cliff walk to Greystones is easily started here. Okay, technically we are in County Wicklow now, but that should not stop you. Bray and Greystones are now connected by DART, so you only have to walk the way once ... though going there and back again is certainly worth the while (and effort) because of the different vistas you are facing.