Dublin, the capital of Ireland, has come a long way in recent years. Thanks to its status as a hub for budget airline Ryanair along with the reinvigoration of the Irish economy, Dublin has come into its own as a tourist destination, and is now recognized as one of Europe's most beautiful and fascinating cities.
Of course, all that success comes at a price. Dublin is many things, but cheap is not one of them. And once you've visited a couple of the city's top attractions, like EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum and the Guinness Storehouse, you may be feeling an unpleasant lightness in your wallet.
However, if you look around, you'll find plenty of free things to do in Dublin. In fact, some of the city's top cultural attractions are free, or close to it. And saving money on some of Dublin's best free things to do means you'll have have more left over for other attractions. Check out some of these things to do in Dublin that are completely free, and save some money on your Irish adventure.
And don't forget to make your trip easier on yourself by dropping off your bags at a Bounce luggage storage in Dublin. Bounce provides affordable and convenient luggage storage in Dublin and around the world, so you'll never be short of a place to leave your bags.
National Gallery of Ireland
Perhaps it's a consequence of being a colony of a larger power for centuries, but Ireland is a country that really treasures its artistic and cultural heritage. Nowhere is that more apparent than at the National Gallery of Ireland, located in Dublin. Founded in 1854, this Gallery is the home of the nation's extensive art collection. And while there's an understandable focus on the work of Irish artists, you'll also find work by internationally famous painters and sculptors here.
Paintings by Rembrandt, Titian, Rubens, and Velasquez share space with the biggest names in Irish art history in art galleries that rival any in Europe. But what sets this Gallery of Irish and European art apart from its peers is that it is completely free to visit. You could easily spend an afternoon, a whole day, or even more exploring this incredible collection, and so it's truly remarkable that it doesn't cost anything to visit. No question, the lack of an entrance fee to see the work of worldwide and Irish artists makes this one of the best free things to do in Dublin.
National Museum of Ireland
Ireland's history is rich and complex, and the past still informs Irish culture and society to this day. To get an overview of Irish history from prehistoric times right up to the present day, there's nowhere better to visit than the National Museum of Ireland. Along with the impressive National Gallery, the sprawling museum is undoubtedly one of the best free things to do in Dublin.
Along with the exhibits on Irish history at the National Museum, you'll find displays of archaeology and natural history. In fact, the Natural History Museum, though part of the National Museum, is often considered a separate institution and is known as the 'dead zoo' by locals. This display of modern and prehistoric animals is a great place to visit with the family and one of the best things to do in Dublin with kids. And the fact that it's completely free only makes it more enticing.
Dublin City Gallery
If you prefer your art with a more modern slant, the Dublin City Gallery, also known as The Hugh Lane Gallery, is a great place to visit. Located in Charlemont House, this gallery focuses exclusively on contemporary art and mostly displays Irish artists. There's no entry fee to admire this impressive collection, though donations are happily accepted to keep the gallery running for other visitors to enjoy at no cost.
Let yourself explore this collection, and you'll be experiencing another of the best free things to do in Dublin. You may well come away with some new favorite artists. If nothing else, it's a great way to spend a few hours on a rainy Dublin day.
St. Stephen's Green
Located on Grafton Street, St. Stephen's Green Park is one of Dublin's most beloved parks. If you need a break from the hustle and bustle of the capital city, head here to enjoy the tranquil setting and hopefully some good weather. If you really want to save some money, you could even bring a picnic here and avoid spending in a local restaurant.
The area around the park is also well worth exploring. Grafton Street is one of Dublin's liveliest, and is a great place to encounter buskers and other street artists entertaining the tourists. At nearby Merrion Square, you can pay your tributes to one of Ireland's most famous sons, Oscar Wilde. Just wandering around this area and soaking up the atmosphere is a great way to spend a few hours, and it needn't cost you a penny. And if you'd like to know other ways to stretch your legs, check out some of the best hikes in Dublin.
Don't let the name fool you. While Dublin is renowned for its bars and pubs, Temple Bar isn't a bar, but an area of the city. Just to add to the confusion, this is one of the best areas to enjoy Dublin nightlife. You'll find some of the city's best pubs and restaurants in Temple Bar, and these are great places to hear traditional Irish music over a pint or meal. However, that all costs money.
Still, there's enough going on in Temple Bar that just hanging out in the area and enjoying the street art and free attractions can make for a very pleasant day. Check out the Temple Bar Food Market located in Meeting House Square to see where Dublin's top chefs buy their produce. There are always free samples on offer, so you can enjoy Irish cuisine without spending anything. And if you're an avid reader, don't miss the Temple Bar Book Market held on Saturdays and Sundays.
Phoenix Park is the largest inner-city park in Europe, and another of the best free things to do in Dublin. The park is home to a herd of wild deer, and has tons of walking trails where you can stretch your legs and enjoy the fresh air. Plus, in the summer, you may get lucky enough to find a free concert or show taking place in this sprawling urban oasis.
The President of Island has a residence in Phoenix Park, and if you visit on Saturday, you can get a free tour of the president's house, known in Irish as Áras an Uachtaráin. It's not hard to imagine spending an entire day in and around the park enjoying all there is to do, making this one of the best free attractions the city has to offer.
Dublin Castle Gardens
Dublin Castle dates back to the 13th century and occupies an area of Viking settlement in the city. The imposing castle is a great place to take photos, but unfortunately, it's not free to visit. However, its Gardens, known as the Dubh Linn Gardens, are. Take a stroll through the beautifully manicured grounds, and you'll be treated to some of the best views of the castle without paying the entry fee. It's a wonderful place to take photos or just enjoy the sense of history you get from being so close to the historic center of Irish power.
Chester Beatty Library
Within the grounds of Dublin Castle, you'll find the Chester Beatty Library. This hidden gem flies under the radar of a lot of tourists, but it's not only one of the best free things to do in Dublin. It's also one of the best museums in all of Europe, and the only Irish Museum to have won the European Museum of the Year award. Named after an American engineer with a love of art and history, the library is packed full of rare books and manuscripts, along with other fascinating objects collected by this book-loving philanthropist. The library even hosts yoga classes in the morning, which are also free provided you book ahead.
Ireland's most famous educational Institute was founded by Elizabeth I, and in the centuries since has produced some of the nation's greatest thinkers and artists. The University is home to one of Dublin's top attractions, the incredible illuminated medieval manuscript known as the Book of Kells. But although you'll have to pay an entry fee to see the Book, wandering around the beautiful grounds of Trinity College is totally free, and the atmosphere among the ancient buildings is second to none. If you do your research before visiting, you may be lucky enough to get a free tour led by current students of the University that will tell you more about the history and prestige of Trinity College. You may even get to watch a cricket match on the University grounds.
Irish Museum of Modern Art
Dublin has so many free museums and art galleries that it can be difficult to choose which to visit when you have limited time. But if you're a fan of modern art, the Irish Museum of Modern Art is an easy choice to make. Known as IMMA for short, this museum, located in a 17th century hospital, is dedicated to the curation and display of the cutting edge of modern art. Easily reached from Heuston railway station, this museum is the best place in the city to learn more about some of the most exciting artists working today. And, like the National Gallery and the National Museum of Ireland, it's completely free.
North Bull Island
Dublin is Ireland's biggest and busiest city, and that's part of its charm. But if you want to get away from it all and clear your head with some fresh air, you won't have to go far. Dublin is surrounded by the Wicklow Mountains and their many hiking trails, and rugged coastal scenery is never far away.
A short bus ride from Central Dublin will bring you to North Bull Island, which is recognized as a UNESCO natural reserve. The sea air will do you a power of good as you set out on a three-mile hike along Dollymount Beach. And if you're feeling brave, take a dip in the frigid waters of the Irish Sea. You'll feel a very long way from the city, and all it will cost you to get here is the bus fare.
National Botanic Gardens
If you prefer your encounters with nature to be a little more manicured, explore the exquisitely tended plants of the National Botanic Gardens. Home to more than 15,000 species of plants, the gardens are a great place to bring kids, and they also double as a research center for botanists. There are many educational programs on offer that will teach both you and the kids something new about gardening, and just wandering the tranquil paths and enjoying the well-cared-for plants is the perfect way to restore yourself after some time in the busy city. And, of course, admission is completely free.
As the capital and largest city in the country, Dublin is unquestionably the most expensive place to spend time in all of Ireland. However, thanks to some extremely civic-minded organizations, you can see some of the best sites in Dublin without spending a penny. Many of Dublin's top museums are totally free, and a walk around Temple Bar or North Bull Island offers an unforgettable way to spend your Irish vacation that won't cost you anything.
To really get the best out of this unique city, don't forget to drop off your bags at a Bounce luggage storage in Dublin. Traveling light will free you up to enjoy the best of what Ireland's capital has to offer, and before you know it, you may well find yourself coming back for more.