Free things to do in Dublin!

Posted by Ola Kosakowska on the 5th of November 2015 at 10:20:51

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I think that I can include everyone in when I write that we all love getting or doing something for free? Right?! Well they do say that the best things in life are free after all and with this in mind I decided to compile a list of some of the things that my home town of Dublin can offer for the princely sum of nothing! Not just aimlessly walking the streets, but actively doing something, going somewhere for fun and entertainment and even perhaps learning something new!

With a thousand years of history, heritage and culture reverberating through her streets Dublin’s past present and future can be seen everywhere, but can we see it for free? Yes we can!


1. Parks - For a capital city, Dublin sure has an abundance of parks – perhaps ironic for a country with such a dubious sun record! However, the parks we do have are all beautifully maintained and most are in close proximity to the city center. The best known is probably the St. Stephens Green Park at the top of Grafton Street – one of Dublin’s premier shopping streets. This 9 hectare sanctuary in the heart of the city offers 3.5km of pathways, beautiful gardens, sculptures and a very popular duck pond where everyone young Dubliner has been brought to feed the happiest and fattest ducks in the land. Close by are the Merrion Square Gardens, surrounded by some of the finest examples of Georgian buildings in Europe, the Iveagh Gardens one of Dublin’s best kept secrets and the Phoenix Park on the Northside of the River Liffey – home to Aras and Uachtarain (the President’s Home) and also Dublin Zoo. In the “burbs” a visit to the magnificent Rose Gardens in St. Anne’s Park and the National Botanic Gardens (both on Dublin’s Northside) should not be missed!

St. Stephen's Green Park

2. Galleries - Dublin has several galleries you can spend an afternoon happily wandering around in. The National Gallery of Ireland has a collection of 2,500 paintings and over 10,000 works using different media such as prints and sculpture. It houses works from Van Gogh, Monet and Caravaggio. Look out for Ireland’s recently voted favourite painting, Frederic William Burton’s Hellelil and Hildebrand, The Meeting on the Turret Stairs. For conservation purposes, the viewing of the painting is restricted, so do check the website for viewing times. Another great gallery is The Hugh Lane Gallery/Dublin City Gallery – Francis Bacon’s old studio with contemporary and modern pieces. The Irish Museum of Modern Art in Kilmainham also has an impressive collection modern and contemporary pieces and while it is temporarily closed – it is due to reopen June 22nd 2013. There are also beautiful gardens surrounding the museum and if you did want to splash some cash – the cake and coffee in their basement café should be indulged!


3. Museums – One wonderful thing about museums in Ireland is that they are mostly all free and are often a refuge from our friendly summer showers. The National Museum of Ireland is split into 4 branches – 3 of which are in Dublin – the Museum of Natural History otherwise known as The Dead Zoo, the Museum of Archaeology and the Museum of Decorative Arts and History. The 4th is the National Museum of County Life in County Mayo. Each museum has a superb collection and has something for everyone. My personal favourite is the Museum of Archaeology with its collection of artifacts from Ireland’s Golden Age such as the Ardagh Chalice and the Bog Bodies! However, please note that most (if not all) museums are closed on Mondays! Other noteworthy museums include The Chester Beatty Museum in the grounds of Dublin Castle and the only Irish museum to win “European Museum of the year” with its collections from Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.


4. VIB’s (very important buildings) – being the capital Dublin is fortunate to have buildings which have played a central role in Irish History. The GPO (General Post Office) on O’Connell Street was the scene of the 1916 Easter Rising and today is a busy working post office that you can wander around and spot the still visible bullet holes in. Aras an Uachtarain (as mentioned earlier) offers free tours on Saturdays – but you need to get to the Phoenix Park Visitor Center early as pre-booking is not permitted. And finally Leinster House built in 1745 and today the seat of Dail Éireann (House of Representatives) and Seanad Éireann (The Senate), which (together with the President) constitute the Oireachtas (National Parliament). Advance booking is essential here, so check with the guards at the gate for times or email in advance of your visit.

General Post Office Dublin

5. Festivals – Ireland is home to the festivals and we really do them in style. With a festival (or several) on every month there really is no way you could miss one! From the NYE Festival celebrating the New Year, to the Chinese New Year in February, to the most Irish of all the St. Patrick’s Day Festival in March to the countless ones over the summer months – you could certainly get festival fever! And 2013 is the best year to embrace the festivals as it is the year of The Gathering and their numbers have certainly increased! No-one does fun and craic like the Irish so get your festival on!


6. National Heritage Week – runs in August each year and really deserves a spot all to its self. A nationwide event, it is a week where Irish heritage is celebrated and events from festivals to guided tours, talks and lectures to musical and dance events are held for free all around the country. Entry fees are waived, opening hours are extended, and everyone clambers to see historical homes and buildings otherwise closed to the public. This year it runs from August 17th – 25th so be sure and catch some of the great events on offer!


7. Bikes – the Dublin Bike Scheme has proved a huge success with 44 dublinbike stations and some 550 bikes in operation for people to rent. Rates are very reasonable - €2 for a 3 Day Ticket, but the first 30 minutes are free! Great way to see the city and a bit of freedom in getting around! Loving it!!

Dublin Bikes

8. Buskers – Ireland has produced a plethora of musical talent from U2 to Van Morrison, Sinead O’Connor to the Frames and Thin Lizzy so there is no surprise that our buskers are top class too! Take a stroll down Grafton or Henry Street and listen to a medley of classical to traditional music, rock to pop to rap – there is nothing better than feeling the energy and talent in the air on a sunny afternoon!


9. Coastal/Mountain Walks –Dublin is one of the few cities in the world that you can work up a sweat walking in the mountains in the morning and cool down in the sea in the afternoon. With countless coastal walks to choose from and with the Dublin Mountains a mere 30 minutes from downtown Dublin – get out your map, pick your route and get hiking!


10. Free Tours – one of the best ways to learn about and indeed to see a city is a walking tour and there are free tours of Dublin available. Visit Dublin offers free podcasts, spoken by renown and respected Dublin Historian Pat Liddy. With 12 podcast to choose from, you will be walking around the city like a local in no time!

Trinity Colleg

So I hope you have found this guide useful! Dublin is a great city – although I may be slightly biased, but it is walkable, safe and friendly and even better you don’t have too spend much/if any money to see it! Why don’t you include a visit to the Emerald Isle’s capital city on your next vacation of Ireland and see Dublin for yourself!! Add your Dublin Day to your Custom Tour of Ireland!

And if you are wondering what else Dublin has in store for you, have a look at some of our favorite things to do in Dublin! Or take a look at some of our favorite free things to do in Ireland!

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