Dublin has quite the reputation for being an expensive city to visit. In 2018, it ranked at number 72 on the ECA international list of the worlds most expensive cities, overtaking Silicon Valley and Abu Dhabi. Yikes!
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit this vibrant, charming and welcoming city though. There are plenty of really cool, unusual things to do in Dublin that are completely free. Keep reading to check out the best free things to do in Dublin, Ireland.
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Wondering where to stay in Dublin? Check out these accommodation options to suit every budget
Take a Free Street Art tour Around The City Centre
In recent years, Dublin city centre has been transformed by a captivating street art scene. Long gone are the blank concrete side streets and alleys with old, wilting promotional posters. Instead, street art has taken its place and it has become a way of expressing political messages and highlighting peoples’ struggles through street portraits.
Ireland has changed dramatically in the past few years and this form of art has helped people to express their feelings, emotions and often their pain at what has happened in the past.
If you’d like an expert to show you a side of the city you’ve never seen before then click here for a cool walking tour. The street art scene is a new, unusual thing to do in Dublin and these guys work really hard to show how amazing it is – and best of all it’s free!
Have a picnic in The National Botanic Gardens
The National Botanical gardens is a spectacular green haven located on Dublin’s north side. It is easily accessed by travelling on the 13A from Dublin city centre. What is so great about the Botanic Gardens is that it can be accessed hail, rain or shine and let’s be honest – rain is a common occurrence in Dublin!
The gardens are home to important plant species and you will also find exquisite glasshouses dotted around various parts of the garden. Exhibitions are held regularly and on Sundays, you can get a guided tour around the gardens absolutely free. However, you can also just simply visit the park with a picnic and enjoy an oasis of calm away from the bustling noise of the city centre.
If you are looking for somewhere to eat in the area, I highly recommend The Washerwoman, a stone’s throw from the Botanic Gardens. The food, ambience and the staff are amazing. If you are looking for more food options in Ireland, then check out this extensive list of incredible restaurants in various locations in Ireland.
Find Your Family History At Glasnevin Cemetery
Recommending a visit to a graveyard may seem strange but let me assure you that Glasnevin Cemetery is no ordinary cemetery. Firstly it is one of the best places to start a search for your family’s Irish genealogy.
It is located about 15 minutes away from the city centre by bus and with other great activities nearby such as the Botanic Gardens and The Gravediggers pub, it is a must-see for any trip to Dublin!
The cemetery itself is almost 200 years old and it is the place of rest for many notable Irish figures such as Michael Collins – a soldier and politician who played a key role in the struggle for Irish independence, Brendan Behan – an Irish poet and playwright, Hanna Sheehy Skeffington who fought for women’s rights and Luke Kelly, an amazing musician and vocalist.
The cemetery is free to enter and explore but if you would like a guided tour of the graveyard and the beautiful museum, there is a small cost for that.
Check Out The Amazing Live Music Scene
Many people come to Dublin and head to Temple Bar to seek out Irish music. However, Temple Bar is mostly a tourist trap and more expensive than other parts of the city. It’s nice to walk around the cobbled streets and check out some of the art, culture and atmosphere that’s on offer.
However, if you really want to experience traditional Irish music then you need to check out the Cobblestone in Smithfield. You can expect a great atmosphere, great drinks and above all else great music.
If you want to check out the live music scene in Dublin, then there really is no better place than Whelan’s on Camden St. It’s a small, unique venue with different bands playing every night. It’s free to enter and a lot of now-famous Irish musicians have started out here. It has had its fair share of artists drop in to play a tune unexpectedly like Ed Sheeran and Hozier. Check out the website to see what’s on during your visit.
Explore the ‘dead zoo’ in the Natural History Museum
One of the most unusual, free things to do in Dublin is an exploration of the ‘Dead Zoo’ in the Natural History Museum. Entrance to the museum is completely free and you can check opening times here. The museum has over 10,000 exhibits of animal species with a floor dedicated to Native Animals of Ireland and another dedicated to Mammals of the World. One of the most popular exhibits is a 20m long whale skeleton which is suspended from the roof!
The museum is a great way to spend a couple of hours in Dublin, they often hold exhibitions and both children and adults love checking out this unique, strange museum.
Dive Into The Irish Sea At The Forty Foot
The Forty Foot is an iconic peninsula in Sandycove, which is believed to be around 250 years old. It has quite the history as until 1974, only men were allowed to swim there. However, a women’s liberation movement soon put an end to this by invading the area and plunging into the sea. Now anyone is free to enjoy the Forty Foot (yay!).
Although it has been named as one of the best places to swim in the world by The New York Times (and deservedly so!), it is as cold as anything all year round. Many people believe it keeps them young and it’s a Dublin tradition to take a plunge into the Forty Foot on Christmas Day. If you’re brave enough, make sure to take a cosy towel and warm flask – trust me, you’ll need it!
Read And Explore At The Famous Chester Beatty Library
The Chester Beatty is a world renowned library situated in the heart of Dublin’s bustling city centre and it is a must-see for all visitors to Dublin. The library is located on the grounds of the historic Dublin Castle.
The library is spread out over two floors with over 20,000 artefacts ranging from rare books, manuscripts, costumes and artistic displays which originated in countries such as Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Looking for somewhere to relax after your exploration of the Chester Beatty? Why not check out the Japanese rooftop garden or enjoy some Middle Eastern food in the ground floor cafe “The Silk Cafe”. Entry to the museum is free all year round although donations are welcome.
Cycle Around The City With Dublin Bikes
Dublinbikes has over 100 locations across Dublin city which are all within close proximity to each other. It’s a unique and easy way to see the city especially now that bike lanes have become more commonplace in Dublin. Use the station map to create your own personalised tour of Dublin or utilise the 120 miles of cycle routes. Some of the cycle routes you can take are; The Docklands and Ringsend, The Grand Canal, Smithfield and Old Town Dublin
You can rent the bike free for 30 minutes at a time – a simple but effective budget tip is to return the bike within the timeframe and get on to another one. Otherwise, you can pay €5 for a 3-day pass.
Take A Peek Inside the Presidents House
The current President of Ireland, Micheal D. Higgins, is something of a national treasure. He’s a politician of course but he’s also a poet, a sociologist and a human rights activist. You can even buy him in the form of a tea cosy – if you don’t know what that is, check this link here.
The presidential role in Ireland is not quite the same as in other countries such as America or France, the Taoiseach (prime minister) is in charge. The president is the representative of the Irish people at home and abroad.
The president of Ireland lives in a beautiful white house in the largest inner-city park in Europe and it’s well worth a visit. It may seem like an unusual thing to do in Dublin but honestly, even getting close to the President’s house, makes it worth the visit. You can take a tour for free on selected dates, which is an amazing free activity to do whilst in Dublin. Click this link to check availability.
Visit the Deer in The Phoenix Park
You can’t come to Dublin and not visit the deer in The Phoenix Park. The park itself is actually the largest urban park in Europe and is easy to access from anywhere in Dublin. You can walk to the park from the city centre using google maps or take the bus from several locations across Dublin.
The park is home to about 500 deer who have been living there since the 17th century but a word of warning – they are hard to find! The best time to see the deer is early in the morning, they can usually be found past the cricket field (if you come in the main entrance) – just keep an eye out on your left.
However, while the deer are a sight to behold, it’s important to remember that they are wild animals. Read the infographic below and for more information, check out the Phoenix Park website here.
Visit The Colourful Doors of Dublin
As you explore Dublin city, you are bound to notice the beautiful, colourful doors on display. Bright reds, yellows and greens are abundant along with pastel pinks and blues. Matched up with Georgian buildings, they are a sight to behold.
This tradition of painting doors in Dublin dates back to Georgian times when buildings had to adhere to strict building rules. This led to buildings looking the same and boring. In true Dublin fashion, the homeowners fought against this ‘uniformity’ by painting their doors in whatever colour they chose.
These buildings remain today and can be explored on foot via a self-guided walking tour. Some of Dublin’s best doors can be found in Merrion Square, Fitzwilliam Square, Upper and Lower Leeson Street, and Lower Baggot Street.
Check out Amazing Street Entertainers
Like most capital cities, Dublin has a thriving street entertainment scene. Most street entertainment can be found on Grafton Street or Henry Street and luckily for anyone visiting Dublin, there is only a few minutes walk between the two streets.
You can expect to see some wacky entertainment in the form of magicians, comedians, dancers and statues. But you’ll also experience the mesmerising, ‘stop you in your tracks’ entertainers too. In fact, some very famous musicians started their careers busking on the streets of Dublin. Someone you should try to watch out for is the amazing Allie Sherlock, a 14-year-old Dublin girl with an incredible voice.
Go On a Hike To Howth Head
Howth is a few miles outside of the city centre, along the east coast of Ireland. It’s easy to get here by train (the Dart) in the city centre. You can reach Howth from Dublin’s city centre. Return ticket costs €6.25 from Connolly, Tara or Pearse stations in the city and is valid for one day. There are trains every 15 minutes.
Howth is one of my absolute favourite places to visit in Ireland. There is so much to see and do here for free. A lot of people think you need to go to the west of Ireland to experience Ireland in all its glory but Howth proves otherwise.
One of the most popular activities to do in Howth is to hike the cliff head. It’s not a strenuous hike, there are no steep inclines and the path is in a loop and well maintained. I am no gym bunny and I have done this hike lots of times. It takes around 2 hours and you will see the most picturesque views of Dublin bay, Lambay island, the Bailey lighthouse, plenty of seabirds and possibly seals for wildlife lovers and of course there’s nothing like the feel of fresh Irish sea air.
You will most likely be ravenous after your hike and there’s no better place to be – Howth is full of restaurants and cafes serving the freshest seafood you could ever imagine. You can’t beat the fish and chips here. There are also plenty of fishmongers where you can buy fish if you feel like cooking yourself. I have such fond memories coming here to buy fish with my Dad, the fishmongers are so friendly and will give you tips on how to cook the fish to perfection.
Visit the Unique Science Gallery
There are lots of museums and gallery’s in Dublin, but the coolest, quirkiest and most interesting of them all is The Science Gallery. What was once an unknown part of Trinity College, soon became a thriving place where both science and art collided. There is always something going on here and the students who help keep it going are a wealth of information and knowledge.
Previous exhibitions have explored so many wide and varied topics such as ‘how do things survive in outer space?’, ‘the ocean floor and inside volcanoes’, ‘the manifestations of violence’ and ‘what is homesickness really about?’. It’s truly fascinating stuff and if it’s a rainy day, which let’s face it, is highly likely in Dublin, then this is a great, free activity to do while in Dublin. It is high up there as one of my favourite free things to do in Dublin!
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Over To You….
Have you visited Dublin? What were your favourite things to do?