Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

The Ultimate List of 38 Free Things to Do in Dublin

Dublin is still a fantastic city brimming with culture and a lot of heart. Despite being one of the more expensive destinations to visit, did you know that there are so many free things to do in Dublin that won’t cost you a cent (or at least just a small bus or Dart fare)?

Here’s a breakdown of some of the most popular attractions and things you can check out next time you visit Dublin.

Note: If you’re looking for other affordable attractions for less than €10 click here.

Table of Contents


MUSEUMS & EXHIBITIONS

Firstly, there are four National Museums and they’re all free. Three are based in the city!


National History Museum aka The Dead Zoo

Located on Merrion Street, the Dead Zoo has around 10,000 exhibits. It opened in 1857 and displays creatures of all shapes and sizes, with animals native to Ireland and abroad. Catering to adults and children alike, check out here for their opening hours.

And if you want to get a feel for the place, take a look at the museum’s virtual visit.

National Museum of Ireland: Decorative Arts & History

Though it’s a tiny bit out of the way at Collins Barracks on Benburb Street, you can easily take the Luas (tram) to “Museum” and head into this Museum. The Decorative Arts & History Museum holds an unusual and eclectic mix of exhibits, from decorative arts to historical pieces.

Photography isn’t allowed but the exhibits are well presented. Directions can be found here.


National Museum of Ireland: Archaeology

An absolute must-see for visitors to Ireland who have even just the slightest interest in history. You will see fascinating bog bodies which are eerily preserved, as well as many other Viking artefacts and archaeological objects like the Tara Brooch. Upon entering you’ll immediately be surrounded by gold! More information can be found here.


Go contemporary at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA)

Located on the grounds of Royal Hospital Kilmainham, IMMA is for those who love modern and contemporary art. It’s worth checking out what exhibitions are there in advance though as some may be closed for renovation. Afterwards, you can take a stroll through the IMMA grounds. The museum is set on 48 acres of land.


Go back in time at the National Print Museum

This Dublin museum celebrates print and its impact on the world. Free entry, though you can take a guided tour for an extra fee. It has a working collection of over 10,000 objects that represent Ireland’s centuries-old printing heritage and craft.

Highlights include an original 1916 Proclamation, a Wharfedale Stop Cylinder Press (the type of machine on which the Proclamation was printed), a replica wooden Gutenberg Press, and a Bookbinders’s Union banner.


Be inspired by the Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again Exhibition

Running until December 2025, embark on an immersive journey delving into the life and literary works of the poet, uncovering the influences that shaped his artistry both within and outside.

Central to this experience is Heaney’s writing desk, around which the exhibition revolves. Original manuscripts, unpublished writings, letters, diary entries, photographs, personal items, and multimedia recordings vividly illustrate Heaney’s creative process. This exhibition is curated from the comprehensive archive donated by Seamus Heaney and his family to the National Library of Ireland in 2011.


GALLERIES

Perfect for art lovers, the gallery holds more than 15,000 works. You can also attend free lectures, tours and workshops. From Caravaggio, Picasso, Vermeer, Rembrandt and Monet, there’s a wide variety of sculptures and paintings on display (you can even see the famous Meeting on the Turret Stairs at certain times of the day).


Be amazed at The Hugh Lane

The restored studio of painter Francis Bacon is what makes this gallery particularly fantastic, it’s a celebration of gorgeous disorganised chaos! The Hugh Lane’s collection of contemporary art is not to be scoffed at either and at certain times they even host music in the gallery.


Fun, fresh and engaging, the Science Gallery is good craic with ever-changing exhibitions. Some of their previous instalments include FAIL BETTER, with the goal for people to have a public conversation about failure, particularly the instructive role of failure, and RISK LAB which focused on the psychology and mathematics underpinning the risks that surround us, and our ability to assess and understand those risks. Sound intriguing?

Note: As of July 2024, it is closed as the folks there are busy designing the future for Science Gallery Dublin at Trinity College Dublin. However, you can sign up to their newsletter for news of their reopening.


Be inspired by the Photo Museum Ireland

Situated in the heart of the city in Temple Bar’s Meeting House Square, this certainly isn’t as large as any of the national galleries but it’s still worth heading to. As the name suggests, the gallery focuses on photography with ever-changing exhibits from national and international photographers. Take a look here.


LIBRARIES

Take a break in the National Library of Ireland

Next door to the National Museum of Ireland is the National Library. Their exhibition area is small but can be quite intriguing. Have a look into their beautiful reading room. It’s breathtaking and very old-worldly with wooden tables and green lamps! Here’s a link to upcoming exhibits.


Visit the Chester Beatty Library

Bibliophile Alfred Chester Beatty’s collection is quite astonishing. Located in Dublin Castle, this museum houses a remarkable collection of manuscripts, rare books, and art from around the world. The extensive exhibition of ancient scrolls and artefacts can be seen across two floors of the library.


CEMETERIES & CHURCHES

Pay your respects at Glasnevin Cemetery

While the museum and access to the round tower are fee-paid, the actual cemetery isn’t. Ireland’s largest cemetery is also a fascinating open-air museum, where many of the nation’s historical figures are buried. Find out more here.

As mentioned, a trip to the round tower costs extra but is worth it! Find out more on our cheap things to do in Dublin list here.


St Audoen’s Church

St Audoen’s Church, the sole surviving medieval parish church in Dublin, is dedicated to the seventh-century bishop of Rouen and Normandy’s patron saint. The Guild Chapel of St. Anne hosts an acclaimed exhibition highlighting St Audoen’s significance in medieval Dublin.

Within St Audoen’s, visitors can admire the magnificent fifteenth-century tomb of Baron Portlester and his wife.


PARKS AND GARDENS

Stroll around the National Botanic Gardens

An oasis in a busy city, the National Botanic Gardens is a premier scientific institution with the National Herbarium and several historic wrought iron glasshouses located within. It’s particularly lovely in the summertime when there’s growth to be seen in the Walled Garden too (but remember, no picnicking!) You can easily access Glasnevin Cemetry from here too through a gateway.


Sit and chill in St. Stephen’s Green

A favourite for the lunchtime workers in the surrounding area, relaxing in St. Stephen’s Green on a sunny day with a spot for lunch is perfect if you love people-watching. This Victorian public park in the city centre is perfect for a leisurely stroll, offering manicured gardens, sculptures, and a serene lake.


Relax in Dubh Linn Gardens

Definitely one of the lesser-known gardens, Dubh Linn is a rather polished piece of landscaping with a much-styled look. It’s a nice spot if you’re looking to just simply reflect or tuck into a book. It’s immaculately clean and you can head along to the Chester Beatty Library right next to it for free too!


Reflect in the Garden of Remembrance

An Gairdín Cuimhneacháin in Irish, is a memorial garden in Dublin dedicated to the memory of “all those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish freedom”. Despite being so close to the city’s centre (located at Parnell Square East) it’s a great place to take a breath and pause. You can head to the nearby Hugh Lane Gallery less than five minutes from it.


Irish National War Memorial Gardens

These gardens are one of the most famous memorial gardens in Europe and are dedicated to the memory of 49,400 Irish soldiers who died in the 1914 – 1918 war.  The names of all the soldiers are contained in the beautifully illustrated Harry Clarke manuscripts in the granite bookrooms in the gardens. Directions can be found here.


Go deer-spotting and exploring in Phoenix Park

You could spend hours and hours walking and relaxing around Phoenix Park just trying to spot wild deer but wandering through it you could also come across stately houses like Áras an Uachtaráin (more on that below), Ashtown Castle and the Papal Cross! Directions to the famous park can be found here.


Tour the President’s Home at Áras an Uachtaráin

Get a sneak peek of how the President of Ireland lives at Áras an Uachtaráin in Phoenix Park. The guided tours of the main reception rooms are available almost every Saturday, all year round. Each tour takes about an hour and tours and is on a first-come-first-served basis from the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre. More info here!


See Oscar Wilde at Merrion Square

Walk in the footsteps of playwright Oscar Wilde and see the statue of the writer himself. On Sundays, you’ll spot the Merrion Square Open-Air Art Gallery where you will also art donning the railings as artist share their works for purchase.


WALKS AND CYCLES

Walk through Dublin with a guide in your ear!

Dublin Discovery Trails offers this cool app that lets you explore on your own. You need access to the Android, Google Play or Apple Store to avail of this free walking tour app but it’s worth it.

Download the app to your phone and choose from various walks across Dublin, from the 1916 Rebellion Trail to the Story of Dublin. It’s great for solo travellers who want to see the sights at their own pace. Download the app here.


Dublin, Fashion and 1916 Walking Tour Podcast

Local historian Donal Fallon hosts three short, Dublin-themed podcast tours with the Fitzwilliam Hotel and you don’t have to be a guest to enjoy them! The three walks cover historical highlights, the 1916 rising and also fashion! Listen to the Dublin walking tours here.


Explore Trinity College Dublin’s Cobbles

While it will cost you to see the Book of Kells, you can still wander through the gates and walk along the cobbles. Just don’t walk on the grass!


Sandeman’s New Dublin Tours

Operating rain or shine, Sandeman’s walking tours are famous. The two-hour tour will take you to many of Dublin’s highlights and while tipping is completely optional, the guides’ enthusiasm is worth it.

You can find out more here. (My husband and I did a Sandeman’s tour in Edinburgh and it was wonderful!)


Walk along Dún Laoghaire’s Pier

A Dart’s journey away is the seaside town Dún Laoghaire, where I love to head on a Sunday when the People’s Market is in full swing, but it’s also great for a leisurely stroll down the pier. There’s a super view at the end of the pier too, especially at sunset! Treat yourself to the town’s famous Teddy’s ice cream while you’re at it.


The South Wall Walk

If you’re looking for something to do on a sunny day or just before sunset, head out and walk the stretch to the Poolbeg Lighthouse along the South Wall and into Dublin Bay. It’s glorious. Originally known as The Piles, it was the longest seawall in the world when it was completed in 1731. You can start at a few different points, but if you’re looking for the longest stretch, start at Sandymount Strand here.


Howth Cliff Walk

Head to Howth for the day! You’ll have to get the Dart or the bus out but on a dry, sunny day, it’s the perfect outing. Walk along the harbour before climbing away from the village and then around the cliffs. It’s a looped walk too and on a bright, summery day you’ll be blessed with great views of the sea with the coconut scent of the gorse bush by your side.


MUSIC


Listen to buskers on Grafton Street and Henry Street

We have a great busking culture in Dublin where musicians and performers from Ireland and abroad take to the streets and give it all they’ve got.

Enjoy toe-tapping music and song

Ireland is well known for their Irish music sessions in the pub and when you come across them they can tear the house down! Key spots to visit to catch a free seisiúin include:

  • The Cobblestone (Smithfield)
  • O’Donoghue’s (15 Merrion Row)
  • The Brazen Head (20 Lower Bridge St)
  • Pipers Corner (105-106 Marlborough St)
  • Darkey Kelly’s (19 Fishamble St)
  • The Merry Ploughboy (Rathfarnham)
  • Johnnie Fox’s (Glencullen, Co. Dublin)

Miscellaneous!


Visit the Oireachtas (Ireland’s national parliament)

There are two ways to arrange a tour of Leinster House. You can ask a TD or Senator to sponsor your visit or you can come on a public tour.

Note that you must have a photo ID, such as a passport or driving licence on you. Find out more here.


Stunning architecture at Dublin City Hall

Dublin City Hall, constructed between 1769 and 1779, originally served as a financial hub for Dublin’s merchants under the name Royal Exchange.

The Rotunda features twelve columns supporting its dome, each adorned with a mural. Eight murals depict legendary or historical scenes, including St. Patrick baptizing the King of Dublin, while the remaining four display the Coats of Arms of Ulster, Leinster, Connacht, and Munster. At the centre of the mosaic floor, beneath the dome, lies the Coat of Arms of Dublin, encircled by four statues commemorating figures pivotal to Irish society’s development.


People Watch on Moore Street

“Bananas, one euro!” For those who simply just like to watch people go about their daily business, Moore Street has all the vibrancy and character you need. It offers a bustling array of fresh produce and flowers, alongside a rich tapestry of street vendors and local characters. The street holds a special place in Irish history, particularly for its connection to the 1916 Easter Rising, making it a must-visit for locals and tourists seeking a taste of authentic Dublin life.


See Viking ruins in Lidl

Yes, you read that correctly! In Lidl on Aungier Street, you can see remnants of a Hiberno-Norse suburb in Dublin. Lidl installed glass floors to allow shoppers to look at the structure below.

Speaking to RTÉ News, archaeological site director Paul Duffy said: “It’s a unique structure for Dublin. We don’t know of anything quite like this in the city. I’m sure it functioned as many things. As a house, as an extra space for the family.

“It’s a domestic structure, so you would imagine there would have been a suburb here of Hiberno-Norse Dubliners, who were effectively the ancestors of the Vikings.”


See an Academy Award and an Emmy Award

That’s right, two iconic awards! If you’ve ever been curious to see what an Oscar actually looks like up close, head along to the Irish Film Institute where you’ll see an Oscar and an Emmy on display in the foyer. Set Designer Josie MacAvin won the coveted Academy Award for Out Of Africa, and the Emmy for her work on the mini-series Scarlett, which was a loose sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s novel Gone With The Wind.


Explore Dublin’s art and graffiti scene

In a country of poets and artists, the best of Irish creations are not just confined to galleries and museums. Many of our famous pieces are on the street. You’ll have to keep an eye out as many places are ever-changing. Check out one suggested route here.


The Forty Foot

One of the best stops to plunge into the sea, The Forty Foot in Sandycove is well-loved by Dublin swimmers. The tradition of swimming here goes back over 250 years. It is a historic bathing spot located on a promontory at the southern tip of Dublin Bay, just a short walk from the James Joyce Tower. Hardy Dubliners frequent this spot year-round to brave the Irish Sea waters.


What a city! Are there any places that I’ve missed out on? Let me know in the comment section below. If you’re looking for other affordable attractions for less than €10 click here.

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I'm a freelance content creator, author, and journalist who has a strong desire to share interesting content about Irish people and things about Ireland at home and abroad. I am constantly curious.

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