Dublin is one of the most historical and beautiful European capitals and the Irish city also has a reputation for being a pricey place to visit. But visiting this vibrant city doesn’t have to break the bank. There’s plenty of activities for every budget—even a shoestring one. So save your euros for Guinness, and pack your days with these fun, free activities.
Let a Dubliner Buy You a Pint
City of a Thousand Welcomes Program is a little known, hidden gem offered by the Dublin Tourist Bureau. This is a FREE service that connects first-time visitors with friendly locals. It is a terrific opportunity to get an insider’s perspective on this wonderful city. All you need to do is sign up online indicating your interests and other demographics and you’ll be paired with a Dublin host. The program pairs local volunteers with visitors to the city. While the Ambassadors are not professional tour guides, they offer great advice about the best things to do and see in Ireland. You meet your ambassador at the Little Museum of Dublin and make a decision as to what complimentary beverage you wish to have. You can choose between going to a pub for a pint or to a cafe for a cup of tea/coffee/soda. Then the fun begins! This was a great introduction to Dublin! There is a minimum 72 hour advance booking.
Join a Walking Tour in Dublin
Get your bearings on the city by joining a free guided walking tour. Ranging between one and three hours, these tours are led by enthusiastic and passionate guides – all the more so because they would really like you to tip at the tour’s closure. Whether or not you choose to tip, free tours are a great introduction to Dublin’s pedestrian-packed streets and bloody (yet unusual) historical intrigue. The Dublin Free Walking Tours offers free walking tours at 11am & 3pm every day at The Spire, O’Connell Street (The big needle).
Take an Audio Tour of Dublin
Download a free audio walking tour to your smartphone to pave your own way through Dublin’s sites. Start with the Dublin Discovery Trails app. It is available for iOS and Android devices, and enables you to explore the city using a series of engaging audio guides and interpretive panels. It boasts four free tours: “Rebellion” leads you through the route the Irish rebels took during the 1916 Easter Rising, “Story of Dublin” grants a broad overview of the city’s history, “Echoes of War” learn about Europe in the grip of World War One and hear moving stories of war and rebellion that are now part of Irish psyche, and “Empire” where you will take a fascination journey back to the 18th and 19th centuries to discover just how the streets of Dublin fared under the British Empire. Each tour route comes with a handy map and image gallery to keep you on track.
Explore the National Museums
All of the government-run museums in Dublin are free and open to the public. Located relatively central in Dublin, no less than three National Museums are open free to visitors. And hold some priceless collections to boot.
See the collection of Prehistoric, Celtic, Viking, and Medieval treasures. The museum has an exhibit on mummified people who were unearthed throughout the country in peat bogs. Due to the highly acidic condition and low oxygen content of Ireland’s bogs, these victims of warfare never fully decomposed, instead retaining skin, teeth, and even hair over the centuries.
Besides bog bodies, you will discover gold, ceramics, glass, Viking artifacts as well many other archaeological objects found in Ireland and around the world, including its most famous artifacts—the Tara Brooch and the Ardagh Chalice, as fine an example of Celtic metalwork ever made.
History buffs could spend hours lost here, but even non-museums goers should set aside an hour to gawk at this treasure hoard.
This museum is housed in Collins Barracks, an army base for nearly 300 years before being renovated for use as a museum. The network of tall, granite-faced buildings occupy an 18 acre site and retain an imposing, military air. The site boasts a rich and varied history. Collins Barracks, formerly known as the Royal Barracks, is believed to have been the longest serving army base in the world.
The museum focuses on arts, crafts, numismatics and the military history of Ireland. You’ll discover exhibits on weaponry, furniture, silver, ceramics, glassware, Asian art and the historic Asgard yacht, as well as folklife and costume artifacts. And you can also see one of the largest collection of Irish silver in the world.
Enjoy the unique history of the buildings that house National Museum of Ireland – Natural History (also known by locals as the “Dead Zoo” because of the many taxidermied creatures that live on in the old building.) The Natural History building was built in 1856 to house the Royal Dublin Society’s growing collections, which had expanded continually since the late eighteenth century. Dr. Stanley Livingstone (of ‘I presume’ fame) cut the ribbon at this branch of the National Museum in 1857 and little has changed since then.
Discover the natural world through lifelike zoological models, geological samples and engaging activity areas. This dusty, weird and utterly compelling ‘dead zoo’ is still such a hit with visitors.
National Botanical Gardens
Located about 2 miles from downtown, the National Botanical Gardens sprawls across 48 acres on the Tolka River. Known for its herbarium—with some 600,000 preserved plants—and historic wrought-iron glasshouses, the garden attracts visitors who come to stroll its bucolic grounds and habitats, including the arboretum and rose and rock gardens. No charge for entry; guided tours cost two euros, except for Sunday at 12 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., when they’re free.
I plan on coming back to explore more of Dublin! Everyone we met, without exception was, helpful and welcoming, and the city is beautiful and easily accessible.
If you’re planning a trip to Ireland, here’s a great post to read before you go – 5 Things to Know About Ireland Before You Go