Dublin may not be the most expensive city in Europe, but it’s definitely not cheap. If you’re visiting Dublin and on a tight budget then that doesn’t mean you have to miss out, because many of the best sites in Dublin are FREE! Below is a list of my top 15 favourite free places to visit while in Dublin, Ireland.
- Wondering what to pack? Here is a list of essential items to pack for your trip to Ireland.
- On a budget? Historical sites owned by Heritage Ireland offer free admission to their properties on the first Wednesday of each month. Find out more tips for travelling around Ireland on a budget.
- Shopping for souvenirs? Check out Ireland’s 15 Best Souvenirs for some inspiration.
- While your visiting Dublin, visit Dublin’s 7 must see gardens, or enjoy these 5 stunning walks in and around Dublin.
1. Glasnevin Cemetery
Finglas Rd, Dublin 11
Glasnevin Cemetery is very large, so it’s easy to spend several hours wandering around taking it all in. It has been open since the first burial in 1832 and is the resting place of many famous Irish people. There are also 800,000 unmarked graves of people who lost their lives in the Great Famine of the 1840’s and later during the cholera epidemic. People of all religions are buried in Glasnevin cemetery and continue to do so, so please be respectful of any burial ceremonies that may be taking place during your visit.
Glasnevin Cemetery is located on Finglas Road in the Dublin suburb of Glasnevin. It’s a long walk from the city centre, but it can easily be reached by taking the Dublin city bus number 40 or 140 from O’Connell Street to its entrance on Finglas Road. Both onsite and street parking is available. The cemetery is open daily from 9am to 6pm in winter, or 9pm in summer.
For a fee, you can also choose to visit the museum which is open daily from 10am to 5pm. You can also attend a tour or go on a self guided tour using a map and/or audio device. These tours suit those interested in Irish history and can be booked through the Glasnevin Cemetery website.
2. National Botanic Gardens
Glasnevin, Dublin 9
The National Botanic Gardens is located right next to Glasnevin cemetery, so I highly recommend visiting both on your day out (hopefully on a sunny day). Although they back onto each other, they are divided by a large wall and there is currently no way to walk directly from one to the other. However, a new link between the two is due to open in 2016. In the mean time, you will need to walk around to the gardens entrance off Botanic Road.
The Dublin Botanic gardens are beautifully maintained and provide a pleasant escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. The gardens include some beautiful glasshouses which were constructed by the Dubliner Richard Turner who also designed the glasshouses at Kew Gardens and Belfast.
An audio tour is available to visitors as well as free guided tours on Sundays at 12pm and 2.30pm. Pre-booked guided tours are available for a small fee.
It’s a bit too far to walk from the city centre, but the National Botanic Gardens can be reached by taking either Dublin city bus 4 or 83 from O’Connell Street. Parking is also available for a small fee.
Winter opening times (October 27th to February) are Monday to Friday 9am-4:30pm; Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays 10am-4:30pm. Summer opening times (March to October) are Monday to Friday 9am-5pm; Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays 10am-6pm. The glasshouses close at 4.15pm in winter. Check the National Botanic Garden website for up to date opening times and exhibitions.
3. Aras an Uachtaráin
Phoenix Park, Dublin 8
Aras an Uachtaráin is the Irish name for the Irish President’s house. Every Saturday tours of this beautiful house are free and in the summer months the tour also includes the gardens. You cannot book ahead, and it is based on a first in first served basis. The Tour office opens at 9.30am for tours commencing 10.30 and run every hour until 3.30pm. They will drive you the short distance from the Tour office to the house via mini van. It can get busy during the summer months, especially school holidays, so you may need to arrive early during these times to reserve your place. If you have time to kill before your tour commences, there is a small visitor’s centre to look around and also a truly excellent café to tempt you with delicious food.
The tours are well presented, informative and interesting. The current President, Michael D. Higgins, owns several gorgeous Bernese mountain dogs which frequently come out to meet the guests. When I visited I was lucky enough to have one of them take a shine to me and allow me lots of cuddles!
Check the Irish President’s website for up to date opening times as occasionally it is not open due to state and/or official business.
4. The National Gallery of Ireland
Merrion Square W, Dublin 2
The National Gallery of Ireland holds a collection of more than 15,000 works of art as well as regular exhibitions. The Gallery has been opened since 1854 and is housed in a beautiful Georgian building in Dublin city centre. The entrance is located on Clare Street. There are free audio guides as well as free weekend tours. The Gallery also has a lovely wintergarden café located in a high ceilinged glass roofed wing of the building.
Opening times are Monday to Saturday 9.30am-5.30pm; Thursday 9.30am-8.30pm; Sunday 11am-5.30pm; Public Holidays 10am-5.30pm. Visit the National Gallery website to find out more about their current exhibitions.
5. Gallery of Photography
Meeting House Square, Temple Bar, Dublin 2
The Gallery of Photography is located in the heart of the Temple Bar, in Meeting House Square. It was established in 1978 and is the national centre for photography in Ireland. Although it is a small Gallery, it hosts interesting and moving collections and is definitely worth a visit.
The Gallery of Photography is open Tuesday to Saturday 11am-6pm; Sunday 1-6pm; closed Mondays. Visit the Gallery of Photography website to find out more about their current exhibitions.
6. National Museum of Archaeology
Kildare St, Dublin 2
The National Museum of Archaeology houses a wonderful collection from Prehistoric, Viking and Medieval Ireland. It is also home to one of the largest and most important gold collections in Europe and many other interesting permanent collections and exhibitions. My personal favourite is the Iron Age bog bodies, which I found fascinating (and a tad unsettling). These bodies have been preserved by bog for over 2,300 years.
The National Museum of Archaeology is located in Kildare Street, Dublin city centre. It is an impressive building modelled on the Pantheon in Rome with amazing mosaic floors. It is a must see building in its own right. Opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday 10am-5pm; Sunday 2pm-5pm; closed Mondays (including Bank Holidays), Christmas Day and Good Friday. Visit the National Museum of Archaeology website for more details.
7. National Museum of Natural History
Merrion St Upper, Dublin 2
The National Museum of Natural History is also known as the ‘dead zoo’ because of its large collection of animal skeletons and taxidermy. The 10,000 exhibits include native Irish animals and also mammals from around the world. The most impressive skeleton for me is that of the Giant Irish Deer which stood up to two metres high, with antlers as wide as four metres! Unfortunately they became extinct during the Ice Age about 10,500 years ago.
The National Museum of Natural History is located on Merrion Street in Dublin City. Opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday 10am-5pm; Sunday 2pm-5pm; closed Mondays (including Bank Holidays), Christmas Day and Good Friday. Visit the National Museum of Natural History website for more details.
8. National Museum of Decorative Arts
Collins Barracks, Benburb St, Dublin 7
The National Museum of Decorative Arts and History is located in a very large and impressive old army barracks in the Dublin city suburb of Smithfield. It has a Luas stop (the Dublin city tram) conveniently located at the entrance.
This museum is packed full of interesting exhibits including Irish silver, military history from 1550 to modern day, and a chance to look at the clothing and jewellery worn in Ireland from the 1760’s to the 1960’s.
Opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday 10am-5pm; Sunday 2pm-5pm; closed Mondays (including Bank Holidays), Christmas Day and Good Friday. Visit the National Museum of Decorative Arts website for more details.
9. Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA)
Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Military Rd, Kilmainham, Dublin 8
The Irish Museum of Modern Art houses a collection of over 3,500 modern and contemporary artworks from both Irish and international artists. It also hosts regular exhibitions. Informal tours are available on Wednesday at 1.15pm, Saturday and Sunday 2.30pm.
If you’re not a fan of modern art, then you can still enjoy a stroll around the beautiful formal gardens and grounds surrounding this impressive 17th Century building, once a hospital and home to retired soldiers.
The Irish Museum of Modern Art is located in the Dublin suburb of Kilmainham off Military Road. Opening hours are Tuesday to Friday 11.30am-5.30pm; Saturday 10am-5.30pm; Sunday and Bank Holidays 12noon-5.30pm; closed Monday. Visit the Irish Museum of Modern Art website for more details.
10. The Irish-Jewish Museum
3 Walworth Rd, Dublin 8
The Irish-Jewish Museum is located in a former Synagogue in the Dublin city suburb of Portobello on Walworth Road. It’s about a 20 minute walk from St Stephens Green. This area was once a densely populated Jewish enclave called “Little Jerusalem”. The museum is accommodated in two adjoining terraced houses and is currently being expanded to include even more historical items.
When you arrive, ring the door bell and you will be greeted by a friendly volunteer who will give you a tour of the museum. From May to October, the museum is open Sundays through to Thursdays from 11am-3.30pm. From November to April it is only open on Sundays from 10.30am-2.30pm. For more information about their exhibitions visit the Jewish Museum Website.
11. Dublin City Castle
Dame St, Dublin 2
Dublin City Castle is located in the heart of Dublin city, but don’t expect a typical ‘castle’. The Anglo-Normans built their castle on the site of a 9th century Viking fortress (the undercroft remains), but unfortunately much of the Medieval castle was burnt down in 1684. Only a Medieval tower remains. Since then, a mix of attractive buildings and structures were built to create the Dublin City Castle as it is today. The grounds are free to explore, but you can pay to have a guided tour of the State Apartments, Chapel Royal and Medieval Undercroft.
When visiting, don’t forget to visit the Dubhlinn Garden behind the Castle. It provides a pleasant spot in which to view the castle and take photos. Also, don’t miss the Chester Beatty Library (see below), which is located beside the Dubhlinn Garden.
The Castle also hosts a number of cultural events, so check the Dublin Castle website for more details of what may be on during your visit.
- Whilst visiting the castle, it’s also worth taking the time to visit the Dublin City Hall which is also on Dame Street. There is a smaller castle entry/exit on the side street beside the Dublin City Hall on Cork Hill/ Castle Street.
12. The Chester Beatty Library
Dublin Castle, Dublin 2
Don’t let the name confuse you, this is no ordinary library. In fact, the Chester Beatty Library is so popular that it won European Museum of the Year. On display are manuscripts, miniature paintings, prints, drawings, rare books and decorative arts from countries across Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, and they were all collected by one man – Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (1875-1968).
The Chester Beatty Library is located in the Dubhlinn Garden, which is directly behind the Dublin Castle, so it makes sense to combine these attractions. Tours are available. Opening times March to October: Monday to Friday 10am-5.00pm; November to February: Tuesday to Friday 10am-5pm; closed Mondays; Saturday 11am-5pm and Sunday 1pm-5pm (all year); closed 1 January, Good Friday, 24, 25 and 26 December. For details of coming events, visit the Chester Beatty Library website.
13. Trinity College
College Green, Dublin 2
Trinity College is free to walk around and enjoy the stunning architecture. Its handy location in the centre city makes it a popular spot for tourists. On summer days you will see cricket matches being played on the College Park green and in winter, Rugby on the pitch across from it.
If you prefer, you can pay for a tour which will also include the Book of Kells. However, if you’re lucky enough to know a Trinity staff person or student, they can take guests in to see the Book of Kells for free.
Visit the Trinity College website for more details about its history.
14. The Science Gallery
Naughton Institute, Dublin, Pearse St, Dublin 2
The Science Gallery is located in Pearse, Trinity College. They host a variety of very interesting and fun exhibitions, suitable for both adults and children to enjoy. They also have a small gift shop with novel items you’ll find difficult to resist.
It’s worth stopping for refreshments at their café as the food is scrumptious. They even have a handy push button service that means you don’t have to sit around trying to get the waiter’s attention if you need to order or get the bill.
For details of current exhibitions, visit the Science Gallery website.
15. Dublin City Gallery, the Hugh Lane
Charelmont House, Parnell Square N, Dublin 1
Dublin City Gallery, the Hugh Lane houses an impressive collection of modern and contemporary art. My favourite exhibit is the faithful recreation of the Irish artist, Francis Bacon’s very messy art studio. After Bacon passed away the entire contents of his London art studio, including the doors, walls, floors, objects and even dust was relocated to Hugh Lane. It is definitely worth seeing.
The Hugh Lane Gallery is located on Parnell Square North . Opening hours are Tuesday to Thursday 10am-6pm; Friday and Saturday 10am-5pm; Sunday and Bank Holidays 12noon-5.30pm; closed Monday and Good Friday. For details of current exhibitions, visit the Hugh Lane website.
- The Hugh Lane gallery is across the road from the Garden of Remembrance which is also worth a visit.
Accommodation Options in Dublin
- Simply walking around the city and enjoying the historical buildings, pubs, and cobblestone streets is a great way to spend your time in Dublin without spending a single cent.
- Raining? No problem, the Museums and galleries are a great way to spend a rainy day!
- Dublin city is flat and relatively small, making it very easy to get around on foot. However, if you do need to take transport, then save money by using the Dublin city public transport options or Dublin city bikes.
- If you prefer to get around in Taxis, then find out how to safely use Ireland’s taxi services.
- Each year Ireland hosts a Culture Night. In Dublin, a vast number of the paid tourist sites become free for the evening. There is also lots of free events and live performances for all ages and tastes. The next Culture Night is scheduled for the 18th September, 2015. To find out more, visit the Culture Night website