Dublin is the capital of Ireland and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. In this article, we will list the top 10 things to do, museums and attractions, nighttime and family-friendly activities, and cheap things you can do so you don't bust your budget!
TOP 10 THINGS TO DO
With so many things to do, what will you choose? Here is our top 10 list of free things to do in Dublin, including tours, music, attractions, and activities.
(1) Sightseeing Tours
Want to really get to know Dublin? We recommend a tour, of course. When you have a guide who really knows the area you get the best experience and information. Does your schedule not work with the guided tours? We have some great self-guided tours you can complete any time of day or night! (Including a self-guided pub crawl!)
If you’re looking for something a little different, the Office of Public Works offers free guided tours of historic buildings in Phoenix Park, like the Ashtown Castle, Magazine Fort, and the President of Ireland’s residence!
(2) Catch Some Free Music
Free music is everywhere in Dublin! At almost any time of day, you’ll be able to find buskers and street performers on Grafton Street or Henry Street.
Once afternoon hits, and through the night, you’ll be able to find a wide range of performers in pubs throughout the city. The easiest way to find music, whether traditional Irish music or participatory sing-alongs, is to head toward Temple Bar. The beer is expensive, but the music is plenty and free. You can even hear it in the streets.
One of the most popular pubs for Irish music (known as a “Trad session”), is the Cobblestone.
Even though it isn’t required, we encourage you to tip performers or purchase drinks when listening to free music. For a few more ideas for super cheap entertainment, check out our almost-free section.
(3) National Museum of Ireland
From Vikings in Ireland and the country’s relationship with gold, to brilliant medieval jewelry, there is a lot of history at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin. The permanent exhibits are completely free to visit. If you love history and archaeology, this is the perfect museum for you!
Dublin has plenty of other free museums, including art, history, and science. Check out the rest of the free museums and attractions below.
(4) Find New Neighborhoods
Temple Bar is the neighborhood many people think about when they think about Dublin. Temple Bar is where the young party crowd hang out at night. And it is worth a look, even during the daytime, especially for their Saturday morning Farmer’s Market. But there is more to Dublin than Temple Bar!
Directly on the west side of Temple Bar is the royal section of the city centre. You can find Dublin Castle as well as City Hall and other government buildings.
And of course, don’t forget about the other side of Dublin’s river!
Cross at Ha’Penny Bridge to see a slightly more local side of Dublin. A bit farther to the northwest is Henrietta Street, where you'll find Georgian architecture that is a popular filming location for historic shows and movies.
(5) Explore the Local Farmer’s Market
There are several Farmer’s Markets in Dublin, but one of the easiest to get to is the one in Temple Bar on Saturday mornings. They have produce as well as fresh sweet and savory treats. If you wander through all the vendors on a good day, you just might be able to pick up a free sample from one of them.
Of course, we recommend buying several treats while you’re there!
And if you really want to get a good look at Dublin’s food scene, we recommend finding a good food tour.
(6) Take the Kids to the National Gallery of Ireland
The National Gallery of Ireland gives you the perfect way to introduce your kids to art, or to nurture their artistic inclinations. When you show up, make sure to grab a kid’s audio guide and a pack of art supplies so you can let the museum inspire you! Adults are encouraged to grab a pencil, so the whole family can create art together.
If you’re in Dublin on a Sunday, take advantage of the family days. The National Gallery hosts free workshops from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm. They also lead free kids tours at 12:30 pm on Sundays.
For more family-friendly things to do, check out the section below.
TIP: Most museums do not permit bringing luggage or large bags and backpacks with you. You can find convenient storage locations in this blog post.
(7) Take a Stroll Down River Liffey at Night
There are so many things happening in the city at night that it can be fun to let your feet take you where they will! The canal is beautiful at night, with well-lit bridges spanning the water and lights from buildings on both sides reflecting off the water.
On one side of the river, you’ll hear music playing from the many Temple Bar pubs. On the other, the shopping streets are still lively with street performers and shoppers.
Where will you end up? Who knows! There are a number of great free things to do after dark, and your walk could lead you to any of them. Take a look at our nighttime activities section for ideas like the Ha’Penny Bridge, Dublin Castle, or St Patrick’s Cathedral.
(8) Dollymount Strand Beach
If the weather is nice, why not go out to Dublin’s coast? It isn’t what most people think of when they think of Dublin, but it offers a relaxing change of pace and plenty of space for the kids to run around and explore.
On warmer days you’ll find locals and visitors alike sunbathing and splashing in the water. Other times games of football or volleyball might be happening on the sand.
The whole family can enjoy exploring the dunes and digging their toes in the sand. And is there anything better than tiring yourself out then heading to a nearby pub to fill up on local fish and chips?
(9) Find the Famous Monuments
Dublin is covered in monuments dedicated to famous people and to events in history. Can you find them all? And once you do... can you figure out the nicknames Dubliners have given them?
Here are a few of the monuments:
- Oscar Wilde can be found lounging on a rock in Merrion Square Park.
- Anna Livia is in Croppies Memorial Park, often referenced as "the floozie in the jacuzzi."
- Two bronze women with shopping bags are called "the hags with the bags."
- The interesting and modern Sphere within Sphere is on the Trinity College campus.
- James Joyce can be found standing on North Earl Street.
(10) Utilize a Tourist Pass
While not free at the outset, if you purchase and use an all-inclusive tourist pass you’ll end up getting entry into multiple attractions for free! If you get an early start, the pass will more than pay for itself.
Attractions included in the Dublin Pass:
- Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus
- Guinness Storehouse
- Jameson Distillery
- Dublin Zoo
- The Irish Emigration Museum
- Teelings Distillery
- Glasnevin Cemetery Museum
For an in-depth comparison of the tourist passes available in Dublin, check out our article.
MUSEUMS AND ATTRACTIONS
Dublin is full of history and art, which means there are a lot of museums to visit!
Here is a list of art galleries, history museums, educational institutions, and other attractions to visit in Dublin.
While getting into the Great Court, Library, and Chapel at Trinity College require a ticket, it is completely free to walk down Trinity Lane and look around the Queen’s Gate. You can often get a good look at the Great Court from Queen’s Gate - and there is still plenty of architecture to admire in the publicly accessible areas.
National Botanic Gardens
The National Botanic Gardens are well-known for their beautiful glass greenhouses and wide variety of plant life. It is completely free to enter and walk around.
If you’re looking for a bit of calm after exploring the busy city, this is the perfect place to visit.
National Gallery of Ireland
Some of Ireland’s best works of art are displayed in the National Gallery of Ireland. From Irish scenes and Irish artists to internationally famous artists, there is a lot to enjoy. The permanent exhibits are always free. And if you want to try your own hand at making some art, supplies are available for kids and adults!
Irish Museum of Modern Art
The permanent exhibits at the Irish Museum of Modern Art are always free! The works displayed celebrate modern life and modern art and how they connect.
If you happen to go on a Tuesday, the special exhibits are always free, but a bit crowded so they recommend booking in advance.
Science Gallery Trinity College
The Science Gallery at Trinity College is a leading-edge cultural center. They display exhibits focusing on both science and contemporary art. You can find talks happening, musical performances, film screenings, and more.
Dublin Castle is absolutely free to wander around the main areas and public exhibits! And there’s plenty to see, from fully-furnished staterooms to architecture and artwork.
If you’d like to see inside some of the state apartments and the chapel, you’ll need to purchase a guided tour ticket.
Chester Beatty Library
Lonely Planet has called this library one of the best museums in Europe! It is situated on the grounds of Dublin Castle, in the free-to-the-public area. You’ll find artifacts from all over the world, documenting different cultures and times in history.
Garden of Remembrance
This peaceful garden in Parnell Square was built in memory of all who lost their lives for Irish Freedom.
There are beautiful flowers, water features, and a sculpture that represents the struggle of the Irish people.
Dublin City Gallery: The Hugh Lane
This modern and contemporary art gallery is dedicated to Irish artists, and regarded as one of the best in Ireland. It is free to enter, though they do suggest a donation to help keep the gallery open. You can simply wander around and admire the art. They also offer paid workshops for artists of any skill level.
National Museum of Ireland
The National Museum of Ireland is a must-see for history buffs. They showcase mostly Irish archaeology, history, and culture. If you’ve ever had an interest in the beginnings and development of this country, the National Museum is where you want to be!
Did you know the Glasnevin has more “residents” than the city of Dublin?
Many family-genealogy buffs who have Irish ancestry, or those who love Irish history, will likely already know about this cemetery. The museum has an entrance fee, but the cemetery itself is free to explore.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
This National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland was completed in 1191. The gothic architecture is breathtaking, and the spire makes it the tallest church in the country. If you want to thoroughly explore the interior, you’ll need to purchase a ticket for a tour, but it is free to respectfully sit in on a worship service.
What can you do for free in Dublin when the sun goes down? A lot!
Here is a list of tours, sights, and attractions to see at night in the city.
Taking a tour is a fantastic way to get to know a new city better. You’ll get insider tips and history you might never have known about. But what do you do if you want to take a tour at night? Free audio tours, like these from GPSMyCity, are the perfect way to walk around Dublin on your own time.
Officially named the Liffey Bridge, the Ha’penny bridge was built in 1816 out of cast iron as an alternative to using ferries to cross the river. It originally cost a half penny to cross, hence the nickname! This is a great bridge to cross any time of day, but at night it is very pretty and lit up.
Live Music at Pubs
Music seems to be everywhere in Dublin, no matter the time of day. But after the sun goes down, the pubs get a lot louder with live music and plenty of sing-a-longs.
Just walking through the Temple Bar district will let you sample traditional Irish music as well as entertaining bar music. If you hear something you like, you can walk right in.
National Gallery of Ireland
Some of Ireland’s best works of art are displayed in the National Gallery of Ireland. But if your daytime schedule is already packed, don’t worry. On Thursday evenings the National Gallery stays open late, until 20:30 (9:30 pm). This should leave you plenty of time to admire the art or take a stab at drawing something yourself.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
The official cathedral of the Church of Ireland is open late! If you want to sit in on an evensong service, they generally start at 5:30 pm. You’ll get to hear the talented choir.
They’re also open for prayer and worship until 7:00 pm or 8:00 pm at night most nights, so check the schedule.
What is better than a beautiful castle? A castle that is lit up at night! Dublin Castle grounds are free to walk around, and if you’re a fan of the old architecture you should definitely take a look after dark.
If you’re looking for nightlife, look no further than Temple Bar. There is plenty of high energy to go around with all the partiers early into the morning, often spilling out into the streets. Keep in mind, though, that in Temple Bar the price of both food and drink will be much higher than in other areas of town.
Dublin is known for its drinking culture, but there are still more than enough attractions and things to do that the whole family can be included in!
Here is a list of parks, museums, and activities the kids will love!
Phoenix Park is a massive urban park only a few miles from the city centre. It was originally kept as royal hunting grounds but has been open to the public since the mid-1700s. Both the trails and the grassy open spaces are perfect for running around. And if you’re lucky, you might see some of the very large deer that still live in the park.
Merrion Square Park
This garden square was designed in Georgian times, with lovely tree-covered paths and natural features - like large rocks - to climb on. This square is popular with local children and adults. On one end, you can find the interesting remains of an air raid shelter.
St. Stephen’s Green Park
If you’re looking for some space to run and play or just relax, St. Stephen’s Green is perfectly situated in the middle of the city centre.
You can find a playground, sculptures dedicated to Irish history, beautiful plant life, and a specially-designed garden for visually impaired visitors.
Temple Bar Farmer’s Market
If you’re looking to experience some local culture or food, head to Temple Bar Market on Saturday mornings. There is plenty of fresh produce, but there is also a wide range of fully-prepared treats available to purchase as well. This is a perfect spot for people-watching as well.
Grafton Street is one of the main shopping streets in the city. It sits between College Green and St. Stephen’s Green and is packed with shops for all price points. One of the best ways to experience it, however, is focusing on people-watching. Kids will love the many street performers, too!
This stretch of beach is outside of the city centre and on Dublin’s coast. If you’re ready to get out of the city, this makes a perfect afternoon trip.
There is a sandy beach with dunes to explore, and you’ll often find people playing sports, or if the weather is warm enough, sunbathing and splashing in the water.
Not everything is free, but there are still some really cheap things to do and ways to see the city.
Here are our suggestions.
If you’re looking for a low-cost way to get around the city, Dublinbikes is the perfect mode of transport. 15 bike stations are distributed throughout the city, and you can use a credit card or specific Dublinbikes card to rent a bike. When you’re done, you can return it to any Dublinbikes station.
TIP: You’ll only need to pay for the rental if you use it for more than 30 minutes!
Jeanie Johnston Famine Ship
Interested in the famine that caused thousands of the Irish to flee their home country?
This museum is an authentic replica of the Jeanie Johnston ship that made 16 journeys to North America during that time.
Find Cheap Eats
Constant eating out can get expensive, but not if you know where to look! For an affordable (€6.50) fry up, try Gerry's Coffee Shop! And if you're looking for some quality fish, try Fish Shop Dublin - you can grab a full meal for around €7.