Dublin is a dynamic and exciting city to visit. And for the budget traveler who seeks something a bit different, there are many free things to do in Dublin.
You don’t have to spend much getting around the city center because it’s so easy to visit all the main areas on foot, and you simply have to gaze upwards to capture all the wonderful architecture of the building facades.
There are free walking tours available such as Sandeman’s New Dublin Tours that you can book online or just turn up for at City Hall. You will follow your knowledgeable guide around some of Dublin’s most interesting and historic buildings and landmarks, and learn all about Irish history including the 750 years of rebellion leading up to the Easter Rising that set the stage for independence.
Galleries and Museums in Dublin
Most galleries and museums in Dublin City are free to enter and one of my current favourites is the Science Gallery. Based in Trinity College, the Science Gallery puts on lots of exciting exhibitions to awaken curious minds to the wonders of science. There’s also a pop-up Makeshop where you can wander into workshops and create bots, clocks and even your own radio, it will keep children and wannabe children amused for hours.
Another gallery that’s a bit different is the Dublin City Hugh Lane Gallery. It’s the home of Francis Bacon’s Art Studio which is itself an amazing work of art, albeit a messy, chaotic one. The whole studio was brought to Dublin and re-assembled exactly as it was including the years of grime. It’s free and open every day except Monday when most galleries in Dublin are closed.
Of course any trip to Dublin would be incomplete without a visit to the Chester Beatty Library which houses one of the finest collections of manuscripts and artifacts dating from around 2700 BC. It’s set in a spectacular location in the city center at Dublin Castle. On display are some of the most beautiful manuscripts and religious artworks and sculptures from Islam, Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism.
Hidden Gems in Dublin
The seaside town of Dun Laoghaire is the perfect place to take a stroll on a sunny afternoon (it does get sunny here … sometimes). You can then have lunch at the delightful People’s Park Market, before visiting a little known gem called The Oratory of the Sacred Heart. Filled with beautiful murals painted by Sister Concepta Lynch, the Oratory is a must see for every art and history lover. It is decorated throughout with stunningly detailed and colorful art and I’m always surprised at how few people know about it. It’s free to enter but it isn’t always open so I recommend you email or ring them in advance.
Another sight that won’t be in all the tourist guides is St Mary’s Abbey just off Capel Street. Only two rooms remain at this haunting building that offers an intriguing snippet of Irish history. The Abbey played an important role in the affairs of state after it was built by Henry VIII in 1139 and now houses a fascinating exhibition. Make sure you look it up on a map first, as it is well hidden from the street; the best way to find it is probably by looking for Evans Art Supplies beside the entrance.
Festivals and Events in Dublin
Culture Night occurs annually to celebrate all things Irish, including art, language and music. This year it takes place in September. More than 150 venues will open their doors for a night of free entertainment so it’s definitely worth organizing a trip around it.
If you’re interested in architecture then Dublin is the perfect place and there is no better time to visit than during Open House, when many private buildings are open to the public with free entry and guided tours. It’s run by the Irish Architecture Foundation, be aware that you must book in advance because the tours fill up very quickly.
There is so much to see and do in Dublin beyond what is written in the tourist guides, and the best way to find out is by speaking with locals; given the Irish gift for gab, people in shops and pub along with taxi drivers and hotel staff will usually be delighted to tell you about all their favorite places.
Of course there are also great tourist information offices, including The Dublin Tourism Information Office on Suffolk Street. It’s the best place to start and get free maps and advice which will definitely come in useful in the narrow streets and many laneways of this historical city.
Guest writer Ciara Kennedy lives in Dublin and loves to write about her travels. When she is not writing she enjoys going to electronic music festivals or hanging out with her friends drinking wine and sampling cheeses from around the world. You can follow her on twitter.