Dublin has lots to offer visitors. From cozy pubs to breathtaking natural scenery, this city has something for everyone. While you can pay for lots of different things, there is plenty to do in Dublin free of charge.
The 21 Best Things to do in Dublin for Free:
- Listening to some traditional Irish music.
- Exploring Georgian Dublin.
- The Chester Beatty Library.
- Enjoying the “Craic”.
- Listening to street performers.
- Taking a walking tour.
- The Phoenix Park.
- Collins Barracks.
- Trinity College’s student bar.
- The “Icon Walk” in Templebar.
- Go hiking in Howth.
- See some ancient Irish mummies.
- Walk along the canals.
- See some traditional Irish dancing.
- The Botanical Gardens.
- Take a look at our new art gallery!
- Free comedy.
- The Science Gallery.
- Glasnevin Cemetery.
- Listen to some great up and coming performers.
- See the Dead Zoo!
Some of the activities that we are going to talk about today will require a small amount of money and if so I will mention it. Also, this list is not really in any particular order (#3 is my personal favourite!)
Listen to Some Traditional Irish Music
Music has been an integral part of Irish culture for generations and the more traditional music is still widely practiced, even among the Irish youth. There are plenty of places where you will be able to experience this quintessential part of Irish life all over the city and the best part about it, is that its free!
Musicians will meet, usually in a pub, with their instruments in hand and perform for locals and travellers alike. When people know the songs they often join in and when they don’t, they respectfully listen and enjoy the performance. You too can experience this all over Dublin, any day of the week. Sit back with a drink if you’d like, and enjoy the atmosphere.
If you want details on the best places to see live music in Dublin, I have a comprehensive list of the best places. In that guide I have recommendations for traditional pubs and popular venues for contemporary music.
Exploring Georgian Dublin
The 18th century was good to Dublin, and this period produced some of the city’s most beautiful buildings and neighborhoods. If the sun shines, you will be able to wander around these parts of the city and really improve your Instagram profile!
The oldest street in this style is Henrietta Street, to the north of the city centre, but there are beautiful districts, in this style, south of the River Liffey too. The great Georgian Stephen’s Green and Merrion Square both have city parks that you will be able to explore at your own leisure and see locals milling about. Make sure you bring your camera as the vibrant “Georgian Doors of Dublin” are one of the city’s most beloved landmarks.
Some of the more famous buildings constructed during this period include: the Bank of Ireland, Leinster House (seat of the Irish Parliament) and the front section of Trinity College.
The Chester Beatty Library
I think that this is the most underrated museum in Dublin and is usually one of its most beloved. Chester Beatty himself was an American industrialist who made a fortune in the U.S and decided that he wanted to amass one of the best collections of religious art in the world.
After he died, he left this collection to the Irish people on one condition: that it would be free for us to enjoy in perpetuity. So today you will be able to wander around one of the most extensive and comprehensive collections of religious artifacts in the world, free of charge. Among many other things, this library contains ancient Egyptian manuscripts, medieval Irish writings and the second largest collection of Muslim Quarans in the world!
When you are here you will also be able to learn about the man himself and why he made his way to Ireland and left such a generous gift to its people.
Have the Craic
Pronounced “Crack”, this is a common expression in Ireland and its something that you should definitely try to have while you are here. In the English language there is no definitive translation, but basically the craic is a good time or atmosphere.
When people leave Ireland, and they have really enjoyed their stay, they rarely ever mention any of the museums or specific sites, but they will usually mention the atmosphere around the country. People talk about how friendly and good-natured the Irish are and we call this part of our culture the craic.
It is easy to find on the streets and usually takes the form of good conversation. This is possibly the easiest thing to find on this list, but arguably the most authentic and important!
Listening to Street Performers
One of the best ways to experience the craic is by simply wandering the streets of Dublin and enjoying the many street performers. Even in the Irish weather, they will still come out for your benefit. Many famous musicians have cut their teeth busking on the streets of Dublin, including U2, Glen Hansard and even Ed Sheeran!
Take a Walking Tour
Dublin’s city centre is small, yet in this walkable area there is a lot to see and do. Even with an online resource as good as this one, there is nothing better than getting a guided tour of the area by a local. In Dublin there are plenty of Free Tours on offer that will cover Irish history and give recommendations on what to do while you are in the city. I have personally worked for a couple of these companies, so I have first-hand experience in the area.
In my opinion, the best Free-Tour in Dublin are the ones with the Yellow Umbrellas that start their tours at the Spire on O’Connell street. This is the best starting location in the city as it’s hard to miss the tallest thing in town, which also just happens to be on the main street of the city! These guys have 2 walking tours of Dublin. One starts at 11am and the other at 3pm.
The first tour will walk you around the south of the city, give you an overview of the country’s history and will cover more of the sightseeing side of things. This tour is usually about 2.5 – 3 hours long with a break in the middle. The afternoon tour will cover the north side of Dublin and will go into detail on the last hundred or so years of Irish history. This was when Ireland fought its successful War of Independence and established itself as a nation. This tour is about 2 hours with no break.
You don’t need to book any of these tours, all you have to do is show up and enjoy them. Make sure to tip your guide however! Normal tips for a good walking tour are about €10-20 per person, but with these types of tour its entirely up to you.
The Phoenix Park
This is the largest walled city park in the world and with a diameter of 11 kilometers, there are plenty of things for you to enjoy while you’re here. You can stroll around the area at your own leisure or take in some of the sites in the park. Here you can find the residences of the Irish President and the Prime Minister and the Residence of the U.S Ambassador. Here you can also find Dublin Zoo and a herd of over 300 deer that call this part of Dublin city home!
For more information on how to see this part of Dublin, you can find my guide to the best day tours from Dublin using public transport.
This is one of the most extensive museums in all of Ireland. This was the former site of the main British army barracks in the country and when originally built, was the largest army barracks in the world. After independence the area was given over to the new government and eventually it become this excellent museum.
In here you will be able to learn about Ireland’s military history in great detail. There are exhibitions on initial struggles against English invasions to Irish regiments who fought in armies all over the world. The museum also goes into detail on Ireland’s involvement in UN peacekeeping actions in more recent decades.
Go to the Student Bar in Trinity College
You don’t have to be a student of this famous university to enjoy it’s student bar. Known as the Pav, this unique establishment was created out of Trinity’s old cricket clubhouse. While this may at first come across as somewhat elitist, the Pav is anything but. This place is one of the few in Dublin that sells beer by the can. While you will have to purchase it, this is probably the cheapest place to drink in the centre of Dublin.
The Pav is a particularly great place to head to when we get that elusive Irish sunshine. During the height of the summer it will stay bright till about 11 pm. When the weather is good, people flock outside to have a few drinks and enjoy the novelty of sun in Ireland. On a good day during the summer you will find thousands of people out on the cricket grounds of Trinity college with a can of beer.
See the Icon Walk in Templebar
If you ask certain Irish people about this part of the city, there is a good chance that they will tell you to avoid it. The area has a mixed reputation and is regarded by many as a place filled with drunken tourists on a stag night out. While this is common in Templebar, the area has so much to offer.
One of my favourite little secrets in Dublin is the “Icon Walk” in Templebar. This is a series of posters and street art throughout some of the side alleys in the area. The art not only looks great, but is also offers a great summary of many important moments in Irish cultural history. If you walk along this small route you will find out the names of some of Ireland’s greatest athletes, writers, actors and many more.
Go Hiking in Howth
I have already spoken about how great Howth is. This is my favourite place on the East Coast of Ireland and its one of the best places to visit around Dublin, especially if you want to see some of the famous Irish countryside.
Howth is a small peninsula just north of the city centre, here you can find the village, which has been supplying the region with freshly caught fish for generations. You can also find Howth castle, a stone-age monument and many more hidden gems. In my opinion however, Howth offers some of the best cliff-walks anywhere in Ireland. Here you will be able to soak in some beautiful views along the coast and some of the best panoramic views of Dublin city.
See Some Ancient Irish Mummies
The National Museum of Archaeology is located on Kildare Street, right next to the Irish Parliament and St. Stephen’s Green. This is one of the most popular museums in the city among locals. Here you will be able to find artifacts from all over Ireland.
There are exhibits that talk about medieval Ireland and the Viking period, there is even an Egyptian section of the museum. Even with all of the various different things to see, the most popular exhibit here has always been the Bog Bodies. This is a collection of a handful of ancient Irish men who were ritualistically killed and had their bodies buried in bogs throughout the island. Because of the chemical nature of these bogs, the bodies were naturally mummified and today you can see these remains on display in our national museum!
Since this is a national museum, it is open to the public for free, though it does close on Mondays, so plan accordingly!
Walk Along the Canals
The Grand Canal to the South and the Royal Canal to the North were the traditional boundaries of Dublin city. In order to be considered a true Dubliner, you had to live between either of these two man-made waterways. These days fewer and fewer people live in the centre of the city and this rule has been done away with, almost like the canals themselves. Though people rarely use the canals for their intended purposes today, they are still well-loved by the people of the city.
Walking along either canal offers great views of the city from street level and you might forget the fact that you are mere minutes away from the madness that is Dublin city centre!
See Some Traditional Irish Dancing
In addition to music, dance has always played a huge role in Irish culture. Today there are many different ways to enjoy dancing throughout the city, but many of these shows require you to part with your hard-earned cash. If you know where to look, you might be able to catch a free traditional dancing show in Dublin in O’Neill’s pub on Suffolk Street, next to the Molly Malone Statue.
If you want more information on how to see free dancing in Dublin, you can consult my guide.
The Botanical Gardens
If you are brave enough to venture back outside in Dublin, one of the best places that you can check out is on the north side of the city. The Botanical Gardens have specimens from all over the world flourishing side by side in Ireland. This is a beautiful attraction in the city that has been popular among locals for more than a century.
Take a Look at Our New Art Gallery!
Irish writers have taken the spotlight in Irish cultural history and its hard not to see why. This small country has produced some of the finest writers in history, but our contributions to other mediums of expression have started to garner more international attention. This was particularly true a couple of years ago when our National Art Gallery Re-Opened.
This multi-year, and millions of Euro, project has been well-received by locals and when you get here, this should be high on your list of museums to check out. It will have artwork from Ireland and all over the world. My personal favourite thing to see here are all of the sketches and paintings of Dublin from hundreds of years ago. Some parts of the city have changed very little!
See Some Free Comedy
We like to think that we have a great sense of humour here in Ireland and comedy shows are popular all over the country. If you want to see some of them on a budget, you have some options. There are two great free comedy nights in Dublin that I would strongly recommend:
- The Riff-Raff Comedy Night. This takes place every Wednesday at 8pm in the Chelsea Drugstore on Anguier Street.
- Comedy Crunch. This takes place at 9pm, every Sunday, Monday and Tuesday in the Stag’s Head pub on Dame Lane.
These shows are great and many new performers gain invaluable experience at these shows. You might also find many established Irish comedians testing out new material to audiences in a no-risk environment.
Both of these nights are free, though it is customary to leave a tip behind. Anything from €5-20 per person is usually enough. This is really up to you and your own judgement.
The Science Gallery
Located in Trinity College, this free museum is open to the public during the week. If you want to learn more about the sciences and get up close and personal to some experiments, this is a great option for you.
This museum is great for a younger crowd, or for people who are just passionate about science!
They will also have free events here regularly.
Visit Glasnevin Cemetery
There are more people buried in this cemetery than currently live in Dublin city. Since its opening in the 1820’s, Glasnevin has become the final resting place of some of the most important Irish figures of the last 200 years. From civl-rights leaders like Daniel O’Connell and Sir Roger Casement to revolutionaries like Patrick Pearce and Michael Collins, you will find many great leaders in here.
Though you can wander around the cemetery at your own leisure, there are guided tours on offer. For more information, click HERE.
Listen to Some Great Up and Coming Performers
Though music has been a part of Irish tradition going back centuries, with many of these traditions still being popular today, the culture hasn’t sat still. Ireland has produced many great performers that have reached international levels of fame. If you want to see the next U2 or Thin Lizzy just before they make it big, there are plenty of bars around the city that play contemporary live music for free.
See the Dead Zoo!
The famous Victorian explorer, Livingston (The “I Presume” guy), opened Dublin’s natural history museum in the middle of the 19th century and it has barely changed since. Walking into this beloved national treasure is like walking back 150 years in time.
The museum itself also offers great information on Irish wildlife and all of the species of animals native to the island as well as those that are now extinct.