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The Best Free Attractions in Dublin

The Best Things to do Without Spending Money in Dublin

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Dublin, despite its relatively small size, is one of the most vibrant cities of Europe - it also tends to be one of the more expensive cities. Low air fares are just the start of any journey and travelers tend to be surprised by the prices in Ireland's capital city. With even budget accommodation exceeding some budgets. Traveling on a shoestring seems to be a thing of the past ...

But there are still things to be had for free - or at least for the moderate cost of a day ticket on Dublin Bus. Find out about the best places to visit and things to do if you are visiting Dublin on a budget:

1. Explore the National Museums of Ireland

Exploring Irish (pre-) history at the National Museum in Kildare Street
© Bernd Biege 2014
Located centrally in Dublin, no less than three National Museums are open free to visitors. And hold some priceless collections to boot. Visit the National Museum in Kildare Street for Prehistoric, Celtic, Viking and Medieval History or the National Museum in Collins Barracks for arts, crafts, numismatics and the military history of Ireland. And don’t forget the unique Natural History Museum, the "Dead Zoo".

2. Visit the Seals in Howth Harbour

Howth Harbour
© Bernd Biege 2013
Howth really has it all - bracing cliff walks, spectacular vistas, lots of fresh air, a busy harbor and ... seals. If you want to come eye-to-eye with marine mammals, Howth is the place to go. You can spend anything from an hour to a whole day here. There should be enough to keep you amused.

3. Stroll Through Phoenix Park

Deer in Phoenix Park
© Bernd Biege 2013
Exploring the whole Phoenix Park could take days, but a few hours walking are enough for most visitors. You can see stately houses (including the residences of the Irish president as well as the US ambassador), Ashtown Castle, wild deer, the Papal Cross, the Magazine Fort ...

4. Visit Lesser-Known Churches

Shrine of Saint Valentine
© Bernd Biege 2013
While St. Patrick's Cathedral and Christ Church Cathedral do charge an entry fee (outside mass hours), numerous splendid churches are free to visit in Dublin. Including:
  • St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral, Marlborough Street - hear the Palestrina Choir at mass on Sundays;
  • St. Ann's, Dawson Street - loaves of bread are still distributed to the poor;
  • Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Whitefriars Street - Carmelite church housing the relics of Saint Valentine;
  • University Church, St. Stephen's Green - a Byzantine gem hidden away;
  • Our Lady of Lourdes, Sean MacDermott Street - holds the remains of the Blessed Matt Talbot.

5. Get Arty at the National Gallery of Ireland

The National Gallery of Ireland at Merrion Square has an eclectic collection, some items being bequeathed by George Bernhard Shaw upon the gallery. Art on display includes "big names" as well as lesser-known artists. The collection is especially strong on Irish art and artists. And you may come eye-to-eye with Ireland's great and famous in the portrait gallery.

6. Walk Your Way Through Dublin

Despite urban traffic vacillating between the two extremes of near-standstill and manic speed, Dublin still has a lot to offer for those willing to walk. Several routes are signposted and highlight different aspects of the city. Or you might try these hikes:

7. Observe Dublin Life in Dublin's Parks

This is for all of those who can take pleasure in simply observing their fellow humans - place yourself on a strategic bench in any of Dublin's city center parks and just wait. On any given day whole dramas of Shakespearean proportions will unfold in front of you. Especially St. Stephen's Green is known for the lively "performances" given by office workers, tourists, schoolchildren and shoppers.

8. Hop on a Dublin Doubledecker

Dublin Bus offers some great bus passes for tourists - and they include a free tour of Dublin. I am not referring to the regular tours of Dublin here. Just grab a ticket, a bus map and hop on any of the routes going through the city center. See Dublin from the top of a doubledecker, warts and all. You will be sure to see the city like it really is, in all its sprawling splendor.

9. Enjoy South Dublin Bay

Take a southbound DART from the city center and ride the rails to Dun Laoghaire. Walk through the harbor and along the promenade to Sandycove, finally arriving at Joyce's Martello Tower. But not before glimpsing naked elderly men braving the cold of the sea at the "40 Foot". Or take the longer ride out to Bray, the once fashionable suburb with its Victorian promenade. A cliff walk to Greystones is easily started here.

10. Go Sculpture-Hunting in Dublin

Dublin is jam-packed with sculpture in public places, including works by Henry Moore - but one has to know were to look. From the towering Spire in O'Connell Street to the cinema usher near the "Screen". Muriel Bolger's small guide "Statues & Stories" can help to locate works of art - though it contains some serious howlers in the text.

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