Stretch that student budget with these recommendations from National College of Ireland for interesting things to see and do in Dublin – without spending a penny. From cultural attractions to national landmarks to fitness pursuits – along with a few recommendations that are off the beaten track - there should be something here to suit all tastes. Because the best things in life are free…
1. We might be biased but our favourite stretch of the Liffey for strolling – with views of the Jeanie Johnston famine replica ship, the Dublin Convention Centre and Samuel Beckett bridge – is just on our doorstep in the IFSC. The Grand Canal also begins in our ‘hood: known as the Silicon Docks, this area is popular with high-tech multinationals and locals alike, and it’s lovely for a wee wander of a weekend morning.
2. A great spot in which to spend a Sunday is the Hugh Lane Gallery on Parnell Square North (beside the Garden of Remembrance, which is also free, and ideal for some quiet contemplation). Not only can you browse the various exhibitions and collections, including the Francis Bacon studio, but you can take in a free concert or tour on the Sabbath.
3. Dublin’s parks are a fantastic free resource. Feed the ducks in St Stephen’s Green, look out for deer in the Phoenix Park or explore the local art that’s hung for sale round Merrion Square each Sunday. And if you’re the athletic type, Parkrun Ireland holds free, timed, 5 km runs every week in parks across Dublin. Find more info and register for your first run here.
4. The Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, just 3 km from the city centre, are well worth a visit: they house a beautiful collection of flowers, plants, trees and the National Herbarium, as well as hosting various workshops and events. It’s open year-round and, like everything on this list, admission is free.
5. St Patrick is the saint most associated with Ireland - but did you know you can visit the shrine of Saint Valentine in Dublin? His relics are housed in the Carmelite church on Whitefriar Street, one of the largest churches in Dublin and a beautiful building to explore in and of itself.
6. Get inspired, informed and educated with a visit to one of Dublin’s many free-to-enter museums: these include all three National Museums – the National Museum in Kildare Street, the National Museum in Collins Barracks and the Natural History Museum– along with the Irish Museum of Modern Art and the Chester Beatty Library at Dublin Castle.
7. Irish and international street artists have used Dublin as their canvas and exploring these artworks on foot is a great way to see the city. Start with James Earley’s vibrant, large-scale mural for Visit Dublin on City Quay, then explore James’s favourite pieces around the city.
8. Built in 1751, Aras an Uachtarain is the residence of the President of Ireland. It’s located in the Phoenix Park, it’s very grand, and it’s free to tour on a Saturday.
9. The shops on Grafton Street might be costly, but a stroll down Ireland's most famous shopping street will cost you nothing. Take in the buzzy atmosphere, do some people watching and enjoy the performances by street artists and buskers.
10. On the first Wednesday of every month, you can get free access to heritage sites that are managed by the Office of Public Works, on a first-come, first-served basis. This applies nationwide, but Dublin specific attractions include The Casino at Marino and Dublin Castle State Apartments; see heritageireland.ie for more.
11. Dublin is unique in that it stretches from the mountains to the sea, so remember there are plenty of treasures to explore beyond the city centre. Dollymount Beach is located on Bull Island in Clontarf and Raheny, just 4 miles from the city centre, and is a beautiful scenic stretch of Dublin Bay.
12. With incredible views of the countryside, city and sea, a refreshing hike in the Dublin Mountains is a great way to unwind and clear out the cobwebs! Even better, the Dublin Mountains Partnership runs free guided walks and hikes which you can explore on their website.
13. Prefer to stay in the urban centre? Why not explore the Dub-line, a route that spans from Kilmainham Gaol through to Trinity College and Parnell Square, with a free self-guided walking trail? Download the Dublin Discovery Trails App or check out the website.
14. Finally – for this list, anyway - Farmleigh House is where the Irish Government puts up visiting dignitaries. It’s situated on a 78 acre estate to the north-west of Dublin's Phoenix Park, and has plenty to explore: from the weekend food markets to the walled garden, boathouse, formal sunken garden and, of course, the house itself.
Want even more suggestions for fun, free stuff to do in Dublin? Why not sign up to the mailing list for the Dublin event guide for free events, and keep yourself informed of everything that’s happening in the city. We run some great, free, public events at National College of Ireland, too, so add your name to our mailing list and follow us on social media to be the first to hear!