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A Local's Guide to the Best Free Things to Do in Dublin

Free things to do in Dublin: Samuel Beckett Bridge

Looking for free things to do in Dublin? I've been living in Ireland for over a decade so I've got you. If you are planning a budget trip to Ireland, saving a few euro here and there can make all the difference. There are a number of free attractions in Dublin if you know where to look. From free museums to Dublin's gorgeous parks and Georgian Squares to photowalks in the city and on the coast, discover free things to do in Dublin recommended by a local.

Map of the Best Free Things to do in Dublin

To start us off, I've plotted the best free things to do in Dublin on this handy map. Click on the image of the map to open up an interactive version in Google Maps.

Map of the best free things to do in Dublin

Best Free Museums in Dublin

Dublin is known for world-class museums. The different branches of the National Museum of Ireland are all free to enter as are many of the other unique Dublin museums. You will generally find a donation box in the lobby if you care to make a contribution, but there is no obligation if your budget is tight.  

The Dead Zoo

Dublin's Museum of Natural History is my absolute favorite museum in Dublin. Envision Victorian-era curio cabinets filled with specimens of taxidermy from around the world. These exhibits are what earned the Museum of National History its nickname: the Dead Zoo. You'll even come eye-to-eye with some animals that are now extinct. Did you know that the Dead Zoo has some Darwin material in its collection? These trays of pinned insects from the voyage of the Beagle are not always on display, but are truly a mark of history. As an aside, Evolution's Captain: NF abt Capt. FitzRoy and Chas Darwin by Peter Nichols is a fascinating read and one of my top recommended books that inspire travel.

Best Free Things to do in Dublin: Natural History Museum Dead Zoo

National Gallery

The National Gallery of Ireland is another great free thing to do in Dublin. Explore the rich history of Irish Art. Prominent among the collection are the distinctive works of Jack Butler Yeats. J.B. Yeats is the brother of one of Ireland's most famous poets: William Butler Yeats (W. B. Yeats) who hails from County Sligo. If you are a Yeats fan, don't miss this Sligo road trip inspired by Yeats' poetry. In addition to stunning works of art, the grand architecture of the National Gallery is worth a look in its own right. The atmosphere for viewing art at Dublin's National Gallery is unparalleled with deeply painted walls, wainscoting and grand arches leading you from room to room. 

Free things to do in Dublin: National Gallery of IrelandBest free things to do in Dublin: National Museum of Archaeology

National Museum of Archaeology

The National Museum of Archaeology is another free museum in Dublin where the architecture rivals the exhibits. Enter through a grand domed chamber filled with light. Explore treasures dug up over the centuries. Many of these finds date back to Viking times. The most striking exhibit for me was the Bog Bodies. A number of sets of human remains dating back to the Iron Age were discovered in peat bogs around the country. The nature of that environment means that the Bog Bodies are extremely well-preserved. We actually almost missed this main attraction. The descriptions of the Bog Bodies are outside huge cylinders. You need to walk down the curved ramp and into the cylinder to see the bodies. We've visited the National Museum of Archaeology twice and we actually walked right by the Bog Bodies without seeing them the first time.

Chester Beatty Library

The Chester Beatty Library is a free museum located on the grounds of Dublin Castle. Chester Beatty Library is best known for its collection of ancient religious texts. Take a stroll around the Dublin Castle grounds and then check out the exhibits. There is a lovely cafe serving Middle Eastern food in the lobby of the Chester Beatty Library. Of course, while the museum is free, you'll have to pay for your coffee or lunch.

Best free things to do in Dublin: Visit Chester Beatty Library at Dublin Castle

The Science Gallery

The Science Gallery is located on the campus of Trinity College Dublin and is another great free thing to do in Dublin. You might think that this is a straight-up science museum. The Science Gallery is so much more than that. The rotating exhibits explore different themes from the perspective of both science and art (thus the name Science Gallery). I've popped into exhibits about the Periodic Table, failing better, and the provocatively named: Fat: It's Delicious.  The Science Gallery is a place you can go to again and again and have a different experience every time.

Best Parks in Dublin

When considering free things to do in Dublin, public parks rise to the top of the list. There are so many cool outdoor places to go in Dublin. Pack a picnic on a sunny day or bring your umbrella if it rains. You'll need to be ready for anything weather-wise in Dublin, but don't let that stop you for experiencing Dublin's best parks.

St. Stephen's Green

St. Stephen's Green is Dublin's most iconic park. Surrounded by historic Georgian buildings at the top of Grafton Street, St. Stephen's Green exudes peace and tranquility, especially if you go early in the morning. Enter through the inviting arch across from St. Stephen's Green Shopping Centre. Watch the happy ducks and swans paddling on the pond from the stone bridge or sit around the central fountain surrounded by carefully selected flowers that change with each season. 
Best free things to do in Dublin: St. Stephen's Green

Merrion Square

Merrion Square is a smaller and more manageable park less popular with tourists than St. Stephen's Green. Those in the know browse for paintings by local artists hanging from the fence on a Sunday. Seek out the marble statue of Oscar Wilde in the northwest corner of the park or the sculpted chair called The Joker's Chair which stands in memory of Dermot Morgan, the Irish actor who played Father Ted
Best free things to do in Dublin: Merrion Square Park

National Botanic Gardens

The National Botanic Gardens is another completely free thing to do in Dublin. Enter the National Botanic Gardens through an 18th century wrought iron gate. Yes, the National Botanic Gardens dates back to 1795 and features more than 15,000 species of plants. The gardens are incredibly spacious and feature both picturesque Victorian-era greenhouses and an extensive arboretum. Visit in the summer and experience an extensive garden of dahlias blooming in every color of the rainbow. The National Botanic Gardens are located next door to historic Glasnevin Cemetery where you can also wander around for free. Glasnevin Cemetery is best experienced through the museum or via a guided tour to get a true understanding of a great swath of Irish history from British occupation through the Easter Rising and formation of an independent republic. The museum and guided tours are not free, but are worth considering anyway.
Best free things to do in Dublin: National Botanic Gardens

Phoenix Park

Phoenix Park is the largest city park in Europe and is another fantastic free thing to do in Dublin. Go early and you might be rewarded by a sighting of the resident herd of deer. Both the American ambassador and President of Ireland have homes in Phoenix Park. Seek out the ruined castle and walled garden near the Phoenix Park visitors center. Make sure to bring your best walking shoes to properly explore all the nooks and crannies of Phoenix Park. The Dublin Zoo is also located within the park. Dublin Zoo is not free to visit, but is worth the splurge if you are visiting Dublin on a budget with kids.
Free things to do in Dublin: Phoenix Park castle tower

Iveagh Gardens

Iveagh Gardens is the secret alternative to St. Stephen's Green. Iveagh Gardens is tucked away off of Harcourt Street just a 5 minute walk from St. Stephen's Green. Sit for a while and steep in the atmosphere of this Victorian-era park. There is even a small waterfall to add to the ambiance. St. Stephen's Green can get quite crowded so Iveagh Gardens is the place that locals in the know will head on a sunny day out in Dublin.
Best free things to do in Dublin: waterfall at Iveagh Gardens

St. Anne's Park

St. Anne's Park is another most excellent free park to explore in Dublin. St. Anne's Park is located in Raheny in Dublin's Northside inner suburbs. Seek out the extensive rose gardens and the Chinese Suzhou Garden for a unique day out in nature. If you are feeling ambitious, you can also take a walk onto North Bull Island for a bracing walk on the Irish Sea and a spot of birdwatching.
Best free things to do in Dublin: St. Anne's Park in Raheny

Best Photowalks in Dublin

Another fun category of free things to do in Dublin is photowalks. Bring your camera and walking shoes and embark on a journey through Instagrammable Dublin.

Trinity College Dublin

Trinity College Dublin is a fantastic and self-contained place to take a free photowalk. Explore the historic buildings on the Quad and keep an eye out for intriguing sculptures as you go. You can photograph colorful flowers or watch students playing football (soccer) or rugby on the bright green pitch.
Best free things to do in Dublin: Trinity College Dublin Campus

Sandymount Strand

No visit to Dublin is complete without a walk along the coast. Head over to Sandymount where you'll find locals walking their dogs in the sand at low tide. Enjoy views of Dublin's iconic Poolbeg towers. Photograph Sandymount's Martello tower with a backdrop of the Irish Sea. Stop for a moment to appreciate the pastel homes facing the sea with spectacular doors.
Best free things to do in Dublin: Sandymount Strand

Howth Cliff Walk

Another great free thing to do in Dublin is to drive or take the DART train to the end of the line in Howth. From here, hike the well-marked trails of the Howth Cliff Walk, one of the best walks in Dublin. Enjoy sweeping views over Baily Lighthouse and the Irish sea beyond. There is no better place for a bracing hike so close to Dublin City Centre.
Best things to do in Dublin for free: Howth Cliff Walk

Sandycove and 40 Foot

Another great thing to do in Dublin that won't cost you a cent is to head over to 40 Foot near Sandycove on the South Dublin Coast. Here you'll find locals jumping into the Irish for a bracing dip all year round. Bring your swimming togs and join in the fun. After all, they say swimming in cold water is good for your health. You could also just stick with your photowalk and stay on land using the excuse that you want to keep your camera dry.
Free things to do in Dublin: Sandycove

Go on a Doors of Dublin Treasure Hunt

My absolute favorite free thing to do in Dublin is to embark on a Dublin scavenger hunt featuring the best Dublin Doors. Dublin is famous for its colorful Georgian doors. Pick one of Dublin's Georgian squares (Fitzwilliam Square is a great starting point) to explore or head further afield from Dublin City Centre to Ballsbridge, Ranelagh, or Rathmines. Seek out and photograph doors of different colors and with different features and Instagram away an afternoon. Pro-tip: overcast days are the best for photographing Dublin's doors. You'll get a nice uniform light and no shadows.
Free things to do in Dublin: Dublin doors scavenger hunt

Off the Beaten Path Dublin

Dublin is full of hidden gems. What free things to do are included on that list?

Medieval Lidl

Did you know that Dublin has a grocery store situated in what was once a Medieval townhouse? No list of free things to do in Dublin would be complete without recommending a short detour into Lidl on Aungier Street in the heart of Dublin City. The ruins of the Medieval dwelling can be viewed through plexiglas panels on the floor of the supermarket. Pick up a snack and steep in the history.
Best free things to do in Dublin: Shop Medieval Lidl

The Diving Bell

Head over to the Diving Bell in Grand Canal Dock, another absolutely fascinating free thing to see in Dublin. The Diving Bell is a large historic orange metal behemoth used to dredge the River Liffey where it meets the sea and ensure that Dublin became a viable port. Workers would descend into the water inside the Diving Bell to dredge and deepen the port so that large sea vessels could approach. Take time to photograph the beautiful surroundings in addition to the exhibits inside the Diving Bell. From the Diving Bell, you'll enjoy views of the iconic Samuel Beckett Bridge and Dublin Convention Centre.
Best free things to do in Dublin: The Diving Bell

Seek Dublin's Statues

Another educational and often fun free thing to do in Dublin is to seek out the city's finest statues. You'll learn a lot about Dublin by doing this in addition to traversing the city end to end.

Visit Patrick Kavanagh on the Grand Canal

If you are a literature buff, these first two statues are just the thing. The statue of poet, Patrick Kavanagh, sits with legs crossed on the Grand Canal next to a lock near Baggot Street. 
Free things to do in Dublin: Patrick Kavanagh Statue
Kavanagh wrote a well-known poem titled Lines Written on a Seat on the Grand Canal, Dublin. In that poem, Kavanagh reflects:
O commemorate me where there is water, 
Canal water, preferably, so stilly
Greeny at the heart of summer.
It would seem that he got his final wish.

Visit Brendan Behan on the Royal Canal

Across the River Liffey on Dublin's Northside along the Royal Canal, you'll find a statue of Irish writer Brendan Behan. Known for writing plays like The Quare Fellow and the autobiographical Borstal Boy, Behan was an ardent Republican who spent time in juvenile prison after joining a bombing run from Ireland to Liverpool during World War II.  Behan and Kavanagh were known to 'take the piss' with each other. Time and history have put an immovable distance between the two writers.
Best free things to do in Dublin: Brendan Behan on the Royal Canal

The Famine Memorial

The 19th Century potato famine was one of the most tragic and defining events in Irish history. During the Great Famine an estimated one million people died and the population of Ireland dropped by at least 20% due to the famine itself and emigration in search of a more hopeful future. You'll find a memorial to the Irish Potato Famine on the north side of the River Liffey next to the Jeanie Johnston (famine ship) museum. 
Best free things to do in Dublin: Famine Memorial

Molly Malone

Perhaps Dublin's most famous statue is that of Molly Malone. There are a million different nicknames for this statue which was inspired by a famous Irish Trad song. You'll find the tart with the cart where Suffolk St. meets St. Andrew's Street not far from the bottom of Grafton Street in Dublin City Centre.
Free things to do in Dublin: Molly Malone Statue

Phil Lynott

Phil Lynott was the front-man for Thin Lizzie, a band most famous for The Boys are Back in Town. Pay tribute to great Irish classic rock by visiting Lynott's Statue on Harry St. (just a short distance from the intersection with Grafton Street) outside Bruxelles pub.
Best free things to do in Dublin: Phil Lynott statueBest free things to do in Dublin: Luke Kelly Statue

Luke Kelly

Luke Kelly is a famous Irish Trad musician and founding member of the Dubliners. You can find statues of Luke Kelly in two places: the first is outside St. Stephen's Green Shopping Centre in Dublin City Centre. The second is a giant Luke Kelly head situated behind the Dublin Convention Centre in the Docklands. Check them out and pay tribute to great Irish music in the process.

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: A Local's Guide to the Best Free Things to Do in Dublin
A Local's Guide to the Best Free Things to Do in Dublin
Learn about all the best free things to do in Dublin. Discover what to do in Dublin that won't cost you a cent. Explore Dublin on a budget.
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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog
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