There is no doubt that Dublin is one of the most expensive cities in Europe for tourists, but there are plenty of free attractions and festivals that visitors can enjoy that won’t weigh heavy on the wallet. The majority of Dublin’s state-funded museums and galleries are free except for the occasional special event or exhibition, and no matter what the time of year, there should be a festival, market or concert happening somewhere in the city for you to enjoy without having to fork out any cash.
Browse the excellent temporary exhibition on W.B. Yeats in the main hall, or settle in with one of your favourite tomes in the domed Reading Room on the top floor, where Stephen Dedalus engaged librarians in conversation in the Scylla and Charybdis episode of Joyce’s Ulysses. There’s also a high-ceilinged coffee shop and gift shop if you want to part with some pennies.
National Museum of Ireland
The best place to learn about the origins of Ireland and its archaeological history; the Treasury has recently reopened, housing the Ardagh Chalice, Tara Brooch, and the more recently discovered Faddan More Psalter, a book of ancient psalms linking Irish Christianity to ancient Egypt.
Natural History Museum
Among the 10,000 animals from around the world on display at this museum are three giant skeletons of Irish elk, with antlers spanning three metres, which went extinct around 9000BC. The building itself is well worth a visit as a relic to mid-19th century Dublin; it was built in 1856 and the décor hasn’t changed since.
This museum of arts and history is less visited than the National Museum on Kildare Street, but its more modern exhibitions, including Soldiers and Chiefs, which documents 500 years of Irish military history, are well worth crossing the river for.
Hosting a fine collection of Irish and European artwork dating from the Middle Ages to the present day, this sprawling gallery attracts most foreign visitors for its extensive collection of works by Jack B. Yeats. Large sections of the gallery are currently undergoing renovations; check their website www.nationalgallery.ie/ for details.
House of Lords
This striking, round granite building on College Green opposite the front entrance to Trinity College was the original seat of the Irish Parliament until the end of the 18th century. It now houses the Bank of Ireland, but you can join a free guided tour every Tuesday to see the original, barrel-vaulted House of Lords that remains intact to this day.
Dublin may not be best known as a sun destination, but when the weather is good, the coast north and south of the city offers up some lovely, if sometimes odorous, stretches of sand that make for a pleasant windy walk. See here for a list of the best.
Stephen’s Green is the most central place to enjoy a picnic or feed the ducks on a fine day, but you can’t go far in the suburbs without stumbling upon a park, from a small grassy area in the middle of a village to the vast expanse of the Phoenix Park, Europe’s largest urban park complete with its own herd of wild deer.
Grafton Street is not only Dublin’s premier shopping street – its pedestrianized cobbles are also home to the highest concentration of street performers in the city. From large choirs singing for charity, to jugglers, fire-throwers, traditional musicians and young U2-wannabes, there’s something to entertain passers-by no matter what time of the day or night.