When I travel someplace new I want to do what the locals are doing and immerse myself in the culture. A happy discovery is that frequenting pubs for a pint or two is the norm in Ireland.
In fact, all Irish citizens spend an average of 5 EUR per day on alcohol. That’s pretty much a pint a day for every single person in Ireland!
When visiting Dublin, I noticed that a pub could be found around every corner, and it’s actually hard to resist going in some of them – they just look so quintessentially Irish! So, if you are like me and can’t resist the pull into the pubs, at a couple pints a day, a trip to Ireland can be pretty expensive.
Luckily, you can combat this dilemma by making it a point to visit some free attractions in Dublin. Ten of my favs are below.
1.) Chester Beatty Library
Located in the gardens of Dublin Castle, this museum is an absolute gem. It houses the 60 year collection of Chester Beatty, who had one of the best libraries in the world by 1940. On display are Chinese snuff boxes and jade books, picture scrolls from Japan, illustrated Persian poetry, beautifully decorated Qurans from the 15th and 16th centuries, and a history of calligraphy. There is also an entire exhibit dedicated to world religions and includes the earliest instance of the four Christian Gospels in one book as well as the earliest collection of St. Paul’s letters from 150-250 AD.
2.) National Museums
Dublin boasts three top notch national museums: the divisions include Archeology, Natural History, and Decorative Arts and History. The Archeology museum is the most popular, and it holds impressive pieces from prehistoric Irish history such as tools, weapons, and extravagant gold jewelry used during the Bronze Age from 2,000 to 500 BC. It also has interesting exhibits on ancient Egypt and how the Vikings influenced Ireland beginning in 800 AD. One of the most amazing and unique exhibits they have is whole and partial human bodies discovered in Irish bogs. The bodies come from around 2000 BC, and they are so well preserved that flesh, fingernails, and hair are still in-tact.
3.) St. Stephen’s Green
This 22 acre park is an oasis in the middle of the city – quite like New York City’s Central Park. It is dotted with memorials and statues, beautifully landscaped gardens, and plenty of space to rest or have a picnic. Sit by the pond and enjoy scenic views and natural wildlife. There is even a free audio guide that walks you through the main attractions in the park as well as providing some interesting insight to your visit.
4.) Grafton Street
While Grafton Street is lined with shops, which are definitely not free, it’s also lined with entertainment. Between watching the shoppers, listening to a few songs from the bands and solo artists playing tunes for cash, and taking in the unique shows of the street performers, there’s plenty to keep you busy for free.
5.) Temple Bar District
Although I’m sure you’ll feel the pull to drink in a couple of pubs while visiting the Temple Bar District, the people watching can be just as entertaining from the street. At night the pubs are packed, so as you wander by the pubs, find a good place to stand and soak in the atmosphere for a while.
6.) Glasnevin Cemetery
This cemetery was opened in 1832 and now spans 124 acres. It holds many notable Irish figures – possibly the most famous is Daniel O’Connell, who championed the rights of Irish Catholics in the early 1800’s. It’s a great place for a peaceful walk and to admire hundreds of intricately carved Celtic crosses.
7.) Bank of Ireland – House of Lords
Across the street from Trinity College’s Main Gate lies the former headquarters of the Bank of Ireland. From the 1729 until 1802, this building housed the Irish Parliament, but now it acts as a working bank branch. Still nestled in the Bank of Ireland building is the lavish room where the House of Lords met. Today the room is used as a bank Board room, but when not in session, visitors are free to look around and take photos of the interesting artifacts still housed here.
8.) National Library
The gorgeous round reading room is the highlight of a visitor’s trip to the National Library, but there is also a worthwhile exhibit in the basement. The exhibit features The Life and Works of William Butler Yeats, a famous Irish poet. When it opened in 2006 it was only designed as a temporary exhibit. However, it was so popular that it is now permanent. There is an interactive element to the exhibit, and it also features many original manuscripts of WB Yeats.
9.) Walking tours by Dublin Discovery Trails App
A walking tour is always a great way to familiarize oneself with a city. Most walking tours cost money, but those on the Dublin Discovery Trails App are free. The great part about this app is that there are multiple tours to choose from based on your preferences. For example, they have tours where you will follow the progress of the 1916 Easter Uprising, discover what life was like during British rule in the 18th and 19th centuries, learn the story of Dublin, and many more.
10.) National Gallery
While this art gallery is small, it packs a lot of punch in its free exhibits. The building is undergoing refurbishment, so only a small percentage of its 15,000 works are displayed. However, the works that are on display are well worth a visit. Famous pieces on display while I visited were by Caravaggio, Monet, Picasso, Rodin, and Van Gogh.
Don’t let a trip to Dublin drain your wallet. Instead, sprinkle some of these excellent free options into your itinerary.
They are a great way to experience more of the historical culture in Ireland, and some are actually so good I would gladly pay admission for them!
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