Budget Travel Guide: 5 Free Things to Do in Dublin

Can You Explore Dublin on a Budget?

If you’ve ever visited Dublin, you know that it’s one of the most exciting cities in Europe-and it’s also one of the most expensive! As a grad student living in Ireland’s capital, I’ve had to learn how to have fun on a tight student budget. It can seem like a major challenge at times. Going out to eat is a luxury, I often have to walk instead of taking the bus (and forget about shelling out money for a cab), and heading to the pub for a pint or two can easily leave you with an empty wallet. But it’s totally possible to experience the best of Dublin on a budget. Yes, you’ll probably have to skip the wild nights out and shopping on Grafton Street, but with a little creativity and a frugal mindset, you can see everything that makes Dublin unique without breaking the bank. Here are five things you can do for free in and around Dublin-time to start saving for a flight! rsz_img_9897
  1. Go hiking in Howth.

Yes, you’ll have to set aside a few euros for the train to this little town just outside of the city center, but you’ll be getting way more than that what you pay for. Howth is an adorable seaside town that’s only a short train ride away from Dublin, and if you’re into hiking, it’s a must-see. The main attraction in Howth is the cliff walk, where you can conquer the hiking trail that best suits your ability. The cliff walk will take you high above Howth, where you’ll be able to enjoy incredible views of the coast. Be prepared! The way up is quite steep, and you’ll definitely be feeling the burn in your legs by the time you begin to make your way down! It’s best to hit up the cliff walk on a weekday to enjoy your time with fewer tourists around. And once you’ve arrived back in town, you can treat yourself to some fish and chips, kick back with a pint, or take a quick stroll around the harbor if you still have some energy! IMG_0322JPG
  1. Enjoy the live music and street performances on Grafton Street.

Grafton Street is one of liveliest spots in all of Dublin. It’s for pedestrians only, although you’ll have to watch out for the occasional rickshaw or horse and carriage! Grafton Street boasts high-end shops and adorable cafes, but if you’re trying to save money, you’ll probably want to stick to window-shopping. However, hanging around and listening to the musicians who are bound to be playing outside won’t cost you a thing, unless you want to toss a few coins their way our of generosity. You’ll also be able to spot street performers dancing, back flipping, and drawing huge crowds up and down the street every afternoon. If you want to check out Dublin’s creative side, a visit to Grafton Street is necessary. Just resist the temptation to pop into the department stores, and your wallet will thank you!
  1. Stop by the national museums-they’re completely free!

There are a number of national museums in Dublin, and each one is free of charge! If you want to learn about Irish history, or you’re stuck for what to do on a rainy day, stopping at a few museums should definitely be on your itinerary. There are several museums you can check out without spending a dime, so no matter what you’re interested in, you’re sure to find one that suits you. The Museum of Archaeology contains impressive collections of artifacts from Viking exhibits to ancient Egyptian artwork. The Museum of Decorative Arts and History is also not limited to Irish exhibits. There is artwork, ceramics, silverware, and weaponry from all over the world! And if that’s not enough for you, the Museum of Natural History is the place to learn about mammals, marine life, and other animals from all over Ireland. If you visit all three, you’ll return home with an expert grasp of world history and plenty of fun facts to share.
  1. Relax in St. Stephen’s Green and do a little people watching.

If you’re lucky enough to experience a sunny day in Dublin, you need to pay a visit to St. Stephen’s Green. It’s the perfect spot to lay out a blanket and spend an afternoon relaxing, and there’s no charge for hanging around and enjoying the natural beauty. While Phoenix Park is the largest park in Dublin, St. Stephen’s is more centrally located, making it a more convenient spot for most tourists. There are lots of cool spots around the park to check out, especially if you’re into artwork and sculptures. For example, there are statues dedicated to William Butler Yeats and James Joyce, two renowned Irish writers. There is also a large lake you can stroll around, but watch out for the swans! Some locals like to feed them, but tourists beware! They have a tendency to get angry and bite if you aggravate them. Sometimes, local artists and photographers will also set up free exhibits just outside the park. IMG_0161JPG
  1. Head down to Dun Laoghaire and walk around the harbor.

Dun Laoghaire is another small town just a quick bus ride from the city center. If you want to get away from some of the crowds and noise, it’s the perfect spot to spend a quiet afternoon. Dun Laoghaire is known for its harbor, where you can stroll along the bay and check out all the activity in the marina. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a seal or two poking their heads above the water! And if you’re in the mood to “splurge,” stop by Teddy’s Ice Cream and grab a small cone-they’re practically famous around Dublin for their delicious ice cream! Dublin might seem expensive on the surface, but in reality, it’s a great city for the budget traveler. Don’t let the high price tags on certain activities scare you off from planning a visit! You can enjoy the culture, artwork, and nature all around the city for free.

Jane Harkness

Hey! I’m Jane, a graduate student and freelance writer from New Jersey. I’m currently attending University College Dublin, where I divide my time between endless hours in the library and spending weekends in different cities.