20th Feb 2020
If you’re cutting back on your spending to save for that holiday, or if it’s just the weekend before payday, don’t fret. There’s loads you can do in Dublin for little or no money, you just need to get creative.
It’s so easy to get sucked into a routine of going for drinks, dinners and brunches whenever you’re meeting friends or going on a date. But when you’re trying to spend less you begin to realise how much money you get through doing this every weekend.
Thankfully, we live in an amazing city that is steeped with history and culture, so there is always something to do if you’re on a tight budget, or even with none at all.
Related: 20 of Dublin’s best cheap eats
You can also make up your own tour of cheap or free things to do for the day. Make sure to wolf down a big breakfast before you leave, and then prepare to stroll through Dublin for the afternoon hitting up a few of these spots on the way.
The Hugh Lane
One of Dublin’s best galleries, The Hugh Lane is located on the north side of the city. A couple of minutes walk from O’Connell street and you can pop in here free of charge.
Some must-sees include the stained glass room which features Harry Clarke’s The Eve of St. Agnes as well Francis Bacon’s studio which was transported from London and painstakingly re-created here in the gallery.
Cycle through the Phoenix Park
This is a great way to spend an afternoon, exploring the sprawling Phoenix Park in the middle of Dublin City. Prices for this aren’t extortionate either, starting at €6 for one hour, €10 for three and €15 for the entire day. Included in the price are a high visibility vest and a helmet too.
The first time I did this I realised just how vast the park actually is, I’m sure I’m not alone in having only seen the parts located beside Dublin Zoo. You can cycle past Áras an Uachtaráin, make sure to crane your neck for a peep at Michael. D Higgins (or more likely his dogs) as well as stopping to say hello to the many deer that live in the park.
Dublin’s modern art gallery is not only housed in a beautiful building but also has 48 acres of beautiful grounds.
The main collection boasts almost 3,500 artworks by both Irish and international artists. This is a great place to spend a slow afternoon, walking the grounds, browsing through the permanent collections as well as dropping into the cafe and gift shop. Entry is also completely free.
People’s Park Market
A combination of a farmer’s market, food stalls and everything in between make sure you drop by People’s Park at the weekend. With around 50 stalls every weekend you can stock up on baked goods, artisan food products, fresh produce as well as flowers.
A great place to stroll around and grab something to eat, you can also pop into the Fallon & Byrne in the old Tea Rooms if you feel like escaping the cold. Whilst you’re in Dun Laoghaire you may as well take a jaunt down the pier too, it would be rude not to.
A cheap cinema date
The cinema is one of those things that seems to be getting outrageously expensive. Apart from the obvious things you can save on, like sneaking in your own snacks, the tickets themselves can be pricey.
To avoid this, choose a day when there’s a cheaper deal to go, in most cinemas, this is a Monday. Movies at Swords and Dundrum offer a ticket, a large popcorn and a drink for only €10 on Mondays. The Savoy on Dublin’s O’Connell Street also does cheap tickets on a Tuesday.
Malahide Castle and Gardens
This is a gorgeous spot for a Sunday stroll when you’re on a budget. Walk around the beautifully kept grounds as well as the castle itself. Tours of the castle are relatively inexpensive but roaming the grounds alone is enough to take it all in.
You can also stop by the Avoca just behind the castle for a hot drink or even to grab a spontaneous picnic if the weather is nice. A massive bonus is that parking is free or else this is only a five-minute walk from the nearest DART station.
The National Gallery
We are lucky enough that our National Gallery is completely free, so there’s really no excuse not to pop in from time to time. As well as frequently updating their exhibitions, the permanent collection is always worth the trip.
Highlights include Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ which was found in a dining room on Leeson Street in the early 1990s and is now proudly displayed in our National Gallery. Also worth seeing is The Meeting on the Turret Stairs by Frederic William Burton which is only displayed for two hours a week due to it being very sensitive to light, as well as the always impressive painting by Daniel Maclise, The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife.
With a lovely, bright cafe and killer gift-shop, you could easily spend an entire afternoon here browsing around.
Jump in at the Forty Foot
Do know what’s completely free and guaranteed to make you feel good? A dip in the sea.
The Forty Foot is a Dublin institution, with the most popular day for a swim being Christmas Day. It is open all year round, just make sure you come prepared with flasks of hot tea and thick jumpers if you’re venturing in after September.
Free tour of Áras an Uachtaráin
If you do happen to be cycling around Phoenix Park you can also pop into Áras an Uachtaráin for a tour. As the official private residence of the President of Ireland, it plays host to official visits as well as state functions.
On Saturday mornings guided tours are free all year round. They cannot be booked in advance and are on are first come first serve basis from the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre.
Howth Cliff Walk
Another one that’s easy to get to (you can just hop on the DART) is the Howth Cliff Walk, and it’s a gorgeous way to spend a Sunday.
It’s not terribly difficult or long, so will take you between 1-2 hours, depending on how far you feel like going. Make sure you stop off for a cheap and cheerful bag of chips when you reach the bottom too.
The Botanic Gardens
Even if the most you know about plants is how to keep that one succulent on your desk alive, you’ll still enjoy The Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin.
With a number of glasshouses to choose from, you can appreciate how beautiful they are from the outside or dive in and stroll around the flowers inside. You can also pop into The Garden Tearooms for a cup of coffee and a slice of cake afterwards.
The Hellfire Club
Don’t be put off by its name, this is a great place to go for a walk at the weekend if you’ve never been before. Located in the Dublin Mountains, Mount Pelier Hill (which is what the walk is actually called) is a 383-metre high walk, and there are a couple of routes you can take to get up here.
At the top are the ruins of a hunting lodge, fondly referred to as The Hellfire Club, which does have a spooky story to go with its dramatic name. The views up the top are beautiful, and you can see for miles on a clear day.
Located right beside the Botanic Gardens you can do both of these in one day. The cemetery is also free of charge, and although it may sound like an unusual activity it’s a fascinating place to walk around.
As well as a museum and a cafe it also is the burial site for many notable figures in Irish history including Michael Collins, Éamon de Valera, Daniel O’Connell, Constance Markievicz, Brendan Behan, Christy Brown and Luke Kelly of the Dubliners.
Bray to Greystones cliff walk
Although technically just outside of Dublin, this coastal walk is only a few stops away on the DART. Not only will you get to enjoy the views on your way out there, but you can also take them in along your walk.
This isn’t challenging or a particularly long walk, but bear in mind it does get quite busy at weekends. Some like to start in Bray and finish up for lunch in The Happy Pear in Greystones afterwards, but personally I prefer to finish in Bray with a toastie and a pint in the Harbour Bar.
W. B Yeats Exhibition in the National Library
This is a long-running exhibition located in the National Library on Kildare Street. I’ll often pop in if I’m stuck in town with time to kill, as it’s both brilliant and completely free.
Open since 2006, the exhibition looks at where Yeats got his inspiration from, how this developed throughout his life as well as showcasing some of his many notebooks and personal possessions. Even if you’re not a fan of his work it’s interesting to see how one of our national poets ticked.
Walk to Poolbeg Lighthouse
The iconic Poolbeg Lighthouse is so cheerful amongst its industrial surroundings. If you don’t feel like veering too far away from the city centre this is a great place for a walk.
A stroll along the South Wall won’t take you more than an hour and will give you beautiful views across Dublin Bay — you can spot Killiney, Dun Laoghaire and (weather permitting) even the Dublin Mountains.
St. Anne’s Park
A gem on the northside, this park is beautiful in summer or winter. There are vast grassy areas you can let the dog roam free, the rose gardens, as well as quiet and dark twisty pathways through the trees.
The Red Stables is a great place to grab a coffee or visit the park on a Saturday between 10-5 for a stroll around the farmer’s market.
The Chester Beatty Library
With its vast collection of historical texts, it’s amazing this is a free museum. Beatty himself was an avid collector of historical artefacts and artworks throughout his life, and after receiving an honorary citizenship from Ireland he built this museum to house them.
With a hugely diverse collection from Europe, Asia, North Africa and the Middle East you could get lost in here looking at rare books and treasures from around the world.
Although it’s not free, you can visit Trinity Library on a tight budget as entry is between €11 – 14 — if you haven’t been before it’s well worth a visit. Slap bang in the centre of the city, and walking through the Long Room surrounded by books you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a Harry Potter film.
The main part of the exhibition though is the Book of Kells, a 9th century manuscript which is perfectly preserved and beautifully illustrated.
If you fancy a weekend walk, head over to Bull Island. A small area of land (it’s only 5km long!) just between Dublin and Howth on the north side. We’d recommend walking along the beach first and then stopping in Happy Out cafe afterwards.
The cafe, which is in a shipping container near the beach, is a great spot for a quick coffee and a toastie (we love the Clucking Unbelievable if you’re hungry) after a brisk walk along the dunes.
Jam Park Market
New to the ever-diminishing market scene in Dublin Jam Park in Swords. Located in what used to be The Wright Venue is a multi-use venue that plays host to a rooftop restaurant, arcade, crazy golf and bars on each floor.
Every Sunday from 12-5 the venue has a market on the ground floor featuring everything from fashion to food and entry is completely free.
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