There are heaps (and I mean heaps) of free things to do in Dublin.
Now, when you think of a city break, you can often associate the ‘free things’ as being the stuff that isn’t really worth doing.
City’s tend to have big, shiny tourist attractions that charge an admission fee and it’s often (there are plenty of exceptions) the things that aren’t worth doing that come without a charge.
This isn’t the case in Ireland’s capital, however – there are plenty of worthwhile free things to do in Dublin today, tomorrow and next weekend that are just as good (if not better) than many of the attractions that’ll charge you entry.
The best free things to do in Dublin
In the guide below, you’ll discover everything from free museums in Dublin and parks to cliff walks, historical sites and more that you can visit without ever needing to stick your hand in your pocket.
If you fancy checking out other worthwhile places to visit in the capital when you’re finished reading, nip into our guide to the best things to do in Dublin.
Our favourite free things to do in Dublin today
I’m going to kick this guide off with free attractions in Dublin that can be enjoyed at any time of the year. Expect everything from walks and beaches to gorgeous buildings in section one.
1. Head for a dip (or a stroll) on one of Dublin’s many mighty beaches
There’s a clatter of brilliant beaches in Dublin that are 1, perfect for a ramble along and 2, fine spots for a swim (once there’s no stormy weather).
If you don’t fancy a dip, you can always grab a coffee and head for a ramble along the sand. If you fancy a swim, places like Portmarnock, the Forty Foot and Portrane are perfect for a swim.
You can discover heaps of places to go for a swim in Dublin in this guide!
2. The Howth Cliff Walk (one of the best free things to do in Dublin this weekend!)
You’ll regularly hear me banging on that the Howth Cliff Walk is one of the best walks in Dublin. I’ve been doing this stroll with friends for around 15 years and it never gets old.
There are a couple of different ways of tackling this walk: you can start it from the DART station in the village (the long version) or you can kick it off from the car park at Howth Summit (the short version).
The only costs you’ll incur are the transports costs to get there. Those that do this walk will be treated to mighty coastal views from beginning to end.
3. Soak up Georgian Dublin in Merrion Square
Dublin’s Merrion Square is one of the most intact Georgian Squares in Dublin. The square was originally laid out back in 1762 and is surrounded on three sides by Georgian redbrick houses.
Merrion Square has had many famous residents over the years. Daniel O’Connell, Oscar Wilde and William Butler Yeats all lived here at one time or another.
If you’re looking for things to do in Dublin for free in the morning, stroll up Grafton Street, ramble through St. Stephen’s Green first and then make your way to Merrion Square and have a nosey around.
4. Visit the National Botanic Gardens (one of the best things to do in Dublin for free)
Looking to escape Dublin’s concrete jungle for a while? Head out to the quaint locale of Glasnevin for a bit of fresh air at the magnificent National Botanic Gardens.
These working gardens also double as a research centre for botanists and are home to more than 15,000 species of flora. If you’re looking for free things to do in Dublin with kids, this place should tickle your fancy.
The educational programmes on offer are a fun way to teach your little ones about conservation. Or, just take a stroll through nature and stop to smell the flowers.
The best free museums in Dublin
If you’ve dropped into our guide to the best museums in Dublin, you’ll know that some museums charge a pretty penny for admission.
However, there are plenty of free museums in Dublin for those of you looking to visit Dublin on a tight budget. You’ll find the best of the bunch below.
1. The National Museum of Ireland
A visit to the National Museum of Ireland tops the list as the best of the many free things to do in Dublin. It’s perfect for rainy days and there are heaps to see inside.
Those that visit the museum will discover the preserved remains of mummies (part of the Kingship and Sacrifice exhibition – not the one pictured above).
These well-preserved remains were human sacrifices who were then mummified deep inside the Irish bogs they were buried in.
2. The Chester Beatty Library
Described by Lonely Planet as ‘not just the best museum in Ireland but one of the best in Europe’, the Chester Beatty Library is one of the best free things to do in Dublin this weekend.
The museum is packed with the collection of Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (a successful American mining engineer, collector, and philanthropist) – one of the greatest collectors of the 12th century.
Visitors can appreciate a vast number of world cultures through manuscripts, rare books, and other treasures from Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.
Note: Free tours of the library take place every Wednesday at 13:00, every Saturday at 14:00 and on Sundays at 15:00.
3. The National Gallery of Ireland
If you’re looking for free stuff to do in Dublin when the rain is baitin down, carve out some time to visit the National Gallery. In a nutshell, the National Gallery houses the national collection of Irish and European art.
Dating back to the mid-19th Century, it’s packed to the brim with 2,500 paintings, approximately 10,000 other works in different media (including water-colours, drawings, prints, and sculptures), a Yeats museum and much more.
You can take a free audio tour guide to the permanent collection. There are also free public tours at weekends.
4. The Irish Museum of Modern Art
You’ll find the Irish Museum of Modern Art (AKA IMMA) nestled in 48 acres of land in the heart of Dublin 8. Tours are free and are delivered by experienced guides 6 days a week.
Join one of the museums guided tours and get to known IMMA and the exhibitions in more detail. Admission to the museum is free (as is the entrance to most of the exhibitions).
5. The ‘Dead Zoo’ in the Museum of Natural History
If you’re in search of unique places to visit in Dublin, look no further than the Dead Zoo that’s located inside the Museum of Natural History in Dublin City.
Visitors to the Dead Zoo will find a collection of taxidermied animals and perfectly preserved skeletons from a wide variety of animal species.
This museum also houses the flies that Darwin studied on his now famous voyage to the Galapagos Islands. Although these are kept in the private collection, there are more than 10,000 species on display.
Random free activities in Dublin
The final section of our guide to the best free things to do in Dublin is one that, to be honest, I couldn’t for the life of me whack into a category.
So, below you’ll find a very random mix of free attractions in Dublin, from street art and unusual places to visit to free walking tours and more.
1. Marvel at murals around the city
If you’re a fan of street art, you’ll find plenty of funky displays to make your eyes happy dotted across Dublin. Over the last couple of years, in particular, street art has seemed to explode across Dublin.
Since 2017, we’ve seen murals of everyone from UK rapper Stormzy to celebrated television presenter David Attenborough pop up on walls across the city.
If you fancy exploring some of Dublin’s street art, here’s a handy map that lists where the various bits and pieces can be found.
2. Take a tour around the president’s house (one of the most popular free things to do in Dublin)
You’ll find the residence of the president of Ireland in the Phoenix Park. The building was originally a Palladian lodge that was built in 1751.
Now, officially known as Aras an Uachtaráin, it’s home to the current president of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins. The guided tour of the building is easily one of the best things to do in Dublin for free.
Organised by the Office of Public Works, the tours take place on Saturdays all year round (check in advance before planning your trip).
3. Explore the grounds of Trinity College
The grounds of Trinity College are an absolute joy to walk around. They’re also arguably one of the best places in Dublin for people watching.
On a visit, you tend to encounter everyone from locals walking to work to drama students in full-on Victorian attire (at least I did last week!).
If you fancy exploring a bit more of Trinity, you could always head off on the Book of Kells tour (paid attraction, but well worth it!). You’ll get to have a nosey around the incredible Long Room Library.
4. Head off on a walking tour around the city
The Sandeman’s walking tour of Dublin is a free 3-hour walking tour of the city that takes you to many of Dublin’s main attractions, including Dublin Castle, Temple Bar, and Trinity College.
The tour is run by a local guide and the reviews online are pretty damn good. Now, although this tour is listed as ‘free’, it runs off a tip-based model.
According to those running the tour, ‘There is no payment necessary at the start of the tour but you are welcome to tip your guide at the end!’.
5. Take a little wander through St. Stephen’s Green
St. Stephen’s Green is located at the end (or is it the beginning?!) of Grafton Street. This historic little grassy hub in Ireland’s capital holds many rich tales of times past.
Up until 1663 St. Stephen’s Green was a marshy common used for grazing sheep and cattle. Oh, and it was also the scene where public executions and witch burnings took place…
Today, the park is perfectly maintained with thousands of locals, tourists and those working in the city frequenting its tree-lined paths every day.
6. Go wildlife watching on North Bull Island
Once you’ve had your fill of good eats, strong spirits, history, and culture, escape to North Bull Island to experience Dublin’s wild side.
North Bull Island is one of the most biodiverse wildlife habitats in Ireland, so don’t forget to bring your binoculars!
Time your visit just right for about an hour before high tide to spot a skylark, grey heron, or one of more than 30,000 animals that live in this refuge.
7. Give your brain a workout at the National Science Gallery
You’ll find the Science Gallery in a corner of Trinity College. According to their website, since its opening in 2008, more than 3 million visitors have experienced 43 exhibitions, ranging from design and violence to light and love, and from contagion and biomimicry to the futures of the human species and play.
The Science Gallery develops an ever-changing program of exhibitions and events. The last time that I visited, the ‘SOUND CHECK‘ exhibition was taking place (pictured above).
Traveller Tip: The gallery is free to enter and easily combine with a walk around the beautiful buzzy grounds of Trinity College. There’s also a toilet and a cafe on-site, if you need one!
8. Explore the Phoenix Park (and see the deer)
The mighty Phoenix Park is a fantastic spot for walking and cycling. Interestingly enough, it’s also the largest enclosed public park in any capital city in Europe.
Back in the day (1660s), the Phoenix Park was a royal hunting. It wasn’t until many years later, in 1747, that it officially opened to the public.
There’s heaps of space in the park for exploring and there’s even a large herd of deer that you can observe from reasonably close up (never feed them!).
9. Search for hidden history on O’Connell Street
Dublin’s O’Connell Street is arguably one of the most historic streets in the city. It was here, during the 1916 Easter Rising, where Irish republicans seized the GPO and proclaimed the Irish Republic.
This event led to the stree being bombarded for a number of days by a gunboat by the name of Helga. Imagine a boat sailing up the River Liffey and opening fire… mad stuff!
To this day there’s evidence of this battle on O’Connell Street. When you visit, make your way over to the O’Connell Monument. You’ll be able to spot bullet holes here( and in many other places on O’Connell Street).
10. Channel your inner artist at Francis Bacon’s studio
Okay, so this isn’t Dublin artist Francis Bacon’s original studio, but everything you’ll see in this colourful, chaotic space was meticulously catalogued and transferred from the original studio in London.
Tours are free, and visitors can learn more about each item through the online database.
Things to do in Dublin for free: What have we missed?
I’ve no doubt that we’ve unintentionally missed out on plenty of other great free things to do in Dublin in the guide above.
If you have any free attractions in Dublin to recommend, let me know in the comments section below and I’ll check it out. Cheers!