There’s really no end to the free fun to be had all over the nation’s capital with museums, visitors centers, scenic attractions and tourists trails all yours for the taking. From birth places of the world famous to the haunts of James Joyce’s Leopold Bloom, the city of Dublin is a living museum in itself.
Here’s a quick list to help get you started and remember there’s many more attractions and activities where these came from.
1. National Museums of Ireland
No less than three National Museums are open free to visitors and they’re all Located centrally in Dublin. Each of them holds some priceless collections to boot. Visit the National Museum in Kildare Street for prehistoric, Celtic, Viking and Medieval History or the National Museum in Collins Barracks for arts, crafts, numismatics and the military history of Ireland. And don’t forget the unique Natural History Museum the “Dead Zoo.”
Although it’s not the Louvre, the National Gallery of Ireland does have its charms and when visiting Dublin art lovers should make some time for a leisurely stroll. Situated at Merrion Square near the home and birthplace of Oscar Wilde and close to the National Museum in Kildare Street it is not too out of the way. And the small but exquisite collection of renowned masterpieces, including an only recently discovered Caravaggio, will make the visit definitely worth your while.
3. Phoenix Park
Exploring the whole of the Phoenix Park could take days, but a few hours walking here are enough for most visitors. You can see stately houses (including the residences of the Irish president Mary McAleese as well as the U.S. ambassador to Ireland), Ashtown Castle, wild deer, the Papal Cross, the Magazine Fort and on and on.
4. Trinity College
Founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I on the very grounds of an Augustinian priory that it purloined, Trinity College even today dominates the city center landscape and the oldest buildings (the brick-built “Rubrics”) date from 1700. Most of the impressive buildings were built during the renovation phase of 1759. Trinity College Library is home to more than a million books and priceless manuscripts, the most famous being the indescribably beautiful Book of Kells, which dates from circa 800, so be warned that long queues may form in summer.
If you have a craving for fresh air and a good brisk walk, take Dublin Bus out to the massive Poolbeg Power Station and continue walking eastwards. You will then step out into Dublin Bay on the massive South Wall. Your target is Poolbeg Lighthouse, a red structure clearly visible in the distance. Bring a light snack and enjoy the magnificent view of Dublin Bay, the Wicklow Mountains and the Hill of Howth from here. A clear windy day is a must for this memorable walk.
Founded by legendary Liberator Daniel O'Connell in 1831 to make non-Anglican burials legal, the cemetery covers 120 acres of land and has more inhabitants than Dublin - 1,500,000 people are buried here. Prominent graves belong to O’Connell himself, Charles Steward Parnell, Eamon de Valera, James Larkin, Countess Markievicz, Michael Collins and the famous Republican Plot. There are guided tours every Wednesday and Friday at 2:30 pm if you cannot face exploring the cemetery on your own.
7. Hop on a Dublin double-decker
Dublin Bus offers some great bus passes for tourists - and they include a free tour of Dublin. Just grab a ticket, a bus map and hop on any of the routes going through the city center. See Dublin from the top of a double decker, warts and all. You will be sure to see the city like it really is, in all its sprawling splendor.
8. Howth Harbor and Ireland's Eye
Howth is part of the lesser-known sights of Dublin if only because the peninsula is off the beaten track. The excellent connection via DART makes Howth accessible for anyone, however. The ideal getaway from the busy city center of Dublin, the perfect place to let the cobwebs blow away. Except on a sunny Sunday afternoon in summer, then Howth gets crowded with Dubliners wanting to get out for a walk and an ice cream.
9. Walk your way through Dublin
Despite all the urban traffic alternating between near-standstill and manic speed, Dublin still has a lot to offer for those willing to walk. Several routes are signposted and highlight different aspects of the city. Or you might try these hikes: a walk along the historic and hidden Royal Canal; a walk along the River Liffey.
This is for all of those who can take some pleasure in simply observing the eccentricities of your fellow human beings. Just place yourself on a strategic bench in Dublin’s most lively park and just wait. On any given day dramas of Shakespearean proportions will unfold right in front of you. Especially since Saint Stephen’s Green is known for the lively performances given by office workers, tourists, street performers and passing shoppers.