Dublin is no longer the budget-sapping city it once was. These days, it’s possible to while away a weekend in its leafy parks, crumbling churches and relic-packed museums without spending much beyond food and accommodation – and, of course, the occasional pint of Guinness.
An ancient sport resembling a pumped-up mishmash of hockey, baseball and lacrosse, Hurling is Ireland’s national obsession. Tickets for the biggest games, held at Dublin’s vast Croke Park stadium, occasionally change hands for upwards of €100, but you can get a free taster by checking out Hill 16, which lists amateur matches taking place around the city.
Established in the 16th Century, Trinity College is Ireland’s most prestigious university. It costs nothing to wander through the current campus grounds, set around neatly trimmed lawns, but if you want to see the Book of Kell – an ancient illustrated manuscript housed in the university’s Old Library, you’ll need to pay.
The National Museum of Ireland on Kildare Street houses more than two million archaeological treasures, including Bronze Age jewellery and the superbly preserved hand of a Celtic man who met his maker sometime between 400 and 200 BC.
Dublin’s two big cathedrals charge an admission fee to visitors, but it’s free to look around many of the city’s small churches. Try St Ann’s Church on Dawson Street, where Dracula author Bram Stoker was married, or the Whitefriar Street Church, which is said to house the bones of St Valentine.
With more green spaces per square mile than any other European city, Dublin is the perfect place to picnic. St Anne’s, one of 30 public parks around the city, hosts a fragrant rose festival each July – showing off more than 10 acres of display borders.
Each August, arias fill the amphitheatre at Dublin City Council’s Civic Offices. The free Opera in the Open shows are scheduled to last an hour each, appealing to a mixed crowd of relaxed mums and office-weary business people.
On Sundays from September to June, the Hugh Lane hosts free, sit-down concerts in its sculpture gallery. The acts (a mixture of Irish and international music) start at noon, and you can then browse the venue’s art galleries until 5pm.
Although it’s grown from a quiet fishing community to a seaside suburb of Dublin, Howth is still best explored on foot. The local tourist board has mapped a trail linking the area with nearby Sutton, passing a lighthouse, a castle, and cliffs that have been chewed up by the pounding waves.
Free (as long as you can resist the temptation to buy something), the indoor Loft Market is a popular hangout for designers and vintage enthusiasts. Founded by the fashion editor of local style mag Thread, it stocks art, jewellery and clothing.
Sponsored by local businesses, the City of a Thousand Welcomes campaign aims to connect first-time visitors with knowledgeable locals. Choose a time that suits you, fill in a few details on the website and a friendly ‘ambassador’ will take you out for a beer.
Share your own tips for enjoying Dublin for free below...