Few countries have a reputation that precede them quite like Ireland; from drunken revelry and mythical creatures to the iconic Emerald green that makes so much sense when you see the rolling green hills of Ireland. Dublin is just as iconic a city and there is so much to do and see. Not all of it is free but if you plan correctly there is no reason why you can’t have an amazing time at a reasonable price. So use this guide to ‘Dublin on a budget’ to plan your ideal trip.
As a side note, I spent several weeks wandering the streets of Dublin as part of my busking tour across Europe and the UK. I didn’t have a massive budget to play with but there were certain must-do activities that made Dublin one of the greatest cities of my entire trip. Here are my 5 essential things to do in Dublin with some bonus activities at the end.
1. New Europe Free Walking Tour
The number 1 thing to do if you’ve decided to visit Dublin is the New Europe walking tour. Whether money isn’t an issue or you need to do Dublin on a budget, this walking tour is the best way to become acquainted with the city and its history.
The tour is free but donations are accepted at the end. You’re taken around by a volunteer guide and they have a great incentive to make sure your tour is incredible, as the better the tour is, the more chance they have of getting a tip at the end. The guides are incredibly knowledgeable and can give quirky incites that you wouldn’t find in a guide book or online.
The tour lasts about 3 hours and you will be taken to places like Dublin Castle and Dubh Linn, to see Viking remains, to visit the famous Temple Bar Pub, Trinity College, and the origins of U2, and so much more. I cannot recommend this tour enough.
If you’re in Dublin for a party but you’re not sure where to start with the huge range of pubs, then you can also take part in the New Europe Dublin Pub Crawl. The pub crawl costs €12 which takes you to 5 different pubs and clubs, includes VIP entry and drinks specials.
2. The Guinness Storehouse
It would be a sin to visit Dublin and not visit the site where Guinness began. The Guinness Storehouse is a top quality museum and a wonderful tribute to Guinness. I will admit that I am a little biased towards this delicious brew but it is Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction so I can’t be too far off the mark.
Your tour through the history of Guinness begins at the bottom of the world’s largest pint glass and works its way through 7 floors of interactive experiences. At the end of your tour you will get a pint of perfection in the famous Gravity Bar. Or you can take a short lesson in how to pour the perfect Guinness and pour your own pint of perfection!
Entrance is a little pricey at €25 but if you book in advance it is only €18.50, so make sure to get your booking in early!
3. The National Museum of Ireland
We all travel for different reasons but to not spend some time taking in a country’s history and culture is a waste of an amazing opportunity. The National Museum of Ireland is a great place to do just that and the best part is that it’s free, making it a perfect addition to seeing Dublin on a budget. It is also a great place to visit if you get caught in Ireland’s notoriously bad weather!
In the museum you can browse exhibits of major religious artefacts from Celtic and early Christian Ireland, you can see one of Europe’s most important prehistoric gold collections, Iron Age bog bodies in their sacrificial regalia, exhibits on how the vikings changed Ireland, and much, much more. You don’t have to be a history nerd to enjoy this amazing collection of Irish history and culture. The museum is spread out over 3 sites in Dublin, so check up where you want to go.
4. The National Leprechaun Museum
On the subject of museums, but infinitely more appealing if you have to drag little kids around, is the National Leprechaun museum. Now this museum doesn’t seem to feature on other Dublin blogs and I’m amazed. It is a real delight to go through the leprechaun experience and I think you should add this to your itinerary of Dublin.
The museum provides a detailed and fun history of Irish folklore and myth presented in a quirky and original way. There are lots of interactive displays and innovative ways to make you really get into the life of a leprechaun. It is a wonderful experience that can be enjoyed by the whole family, if you’re travelling as a group, or even just great for a laugh if you’re with friends.
Tickets are €16 which covers a 45 minute guided tour. If you’re using your Dublin budget carefully it is well worth it!
5. The Jameson Distillery
I discovered Jameson whiskey in Dublin at the Jameson Distillery tour, and since then I have never looked back. Unlike the Guinness Storehouse, where they still brew the delightful stout, Jameson whiskey is no longer made in Dublin at the distillery so the original building has been transformed into a museum.
The whiskey tour gives a comprehensive look at the history of Jameson whiskey, Irish whiskey in general, and you can even take part in a free, guided whiskey tasting at the end of the tour if you get your hand up fast enough to volunteer. Tickets are €22 and include a drink at the end of the tour. There are also classes on cocktail making, whiskey blending, whiskey tasting, and a cask drawing experience as well.
If Jameson whiskey isn’t your thing then also consider visiting the Irish Whiskey Museum where you can trace the history of Irish whiskey through a variety of interactive displays. The classic tour costs €20 with early-bird discounts.
Do a pub crawl and experience the amazing pub culture
I mentioned doing a guided pub crawl with the New Europe company but there is no reason why you can’t just take yourself out. Ireland has one of the best pub cultures across Europe and the UK and that’s saying something. Drinking delicious pints of Guinness while listening to live Ceilidh bands is my idea of the perfect night out.
Unless you’ve got a young family to manage there is no excuse for missing out on the amazing pub culture in Ireland. Even if you just go out for 1 pint, treat yourself to an amazing evening. The Temple Bar Pub is one of Dublin’s most famous pubs and is well worth a visit if you’re not sure where to start! Otherwise head to Camden Street to enjoy a night of revelry. Camden Street has a variety of pubs and restaurants to meet your tastes and is described as the ‘New Temple Bar’.
Dublin’s parks, architecture and other free attractions
Dublin has an incredible array of parks and historical architecture. The New Europe tour will take you to a lot of the best places so make a note of your favourite spots and find your way back afterwards. If you like to discover a new city on foot these places will be great to add to your plan for Dublin on a budget.
St Patrick’s Cathedral
An historic building that has been part of the Dublin landscape since 1191. In 1860 Sir Benjamin Guinness provided funds for a complete renovation of the cathedral and his statue can be found at the cathedral entrance.
Hidden away among buildings the Iveagh Gardens are considered to be Dublin’s ‘secret gardens’ and well worth adding to your plan for Dublin on a budget. You will find sunken lawns, a hedge maze, fountains, a waterfall, and an archery ground.
St Stephen’s Green
St Stephen’s Green is a 27 acre sea of green in the centre of Dublin. An interesting historical note, this park was bought privately in 1663 and was closed off to the public until Sir Arthur Guinness, in 1877, managed to get an act passed through parliament which allowed him to buy the land and give it back to the city.
Dublin castle sits at the heart of Dublin’s historical landscape. It was built in the 13th Century over a viking settlement. The Castle is a 15 minute walk away from the Guinness Storehouse so if you’re looking for something to do after your Guinness tour, take a walk into history!
Merrion Square Park
Although it is one of the smaller parks in Dublin, Merrion Square Park is just as beautiful as St Stephen’s Green. Take a wander through the park to find the famous Oscar Wilde statue.
National Gallery of Ireland
During my time backpacking I found galleries were the best places to visit if I wanted to find something to do or escape bad weather! The National Gallery of Ireland houses a great collection of Art and sits right next to the Merrion Square Park, so if you’re strolling around the area take a moment to visit.
Shopping in Dublin
If you’re looking for awesome Irish paraphernalia to show off your trip to your friends, or you want to do some more classy shopping, then you will be spoilt for choice in Dublin. Keep a close eye on your budget because it is easy to overspend with all the quirky things on sale.
Along with great shopping there’s another great part of the atmosphere in Ireland: buskers. Busking in Ireland doesn’t require a licence so you will have a delightful range of street performers filling the main pedestrian streets and areas.
There is so much to see and to choose from if you just walk around the city but here are my 3 top recommendations:
Grafton street has an eclectic mix of shops that will keep any shopaholic happy. At the top end of the street you will find St Stephen’s Green and the St Stephen’s Green Shopping centre. On the other end you will find the famous Molly Malone statue.
Another great shopping street is Henry Street. Along with the regular shops you will find lots of stalls set up along the road. The Dublin Spire is also found on this street so make sure to visit for a great Instagram photo.
Temple Bar Food Market
Every Saturday you will find the Temple Bar Food Market at the Meeting House Square in the heart of Dublin city centre. With a huge selection of fresh food and produce, it is worthwhile to pay this market a visit and support local Irish farmers.
Sweny’s is a pharmacy described in James Joyce’s Ulysses, and has become a popular tourist haunt. Sweny’s is maintained by volunteers who are dedicated to preserving the shop as it was in Joyce’s time. You will find a selection of second-hand books and the perfect location for daily readings of Joyce’s works. Make sure to check out the lemon-scented soap that made the shop famous!
Getting out of Dublin
If you’re tired of the city and want to get out and explore the Irish country side then consider a trip to Howth on the DART. Howth is a popular port and fishing village which offers cliff paths that lead around the coastline, through Howth village and the ruins of its abbey, and past Baily Lighthouse. On Saturdays you will find the Howth market across from the train station. Offering a wide selection of organic produce, feshly baked goods, antiques, clothing, jewelry and more.
Read more about Howth and how to get there here.
Dublin on a Budget
Dublin is a fantastic European city to visit but it is easy to go well over budget if you’re not careful. Find the attractions that really excite you and don’t be afraid to just soak up the Dublin life in the many free places like the National Museum and the gorgeous parks to make sure you’re doing Dublin on a budget!
Happy travels, blue skies and Sláinte!
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