Dublin is one of the most vibrant and welcoming cities in Europe, renowned for its rich Viking history, charismatic locals, and great nightlife. After you’ve sampled the craic (and perhaps a pint of Guinness) in one of the city’s 1000 pubs, there are plenty of free attractions to enjoy. Here are some of the highlights.
The National Museum of Ireland
There are no less than four separate museums dedicated to Ireland’s history and culture. The Museum of Archaeology traces Irish history back to prehistoric times, with exhibits including gold artefacts, Viking swords, and several bog people – unfortunate souls who were naturally mummified in peat bogs as early as 400 BC. The nearby Museum of Natural History - also known as the ‘Dead Zoo’ - is guaranteed to be a hit with the kids. This museum is relatively small but absolutely jam-packed with over a million animal specimens, from taxidermy polar bears to ancient Irish deer skeletons. The two remaining branches of the National Museum focus on Decorative Arts and Country Life.
Once a sleepy fishing village, the rugged peninsula of Howth has become one of Dublin’s outer residential suburbs. However, the wild hills of Howth remain as atmospheric as ever. Take a long walk here to admire the coastal scenery – think rocky cliffs, picturesque lighthouses and a medieval castle.
Fashion lovers flock to the Loft Market, where you can browse for designer and vintage fashion, art, and jewellery. Founded by the fashion editor of local magazine Thread, the Loft Market is open every day and entry is free. Its indoor location makes this the perfect place to while away an hour or two on a blustery day.
Step back in time as you admire the beautiful Georgian architecture of Trinity College, Ireland’s 400-year-old equivalent to English universities like Oxford and Cambridge. History buffs may also like to check out the famous Book of Kells, an ancient illustrated manuscript located in the Old Library. While there is a fee to view the Book of Kells, it’s free to wander the college’s grounds.
St Stephens Green
Dublin boasts more green space per square kilometre than any other European city. Get back to nature among the manicured lawns and gardens of St Stephens Green, a popular inner-city park. You could follow the lead of local office workers, families and couples and pack a picnic lunch to enjoy here on a sunny afternoon.
Dublin City Gallery: The Hugh Lane
This centre for modern art features masterpieces by Manet, Monet, Renoir and Degas, as well as many contemporary artists. Don’t miss the Francis Bacon Studio – the iconic Irish painter’s studio was transported to Dublin from London following his death, and faithfully reconstructed in the gallery. Another highlight of The Hugh Lane is the Sundays @ Noon concert series, showcasing top Irish and international musicians. These free concerts take place in the charming Sculpture Garden every Sunday from September to June.