Make your euros stretch that little bit further on your trip to Dublin. Visitors to Ireland’s capital can benefit hugely from the wealth of free attractions in the city, whether your love is for art, culture or simply a great walk. Here are some of our favourites, from well-known landmarks to attractions off the beaten track.
Irish Museum of Modern Art
A vast collection of modern and contemporary art, housed in the 17th-century Royal Hospital Kilmainham, once used for retired soldiers. Established in 1990, the galleries now host a selection from the permanent collection, many works by Irish artists, with a selection of sculptures in the expansive grounds.
Celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, the National Gallery collection now boasts around 15,000 works from the 13th to 21st centuries, from Flemish scenes by Bruegel to a portrait of Dublin’s own Seamus Heaney. Look out for epic paintings by Caravaggio, Monet’s tranquil landscapes, and Picasso’s still lifes.
For just a few euros for a ticket on the DART train, it’s a quick ride to Howth, a picturesque coastal village and suburb north west of central Dublin. Originally an island, you can now enjoy a 7-mile walking loop around Howth Head peninsula, then visit the 14th-century castle.
Oscar Wilde Statue
This life-size sculpture of one of the world’s most famous playwrights is carved from coloured marble sourced from around Ireland. Wilde lounges languidly, lying on a stone in Archbishop Ryan Park in the heart of Georgian Dublin's Merrion Square. He appears to be glancing over at his former home – now an American college.
It’s a peaceful, scenic walk from Grand Canal Square – or cycle. A good starting point is the Waterways Ireland Visitors Centre at Grand Canal Dock. Along the waterfront, see the statue of author Patrick Kavanagh and alongside willow trees bending onto the water, where ducks and moorhens call home.
National Museum of Decorative Arts & History
One of three national museums in Dublin, the imposing building alone is worth a visit, original site of Collins Barracks sitting in a vast courtyard where military excercises once took place. Don't miss What’s In Store, a treasure trove of items that don’t always make it to displays, but this array of artifacts is packed with Irish glass, silver and applied arts – even Japanese Samurai swords.
Running along the north side of the River Liffey, this is a good traffic-free option in an otherwise busy area. Begin at Custom House Quay and see the Famine Memorial, Rowan Gillespie’s sculptures to those who died during the 19th-century famine. Head west to pass the mammoth O’Connell Street and quaint Ha’Penny Bridge, and onwards to the Four Courts.
Once a hunting ground for deer in the 17th century, this enormous urban park can take hours to explore, with its lawns, sports fields and visitors centre. Each Saturday, take a free guided tour of Aras an Uachtarain (the President’s residence) to see the grand drawing rooms and offices in this 18th-century building, where Ireland's president lives and holds meetings.
Chester Beatty Library
If the queues to see the Book of Kells is too large you’ll find this gem of a collection, a bequest of the late mining magnate, Sir Chester Beatty, a blessed relief. See religious manuscripts, miniature paintings and decorative arts ranging from 2700BC to the present day. In well laid-out galleries, highlights include European medieval manuscripts and illuminated copies of the Qur’an.
National Botanic Gardens
An oasis of calm and tranquility lies 2 miles north of the city centre, with opened in 1795. The Victorian glasshouses are outstanding, including the restored curvilinear range and Great Palm House. Around 15,000 plant species lie in manicured grounds, from around the world, including rose garden and alpine yard.