Have you ever been interested in exploring Dublin, Ireland without spending a small fortune? Today's guest post from Aoife O Carroll shares some insider tips for getting the most out of this vibrant and diverse city, without hurting your wallet! Read on to discover what Dublin has to offer to travelers on a budget.
Even in the wake of the Celtic Tiger, Dublin isn’t a cheap destination. But, with a bit of planning you can have a great weekend and see most of the city’s most popular attractions for less than you think.
Dublin is still a relatively small city. However, trying to cram everything Dublin has to offer into one day will be pretty much impossible unless you use some form of transport, so start your trip by booking car hire from the airport.
It’s a good idea to break your sightseeing up into two days, as you can see most sights in central Dublin simply by walking around or by bus. Use your car to visit sites further afield such as Howth, Dun Laoghaire or Glendalough another day. For this guide we’ll assume you’re staying in or about the centre.
The Full Irish Experience
If you’re staying in a guesthouse or B&B, you will, in all likelihood have your breakfast included in the price. We recommend you enjoy it. There’s nothing to beat a full Irish breakfast to set you up for the day. It’ll certainly keep you going to lunchtime.
If not, it’s hard to beat a croissant and coffee while you take in the sights and sounds of St. Stephen’s Green. The ducks will be more than happy for any crumbs you throw their way. Or, if it’s a bit chilly, nip into the Kylemore café on the 2nd floor of the St. Stephen’s Green Shopping Mall. You’ll get a great view from one of the tables overlooking the park and very reasonably priced self-service breakfast.
From there, it’s a gentle stroll through St Stephen’s Green on your way over to Merrion Square, where you’ll come across the Dáil, Ireland’s seat of government, opposite the 5-star Merrion Hotel.
Just past the Dáil, you’ll come to the Natural History Museum. Like many of the museums in Dublin, entry is free. Also referred to as ‘The Dead Zoo’, the Natural History Museum has enough exhibitions to keep you enthralled for at least an hour. Check out the Giant Irish Deer skeletons in the Irish Room on the ground floor, home to a number of preserved Irish animals, many of which are extinct. Kids will love it.
It’s a short walk from there to the National Gallery on Kildare Street, home to 2,500 paintings, including pieces from Caravaggio and Picasso, as well as some 10,000 other works. The Yeats section is well worth a visit alone here.
Invade Dublin Castle
Wander down to the end of Nassau Street and you’ll come to Grafton Street, Dublin’s famous pedestrianised shopping area. The junction with Dame Street begins at the entrance to Trinity College. Stroll past the Central Bank, along the fringes of Temple Bar and you’ll come to the entrance to Dublin Castle and the Chester Beatty Museum with its rich collection of manuscripts, prints and icons. Again, entry is free.
This positions us close to Parliament St. and Temple Bar, Dublin’s official tourist district. However, that doesn’t have to mean expensive. A good eat-in pizza will set you back a mere €8 in Porterhouse, a freehouse and microbrewery with a wonderful selection of artisan beers. Try their own stout, brewed on the premises, for a fine alternative to Guinness. For even better value pop across the famous Ha’penny Bridge in Liffey Street to the Epicurean food centre where you’ll find a huge range of international cuisine, much of which falls into the under €10 price bracket.
Walk in Collin’s Footsteps
Suitably refreshed, it’s time for a visit to the National Museum of Ireland at Collin’s Barracks. It’s a short bus ride, but if you’d like to walk off lunch, it’s also a pleasant stroll along the banks of the Liffey in the direction of Houston station. Along the way you’ll pass the Four Courts, scene of one of Collin’s most famous skirmishes during the Irish Civil War.
This branch of the National Museum serves as a fascinating journey of the history of Ireland through artefacts such as coins, clothing and militaria and should keep you occupied for most of the afternoon.
However, don’t spend too long there, because you’re only a stone throw away from Phoenix Park, one of the most historic and largest city parks in Europe. In fact, it’s so large, it would be impossible to explore on foot. However, there are bikes available to hire near the main entrance for as little as €5. That way you’ll be able to take in the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre, Aras An Uachtaran, home to the President of Ireland, and Farleigh House (with an artisan market on selected days). Alternatively, you could pay just €2 for the hop-on-hop-off bus that trundles round the park throughout the day. Incidentally, Phoenix Park is also home to Ireland’s biggest tourist attraction, Dublin Zoo. Expect long queues in summer.
And If You’ve Any Energy Left…
By this time, you’re probably exhausted, so it might be a good time to head back to your lodgings to prepare for Dublin’s legendary nightlife. Even when it comes to eating out at night, there are bargains to be had in these recessionary times. With the money you’ve saved during the day, you should be able to afford a set price meal or early bird menu at one of Dublin’s excellent restaurants and if you visit during a special event, such as St Patrick’s Day, or the Jameson Festival, there are plenty of free live events going on all over the city.
What’s more, many traditional pubs (sometimes referred to as ‘old man pubs’) have reduced the price of a pint to encourage custom and offer free entertainment. So it isn’t impossible to enjoy a traditional Irish music session and a pint of the black stuff for as little as €3.