There’s no denying that Dublin, like most major cities, can be an expensive place to visit with your family. With the majority of Ireland vacations beginning and ending at Dublin airport, most people spend a day or two in the capital city. While you’ll likely spend a few Euros on Dublin’s must-see sights like the Guinness Storehouse and the Book of Kells at Trinity College, there are plenty of activities that are free for families in Dublin to keep you busy and on budget.
Dublin on the Cheap
All 3 of Ireland’s National Museums – the Museum of Archeology, the Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of Decorative Arts and History – are free to visit. The Archeology Museum is always a favorite as it features the Tara Brooch, large hoards from the Bronze Age, and the incredibly preserved “Bog Bodies.”
The nearly 2,000 acres of Phoenix Park were once a royal hunting ground. Now open to everyone, Dublin’s largest city park offers plenty of family fun. On a fine day you might spot picnickers, games of football, hurling, soccer, or cricket on the sports grounds, or just see people strolling the tree-lined avenues while Fallow Deer nibble in the grassy meadows. Within the park, the People’s Gardens are in the stunning Victorian style, complete with ornamental lakes, perfectly landscaped flower beds, and a children’s playground.
You don’t have to be an art connoisseur to enjoy the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA). Housed in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, the IMMA’s elegant courtyard and Royal Hospital Gardens make for a peaceful ramble. Inside the stunning 17th century building, are over 3,500 modern and contemporary artworks. Interactive displays let children get hands-on with some exhibitions, while the ‘Look, No Cows’ trail guides children to favorite museum artwork – just ask for a free booklet.
If your artistic tastes run to fine art by European and Irish masters, the National Gallery of Ireland will leave you in awe. The gallery houses over 15,000 works of art from the 13th to 20th centuries – including paintings by Rubens, Gainsborough, Rembrandt, and Monet. This is a perfect activity for your Thursday evening, when the gallery remains open until 8:30 PM, hours after other museums close.
Art and science collide in the Science Gallery at Trinity College. The small building houses an ever-changing exhibition that lets you get hands on and in touch with scientific conundrums and thought provoking questions.
Just off well-known Grafton Street is Powerscourt Townhouse Centre. Once the home of Lord and Lady Powerscourt, the townhouse is now filled with shops, restaurants, and cultural exhibits all beautifully complementing the stunning Georgian architecture. Don’t miss Jig, nearly hidden in a corner of the upper level. Ireland’s first dedicated Irish Dance theatre and museum is the best place to learn the story of Irish Dance.
Dublin is a very walkable city, with the majority of her sites located within the city centre. Instead of paying for a Dublin walking tour, use this Self-Tour Dublin Walk to explore the city’s sights.
Dublin is a city that loves statues. Find a map of Dublin online and create your own Dublin Sculpture Walk. A few favorites: Molly Malone at the end of Grafton Street, Oscar Wilde lounging in Merrion Square Park, and the Three Fates inside the Leeson Street Gate at St. Stephen’s Green.
By simply balancing your fee activities and your free activities you’ll keep your Ireland vacation on budget, leaving more money for great souvenirs and a trip (or two) to Murphy’s Ice Cream on Wicklow Street – it’s some of the best you’ll ever taste (you can thank us when you get back).
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