After moving to Dublin with no place to live and no job in sight, I put myself on a strict budget. But I still had a new city to experience. Slowly, I figured out the best tricks to enjoy my new city cheaply, if not completely free. Here's what I learned:
Roam Free In Dublin's Public Parks
Dublin's Phoenix Park is Europe's largest enclosed public park at 1,750 acres. It is larger than all of London's public parks combined and more than two times the size of New York City's Central Park. With free entry you can walk through the beautiful gardens, spot the Fallow deer that roam the park, visit the Dublin Zoo, take a tour of the President of Ireland's house or simply have a picnic on the lawn in front of the Wellington Monument. Spend an afternoon relaxing in nature, right in the middle of the city.
St. Stephen's Green and The Iveagh Gardens are two other popular public parks closer to the city center, both with exquisite gardens and a relaxing atmosphere. St. Stephen's Green has large lush green lawns with adjoining ponds where you can have a picnic or take a lunchtime nap. The Iveagh Gardens offer a pleasant break away from city life and hosts an array of beautiful flowers and a waterfall. During the summer they host food truck markets weekly during the day, as well as outdoor movies at night a few times during the summer. They offer new releases as well as some local Irish favorites. They are great meeting spots to hang out with friends and share a bottle of wine.
Laugh It Off At A Comedy Show
Locals will tell you that comedy is an integral part of being Irish and Dublin hosts many comedy nights that don’t disappoint. The Irish are said to have 'the gift of gab' and that definitely comes out in their comedy. The style is more question and answer with the audience and adding a little pressure. Anseo on Camden Street has a free comedy show every Wednesday with both local and international acts. After the show they ask that you donate what you can afford so don't feel pressured. You can also fill up on pints for around 5 euro.
The International Bar on Wicklow Street is another local favorite; 5 euro admission for 2 hours of great comedy! Note that it does sell out, so booking in advance online is a good idea. Also, if you do not like being the center of attention I recommend sitting in the back and not raising your hand during any questions. They don't hold back.
Get On The Tourist Trail (Cheaply)
If you're the type of traveler who has to see the main tourist spots of the city you do have the option to visit many free of charge. The Trinity College campus can be accessed for free and is a delight to walk around. It has a tranquil collegiate atmosphere and a few large expansive green lawns. Note the busts around campus of some famous authors that attended Trinity such as Samuel Beckett, Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde.
Trinity was founded in 1592 and is Ireland's oldest University. In the Trinity College Library you can also find the Book of Kells on display. It was written around 800 AD and is an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin that many come to see for its artistic beauty and historical context. Be sure to book in advance online to beat the lines. It costs 10 Euro to enter and also gives you full access to the Trinity College Library. After all that walking you can enjoy a pint for around 5 euro while sitting on the lawn with the students at The Pav pub on campus.
The Irish Museum of Modern Art is located in the Kilmainham neighborhood in Dublin. It is Ireland's leading national Institution for the collection and presentation of modern and contemporary art and doesn’t cost a dime to access. This is mainly due to its wide variety of art in a changing program of exhibitions. Currently, for an extra 8 euro you can see the works of Lucian Freud, 20th century realist painter and grandson of Sigmund Freud.
The neighborhood is also home to Kilmainham Gaol which is now a museum. Many Irish revolutionaries including the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising, were imprisoned and executed in the prison by the British. This is my favorite tour in the city because it showcases Irish pride and struggle for a united Ireland. It is only 8 Euro for adult admission and 1 hour tour and well worth the history lesson you will receive.
For a fun hands-on experience, The Science Gallery located near Trinity College is a museum crossed with a gallery where ideas meet and opinions collide. It's a great place to explore today's scientific issues by participating in the exhibits and you don't have to break the bank to do so. You can try out virtual reality, make music, or participate in scientific polls. It's free to all to access.
Indulge In Authentic Irish Eats
Dublin is considered a fairly expensive city by European standards. Due to the bounce back from Ireland’s 2008 recession the country has seen an influx of foreigners entering the country in search of lower taxation and better opportunities. This has caused property value and living expenses to steadily rise.
But you can always find a cheap bite if you know the right places to go. Boojum is a Mexican Burrito Bar— think the Irish version of Chipotle. It's a great price for the amount and quality of food you get and an even better value if you have a student ID from any university. Although not studying anymore I still keep my old student ID in my wallet to reap the benefits. You just have to be convincing.
There are inexpensive chippers (fast food restaurants) on almost every corner. One of Dublin's most famous and oldest being Leo Burdock. You can fill up for around 7 Euro and they are open until 3am so you can take care of your food cravings after bar close. Many other chippers include a variety of everything: burgers, kebabs, fried chicken and fish, and of course chips (fries).
Many Chinese restaurants are also open late and offer a local favorite amongst the younger generation called a 'spice box.' It’s a combination of fried chicken, chips, shrimp and egg rolls doused in an array of spices. It's great after a night out but you will definitely regret it the next day.
Say 'Cheers' To Irish Drinking Culture
I can't talk about Dublin without telling you where to get a nice cheap and creamy pint of Guinness. After all, it is their national pastime. Although Dublin is getting more and more expensive by the day (I have paid 7 Euro for a pint of Guinness) you can still find a cheap pint if you know where to look. A local favorite and hidden to many, even Dubliners, is J.K. Stoutmans on James Street. You can enjoy a pint of Guinness for 3.80 Euro. Relax and sip on that pint of Guinness next to their fireplace on a cold wet winter night.
Another popular and cheap option among the locals during the summer is to grab a four or six pack of beer and post up sitting beside the canal across from The Barge pub in the Portobello neighborhood. You definitely won’t break the bank drinking a 5 Euro six-pack of San Miguel. If you need to use the toilet just pop into the pub to take care of business. If you play your cards right you'll make a few new friends too. Every group tends to get social after a few cans of beer.
Billy is an expat living in Dublin, Ireland. Originally from Chicago he enjoys getting himself into weird adventures, reading science fiction and drinking coffee. He's known as a catalyst, globe wanderer and rain lover. Visit his blog here: www.allpintsconsidered.com.