Dublin for Free

Contrary to popular belief it is possible to enjoy our capital city without spending a fortune and in fact some of the best things to see and do in Dublin are free. Here are my some of my favourite things to do in Dublin city:

1. The National Library, particularly the Yeats permanent Exhibition

2. The Chester Beatty Library

3. The Phoenix Park

Take a picnic and explore the Phoenix Park: It’s one of the largest enclosed city park in Europe, offering beautiful landscapes, walking trails, and even a herd of deer. The Phoenix Park is 1,752 acres, for example compared to New York’s Central Park of 842 acres, it’s huge, more than twice as big.

The park was created by Lord Ormonde as a royal hunting park in the 1600’s and it was opened to the public by Lord Chesterfield in 1747.  That’s why the main road that runs through the park is called Chesterfield Avenue. It’s entirely possible to spend all day in the Phoenix Park. It’s my favourite place for lunch because the Knockmaroon entrance is at the other end of the Lower Lucan Road / Strawberry Beds and only about 10 minutes away.

My recommendation is that you go to the Visitors Centre first. Admission is free, and It’s a chance to get up to date on the history and wildlife in the park. There are two twenty-minute audio-visual presentations 1) on the Phoenix Park through the ages and 2) on the history of Áras an Uachtaráin (the President’s House i.e. the President of Ireland lives here).

While you are in the visitors centre, check if there is a free tour of Ashtown Castle, they don’t run all the time and are subject to availability. Ashtown Castle is a medieval tower-house. Until 1978, this castle was hidden within the walls of a Georgian mansion (called Ashtown Lodge) that was occupied by the Under Secretary for Ireland. When the Georgian house was demolished in the late seventies, the castle was discovered inside. It has since been restored and is now open to the public. It may date from as early as the fifteenth century.

Next walk back towards Parkgate Street entrance. Notice Áras an Uachtaráin at the Phoenix Monument and also the American Ambassadors Residence. Áras an Uachtaráin is open to the public on select dates during the year, usually Saturdays, state business permitting. Free tickets are available from the Phoenix Park Visitors Centre on the day ONLY.

Having admired the President’s House, head for the Papal Cross on the 15 acres, here you might be lucky enough to spot the deer.

Then walk down to the Magazine Fort. This will be about a 50 minute walk.

By now it must be time for lunch and your picnic. Walk back towards the Parkgate Street entrance and here you will find the magnificent People’s Flower Garden. This is an ideal spot to relax and enjoy a break.

Of course, the Phoenix Park is also home to Dublin Zoo, but the zoo is not free there is an admission fee.

How to get to the Phoenix Park:

The Park is quite close to the City Centre, it’s actually walkable distance, it’s about 30 minutes walk from O’Connell Bridge in the City Centre to the Parkgate Street entrance. If you don’t fancy walking then public transport is available.

By Bus
Public transport doesn’t go through the Park, but it does stop at the various entrances around the Park. Check Dublin Bus for up to date information. Bus stops are located at the following points outside the Park’s walls:

  • To stop near Parkgate Street (Main Gate Entrance), Islandbridge Turnstile and Chapelizod Gate, use bus route numbers 25 and 26.
  • To stop next to the North Circular Road Gate, use bus route number 46A.
  • To stop on the Castleknock Road and enter the Phoenix Park through the Castleknock Gate, use bus route number 37.
  • To stop on the Navan Road and enter the Phoenix Park through the Ashtown Gate, use bus route numbers 37, 38, 39, and 70.

By Train or Luas (Tram)
Heuston Train Station is a short walk to the Parkgate Street (Main Gate) entrance of the Park. From Connolly Train Station commuter trains operate on a regular basis to Ashtown and Phoenix Park Train Stations, both of which are in close proximity to the Park. Check the Iarnród Éireann website for up to date train information.

Use the Red Line for tram travel to the Phoenix Park, and get off at either the Museum or Heuston Station stop. Check the Luas website for up to date Tram information.

By Bicycle
Another great way to get around the Park is to rent a bicycle from Phoenix Park Bikes. The bikes are located at the Parkgate Street entrance.

4. Glasnevin Cemetery

5. The National Botanic Gardens