Cheap Culture in Dublin
A headline from the UK’s Post Office Travel Money report recently caught my attention ranking Dublin as the cheapest city to enjoy cultural attractions in Europe. Analysing prices in sixteen European capitals, Dublin emerged as four times cheaper than London, Europe’s most expensive city for culture, when the total cost of visiting 6 different cultural attractions: a museum, an art gallery, a heritage attraction, the ballet, the opera, and a classical concert were calculated. A Dublin cultural extravaganza to those venues cost only £76 while London set visitors back £287.50 and Paris £249.32.
So I thought it might be time to have a quick look at how you can visit Dublin cheaply and enjoy the perfect cultural weekend in Ireland’s capital city. Let’s start off as we mean to go on and choose a budget base for the few days we’d be in Dublin. Somewhere like Travelodge Dublin Hotels gives you flexibility with locations across Dublin city at cheap prices. But it’s just somewhere to drop your stuff as you’ll be spending all your time enjoying the best culture Dublin has to offer on the cheap.
The Dublin Pass
Dublin is a medieval city with a Georgian façade and has a huge range of cultural and historical visitor sites available to the first time visitor with wonderful churches, theatres, art galleries, museums and even castles all within easy reach of the city centre.
If you really want culture on the cheap the best time to visit Dublin is on Culture Night, usually in the middle of September. It’s a unique night in the Irish calendar with over 350,000 people visiting cultural venues all over Dublin, many of which aren’t normally open to the public and all for free. But if you can’t make it over to Dublin on that night, the best place to start for cheap culture in the city is the Dublin Pass.
The Dublin Pass includes free entry to over 30 top cultural attractions and a lot of additional discounts to other popular sites. It also gives you a fast track entry into many of those locations which can be very handy particularly for places like Kilmainham Gaol where the queues can be very long indeed. If you buy the Dublin Pass ahead of time you can even use it for free travel from the airport. The pass costs from €39 for an adult for one day or €61 for two days but it really is worthwhile.
The Best Free Cultural Attractions in Dublin
However, if you don’t want to spend money on a Dublin Pass there is plenty of free culture that you can enjoy in Dublin. The best way to do that is to walk. Dublin city centre is pretty small and easy to stroll around. You can immerse yourself in this Georgian city as you walk from Christchurch Cathedral through the cobbled stones of Trinity College to Merrion Square and back to St. Stephen’s Green. You can even walk up and into Dublin Castle courtyard and admire the buildings which ran Ireland when it was part of the British Empire all without paying a penny.
If you’re tired of the open air or the Irish weather has finally turned to rain, then here are some of my favourite and completely free cultural attractions that you can shelter in:
The Chester Beatty Library: Right beside Dublin Castle, the Chester Beatty Library is a unique museum with an amazing collection of Asian, Chinese and Western religious and literary artefacts dating back thousands of years.
Marsh’s Library: This intact 17th century library is just behind St. Patrick’s Cathedral and is a real Dublin gem, Dean Jonathan Swift and many of Ireland’s great writers consulted books in this beautiful library.
The National Library: Beside Ireland’s parliament buildings, the Dail, this library saw many of Ireland’s greatest works written here, including James Joyce’s Ulysses.
The National Gallery: The cream of Ireland’s classical art collection, free to visit.
The Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), housed in the 17th century Royal Hospital Kilmainham which is worth visiting in the summer for its own sake, is the place for Irish and international modern and contemporary art in Dublin.
Dublin’s City Hall on Dame Street just up from Trinity College is a fine Georgian building with a quite stunning rotunda. It usually has an interesting and free exhibition running as well.
The National Museum of Ireland on Kildare Street is Ireland’s ancient treasure trove with many stunning Celtic artefacts.
The National Museum of Ireland in Collins Barracks near Dublin’s Heuston Station holds Irish material treasures from the 17th century onwards. Its military collections are particularly impressive.
Culture is a Night in Dublin
The end of the day doesn’t bring an end to Dublin’s cultural attractions and the city’s night life offers plenty of things to do. If you like Irish traditional music, it’ll only cost you the price of a drink to enjoy some excellent musicians. Dublin pubs like the Cobblestone or O’Donoghues have regular sessions where talented musicians just drop in and play for your pleasure.
If you prefer the theatre, the Dublin stage is of an excellent standard with the Abbey, the Gate and the Gaiety theatres putting on international quality plays at prices that are very attractive compared to West End theatres.