The lively capital of Dublin is packed full of top-class restaurants, 1,000 years of history and legendary Temple Bar nightlife, but most backpackers can feel priced out of having a great time.
Luckily there are still plenty of cheap things to do in Dublin, and together with cheap Dublin hotels watch your travel money work that tad harder for you!
1. A cheap Irish classic
Some people say there’s no such thing as ‘Irish’ food, but there are several traditional dishes you simply have to savour. You may not be able to afford dinner at upscale eateries like Chapter One, but it’s easy to find fresh and modern versions of classics like Irish Stew.
The Brick Alley Cafe (25 East Essex Street, Temple Bar) has heaps of loyal followers, who pack out this cute cafe’s small wooden tables daily. Home-made main courses range from €5.95-€8. For a classier bite to eat head to Gallagher’s Boxty House, which serves ‘Boxty’ – a sort of Irish potato pancake/dumpling served with all sorts of delicious toppings like smoked salmon and dill or tomato and Irish cheeses. Starters at the Boxty House are more than enough for lunch, and range from €6-7.
2. The Jeanie Johnson Famine Ship
After pigging out on Boxty, a trip to the Jeanie Johnson (stationed at Custom House Quay) may make you feel a little guilty. This working replica of Dublin’s most famous famine ship (the boats that took victims of the potato famine abroad to a better life) had been painstakingly restored, and there’s a fascinating museum inside, which is only €5 to enter.
3. Kilmainham Gaol
This famous prison on Inchicore road closed its doors to prisoners in 1924, and today is home to a ghoulishly interesting museum, with exhibits on the terrible prison conditions and tours around the spooky dark corridors and dank cells. This is the place where the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising were executed, and scenes from The Italian Job were filmed in the main hall. Entry is €5.30.
4. St Patrick’s Cathedral
After discovering the murky depths of Dublin’s criminal underworld , shed some holy light on Dublin’s past in the serene surroundings of St Patrick’s Cathedral (top). Dating from the 13th century, this is the largest church in Ireland, and its plaques, monuments and flags tell the story of Anglo-Irish life in the country. The celebrated writer Jonathan Swift wrote most of his best works when he was Dean here in the 18th century, and he is buried inside the church with his partner.
5. Dublin Writer’s Museum
Dublin’s impressive literary heritage is on display at this small but charming museum (18-19 Parnell Square), a quaint townhouse packed with a good collection of artefacts from famous Irish scribes Swift, Wilde, Beckett, Joyce and Yeats, alongside temporary exhibitions and live performances. Admission is €7.25.
6. Browse some hidden bookshops
Unsurprisingly for a city famed for its writers, Dublin is home to some excellent bookshops too. Chapters (108/109 Mid. Abbey Street), has the pick of second hand tomes, and its creaky, jam-packed bookshelves are a joy to browse. Trinity College students love the eclectic selection at Books Upstairs (36 College Green) and crime fans should check out Murder Ink (Dawson Street).
A must see is The Winding Stair (by the Ha’Penny Bridge), a famous literary hangout since the 1970s, and a great place to score some second-hand and unusual titles. Today the shop has been revamped with a glossy restaurant upstairs, but it still manages to retain some of its original charm. $10 should buy you a book (or three).
7. A castle and country house
It’s a little out of the city center, but Ardgillen Castle in Balbriggan, is well worth the bus or train ride – set in 194 acres of rolling countryside and a few steps from the beach, this country house is a breath of fresh air on a sunny afternoon. The Dean of Clonfert built Ardgillen in 1738, including the ornate library with a secret door! Admission is €6.50.
8. Foodie treats on the cheap
Dublin has cemented its reputation as a foodie city, but the top class restaurants don’t come cheap. So treat yourself to a few little indulgences at Dublin’s best local secrets – a slice of local cheese from Sheridan’s Cheesemongers (11 Anne Street South), the warm cinnamon buns at Simon’s Place (George’s Street Arcade, South Great George’s Street), the fresh coffee at The Bald Barista (68 Aungier Street), and anything from dessert and quiche heaven, The Queen of Tarts (4 Cork Hill, Dame Street). Everything should cost under €7, unless you get carried away!
9. Traditional music in a real Irish pub
From traveling troubadours to fiddlers, most people come to Dublin and expect at least one evening of traditional Irish ditties. The best place to find Irish music and dancing is in the pub, where most night you should be able to find at least one live band playing to punters. All you have to cough up for is a pint. O’Donoghue’s (Merrion Row) is a safe bet – a pint of Guinness costs €4.50 (unfortunately that’s the average price of a pint!).
10. A cool evening out
If you’d rather spend your evening dancing to some cooler tunes, head to Solas (Wexford Street), one of Dublin’s best DJ bars. This hip hotspot in the trendy Camden Quarter has a rooftop bar, some great resident DJs and a lively weekend crowd. Forget club cover charges, your €7 can go towards drinks. Don’t forget to book a cheap Dublin hostel to sleep it off.
Thanks to aurélien, Jennie B, Seamless Whole, Diamond Dave, lovelibelula and Fenchurch for the excellent images from Flickr. Please note, all images were suitable for use at the time of publication according to the Creative Commons License.