The Best Free Things To Do In Ireland This Year

February 14, 2021

It’s impossible to be bored in Ireland. The Emerald Isle is full of lively bars, beautiful rolling green countryside, and an infectious merry spirit. From stunning nature to engaging museums, your Irish holiday will be overflowing with activities.

There is plenty to do in Ireland without spending a penny. Read our guide to 11 free things to do in Ireland.

1. Explore Fitzgerald Park (Cork)

Just outside of the Cork city center is the stunning Fitzgerald Park. Twelve acres of sprawling green lawns, gardens, and playgrounds make this a popular spot for families and university students alike. A pedestrian footbridge brings park goers across the River Lee. Officially named Daly's Bridge, the locals call this suspension bridge “Shaky Bridge”. Run across it to learn why!

The Cork Public Museum is located on the park grounds and is free to visit. Come here to get an insight into the history of Cork. The story of the IRA in the area and the Easter Rising are given local context here.

2. Marvel at the Holy Cross Abbey (Tipperary)

Head to central Ireland to see the Cistercian Holy Cross Abbey. This beautiful site is about a 15-minute drive from the city of Thurles, with a bus line and plenty of parking. Originally built in the 12th century, it fell into ruins in the 17 century. It has since been restored and is now free to enter and tour.

Overlooking the peaceful River Suir, the beautiful stone building and grounds are ready to be explored. Learn the history, pray in the church, and admire the architecture before stopping in the gift shop or a pub next door.

3. Enjoy the Leisurely Howth Coastal Walk (Dublin)

Enjoy the Leisurely Howth Coastal Walk (Dublin)

The plummeting cliffs of coastal Ireland attract visitors from all over the world. Many overlook the stunning cliffs right next to Dublin but they shouldn’t. Put on a sturdy pair of shoes and embark on the Howth Coastal Walk. The sleepy coastal town of Howth is just outside of Dublin and reachable by public transport. This hike is gentle although rain, wind, and mud are common.

This popular walk is well marked for visitors. Finishing the entire 6-kilometer loop will take about two hours. Fantastic views of the harbor, cliffs, and the stunning Baily Lighthouse await hikers.

4. Smell the Roses at National Botanic Gardens (Dublin)

Smell the Roses at National Botanic Gardens (Dublin)

Located three kilometers from Dublin’s city center are the National Botanic Gardens. It houses more than 20,000 different plant species, from trees, plants, and blossoming flowers. Plus, entrance is always free!

The historic Victorian greenhouses are teeming with exotic species and have been amazingly restored. You can easily spend an afternoon here with the flowers. The infamous Glasnevin Cemetery can be reached through the gardens and is free to walk through as well.

5. Explore Phoenix Park (Dublin)

Explore Phoenix Park (Dublin)

Visitors wanting a break from the bustling city of Dublin don’t have to look far. Phoenix Park is a large urban park located in the city. The city spans an impressive 1,750 acres and is even home to a herd of wild fallow deer. Lucky park goers may see the deer grazing or lounging on the grass. Birdwatching and peaceful walks through the fields and wooded areas are the perfect way to connect with nature.

The park is home to many landmarks, including the largest obelisk in Europe, the Wellington Monument. Finished in 1861, it commemorates the Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. The Papal Cross, People’s Garden, and Magazine Fort are also on its grounds.

6. Check Out Ireland’s Universities (City Cork and Dublin)

Check Out Ireland’s Universities (City Cork and Dublin)

Prestigious, historical universities abound in Ireland. Visitors can explore the grounds of some of the most beautiful completely free, like the University College Cork. In Dublin, the famous Trinity College is known for its open courtyards and neoclassical architecture.

While exploring the university campuses, the collegiate spirit is contagious. There is always some festival or event happening at the universities. Many of Ireland’s past leaders, poets, and top thinkers walked through these very halls. Maybe some of the inspiration will rub off on you.

7. Visit the National Gallery of Ireland (Dublin)

Sitting in the center of Dublin is The National Gallery of Ireland. With an entrance in beautiful Merrion Square, the heart of Georgian Ireland, the building is a work of art as well. Plus, access to the permanent collection is always free. Visitors can easily spend hours looking through the collections, divided into eras and topics.

Built in the late 19th century, the gallery proudly displays works from Dutch masters and paintings from the Italian Baroque period. An entire hall is dedicated to the great Irish artist, Jack B. Yeats and shouldn’t be missed.

8. Hike the Kerry Way (County Kerry)

Hike the Kerry Way (County Kerry)

Serious hikers come to Ireland to walk The Kerry Way. Longer than 200 kilometers (133 miles), this is the longest walking path in Ireland. Trailing through the remote countryside and mountain ridges, backpacking the entire route is a difficult feat.

If you don’t have 7-10 days to commit to completing the entire Kerry Way, there are still plenty of easier options. Many day hikers stop by and hike up the mountain or along the coast. County Kerry is home to the tallest mountain in Ireland, Mount Carrauntoohil. This part of the country is full of hiking and untouched landscapes. Come visit and connect with nature.

9. Watch Street Performers (Galway)

Watch Street Performers (Galway)

Musicians, dancers, and other performers come from all over Ireland and Europe to perform in the streets of Galway. The colorful bars and peaceful harbor come alive with the contagious energy of the city’s buskers. Visitors in Galway can easily spend an afternoon or evening roaming the streets and enjoying the music.

From a solo singer with a guitar, a string quartet, and the drifting melodies of a harpist, you can hear it all in Galway. Stop to dance to a sea shanty or watch a puppet show.

10. Discover the Viking Triangle (Waterford)

The Vikings came to Ireland more than a thousand years ago to plunder and eventually attempt to conquer it. Although the Vikings were defeated, they left their mark on Ireland. The small town of Waterford is home to The Viking Triangle. This ancient Viking stronghold is full of history and stories from the past.

In this city in Southeast Ireland, you can see the narrow streets typical of Viking settlements. In the Viking Triangle, you can see a sword carved out of a giant tree trunk, traditional Viking ships, and Reginald’s Tower.

11. Walk to the Poolberg Lighthouse (Dublin)

Visitors and locals alike sometimes need to disconnect from the big city. Luckily, there is a lot to see outside of Dublin. Take a bus or car to the edge of the city to the bright red Poolberg Lighthouse. Walk all the way to the end of the Great South Wall to reach the lighthouse and look out at the sea.

Once you’ve walked out the end of the wall, you will be standing in the center of Dublin Bay. During windy days, the waves crash up onto the walls and onto the pathway. Good shoes and caution is a must. If it’s not raining, the red and orange glow of the sunset lights up the surrounding waters and city. Whether alone or with others, this walk will clear your mind.

There’s so much for travelers to see and do in Ireland for free. Use these ideas to fill up your itinerary on your next trip around this charming country. If you can’t fit it all in, we know you will find a reason to return for another Irish holiday. Cheers!

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