Are you on the hunt for a great family day out that doesn’t break the bank? We’ve got a fantastic list of options for you to choose from. Each of these ideas for FREE places to visit in Ireland offers something new and interesting to discover, as well as lots of opportunity for family fun!
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Packing up and heading off for a family day out can often end up a being a real budget-buster. We’re parents, so we get it! With that in mind, we’ve picked some of our favourite free places to visit in Ireland with the kids, from museums and galleries to nature reserves and science exhibitions. The kids will love their hands-on day trip, and you’ll love the extra euros in your pocket!
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Family-Friendly and Free Places to Visit in Ireland
National Museum of Ireland – Dublin Museums
The three National Museums in Dublin are all free to visit and have some fabulous family events throughout the year:
- Museum of Archaeology at Kildare Street where you can see amazing artefacts including Sun Discs and Viking Swords
- Museum of Decorative Arts & History at Collins Barracks, housing amongst other things a Samurai Warrior Armour and a Vampire Plane
- Natural History Museum in Merrion Street, home to a polar bear and an elephant (stuffed, in case you were wondering!).
Tip: They have kids activity sheets which you can pick up when you go into the Museums, and check their events calendar before you go.
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Chester Beatty, Dublin
With collections from China, India, Egypt, Iran, Japan, France, Ethiopia and South East Asia, the Chester Beatty collection captures human creative expression from 2700 BC to the present day.
Chester Beatty has been described as a vibrant national cultural institution and aims to engage visitors of all ages with events and exhibitions.
Tip: Try and catch one of the free Highlights Tours.
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The Round Tower Clondalkin, Dublin
The Round Tower Clondalkin is one of only four remaining round towers in County Dublin. The Visitor Centre brings the story of The Round Tower Clondalkin and the surrounding area to life through an exciting interactive experience. The fun and educational exhibition can be enjoyed through eight distinctive themed spaces in the refurbished 19th century Mill Cottages.
Suitable for all ages, the Round Tower Clondalkin experience incorporates public gardens, and an exhibition and gallery space.
Tip: Enjoy lunch at The Happy Pear Café which has indoor and outdoor seating.
OPW Heritage Ireland Sites
Heritage Ireland covers a number of historical sites across Ireland, from Portumna Castle in Galway to John F. Kennedy Arboretum in Wexford. And did you know that you can visit Heritage Ireland Sites for FREE on the first Wednesday of every month? (T&Cs apply around tours and groups.)
Tip: Some OPW sites also offer free visits to children under 12.
Science Gallery, Dublin
Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin is a free-entry space with an ever-changing programme of exhibitions that encourages young people to learn through their interests. It brings together art and science in a unique way.
Since its opening, more than three million visitors to the gallery have experienced over forty unique exhibitions, ranging from design and violence to light and love, and from contagion and biomimicry to the futures of the human species and play.
Tip: Unlike most galleries, they don’t have a permanent collection so between exhibitions only the shop and café remain open.
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Clara Bog Nature Reserve, Offaly
Clara Bog Nature Reserve is free to visit and has many free events for children. The bog itself is reputed to be the best remaining example of a raised bog in Western Europe.
There is a 1km boardwalk looped walk on Clara Bog which lets you see the wonderful plants, birds and animals which Clara Bog is home to, and to soak up the atmosphere of an exceptional raised bog in the heart of Ireland. The Visitor Centre also organises walks, art and nature activities on a regular basis.
Tip: Wear trainers or boots for your visit.
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The National Museum of Ireland Country Life, Mayo
The National Museum of Ireland – Country Life in Castlebar, now open 7 days a week, brings to life the traditions of rural life in Ireland, with exhibitions that are full of wonderful objects from long ago. See what schools were like, the toys children played, with and how they marked special events like Halloween & Christmas.
Learn about how people lived in the towns and countryside, cut turf, caught fish and worked in the home. Workshops, exhibitions and family programmes for all ages and entry is free.
Tip: It also has gorgeous grounds and a lake, perfect for taking a stroll with the kids.
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The Burren National Park, Co Clare
The Burren is a unique region in County Clare that forms part of the Wild Atlantic Way, and it is free to visit and cycle, walk or drive through. Along the way you will spot many amazing sites including the vast limestone hills, dolmens, unique wildlife and plants, beaches, cliffs, towns and villages and other interesting sights. Many of these are free to visit.
Tip: Download the Geopark App before you go for tips on where to visit, stay, eat and more.
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Jackie Clarke Collection, Mayo
Located in Ballina, the Jackie Clarke Collection showcases one of the world’s leading collections of historical Irish material. Discover 400 years of Irish history through the self-guiding family-friendly interactive touch screens.
Discover something new about your family history by searching the in-house census and eviction records. Learn about Irish native trees, organic vegetable gardening and the importance of our hedgerows in the Urban Walled Garden. Admission is free and you can enjoy lunch in the cafe after your visit.
Tip: Don’t miss the Memory Pod where you can record and share your stories and memories.
Sea Science – The Wild Atlantic at Galway City Museum
Sea Science – The Wild Atlantic exhibition explores marine life along Galway’s coastline through fun and informative displays for all the family to enjoy. It is a must-see for visitors of all ages, but designed primarily for children and young people.
Originally developed and commissioned by the Marine Institute Galway for SeaFest 2016, this interactive exhibition is the first gallery of its kind in Ireland and presents fascinating facts about marine life.
Tip: There are many other permanent and seasonal exhibits to enjoy too. And look out for free workshops and events.
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Zoological and Marine Biology Museum, Galway
Housed in the Martin Ryan Institute on the main NUI Galway campus, the zoological and marine biology museum is home to over 500 specimens both native and exotic. Visitors can expect to see animal skeletons, stuffed birds and mammals, and rare glass models of creatures from the sea.
A highlight of the museum is four genuine Charles Darwin specimens. The museum is open Monday to Friday from 10am to 4pm.
Tip: Take a stroll around the grounds of NUI Galway when you visit. There is a lovely packed earth riverwalk to enjoy.
Ardnacrusha Power Station, Clare
At Ardnacrusha Power Station in County Clare, you can visit and explore one of Ireland’s greatest engineering developments from July to mid-September. As part of the Shannon hydro-electric scheme, Ardnacrusha took just four years (1925 to 1929) and 5,000 workers to build.
You start at the Ardnacrusha Experience at the newly refurbished visitors’ centre before going out on site to view the impressive headrace canal, locks and tailrace. Once inside the station, the living heritage of the Shannon Scheme is brought to life through a series of animations which celebrate the history and impact of this iconic project.
Visitors are given access to the very heart of the station with unique views of the turbine hall and a visit to the original control room.
Tip: Guided tours are free and run for approximately 90 minutes, but you should book them in advance.
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Monaghan County Museum
Monaghan County Museum houses some interesting items, including medieval crannógs native to Monaghan and perhaps one of the most prominent finds of the region: the Cross of Clogher dating back to the 14th century. Admission is free.
Tip: There is no on-site parking at the museum, however on-street parking is available near the museum at a rate of 50c per hour and long-term parking is available in several locations in the town at a rate of €1 per day.
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Valentia Island, Kerry
Valentia Island lies at the end of the Iveragh Peninsula, more familiar to many as the location of the Ring of Kerry. And on the island you will find one of only four sets of prehistoric footprints in the world! The footprints give an invaluable view of the transition of life from water onto land.
Tip: Be sure to leave time to explore all the other sites along the way.
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Nenagh Heritage Centre, Tipperary
Nenagh Heritage Centre is housed in an interesting mid-19th century building, which was a County Gaol Governor’s House for North Tipperary and the prison. Here you can learn about the history of these unique buildings, step back in time to experience old rural Ireland, and follow in the footsteps of the condemned prisoners.
The Heritage Centre contains a model of the North Tipperary Gaol, a recreated schoolroom from 1913 Ireland, a recreation of the original kitchen from the North Tipperary Gaol, dating from the mid 1800’s and an Irish Dairy, which shows the stages of butter-making and the various utensils used in Irish farming life.
Tip: There is free admission and free guided tours each day.
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Blackrock Castle Observatory, Cork
Free Astronomy open nights are held on the first Friday of every month at Blackrock Castle Observatory, with inspired activities for visitors of all ages including family-friendly workshops, lectures, stargazing with Cork Astronomy Club, and the award-winning interactive astronomy exhibit, Cosmos at the Castle, which has free admission on these open nights.
Tip: There is a charge to visit outside of these special dates.
Dungarvan Castle, Waterford
Dungarvan Castle dates from the 12th Century and includes an informative exhibition on the history of the castle. Admission is free.
Tip: Dungarvan Castle is not open year round, so do check before you visit.
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The Hunt Museum, Limerick
The Hunt Museum in Limerick houses one of Ireland’s largest private collections of art, decorative art and antiques dating from the Mesolithic period, Iron Age, Bronze Age and up to the present day. There are pieces from all over the world, including work by Pablo Picasso and Henry Moore. Visits on Sunday are free.
Tip: Ask for their Treasure Hunt sheet for the kids. The museum also runs a free Arts and Crafts club the first Sunday of most months.
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The Ulster Museum, Belfast
Drop into the Ulster Museum for some indoor free time. Ulster Museum is located in Belfast’s Botanic Gardens, and admission is free. Pick up your free kid’s explorer map, complete with stickers in the welcome area, to help plan your way around the museum!
Tip: On display is the skeleton of an Edmontosaurus, and in the Deep Time gallery you can WOW your child with the only dinosaur bones ever found in Ireland.
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Have you been to any of these free places to visit in Ireland with your family? Which ones are your favourite? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!