A day out in Dublin, or anywhere else, can be expensive. We have put together an itinerary so you can discover how to have a FREE family day out in Dublin – and if you pack a picnic, the day won’t cost you a penny!
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Whether you are a visitor or a local looking to explore your own hometown, Dublin has so much to offer when it comes to culture, history, nature and family-friendly activities.
We’ve designed an itinerary for your free family day out in Dublin, that will see you discover some amazing gems in the city. Make sure you set out early because there’s plenty to see and do! And if there’s anything else you can recommend to add to our plan, please leave your suggestions in the comments.
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Get Ready For Your Free Family Day Out In Dublin
Check Out The Phoenix Park
We are starting our free day out in Dublin with the family at the Phoenix Park. The visitor centre hosts an exciting, free, self guided exhibition on the history and wildlife of the park. Here you can also pick up free tickets, but limited numbers, for a visit to the Magazine Fort.
From time to time they run free children’s workshops on nature, art and history and have an exhibition space where exhibitions and demonstrations in various media are on display for all to enjoy. They have free art materials for kids to use too.
On Saturdays free tickets are issued to visit Aras an Uachtarain, home of the President. Directly beside the Visitor Centre is an excellent universal playground and the restored Ashtown Castle and the walled garden are all well worth a visit too.
You can also head out into the wider park on foot, bicycles or scooters and see if you can spot any of the deer the Phoenix Park is home to.
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Discover Our Past At National Museum of Ireland – Collins Barracks
Just a short stroll from the Phoenix Park is NMI Collins Barracks. It is free to visit and home to an amazing collection of artefacts and memorabilia from our past with everything from tanks to airplanes, armour to clothes, decorative art to clocks from a bygone era and plenty of interactive displays to keep the kids happy.
It is also the largest barracks in Europe and dates back to the early 1700s.
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Stroll Along The Quays
As you stroll towards Dublin City Centre along the quays, be sure to take in all the sights as you go. From the famous Guinness Brewery and St James Gate, to the Four Courts on Inns Quay, the centre of Ireland’s legal system dating from the 1770s, to the Ha’Penny Bridge on Wellington Quay dating from the early 1800s, to a stroll along the boardwalk that runs beside the River Liffey.
Look out also for The Brazen Head Pub on Bridge Street Lower, the oldest pub in Dublin dating from c. 1198, as well as St Patrick’s Cathedral on Wood Quay which is the largest cathedral in Ireland, and Dublin Castle on Dame Street, which is home to our next stop.
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Uncover A Treasure Trove Of Books At The Chester Beatty Library
Next on our list is the Chester Beatty Library in the grounds of Dublin Castle. Here, you can view one of the world’s largest private collections of manuscripts and books dating from 2700 BC to present day.
On the first Saturday and Sunday of every month from 1pm to 4pm, there are Family Activity Packs available, exploring the Arts of the Book and Sacred Traditions galleries.
Each pack contains hands-on activities for children aged 5 to 11, including activity sheets, puzzles, crosswords and a colouring book and are completely free. The library also holds other regular free family friendly highlights tours and lots of events.
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Unearth History at National Museum Of Ireland – Archaeology
Heading towards Grafton Street, you will pass by Trinity College. With beautiful grounds and buildings it is worth taking some time to pass thorough the ancient arch to have a look at them. Depending on what time you arrive, it is a lovely place to stop and have a picnic. Be sure to have a look at the sphere in the main square of the college.
Leaving Trinity College behind, our next stop is to go digging for history! The NMI Archaeology is on Kildare Street and offers a fun, free learning experience for the whole family. The museum consists of 7 galleries and displays artefacts from 7000BC to the 20th Century – so many in fact, that you won’t know where to look! Get a head start with our pick of 10 artefacts not to be missed!
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Take In The Wonders of Merrion Square
Merrion Square is one of the best maintained Georgian Squares in the heart of Dublin city centre. It is home to some important and impressive buildings and there are lots of free things to do here with the family.
- Have a stroll around Merrion Square Gardens and look out for the statues and sculptures dotted around the park, including the cheeky one of Oscar Wilde.
- Here you will also find government buildings, including the Department of the Taoiseach.
- Visit the National Museum Of Ireland – Natural History to view a Wonder Cabinet and other amazing displays. Be sure to check out the Dead Zoo. Entry is free and you can pick up a free activity sheet, relevant to the season, from the reception desk.
- Next on the list is The National Gallery of Ireland. The permanent collection is free to visit, and there is a charge to visit other galleries and exhibitions.
- If you happen to be in Dublin on a Sunday, be sure to pay a visit to the artists who line the park railings of Merrion Square with their stunning works of art.
From here you can take a leisurely stroll to Baggot Street and onwards to St Stephens Green with a playground, bridges, ponds with ducks and seats to sit down and rest awhile.
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Get A Taste Of Ireland’s Past On Dublin’s Northside
After resting in St Stephens Green, walk along Grafton Street for some window shopping – remember this is a free day out, so don’t be tempted to splurge!
Pass by the entrance to Trinity College and cross the road to pass by the Bank Of Ireland building on College Green, built originally as a house for parliament in the late 1730s, and on to O’Connell Bridge, across the River Liffey.
As you cross the bridge you will see the Daniel O’Connell Monument sitting proudly in the middle of O’Connell Street. O’Connell was an influential politician who campaigned tirelessly for Catholic emancipation after the Union Act of 1800. At the base of the plinth there are 4 winged statues/victories said to represent the 4 main virtues of O’Connell – eloquence, courage, patriotism and fidelity. There is a frieze in the centre of the plinth with more than 30 figures symbolising Erin, the church, the arts, trades and other professions.
Walk along O’Connell Street where you will find the General Post Office (GPO), one of Ireland’s most famous buildings built in the early 1800s. If you look closely you can still see the bullet holes in the pillars to the front from the 1916 Easter Rising.
Next to the GPO is the Dublin Spire or Monument of Light, soaring high above the buildings. It was erected in late 2002 to replace the Anna Livia statue, which now resides in Croppies Memorial Park on Arran Quay near the NMI Collins Barracks.
You can continue your journey North towards Parnell Square where you will find the Garden of Remembrance, a memorial garden dedicated to all those who gave their lives to the fight for independence. It has a water feature and is a lovely place to sit and recover from all that walking!
If you are looking for further places to visit, pop into the Dublin Visitor Centre on O’Connell Street Lower for inspiration!
Although there will be a lot of walking, you will get a unique insight on your free day out in Dublin if you follow some or all of this route.
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Have we inspired you to have a free family day out in Dublin? Can you add to our list? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!