20 Free Things to Do in Ireland

By Jayne Leonard
17 Apr 2015

Great days out in Ireland don’t have to cost you the Earth...in fact, many of them won’t even cost you a cent! Here’s our list of the 20 Top ‘Free Things to Do’ in Ireland. 


Parks & Gardens

National Parks, Nationwide

Be enthralled at one of Ireland’s six National Parks dotted around the island - at Killarney, Co. Kerry; Ballycroy, Co. Mayo; Connemara, Co. Galway; Glenveagh, Co. Donegal; The Burren, Co. Clare; and Torc Waterfall Killarney National Park IrelandWicklow Mountains, Co. Wicklow. At these you will discover exotic plant life and rare wildlife, including eagles and native red deer unique to Ireland; waterfalls, lakes and lunar landscapes; Ireland’s highest mountain range; and protected boglands, grasslands and forests. Take a picnic and make a day of it! 

Coillte Forest Parks, Nationwide

Coillte run eleven forest parks and over 150 recreation sites in Ireland, meaning you don’t have to travel far for a fun free day of walking, hiking, cycling or nature watching. While these are all free to visit, parking charges may apply. Before you go, check out the Coillte Outdoors website for a downloadable map of the many walking and cycling trails within each site, along with visitor information and car park fees. 

Botanic Gardens Belfast

The Botanic Gardens are an important part of Belfast's Victorian heritage and a popular place among locals, students and visitors. The Palm House contains a range of tropical plants, hanging baskets, seasonal displays and birds of paradise; while the Tropical Ravine showcases some of the oldest seed plants around today along with features like a plant-filled sunken glen, flowering vines, tree ferns and leaf silhouettes - an idea place to relax and take in your surrounds! You can even combine it with a visit to the Ulster Museum located within the Gardens - also free of charge!


Museums & Galleries

Local Museums, Nationwide Ulster Museum Belfast

Learn the history of your local city, town or county with a visit to a local museum - many of which are free to visit! Check out the Armagh County Museum in Armagh City; the Riches of Clare Museum in Ennis, Co. Clare; the Ulster Museum in Belfast’s Botanic Gardens; the Donegal County Museum in Letterkenny; and the Galway City Museum to name just a few!

National Museums of Ireland - Dublin & Castlebar, Co. Mayo

The National Museum of Ireland is home to the greatest collections of Irish heritage, culture and natural history materials in the world. The Museum has four locations in Ireland, each focussing on a different theme - Archaeology; Decorative Arts & History; and Natural History are all located in Dublin, and the Museum of Country Life is situated in Castlebar, Co. Mayo. Admission to all four is free of charge.

The National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin 2

Located in the heart of Dublin, the National Gallery holds our largest collection of European and Irish fine art - with over 15,000 works dating from the 13th to 20th centuries. Open daily, it features exhibitions and events, along with a Paintings Studio which oversees the conservation of a wide-ranging collection of works. You can also download their free new ‘Masterpieces’ app for Apple and Android, which provides content on 80 of the Gallery’s top paintings. 

Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), Kilmainham, Dublin 8 

IMMA, housed in the 17th Century Royal Hospital Kilmainham building, is home to the national collection of modern and contemporary art with over 3,500 artworks by Irish and International artists. It showcases a dynamic and changing programme of exhibitions, which are detailed on the Museum website

Chester Beatty Library, Dublin 2

Described by the Lonely Planet as not just the best museum in Ireland, but one of the best in Europe, the Chester Beatty Library is a must-see!  It is the only museum in Ireland to win 'European Museum of the Year' and showcases rich collections from Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe with manuscripts, miniature paintings, prints, drawings, rare books and decorative arts completing this amazing collection. Admission is free. Tip: If you visit on the first Wednesday of the month, you’ll also enjoy free entry to the State Apartments at Dublin Castle (where the Chester Beatty Library is located) through the OPW Free Wednesdays Scheme

Museum of Style Icons at Newbridge Silverware, Co. Kildare

Located within the Newbridge Visitor Centre, the Museum of Style Icons hosts numerous collections and artefacts relating to Stars of the Silver Screen and many modern day artists - including Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Grace, Princess Diana, Michael Jackson, Michael Flatley, the Beatles and more. The Museum regularly hosts visiting collections from around the globe and admission to these is also free. While there, why not enjoy some window shopping in the Visitor Centre, which houses the complete range of Newbridge products?


Festivals & Events

Farmer’s Markets, Nationwide 

Head to a nearby farmers’ market and browse the locally grown fruit and vegetables; sample Farmers Marketfarmhouse cheeses and artisan chocolates; enjoy the mouth-watering aroma of homemade cakes, tarts and breads, and a check out a huge selection of other gourmet and organic treats. Revel in the buzz of market day, take in the sights, smells and flavours; strike up a conversation with the people who grow and make the food; or simply listen to the lively banter. To find a Farmer’s Market near you, see Board Bia’s Listing.

National Heritage Week, Nationwide - 22 to 30 August 2015

Every year millions of Europeans visit historical monuments and sites throughout Europe on European Heritage Days. In Ireland we celebrate European Heritage Days with a full week of events throughout National Heritage Week - many of which are free. With 1,700 events to choose from, whether it’s a medieval fair, a night-time bat walk, a kids' workshop or free entry to castles and great houses, there is something for everyone. See the full list of events taking place on the Heritage Week website.

Culture Night, Nationwide - 18 September 2015

For one night each year, arts and cultural organisations throughout Ireland throw open their doors with hundreds of free events, tours, talks and performances to be enjoyed. Over 1,200 venues participate including museums, galleries, cathedrals, studios, observatories, libraries, parks, government buildings and theatres. Don’t miss out this great opportunity to enjoy some of the country’s best cultural offerings, in a unique and special night-time atmosphere. See the Culture Night website for event listings. 

Open House, Dublin (October - 2015 date tbc) & Cork (April) Dublin City Hall Ireland

Open House is a unique design festival which runs in cities across the world, celebrating the best in architecture that each city has to offer. Run in Dublin for one day each October, it sees over 100 tours, events and workshops inviting visitors to explore the rich architecture of the city on a free and first-come basis. The first Open House Cork took place in April 2015, with plans to continue to hold the event in the coming years. 


Heritage Sites & Towns

Office of Public Works (OPW) Free Wednesdays, Nationwide

On the first Wednesday of every month all OPW managed Heritage Sites offer free admission! See some brilliant attractions including Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, Kilkenny Castle in Kilkenny City, Adare Castle in Co. Limerick, Newgrange and Knowth in Co. Meath and the Rock of Cashel - without spending a cent! Tickets are given on a first come, first served basis so early arrival is advised. Check with the site you wish to visit as restrictions may apply. For a full list of OPW attractions and to see opening hours and visitor information, see www.HeritageIreland.ie.

Ireland’s Heritage Towns, Nationwide Adare Heritage Village Limerick Ireland

Ireland boasts 27 designated Heritage Towns, each with their own unique character, rich history and local highlights. Take a trip to Adare in Co. Limerick - known as Ireland’s prettiest village; Clonakilty, Co. Cork - a mecca for foodies; Lismore, Co. Waterford, which can trace its origins to 636AD; or Strokestown, Co. Roscommon - home to the iconic Strokestown House & Park. See here for a full list of Ireland’s Heritage Towns.



Explore the Wild Atlantic Way, from Co. Donegal to Co. Cork

The Wild Atlantic Way is the world's longest defined coastal touring route - stretching 2,600km from Donegal's Inishowen Peninsula to Kinsale, Co. Cork and passing through nine counties and three provinces. Enjoy a great day out by taking a road-trip along a section of the Way, stopping at the picturesque seaside towns, beaches and designated Points of Interest along your journey. For more details see www.WildAtlanticWay.com.

Blue Flag Beaches, Nationwide Child at Beach

Being an island, Ireland offers an abundance of recognised Blue Flag Beaches - 80 of them to be precise! A beach visit can be a fantastic and free day out - during the summer simply pack a picnic and your swimsuit and head to the coast. In colder months, enjoy the fresh sea breeze and a bracing walk along the sand. For a full list of Blue Flag Certified Beaches see here.

Great Western Greenway, Co. Mayo

Grab your bike and head to Co. Mayo for Ireland’s longest off-road walking and cycling experience - a 42km traffic-free trail from Westport to Achill railway. Cycle some or part of the trail, enjoying the beautiful scenery along the route.  You can even combine your cycle with a visit to the nearby National Museum of Country Life or Ballycroy National Park (both listed above) - making for a jam-packed day out without opening your wallet. A trail map and more details are available on the Great Western Greenway website.

Ireland’s Ancient East Touring Region

To be launched in 2016, Ireland’s Ancient East is planned to be a ‘touring region’, rather than a specific route, offering visitors a relaxing journey of discovery stretching from Newgrange through the Midlands and southeast to Cork. It will take in attractions such as the Boyne Valley, the Brownshill Dolmen in Carlow, Clonmacnoise, Holycross Abbey, Kilkenny’s Medieval Mile, Hook Head Lighthouse, the Dunbrody Famine Ship and Wicklow’s Historic Gaol. Check out Fáilte Ireland’s video of the region and forge your own path!

Walking & Hiking Trails, Nationwide Couple Countryside Walk

Ireland offers 43 National Waymarked Trails in 25 counties, all waiting to be explored on foot. To see the list, and for trail maps, visit the Irish Trails website. In addition, there are plenty of free self-guided walking tours in Ireland’s towns and cities - check with the local Tourist Information Office for details and maps. You can also get a number of free to download Podcasts or audio guides for Apple and Android to guide you on your way. Try Abarta Audio Guides, Heritage Trails, and My Tour Talk for Northern Ireland


Have you discovered any other great Free Things to Do in Ireland? We'd love to hear from you! Email Jayne.Leonard@TopAttractionsIreland.com, Tweet us, Like us on Facebook or Follow us on Pinterest! Don’t forget to buy your top attraction tickets from TopAttractionsIreland.com and tell your friends about us too.

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