As Ireland’s capital, it’s no surprise that Dublin is probably the most expensive city in the country. In fact, Dublin is known to be one of the most expensive cities in all of Europe.
But, that’s no reason to skip it.
Sure, this Irish city may come with a price tag, but it doesn’t have to break your wallet. In this article I’m sharing how to explore Dublin on a budget; from food and drink to entertainment and sightseeing, and even accommodation. Here are my top recommendations for exploring Dublin on budget.
Cheap Places to Stay in Dublin on a Budget
Accommodation tends to one of the most expensive things when it comes to visiting Dublin. That being said, Dublin has no shortage of accommodation options from all kinds of hotels to homey B&Bs (or Airbnbs), and hostels. Keep in mind, you also want to be in a central area; close to the city’s main sites and attractions as well as pubs and restaurants.
I’ve stayed in my share of budget-friendly accommodation options in Dublin but to get the most out of Dublin on a budget, my favourite is Barnacles Dublin Hostel in Temple Bar. It’s a big hostel with larger than normal rooms, a large common area on the second floor, and a kitchen on the first floor. Guests can choose to stay in dorms (including female-only options) or private rooms at a rate that is much more affordable than the nearby hotels. Plus, the location is perfect; you are in the heart of Temple Bar which is filled with restaurants, pubs, shops, and cafes. Also, close by is Trinity College, Dublin Castle, Grafton Street, Stephen’s Green, and more.
A lot of people get turned off by the idea of hostels, but Barnacles Dublin Hostel caters to all types of travellers. There is no age limit, meaning you don’t have to be a twenty-something backpacker to take advantage of the cheaper room rates. It’s not a crazy party hostel either (though they do have a pub crawl if that’s what you are looking for). Each floor has a big common room with comfy couches, bright windows, and a tv with DVDs; perfect for travellers who want a low-key evening. It’s a great pick for travellers to Dublin on a budget looking for a safe, clean, place to stay. Check out Barnacles Dublin hostel here.
Cheap Eats in Dublin on a Budget
With an endless array of great foodie spots and pubs, it’s easy to blow your budget on food and drink in Dublin. But don’t worry; if you are exploring Dublin on a budget, you can still find some good Irish eats around the city for around the 10-euro mark.
Beshoff’s serves fish and chips for around 10 euro a serving (depending on the type of fish you get. It’s a popular spot in the city, dating back to the early 1900s. You can find Beshoff’s at 6 Upper O’Connell Street.
O’Briens Sandwiches: Fresh made hot or cold sandwiches perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They have toasties (toasted sandwiches), soups, salads, bagels, and breakfast options. There are multiple Dublin locations so check and see what is closest to you.
Gourmet Burger Kitchen: Grab a burger with your favourite fixings at the Gourmet Burger Kitchen for under 11 euro. There are a couple of Dublin locations, but the most central is probably the location in Temple Bar Square.
The Bernard Shaw is a fun Dublin pub with a pizza bus in the back. Pizzas are 9-14 euro each for a personal sized pizza. The bus opens at 4pm making it a fun spot to grab dinner (and a pint from the pub of course!). The Bernard Shaw is located at 11-12 Richmond Street South.
Boojum is a cheap but delicious Mexican spot that is popular with locals and tourists alike. Grab tacos, burritos, nachos, and chilli for under ten euro. You can’t go wrong!
If you are staying somewhere with kitchen facilities, you can always cook for yourself. It’s easy to find grocery stores around Dublin and cooking for yourself is always cheaper than eating out. Tesco, Aldi, Dunns, Spar, and Lidl are all popular grocery spots.
Another tip, especially if you are eating at pubs, is to go with the soup (which should come with brown bread) or a toastie which is usually filled with ham or chicken, cheese, tomato, and onion, plus most places will include some crisps (aka chips) on the side. It’s not a big meal, but as long as you aren’t starving it will do the trick.
Awesome Free Things to do in Dublin
If you are exploring Dublin on a budget then you will love all of the free things to do in the city. Here are my top recommendations.
People Watch in St. Stephen’s Green
Stephen’s Green is one of Dublin’s many parks, but its location in the city centre might make it the most popular. With over 400 years of history, Stephen’s Green is an iconic part of the city, and it’s absolutely free to explore. Walking paths, large shady trees perfect for picnics of reading, a duck-filled lake, and historic sculptures line this city-centre park.
Watch for Wildlife at Phoenix Park
Phoenix Park is the Dublin equivalent of Central Park. In fact, at over 7km squared, it’s more than double the size of central park. The park is open to the public seven days a week. In the park you can find the Dublin Zoo, The US Ambassador’s residence (which you can’t just walk into), and the Aras An Uachtarain which is the residence of the president of Ireland; you can actually tour here on Saturdays on a first come first serve basis.
Wildlife fans should also keep an eye out for Phoenix Park’s resident herd of deer which you can get quite close to.
Fun fact: The MGM Lion was actually a lion from Dublin Zoo.
Wander Down Grafton Street (and it’s Side Streets)
Grafton Street, along with Henry Street, is one of Dublin’s biggest shopping street. A big chunk of the street is pedestrian only; making it a popular place for buskers and street performers. While you may not want to actually shop here (it was the 13thmost popular main shopping street in the world in 2016), it’s definitely fun to peek in the windows and people watch as you walk by.
Tip: Just off of Grafton Street is Anne’s Lane which is covered in umbrellas at one end. It makes for some fun photos.
Check out Dublin’s Museums
Dublin is home to a number of interesting museums. The best part? Many of Dublin’s National Museums are free! The Museum of Archaeology with its Celtic gold and the bog bodies is a definite must. Keep in mind, Dublin’s free museums are all closed on Mondays and often have shorter opening times on Sundays.
Explore Trinity College
Ireland’s best-known university, Trinity College, was once a Catholic monastery. Today it’s a busy university and one of the top tourist attractions in Dublin. The campus is beautiful and definitely worth wandering through. It’s completely free to explore the grounds, though you will have to pay to see the Book of Kells and the Long Room.
Catch a Free Comedy Show
If you’d rather laugh than sing, then head to the Stag Head’s pub on a Tuesday night for their free comedy show which starts around 9pm. You may want to go early though, as the room is small and can fill up rather quickly. Another spot that offers free comedy shows is Accents Coffee & Tea Lounge. It’s an alcohol-free option and the shows here take place on Saturday nights.
Photograph Dublin’s Georgian Doors
If you like photography, or just enjoy seeing pretty things, then head to Dublin’s Georgian buildings and take a peek at the area’s colourful doors. Red, green, blue, black, and yellow are the most common colours but I’ve seen pink and aqua as well. It’s a pretty area for a walk on a nice day and the doors really are very photogenic. Wander around Merrion Square for some great finds (plus, if you visit on a weekend you can also check out the weekly outdoor art gallery here).
Enjoy some Amazing Live Music
Many of Dublin’s pubs offer live music throughout the week ranging from modern music to traditional Irish. Granted, you’ll probably want to buy a pint or two while you are there, but for a night of entertainment, it’s not a bad deal.
Stroll Temple Bar District
Temple Bar District is known for its nightlife, but it’s a cool place to explore during the day as well. The cobblestone streets are lined with shops, restaurants, galleries, and pubs. It’s a great area for taking photos. Every Saturday there is a big food market and there is also a book market. Some may say it’s a tourist trap but it’s also considered to be the cultural heart of the city and attracts both locals and tourists alike.
Final Tips for Exploring Dublin on a Budget
Dublin is a lot of fun, and travellers on a budget should know that it is possible to have a great time without blowing your budget. If you can, try to visit during the week rather than on the weekend and avoid travelling during holidays or celebration times (Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day etc.)
The city is very walkable; another bonus for those looking to save some cash. Uber isn’t very popular in Dublin and taxis can be pricey so if walking isn’t an option, your best bet is to make use of the public transit system. Or, you can rent one of the Dublin city bikes.
Finally, make sure to look into some of Dublin’s day trips. They are surprisingly affordable and offer great value if you have an extra day or two.
Do you have any additional tips for exploring Dublin on a budget? Let us know in the comments!
*Disclaimer: I was a guest of Barnacles Temple Bar Hostel, however, all opinions are, as always, my own.