Omni Traveller

Budget Backpack Travel in Europe

Dublin is a Budget-Friendly and Lively City

Dublin, Ireland, is a welcoming small city of half a million people. It is Ireland’s capital, English-speaking, and home to several universities, glorious park lands, countless museums, and places of cultural and historical significance. It’s particularly well-known for its literary tradition, its partying nightlife, and quaint landmarks. But above all, Dublin is a very walkable city that is light on the budget.

O’Connell Street Bridge showing heavy traffic in the City Centre

O’Connell Street in the City Centre
 Photo: Bea Million


City of Literature and Art

Dublin is a UNESCO City of Literature and was home to many of Ireland’s most famous writers and playwrights. The Dublin Writers Museum celebrates many such people, including Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, and Samuel Beckett. The National Print Museum has fantastic exhibits on all things relating to printing in Dublin (and the entrance fee is very cheap!), and the National Library of Ireland is also open for tours.

The Book of Kells, a spectacular manuscript that’s over one thousand two hundred years old, and it can be seen at Trinity College. Admission to this exhibit also gives you access to the library’s breathtaking Long Room, which has hundreds of thousands of books and is lined with busts of famous literary and historical figures.

Another place that blends literature and art is the Chester Beatty Library, on the grounds of Dublin Castle. Admission is free, and you can certainly spend a good portion of your day there, exploring ancient and sacred manuscripts and texts from all over the world. You can also tour the State Apartments and Undercroft at Dublin Castle for a small admission fee, or check out its Chapel Royal for free.

Many of the city’s art museums also have free admission, including the National Gallery of Ireland, the three branches of the National Museum of Ireland (Archaeology, Decorative Arts & History, and Natural History), and the Irish Museum of Modern Art.


History and Unique Attractions

Visitors at the Kilmainham Gaol

Kilmainham Gaol
 Photo: Laura Bittner

There are a lot of really interesting places throughout Dublin that explore the city’s long history. Dublinia explores both Viking and medieval Dublin, and the adjacent Christ Church Cathedral, which has been around since 1030 AD, allows you to see the amazing Gothic architecture and explore the crypts. (You can purchase a combined ticket to both of these attractions at a discount). Dublin’s other main cathedral, St. Patrick’s, also has beautiful architecture and a lovely garden on its grounds that is a great place for photo-ops.

One of my favourite places in Dublin was the Kilmainham Gaol, a former prison that once housed many important figures from the various Irish rebellions. There is an exhibit on the history of the prison and Irish politics, and the hour-long guided tour takes you through much of the establishment and allows you to see the cells, courtyards, main wings, and more. A student ticket also only costs €2 (€6 for a regular one), so this attraction is easy on the wallet.

Dublin is home to both the Guinness Storehouse and the Old Jameson Distillery. Both offer fun and informative guided tours through the facilities, tastings at the end, stores full of merchandise, and bars and restaurants. Although more expensive than many other major attractions (€13 and €10.60 for students/€16.50 and €13 regular, respectively), these two places are extremely popular and definitely worth the prices and long queues.

A tour at the National Leprechaun Museum will take you through twelve interactive “chapters” of Irish mythology and folklore, and is a place that can’t be rivaled by anything else in the world. Although it may seem juvenile to visit a museum about leprechauns and fairies, but I had a really good time, and I bet it’d be great if you’re travelling in a big group.


Parks, Streets, and Nightlife

If you don’t mind walking, you can go all over Dublin without ever taking public transportation. Because it’s so walkable, there is a plethora of beautiful parks and gardens that you can explore, and many of these are very close to other major attractions and are the locations of famous landmarks. Phoenix Park is home to the Dublin Zoo, Deerfield Residence, People’s Gardens, Papal Cross, and the massive Wellington Monument. At St. Stephen’s Green, located in the city center and close to the main shopping area, you can see the Fusilier’s Arch and various statues and memorials for many people and events significant to Dublin. If you’re at the Dublin Castle or Chester Beatty Library, check out the Dubh Linn Gardens; if you’re by Kilmainham Gaol, detour and explore the beautiful War Memorial Gardens; and if you’re near Trinity College, utilize the campus’s many parks and hop over to Merrion Square.

There are two main streets in Dublin to explore for a real taste of the city’s culture. Grafton Street is one of the main shopping districts where you not only can find pubs and cafes, but you can also enjoy the many buskers in the area. The other is O’Connell Street, which is lined by countless stores, restaurants, and theatres, but also many monuments and statues such as Nelson’s Pillar and the Spire of Dublin.

Young people at the Temple Bar at night

The Temple Bar at Night
 Photo: Ian Wilson

Dublin is a very young city with a fantastic music scene and nightlife. The best area for pubs, clubs, hip restaurants, and live music is Temple Bar, directly south of the Liffy River; definitely check out The Porterhouse, a microbrewery that also has live music and great food. If you like traditional or Irish folk music, I highly recommend The Cobblestone, a cozy pub on the north side of town that has live music every night and a really great atmosphere—it’s also not nearly as crowded or touristy as many other areas in the city.


Flying In and Out

One of the great things about Dublin is that it offers many cheap transportation options, both throughout the city and to other countries. If you’re flying into Dublin Airport, take the Airlink bus to the city- a round-trip ticket only costs €10! If you’re looking to go to the U.K. or continental Europe, Dublin is home to the low-cost airline Ryanair, which offers incredibly cheap tickets (but checking a bag is expensive). Aer Lingus also operates out of the airport- this airline flies all over the world for a much lower cost than many of its competitors.

Don’t miss an opportunity to visit Dublin- it’s budget-friendly, fun, unique, and has so much to offer. It’s one of my favourite cities, and I hope it’ll be one of yours too!