We love Dublin for its historic buildings, pretty streets, pints of Guinness and, naturally, the local craic. And the fact that you can easily fit all this in over the course of a weekend. But we’ve got to be honest – Dublin is a little bit on the pricey side. Thankfully there’s a cheaper way to see the city. It involves some careful planning, and potentially staying a little bit outside the centre. But since no one could ever complain about seeing more of Ireland, here are our tips and recommendations for places to stay and things to see in Dublin if you’re on a budget.
Several low cost airlines offer services to Dublin Airport (one of the biggest is even based in the city). You can book budget airline seats on our Dublin flights page, prices are generally from around £110 return.
The airport is just 6 miles from the city centre, making public transport a fuss-free option. The cheapest airport transfer is Dublin Bus’ 747 and 757 Airlink Express services. A standard single ticket to the city centre costs €7.
If you’re looking for an even cheaper option to get to Dublin from the UK, consider a RailSail ticket. These include train travel to Holyhead from UK mainline train stations, and a ferry trip over to Dublin Port. Tickets can be booked for as little as £34 each way (although the journey will take most of a day).
Where to stay in Dublin on a budget
City centre hotels
The cost of hotel rooms in Dublin have risen rapidly in recent years, almost doubling in 2016. But that said, the city’s compact size means that most of its budget hotels are found in or close to the city centre. You’ll have to book in advance to get the best rates. Search for Dublin hotels here, or find some suggestions below.
Top Secret® hotels
You can get a 4 or 5 star room in Dublin for up to 35% less than the normal rate if you don’t mind not knowing the name when you book. For example, this period boutique hotel is close to Grafton Street – one of the main shopping streets in Dublin.
If you’d prefer a quieter stay, try the historic seaside towns of Malahide, Howth and Dún Laoghaire. They all offer relatively cheap hotel rooms, as well as beautiful scenery, and good public transport links to Dublin city centre. Try the Tara Towers hotel.
Just outside of the city centre
You can get really good deals on hotels that are outside Dublin, but in very easy reach of the centre on the LUAS lines (Dublin’s tram system). The 3-star Plaza Hotel is in Tallaght, at the end of the Red line. Another option is the 3 star Sheldon Park hotel, also just a 15 minute journey from the centre on the LUAS Red line.
Getting around the city
Dublin’s relatively small size makes it easy explore on foot. The city’s suburbs are mainly residential, so you probably won’t need to leave the city centre if you’re there for sightseeing.
However, if you’re staying outside the centre, or are short on time, the cheapest way to get around Dublin is with a Leap Card. It gives you an average saving of 20% on bus and commuter train fares. the top up card can be picked up for a refundable €5 deposit at vendors around the city.
Sightseeing and things to do
If you’re planning to pack a lot into a short period of time during your Dublin trip, look into a Dublin Pass. You’ll get unlimited travel around the city, a free sightseeing tour, and entry to places like the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin Zoo, Irish Rock n Roll Experience and the Dublin Writers’ Museum. A one day adult pass costs €52, but discounts are available on 3 and 5 day passes.
Free museums and attractions
Good news. Lots of good places in Dublin are free to visit. Here are a few to get you started.
- The National Museum of Ireland is actually three different museums dedicated to Archaeology, Decorative Arts & History, and Natural History.
- The Chester Beatty Library is the only Irish museum to win the title of European Museum of the Year. Inside, you’ll find fascinating historic texts from all around the world.
- Also free: the National Botanical Gardens date back to 1795, and have more than 20,000 species of plants.
- Phoenix Park is one of Europe’s largest urban parks. It’s home to the official Irish State guest house, Farmleigh, which you can visit for free as part of a guided tour.
- You can explore exhibits on the city’s architecture at the Irish Georgian Society.
- The Little Museum of Dublin offers free entry on Wednesday afternoons.
Tour distilleries and breweries for less
Avoid the queues and full price tickets for the Guinness Storehouse and the Old Jameson Distillery by booking your ticket from their website in advance. The Guinness Storehouse offers up to 30% off the regular ticket price if you book a few days beforehand.
Bargain walking Tours
Pack in some of city’s sights and history is with a guided Pub Crawl.
The Dublin Literary Pub Crawl (around £11) and Traditional Irish Music Pub Crawl (from £12.75) are award-winning tours of the city. Each walk will introduce you to some of Dublin’s most important cultural figures… and drinking spots.
Free walking tours also leave from The Spire on O’Connell Street at 11am and 3pm every day (see their website for more information).
Dining out can be expensive in Dublin. But there are a few ways to eat well for less in the city.
Cafes and quick bites
- Brave the crowds at the Beanhive coffee shop for their generous all-day breakfasts, and their wonderfully quirky latte art.
- You can find a good breakfast or lunch at the Stage Door Cafe. The deli/cafe is known for its friendly atmosphere, and its fondness for jazz and bossa nova music.
- The Generator Hostel does a great award-winning burger as well as cheap rooms.
- Bunsen‘s burgers are also worth trying, being made from locally sourced ingredients. And they have a good, and relatively inexpensive, beer menu too.
Cheap ‘n’ cheerful dinners
- Join the locals queuing for the excellently priced mezze and salads at Umi Falafel‘s two branches.
- Boojum‘s award-winning burritos are also very popular, but if you’re in a hurry, you can book yours in advance on their website.
- Or, if you want to grab a seat somewhere, check out Neon. Ok, the modern Asian street food is delicious, but not particularly cheap. But all diners get a complimentary dessert from their ice-cream machine, so it depends where your priorities lie.
Good value fine dining
Several Dublin-based restaurants feature on Michelin’s Bib Gourmand list. These are places which offer good value fine dining, like Etto, French/Mediterranean bistro Pichet, and modern Irish restaurants The Pig’s Ear and Delahunt.
Look out for set and lunch menus in the city’s classic restaurants. Theatre-goers’ favourite Trocadero offers a 3 course pre-theatre menu for €27 between 4.30 and 7.45pm.
Pubs and live music
The Temple Bar area is Dublin’s most popular area for nightlife.
For one of the cheapest beers in the Temple Bar, head to The Porterhouse. Dublin’s first pub-brewery, the bar has a special offer on one of its own craft beers every day of the week.
Take a short stroll from Temple Bar, however, and you’ll find plenty of other drinking spots worth checking out.
The Brazen Head is officially Ireland’s oldest pub, dating back to the 12th century. It’s well-known for its live music, and the occasional superstar – from Van Morrison to Tom Jones – is known to pop in for an impromptu gig.
The Long Hall is worth checking out for its incredible decor, and its excellent Guinness.
The Portobello hotel‘s bar is a favourite place for a cheap drink in the city, offering €4 pints and waterfront views.
Dublin’s grander theatres, like the Gaiety and the Bord Gais Energy Theatre stage touring musical productions, alongside concerts. Tickets aren’t particularly cheap – being on a similar level to West End prices – however, you can save a little bit of money by booking from the box office in person, rather than in advance.
When to visit
Dublin’s coastal location means it has a fairly moderate climate – with an average high in July of 16 degrees, and an average low in January of 5 degrees.
July is, on average, also the wettest month. However, the amount of rainfall in Dublin stays fairly constant throughout the year. So be sure to take an umbrella and waterproof clothing, just in case.
The official currency in Ireland is the Euro. For the best deal on your Euros, save changing your currency until you’re in the city. Or even consider using your debit card on purchases, to make sure you get the latest exchange rate (for more useful tips like these, check out our 18 Travel Hacks For Cheap Flights, Hotels And City Breaks).
And for the latest great value flight and hotel deals, check out our selection of Dublin city break packages.
Do you have any favourite things to see and do in Dublin? Or advice on how to do the city on a budget? Let us know you tips in the comments section.