Dublin, the capital and largest city in Ireland, is the starting point for most visitors to the Emerald Isle. The home of Guinness, the birthplace and muse of dozens of history’s greatest writers, and one of Europe’s great cities, it’s well worth staying a few days before or after more exploration of the country. Despite its big-city status, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Here’s how to do Dublin on a dime.
What to do
Good news: all of the government-run museums in Dublin are completely free, so you can check out the National Museum for Natural History, the National Museum for Archaeology, and the National Museum for the Decorative Arts without spending a single euro. Other free attractions include Dublin’s beautiful Botanic Gardens set on the banks of the River Tolka just north of the city, Dublin Castle; going inside costs 7 euros (or about $7.50), but you can admire the outside for free; Trinity College (stroll the grounds and watch a rugby game at no cost; a guided tour is 14 euros or about $15.00); and public parks like St. Stephen’s Green, that's perfect for a picnic.
For free evening entertainment, head to Grafton Street, a wide pedestrian street where buskers entertain with music, magic, poetry, and dance. Or check out the action in the famous Temple Bar area, a warren of small cobblestone streets and lanes adjacent to the River Liffey. As Dublin’s cultural quarter, it’s home to dozens of bars, cafes, and restaurants. On Saturday mornings, there are food and craft markets; come evening, it’s a prime place for people watching.
Of course, no visit to Dublin would be complete without a trip to the Guinness Storehouse, a veritable playground for beer lovers. While you can easily spend a whole day — and a whole lot of cash — there, basic admission ranges from 14-18 euros (about $15-$20) and the cost includes a pint of Guinness and the best view of the city from the top-floor Gravity Bar. Pro-tip: Go early in the morning to get the cheapest price.
What to eat
From fish n’ chips, lamb stew, and boxty (traditional potato pancakes wrapped around savory fillings like steak and mushrooms), to sushi, burritos, and curry, you can find just about anything to eat in Dublin, and compared to many major European cities, it’s very affordable. On a small budget, check out 100-year-old institution, Leo Burdock Fish & Chips, where a platter of freshly fried battered fish and crispy potatoes is just 10 euros (about $10.75). Or if you’re craving something a bit more international, grab the best burrito in Dublin from Boojum Burrito. A burrito “with the works” is just 8 euros (about $8.60) with a drink.
When it comes to drinking cheap, do as the locals do and order a glass of “the black stuff.” A pint of Guinness will typically set you back 4-5 euro (that's about $4.30-$5.40), or a bit less if there’s a special. Peadar Kearney’s, in Temple Bar, offers a pint for 4.20 euros (about $4.50) during the day and the Porterhouse offers a “beer of the day” for just 4 euros ($4.30), so you can enjoy a few pints without breaking the bank.
Where to stay
There is no shortage of hostels offering cheap accommodation in Dublin. For a comfortable bed in a shared dorm at Barnacles, one of the top-rated hostels in the city, expect to pay around 20 euros per night (about $21.50); a private room with a queen bed will be around 80 euros per night (about $86). At the Abbey Court on the north side of the River Liffey across from Temple Bar, hostel beds start at 13.50 euros (about $14.50) and private apartments are as low as 60 euros per night (about $64.50) with queen bed, sofa, kitchen, and dining room.
Apartment rentals are another low-cost option, with private rooms starting at 20 euros ($21.50) and entire homes and apartments ranging from 80-150 euros (about $86-$161). For a more traditional hotel experience, Dublin hotels are often a great value. For example, the Jurys Inn, which has an on-site fitness center, bar, and restaurant, offers rooms starting at 110 euros (about $118) per night.