By Kristin Fricke, Visiting Student Blogger
A free Saturday lies ahead of you, the weather is good (or at least it is not raining too heavily) it is just a perfect day for turning somewhat touristy and getting to know Dublin a little better. But, oh dear, your wallet displays the symptoms of studying in Dublin and contains nothing but hot air and a considerable amount of society membership cards. No Problem. There is a lot you can do in the city without having to spend the entirety of the pocket money your granny sent you. So put on your walking shoes, grab your packed lunch and off you go, exploring Ireland’s capitol without spending a single cent.
You can start off at the place where you already spend most of your time: The Trinity Campus contains – as you might have already concluded from the swarms of tourists buzzing over the Front Square – some of the main sights of Dublin. The Book of Kells and the Long Room of the Old Library are a must for every Dublin newbie. And the best part: the entry is free for college students!
Since you are already in the literary mode, your next stop can be the National Library which is only at a stone’s throw from Trinity on Kildare Street. The library is currently running an award-winning exhibition about the life and work of the Irish author William Butler Yeats. Additionally, you can learn about the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising or trace your family’s Irish roots with the help of the genealogy service.
If too much paperwork makes you dizzy, you can alternatively walk straight into the next Museum on Kildare Street: The National Museum for History and Archaeology offers a variety of displays, ranging from jewellery trends between 2200 and 500 BC to real life Celtic mummies. Or if you have enough of museums in general, it is also a nice place to wait for the rain to stop or have a quick bathroom break.
On your way to your next stop, you can pop into the National Gallery on Merrion Square West for some artistic inspiration or swing by the statue of Oscar Wilde, one of the most popular alumni of Trinity College, to get a valuable live lesson (For example: Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast – Well, isn’t that good to know?) and proceed to the National Museum for Natural History on Merrion Street. Or as insiders might call it: The Dead Zoo. The displays have not considerably changed since the museum’s opening in 1857: Around 10,000 specimens, many of which are taxidermied wild animals, might not make the museum a favourite place for modern day animal rights activist, but ensure a throwback into Victorian times.
A whiff of presidential power can be caught in Phoenix Park. Once you are done tracing the free-ranging deer you can make your way to the Áras an Uachtaráin, Irish for “The President’s House”. Every Saturday, there are a few free tours available to all those who always wanted to cast a glimpse into the residence of the Irish President. Just stop by the Phoenix Park Visitor’s Centre to pick up your free tickets.
You can wrap up your day by getting a little spiritual: The big cathedrals of Christchurch and St. Patrick’s usually charge visitors during opening hours. But not so for the evening prayers (where all confession without exception are welcome), normally taking place around five o’clock. You can have a look inside the stunning cathedrals, have a rest and, if you are lucky, can listen to some very good singing by the respective choirs.
One day of exploring is over, no penny spent, but you have by far not seen everything there is – even for a low budget traveller. There is still a lot to discover:
- You cannot get enough of museums of all kind? There are some other branches of the National Museum of Ireland which are concerned with decorative art and country life. All of them are free of charge.
- You cannot get enough of books? A huge range of manuscripts and valuable collectables from all over the world can be found in the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin Castle.
- You cannot get enough of the matters of state? There are free guided tours of Leinster House which is the seat of the Oireachtas, the parliament of Ireland.
- You cannot get enough of aimlessly walking around? Various offers of free walking tours through Dublin can be found online.
Kristin, 22, is a Germanic and English Studies student from Göttingen University (don’t worry, nobody knows it – although it used to be rather popular in the older days) in Germany. Thanks to the Erasmus programme, she will be studying one term at Trinity where she is broadening her academic horizon by taking classes in Irish Studies.