Car Hire in Dublin 2014: Your Free Top 10
It’s coming to the end of the summer and your holiday funds are probably running low at this stage, but you can still rent a car in Ireland and enjoy the nation’s most popular free attractions without moving very far from the capital.
The list of Ireland’s most visited free attractions for the past 12 months reveals that all but one are in Dublin, and even that one (Newbridge Silverware) is only about an hour’s drive from the city centre, so it’s easy to see them all with Dublin car hire. Here are the top 10 things for you to see in Dublin without opening your wallet:
Ireland’s Top 10 Free Attractions 2013
Visitors to Ireland would appear to be a cultured lot, with the National Gallery of Ireland claiming the top spot among the most visited free attractions of 2013. The gallery, which contains Ireland’s national collection of Irish and European art, is housed in an elegant Georgian building in the heart of the city, beside Leinster House (Irish government buildings).
Ongoing renovations mean you must enter via Clare Street. You will be greeted by a comprehensive collection of Irish paintings, as well as a celebrated selection of Italian Baroque works and paintings by the Dutch masters.
2) National Botanic Gardens, Dublin: 550,000 visitors in 2013
An island of lush beauty in the middle of the city, the National Botanic Gardens are located in Glasnevin, 5 km north-west of Dublin city centre. This 19.5-hectare attraction nestles between between Prospect Cemetery and the River Tolka, where it offers a green lung in the capital, home to 20,000 living plants and many millions of dried specimens, as well as beautifully restored Victorian glasshouses.
The gardens were founded in 1795 by the Dublin Society, and today the Glasnevin site is involved in a range of national and international initiatives for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.
Once the property of the Guinness family, Farmleigh is the official Irish State guest house. It overlooks the River Liffey to the north-west of the Phoenix Park and encompasses 32 hectares of sweeping gardens, groves of mature trees, a boating pond, a walled garden, a sunken garden, and meadows where a herd of rare native Kerry cattle grazes.
4) National Museum, Archaeology, Dublin: 404,230 visitors in 2013
For a comprehensive primer on Irish history, you really must visit the National Museum of Archaeology on Kildare Street. The exhibitions cover periods dating from the Mesolithic through to the end of the medieval period, including such globally famous gems as the Ardagh Chalice, the Tara Brooch, and the Derrynaflan Hoard.
Our favourite is the superb exhibition on bog bodies. You will learn about life in Ireland 2,000 years ago via a range of fascinating finds from Irish bogs including the enigmatic Iron Age bog bodies. You will discover how bogs can conserve everything from butter to human bodies and come face to face with a 2,000-year-old body discovered in a bog.
5) Newbridge Silverware, Kildare: 350,000 visitors in 2013
Newbridge Silverware Visitor Centre is attached to a cutlery factory in Newbridge, Co. Kildare, but it is about a lot more than knives and forks. Not only does it house Newbridge Silverware’s complete range of products and the award-winning Silver Restaurant, it is also home to the Museum of Style Icons.
The museum exhibits a number of collections and artefacts relating to iconic stars such as Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Grace, Princess Diana, Michael Jackson, Michael Flatley, and the Beatles.
6) Science Gallery, Dublin: 339,264 visitors in 2013
The Science Gallery is a public science facility within Trinity College in Dublin city centre, opened in 2008 with the aim of making science more accessible and blending art with science. Instead of a permanent collection, the Science Gallery hosts between four and six temporary exhibitions annually, some of which have looked at the science behind such disparate topics as desire and fat.
Affectionately known as the Dead Zoo, the Natural History Museum on Merrion Street is a favourite among families, due to children’s fascination with the various exhibits, most of which date from Victorian times. It was built in 1856 to house sections of the Royal Dublin Society’s collection, and it has changed little since, prompting the description “museum of a museum.”
8) National Library of Ireland, Dublin: 260,323 visitors in 2013
The National Library of Ireland is located next to the National Museum of Archaeology, so you can tick numbers 4 and 8 off your list in one fell swoop. The National Library of Ireland’s mission is to maintain and make accessible records of life in Ireland, so the facility itself is a reference library which allows the public to freely access a vast range of materials, including books, maps, manuscripts, newspapers, photographs, and music. Another function of the library, which is particularly popular, is its genealogy section, so if you are seeking to trace your family’s roots, this is the place to go.
9) National Museum, Collins Barracks, Dublin: 251,226 visitors in 2013
Another branch of the National Museum makes it into the top 10 in the form of the museum of Decorative Arts and History in Collins Barracks, a former military barracks named after Michael Collins in 1922. This site incorporates displays of furniture, silver, ceramics and glassware, as well as examples of folk life and costume, and money and weapons. A prized exhibit is a Chinese porcelain vase from about 1300 AD, the Fonthill vase.
The museum at Collins Barracks hosts regular special exhibitions, including one of Irish High Crosses. The Soldiers & Chiefs exhibition uses military artefacts and memorabilia to outline Ireland’s military history from 1550 to contemporary times. Other memorable recent exhibitions include a show of celebrated milliner Philip Treacy’s hats.
Number 10 on the list is number 1 on ours. Lonely Planet agrees, calling the Chester Beatty Library “not just the best museum in Ireland, but one of the best in Europe.” This winner of “European Museum of the Year” houses exquisitely rich collections from Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, highlighting the artistic wonders of the world’s great cultures and religions.
Among the finds are manuscripts, miniature paintings, prints, drawings, and rare books. Incredibly this collection originated from the efforts of one man, Sir Alfred Chester Beatty. Highlights are the Egyptian papyrus texts and the stunningly illuminated copies of the Qur’an and the Bible, as well as fine European medieval and renaissance manuscripts. The collections cover a vast range of creative expression from roughly 2700 BC to today.