The Linen Hall Library in Belfast.
Wherever you want to go in Northern Ireland, you don’t have to splash your cash to have a good time. There’s any number of great attractions that cost absolutely ‘nathin’, nada, nil.
These ideas should get you started.
The freedom of Belfast
There’s always something to see and do in Belfast for free, and that's not counting the lovely outdoor spaces to explore and the frequent free festivals the city puts on.
The much-loved Ulster Museum is among Northern Ireland’s most-visited attractions. Plan for a whole day here. There are plenty of fun activities and experiences to keep families, individuals and groups entertained.
You could also explore the Titanic Memorial Garden at Belfast City Hall, then go inside to sightsee the building itself. Historic Stormont, the Linen Hall Library, the MAC art exhibitions and more are all open for free visits too.
Or for music buffs of all ages, the Oh Yeah Music Centre is an absorbing day exploring the legacy of the Northern Ireland stars of today and yesterday. It charts everything from folk to Snow Patrol and the likes of Van Morrison and Them, The Undertones, Stiff Little Fingers and Gary Moore.
Step into the world of narnia and visit C.S Lewis Square in East Belfast where seven of the famous sculptures from his famous writings; 'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe' are on display. Why not stop off the 'Jack' café for a coffee and visit Eastside Visitor Centre to delve more deeply into this magical world of C.S. Lewis.
Other city freebies
After the capital, you could easily fill a few days without spending a farthing in the rest of Northern Ireland’s cities.
Take a footloose and fancy free stroll through the Mall, the heart of Armagh. It’s a great place to appreciate the wonderful Georgian architecture and history of the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland. You might be able to catch a cricket match for free too on the large common.
In Derry~Londonderry it’s pretty amazing that you can do a full circle of the Walled City completely gratis. With fabulous views of the major local landmarks and plenty of history to delve into, a walk round these never breached defences is a great way to appreciate the city’s best-known attraction.
In Lisburn, the Irish Linen Centre showcases one of Northern Ireland's best known industries. Take an audio visual tour and see the weaving centre and hand looms. You might also strike lucky with one of the regular events and exhibitions which honour Lisburn's rich, local history.
Wander around Newry city centre and you’ll come upon Bagenal’s Castle. Its museum traces the history of the area from the prehistoric period up to now and is free to explore. The castle is also a great starting point for the Newry Heritage Trail, which snakes around the city.
Free around the country
For children, the Giant’s Lair Adventure Playpark near Forkhill in County Armagh is a premier outdoor attraction. It’s inspired by legend and folklore on over a mile of woodlands at Slieve Gullion Forest Park and well worth a day out.
Or take in one Northern Ireland’s most recognisable landmarks, Scrabo Tower. It has incredible views of Strangford Lough, County Down and even Scotland. The tower also houses an exhibition detailing its history.
Strabane’s Alley Gallery is where you will find prestigious free-to-attend art exhibitions. If you ask the curator in advance you can get a talk on what’s on show.
The Craft Village in Derry~Londonderry is a delight to sightsee and explore without your wallet. Spend a few hours browsing the lovely collections of local crafts, have a chat with the friendly traders and have a laugh at the fridge magnet, wall plaque and key ring witticisms.
The ancient attraction of Navan Fort in County Armagh has an excellent visitor centre beside it. But you can go to the fort for free, stand on top of the mound, take in the historic ambience and enjoy uninterrupted views of the heartland of early Ulster.
In Tyrone, the woodland wonders of Peatlands Park, close to the shores of Lough Neagh, are literally wild and free to explore, a great outdoor attraction for young and old alike to get close to nature.
Have a free day out at North Down Museum uncovering the story of the area from the Bronze Age to the present day. Key artefacts on display include the Bronze Age Ballycroghan Swords, the famous Bangor Bell and the Raven Maps, the only complete folio of Plantation era maps in Ireland.
There is no charge to enter Sheelin Lace Shop in the lovely Fermanagh village of Bellanaleck. A small museum showcases spectacular lace pieces, but this is also a magical emporium of antique wedding dresses, shawls, christening gowns, 1920s dresses, vintage jewellery and more.
It’s free to board the reconstruction of a boat’s wheelhouse in Mourne Maritime Visitor Centre, where anyone can have a go at being a skipper and learn about life at sea. The centre tells the story of Kilkeel’s fishing and maritime heritage via touch screen technology and exhibitions.
Quirky and free
You need to book ahead for this one, but the Coca-Cola Visitor Experience is definitely the ‘real thing’. A tour of the plant near Lisburn is an exciting sneak a peek behind the world’s number one soft drink, offering a bird’s eye view of how Coca-Cola is made, bottled, packaged and stored.
Ascend the 180 spiral staircase steps at Cole’s Monument in Enniskillen and the payback is a viewing platform with quite magnificent views of the surrounding area. The exercise is free, but the vistas are priceless. When you come down, enjoy an afternoon in the surrounding park.
The Riverwatch Aquarium in Londonderry is a great place for families to have some free, quality time with the kids. Open a window to the wonders of the underwater world. See lobster, crabs, starfish, coalfish, salmon and lots of other unusual marine fish and crustaceans in the lough and seashore life tanks.