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Is a trip to Ireland on your bucket list? The Emerald Isle is packed with things to do and places to see. From historical treasures to quaint villages, Ireland is sure to capture your heart and imagination.
Known for its rolling green hills and breathtaking coastal landscapes, Ireland is a nature lovers paradise. Use Ireland’s cities as a starting point for your wanderings, or stay put in the city and simply venture into the countryside for the day. The Emerald Isle is small and accessible enough for either.
Of course, we can’t forget about the nightlife. Ireland’s pub scene is second to none. Spend your evenings lost in a cozy pub, enjoying a few pints, surrounded by the sounds of laughter and Celtic music drifting through the air. Relax and have fun – we won’t tell!
Are you excited yet? Check out our list of the best places to visit in Ireland and start planning your Irish adventure today!
Dublin is the capital of Ireland and its largest city. It provides a great introduction to the Emerald Isle can serve as a great home base for a short trip.
The city is full of things to do and sights to see – including museums, castles, and more. Kilmainham Gaol (pronounced “jail”) is one of my favorite spots in the city. A tour of this now vacant building provides a somber look back at Ireland’s proud and tumultuous history.
Movie buffs and history lovers should also check out Trinity College Library and the Book of Kells. The library has been featured in numerous film franchises like Harry Potter, Star Wars, and more. The extravagantly illustrated Book of Kells contains the four gospels and was written in Latin around the year 800 A.D. Although photography is not allowed in the exhibit, this illuminated display is something you don’t want to miss.
Of course, you can’t visit Dublin without visiting some of the city’s famous pubs and breweries. Take a tour and grab a pint at the Guinness Storehouse, then head out to party in the Temple Bar area. Whiskey lovers should also check out the Jameson Distillery and the Teelings Whiskey Distillery.
I recommend exploring the city by either guided tour or on your own with the Dublin Pass. Whether you stay for a few days or a whole week, you’ll definitely want to include Dublin on your Ireland itinerary.
>> Learn More – Find the Best Tours in Dublin Here
Located on Ireland’s scenic west coast, Galway marks the midpoint of the country’s “Wild Atlantic Way” – a 2,500 km coastal route running along the entire western edge of the island. In fact, County Galway contributes nearly 700 miles of coastline to the route. The city makes a great home base for further exploring, or you can use it as the perfect layover as you make your way up or down the coast.
Galway is more than just a typical coastal town, however. Visit the city’s lively pubs and enjoy the artwork as you wander the streets listening to the sound of live music in the air. Galway is also known as the “Festival Capital of Ireland,” typically hosting more than 120 festivals and live events each year.
>> Read More: 15 Best Things to do in Galway, Ireland
Cork may be the Republic of Ireland’s second biggest city, but that doesn’t mean you should count it out. This cosmopolitan college town is easily one of the best places to visit in Ireland.
Known for its culinary delights, foodies are sure to enjoy this gastronomic haven. Sample the local cheeses and fresh seafod before making your way to the English Market, a covered market which is one of the oldest in Europe. The city even boasts a Butter Museum dedicated to one of city’s most famous industries.
While you’re in Cork, be sure to visit Blarney Castle and the world famous Blarney Stone. Located just 20 minutes drive from the city, here’s where you can bravely lean out a window and smootch a rock to earn the “Gift of Gab.” Sure, it’s touristy and silly, but it is one of the most popular things to do in Ireland. Oh, and the castle grounds are pretty cool too!
Straddling the banks of the River Shannon, Limerick is one of the best cities to visit in Ireland. Don’t let the town’s past reputation fool you, however. Although the city has a grittier feel than some other Irish towns, Limerick is full of art, culture, and history to explore. Oh, and the food here is as delightful as its welcoming people.
King John’s Castle and St. Mary’s Cathedral are two of Limerick’s best known landmarks. Explore them both before heading to the incredible Cliffs of Moher, which are located about an hour’s drive west of the city. On the way to the cliffs, a stop at Bunratty Castle (one of my favorite Irish castles) is also worth your time.
Speaking of castles, Kilkenny boasts one of the most famous castles in all of Ireland. Kilkenny Castle was built shortly after the Norman occupation and has towered over the neighboring city for over 800 years. The castle is now operated by the Office of Public Works and is open to the public.
Kilkenny is more than just the castle, however. This charming town is also famous for being the medieval capital of Ireland. The “Medieval Mile” is home to numerous important buildings and religious sights – including St. Canice’s Cathedral and the Black Abbey. The city’s delicious restaurants and delightful cafes help make it one of Ireland’s best places to visit.
>> Read More: 13 Best Things to Do in Kilkenny, Ireland
Want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the larger cities? Killarney is the place for you.
Located in the southwestern corner of the Emerald Isle, Killarney is most famous for its natural surroundings. Killarney National Park is home to some of Ireland’s most majestic mountains, lakes, and waterfalls. It is a nature lover’s paradise and easily one of the best places to visit in Ireland.
Of course, this quaint city does have plenty of places to eat, sleep, and drink. However, if you’re seeking the solitude of the outdoors, Killarney may be a great spot to add to your list.
>>Read More: 11 Best Things to Do in Killarney, Ireland
Kinsale is a picturesque fishing town located in County Cork on Ireland’s southwestern coast. Although small in size (only a little over 5,000 people live here), this colorful town is packs a big punch. One of the oldest cities in Ireland, Kinsale also boasts its fair share of historic significance.
James Fort and Charles Fort have guarded this strategic port city since the early and late 17th century, respectively. The ocean liner Lusitania was also sunk off the coast of Kinsale in 1915, which indirectly contributed to the United States joining the war about two years later.
But, enough about history! Let’s talk about food.
Known as the “Gourmet Capital of Ireland,” Kinsale is a haven for food lovers. Take a guided food tour or taste your way through the colorful cobblestone streets on your own, discovering several Michelin-starred restaurants along the way.
Founded by the Vikings in the 10th century A.D., Waterford is the oldest city in Ireland. As such, it is easily one of the best places in Ireland to visit.
The city teems with history from both the Viking and Norman times – including Reginald’s Tower, Ireland’s oldest civic building. The Medieval Museum is also worth a visit.
As a port town, Waterford has underwent many changes through the years. These days, the city is mostly known for its crystal. Waterford Crystal is known throughout the world for its quality and value. You can learn more by taking a tour of the House of Waterford Crystal while you’re there.
Bearing the same name as the peninsula on which it resides, the tiny seaside village of Dingle is one of the best places to visit in Ireland. Located on the Ireland’s southwest coast, Dingle makes a perfect rest stop while you hike or drive along the Wild Atlantic Way.
Nature enthusiasts will love it here. Coumeenole Beach could be the most beautiful beach in Ireland while Inch Beach is popular with movie stars and surfers alike. To enjoy what life was like in a time long past, check out the Blasket Islands. Inhabitants lived here for over 300 years before leaving the island due to a lack of basic supplies in the early 1950s.
Dingle is also home to some quirky shops and restaurants. For instance, Foxy John’s is a hardware store that doubles as a pub while Murphy’s Ice Cream serves up delightful dollops of Chocolate Whiskey and Irish Brown Bread ice cream. Yummy!
Westport may be small, but it is still one of the best cities to visit in Ireland. Located along the island’s west coast, this seaside town is home to beautiful coastal views, enjoyable pubs, and eco-friendly beaches.
Touring one of Ireland’s most historic houses, the Westport House, makes for a nice morning. A stroll through the Georgian-styled town center is a great way to fill your afternoon. After that, grab a bite to eat at the Michelin-starred An Port Mor Restaurant followed by a pint and some Celtic music at one of the town’s many pubs.
Outdoor enthusiasts will love Westport. Situated along the Wild Atlantic Way, Westport is another great base for exploring this scenic coastline. Croagh Patrick is also nearby. St. Patrick is said to have climbed this mountain prior to fasting at the top for 40 days. Hey, if St. Patrick thought it was a great hike, you probably will too!