Five Must See Places to Visit in Ireland

Ireland is one of the most magical countries in the world.  Castles, mountains, rolling hills with sheep dotting the hillside, locals with their brawling accent and beer flowing out of its earlobes – Ireland is a country not to be missed. Here are my top five places to add to your Ireland itinerary. Best enjoyed with a Guinness 🙂

1. Dublin 

It is highly likely you will fly into Dublin on your Irish adventure, so you might as well spend a day or two lollygagging in the cobblestone streets and drinking Guinness by the barrel. Dublin is the capital of Ireland so you will find more people and tourists here, which is a good place to start for your first few days in the country. Stay in a Abigails Hostel for budget travelers, or stay in one of the smaller hotels just outside of the city center so you are close to the action but not paying an arm and a leg for ultimate luxury. 

For those of you short on time, my top suggestions are to visit the Guinness factory, spend an afternoon lounging in St. Steven’s Green, and hit up Temple Bar for a fun and upbeat vibe. For good shopping, head to Grafton street and for the literary lovers, go to Trinity College and tour their amazingly magical library. The “P.S. I love you Bar” is also in Dublin and it’s actually called Whelan’s Pub. There are a few signed photos of Gerard Butler and Hillary Swank.

2. Cliffs of Moher

Book a tour from Dublin for the most convenient and time friendly way to see the cliffs and also see the surrounding terrain in County Clare. The Cliffs of Moher are probably the most well known pictures of Ireland. They are iconically stunning and totally worth seeing.  Book with Paddy Wagon Tours for a day trip from Dublin for €40 – you’ll see the cliffs and the surrounding Burren National Park. 

With a little more time, rent a car and head to Galway for the next few days as a base for exploring the west side of the country.  

3. Aran Islands and Galway

Spend a few days in Galway, watching the sunsets in Galway Bay, exploring the pubs and listening to live music, and visiting the Aran Islands. This was by far one of my favorite things in Ireland. The Aran Islands are a group of 3 islands off the coast of Galway and they are mysterious and beautiful and really are a treasure of the Emerald Isle. The Islands are one of the only places where people still speak Gaelic and where the locals have family ties that have lived there for generation after generation.  

From Galway, you can take a ferry across to one of the islands – I suggest visiting the largest and most popular, Inishmore. The history of this island is second to none, and the walls that still line the teeny windy roads remain from when they were first built hundreds of years ago. On the island, visit the prehistoric fort Dún Aonghasa and take in the wind and salt spray from the ocean. You can rent bikes to explore the rest of the island and stop in at a pub for some fish and chips and chat with the locals.  

4. Cork

The second biggest city in Ireland gets overlooked by many tourists short on time, but it is a huge mistake to miss this city! The charm, the food, the leisurely pace of life, and the people are perfect for a few days of relaxation and good vibes. Stay at a bed and breakfast near University College Cork, where you’ll be able to explore the campus and the many walking trail surrounding it. Check out the Fransiscan Well for insanely good pizza and beer and An Spailpin Fanach for traditional live Irish music (and beer of course). The English Market has great sausages and the restaurant inside on the upper level, the FarmgateCafe has great lamb stew.

Cork is the food capital of Ireland so you’ll be in no shortage of a variety of creative and fresh food. Otherwise your time in Cork really should be about drinking coffees by the river, shopping on St. Patricks Street and exploring the rest of County Cork by going to kiss the Blarney Stone and learning more about the Titanic in the nearby city of Cobh. 

5. Belfast and Northern Ireland

Last but certainly not least is the northern tip of the island. This is where you’ll find currency in the form of the pound, terrain that will take your breath away and history that is confusing and rich and very evident all around. Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland and boasts a beautiful city with amazing architecture, St. George’s indoor market where you can find traditional irish stew, and a stunning Titanic museum and memorial. 

Highlights of Northern Ireland for me besides Belfast were visiting the Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge.  With a rental car, you can easily visit both and have all the time you want to linger and take in the views and feel the adrenaline of being on the edge of a cliff.  Otherwise, book a tour from Belfast for both in the same day to make the most of your time.  Check out Viator for the best deals on tours!

For the best experience of Ireland, these spots are truly some of the best you can get.  Renting a car will allow more freedom and exploration, but taking tours are also good for the time crunched traveler.  However you plan your trip, don’t forget to soak in the green hills and the craft beer.   Bring your raincoat and an empty stomach and you’ll have the time of your life!

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