Best Places to Visit in Ireland
Green, charming and effervescing with culture, the Emerald Isle captures the hearts of all who visit Ireland.
Friendly people with irresistible and delightful accents, lively music, ancient relics, and gorgeous scenery conspire to enchant Ireland's visitors. Tumbling surf on windswept Atlantic beaches, jagged cliffs, regal castles, imposing cathedrals, farm-to-table dining, traditional music and singing in fire-lit pubs – a tour of Ireland is guaranteed to make indelible memories. Here are 12 of the most amazing places to visit in Ireland, better said - a few of many don’t-miss destinations on your Ireland vacation.
Ireland's Top Cities to Visit
Ireland’s capital and largest city contrast with the past. Picture 13th-century Dublin Castle, Kilmainham Gaol, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Christ Church all mixed with a lively contemporary culture of music and arts. Visit the Guinness Storehouse, where the iconic stout has been brewed for 250 years (check out this article on the History of Guinness). Dublin is a great place to explore the thriving food and famous Irish pub scene. Don't miss a visit to Trinity College to see the famous book of Kells!
The Book of Kells
Perhaps the world’s most famous illustrated, medieval manuscript is homed at Trinity College in Dublin. The Book of Kells is an exquisitely illustrated manuscript that dates to the 9th century. Traditional Christian iconography merges with Celtic knots and elaborate figures of humans, animals, and mythical beasts. 100% worth the visit.
The capital of Northern Ireland, Belfast is where the famous RMS Titanic was built: An excellent museum relates the tragic tale. The museum and monument are located on the site where the RMS Titanic was built from 1909-1912 and visitors can explore the shipyard and many interactive exhibits and see original artifacts from both the ship and White Star Line. You'll also want to visit St. George’s Market for authentic local food, antiques, and crafts. Don't miss the Botanic Gardens with its ornate Victorian palm house of glass and cast iron.
Derry, or Londonderry, is the second-largest city in Northern Ireland and is known for its intact 17th-century surrounding wall that includes seven gates. While there's still debate between Irish nationalists and unionists as to what to call this great city, it remains the only completely walled city in Ireland. Visitors are encouraged to walk atop the ramparts of the walls - but go slow as the walls are over 20 feet in height! While there, check out the neo-Gothic Guildhall with its organ and the famous Peace Bridge. Don't miss out on the murals! Similar to in Belfast, locals of the area painted political murals that offer a look into a time that's widely known only as "The Troubles".
Formerly a walled seaside town dominated by merchants in the 13th century, Galway has blossomed into a vibrant city. Named a European Capital of Culture for 2020, it represents the heart of Irish culture, rich with music, song, dance and Gaelic, the native Irish language. The cafes and shops of the Latin Quarter are punctuated by medieval city walls.
Limerick is one of Ireland’s oldest cities, founded by Vikings in 812 AD on the banks of the River Shannon. Stroll the compact old town, where Georgian townhouses line John’s Square. St. Mary’s Cathedral and King John’s Castle date to medieval times.
Top Historic Sites in Ireland
Bunratty Castle’s roots run deep, originating in a Viking camp around 970 AD. The current 15th-century castle, the most complete and authentic in Ireland, is the fourth castle on the site. The adjacent 19th Century Folk Park recreates village and rural living.
The Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle
The legendary Blarney Stone resides in Blarney Castle in County Cork, built nearly 600 years ago by an Irish chieftain. Kissing the stone is said to grant powers of blarney, described as “flattery sweetened by humour and flavoured by wit.” Don’t miss the towers, dungeons, battlements, and gardens.
The Rock of Cashel
The Rock of Cashel, a spectacular collection of medieval ecclesiastical buildings, has roots reaching back to 500 AD. With a rich history as a fortress, royal complex, and religious center, today’s cluster of stone buildings dates mostly from the 12th and 13th centuries.
Best Natural Sites of Ireland to Visit
A geological masterpiece created by the cooling of lava that burst through the earth's crust millions of years ago, Giant's Causeway might be as famous as the bright greens of Ireland. As a result of the ancient volcanic eruption, 40,000 basalt columns still rise out of Ireland's wild Atlantic coastline. A Unesco World Heritage Site since 1986, the collection of columns is thought by locals to be the 8th Wonder of the World. Add to the scene fierce cliff faces and one of the best coastal drives in the area and you've got yourself a wonderful day trip from Cardiff.
Cliffs of Moher
These dramatic sea cliffs draw visitors seeking spectacular views – look for whales, seals and dolphins down below. As a protected refuge, the cliffs attract thousands of birds including the cute and colorful Atlantic puffin. The cliffs have a role in traditional folklore, as well as in modern films like Harry Potter and The Princess Bride.
A drive around the Dingle Peninsula weaves through fishing villages, checkerboard green fields and craggy cliffs. Here, the government subsidizes Irish language and culture: look and listen for Gaelic. The town of Dingle hosts Ireland's best traditional music scene.
Killarney National Park
This rugged expanse of mountains, lakes, and woodlands includes McGillycuddy’s Reeks, the highest mountain range in Ireland. A herd of native red deer roams the landscape, and the white-tailed sea eagle, reintroduced in 2007, plies the skies. Walk among period furnishings and artifacts at Muckross House and Gardens, a 19th-century mansion.
The Ring of Kerry
This scenic drive around the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry passes through Killarney National Park, then twists along the serrated Atlantic coastline, through rustic villages and majestic landscapes of waterfalls, forests, and sandy beaches. The desolate ruins of a seventh-century Christian monastery perch on Skellig Michael, a lonely island seven miles out to sea.