The home of some of the world’s greatest poets and artists, a land of wild natural beauty, and a spirited people, Ireland is worth visiting for tourists of any disposition. Here are the best places for you to visit on your Ireland vacation.
The largest city in Ireland. A 12th-century fortification. Parks and bridges take you from deep lush greenery in the park to the untamed wilderness of Howth Head Peninsula. Welcome to Leinster.
Our first stop on the tour of best places to visit in Ireland is into “the heart of the hibernian metropolis,” as James Joyce writes. We begin our tour with Dublin, at the famous Ha Penny bridge, because many Irish vacations begin and end in this evergreen city.
Dublin is home to plenty to do for history lovers, nightlife lovers, nature lovers, and everyone in between. For a delicious taste of history, go to the Guinness Storehouse, now a museum where visitors can learn about the history of the oldest brewery in Ireland, and get a free pint at the 360-degree observation platform.
To experience some nature, take a walk through St. Stephen’s Green or walk along the River Liffey. Lovers of literature can walk through the steps of the protagonists in James Joyce’s Ulysses, all of which take place in Dublin.
For nature lovers looking to stay around Dublin and its environs, look no further than Howth Head. Pictured above is the Baily Lighthouse at the edge of Howth Head.
Anyone looking for breathtaking natural scenery and a great look at the Atlantic Sea should take the train up to Howth Head, just a 20 minute or so ride to be transported from the city center to pristine nature.
Take the cliff top trail for a lovely two-hour trek around the perimeter of the bowl-shaped peninsula and get a view of Ireland’s Eye, an island and bird sanctuary pictured below.
Along the River Nore in County Kilkenny is the beautiful old Kilkenny Castle, a 12th-century fortification still excellently preserved to this day.
Kilkenny is a popular tourist destination, primarily for its many architectural marvels. Above, you can see a skyline of Kilkenny with St. Mary’s Cathedral, a well-known meetup point, towering above the rabblement.
Besides the architectural marvels of St. Mary’s, Kilkenny is known for its burgeoning crafts scene, and since 1974 the 10-day Kilkenny Arts Festival has showcased the best of Irish art, craft, theater, and dance.
Towering cliffs that beedle towards the sea. Live jam sessions with lifelong banjo and guitar players. Ireland’s “real capital” is a tragic history seen through a walking tour and an extremely famous form of a comedic poem. This is Munster Province.
Cliffs of Moher
One of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Ireland, the cliffs of Moher are an unforgettable experience. These sea cliffs, running a bit under nine miles on the Western edge of Ireland, have made their way into vacation packages and postcards since time immemorial.
It’s not hard to see why. From the view near O’Brien’s Tower, one immediately has the sensation of the grandeur of history.
The mighty O’Brien’s Tower, a 19th-century building that now enjoys countless tourist visits each year, seems itself to pale in comparison to the towering Cliffs of Moher.
Many visitors take day trips from Dublin to the cliffs. Others, meanwhile, take week-long tours of Ireland, taking in the sights of various quaint villages before landing at the Cliffs of Moher, a stunning climax to any journey.
An oft-overlooked gem of Munster Province is the city of Cork.
The second-largest city with a population of just over 200,000, Cork is an unusual city. Its city center is an island positioned amidst two channels of the River Lee that converge downstream.
Those tourists who want to experience the Ireland that the people of Ireland experience should consider Cork. Visitors to Cork love the colorful homes lined up along the River Lee, while lovers of history will appreciate the city’s storied past.
In fact, Corkonians sometimes refer to Cork as “the real capital” of Ireland, a reference not just to their love of their city but a statement of pride about Cork’s dissident opinion during the Anglo-Irish Treaty of the Irish Civil War.
If you’re wanting to go to Ireland,
You’ll need to be doing some decidin’
Do you observe Dublin’s best,
Or head to the west,
To Limerick for some dancing and jivin’?
The famed home of the humorous Limerick, Limerick is an excellent place to visit, with several well worth seeing attractions and a highly notable nightlife that includes live music, jamming, and ubiquitous dancing.
During the day, take a tour of St. John’s Castle and take a walking tour of the city with views of St. Mary’s Cathedral, the University of Limerick, and the Treaty Stone. Some will remember a personal history of Limerick as detailed in Angela’s Ashes; walking tours related to Angela’s Ashes are available at certain times of the year.
At nighttime, all visitors to Ireland should get a glimpse of a true Irish session. The Irish people are a very musical one, and the tradition of showing up with your banjo, guitar, flute, or fiddle and having a session speaks to the song in every Irishman’s heart.
Connemara National Park
So much of Ireland remains connected to some vital aspect of nature. Even amidst the city, in Dublin, one gets the sense that nature is lurking not too far away, preparing to take this wild island back for her own.
That said, it’s easy to forget about the stunning beauty of Ireland’s national parks. Connemara National Park, in particular, with its scenic vistas, its bogs, and heaths, is a highly recommended spot to stop in on your tour of Ireland.
A driving route through Connemara will show you all of the various flora and fauna that exist naturally in the national park. Of particular interest are the around 4,000 year old tombs, megaliths from an ancient and obscure pagan cult.
The capital of Northern Ireland. The origin of the Titanic. An ancient castle fallen into ruin that speaks of Viking invasions and a lawless world. Basalt columns stretching out into the sea, the stepping stones of ancient giants. This is Ulster Province.
An industrial town that is leading Northern Ireland into an aerospace and missiles industry future, Belfast is the second-largest city in Ireland, the capital of Northern Ireland, and the 12th largest city in the United Kingdom.
Probably the best-known historical role of Belfast was as the home to the manufacturers of the Titanic. A visit to Belfast allows visitors an inside look at what it was like to build the Titanic and some more insights into the ever tragic tale of man’s enduring hubris.
History buffs will also remember Belfast as a major center of The Troubles. Although Belfast is quite safe now, it can be an incredibly rewarding and eye-opening experience to learn about the troubles and walk the very streets on which such violence and fear could occur.
The Causeway Coast and Dunluce Castle
A beautiful sight, towering up along the cliffs of the Causeway Coast, is the now-decaying ruins of the Dunluce Castle.
At one point, playing an important role in the embattled Christians and Vikings who used Dunluce Castle as a fort and an outpost, the ruins are now only a tourist destination. As you can see above, guests can freely visit the ruins of this castle via a bridge that connects it to the mainland.
But it isn’t just Dunluce Castle that’s worth seeing out here in the wilderness of Northern Ireland. The Causeway Coast, stretching along the northern coast of Ireland, offers incredible views of the ocean and the craggy rocks that have long endured its abuse.
Something of a must-see for anyone in Northern Ireland is also the Giant’s Causeway. These basalt columns, the result of a prehistoric volcanic eruption, now make an excellent photo spot and lunch stop during a tour of the Northern wilds.
According to legend, the Giant’s Causeway formed when the great giant Finn McCool had a fight with the Scot Benandonner, and in the fight, hurled rocks at the Scot, which landed and formed stepping stones into the sea.
Best Places to Visit in Ireland: Things to Consider
There are plenty of things to do in Ireland. If you like city living, you should consider:
If you’re a lover of nature and sights of the wilds, think about:
- The cliffs of Moher
- Howth Head
- Connemara National Park
- The Causeway Coast and Dunluce Castle
The Best Places to Visit in Ireland
Thanks for reading. As you can imagine, there are many more places in Ireland that could have made this list; in fact, Ireland would really take a lifetime to explore. We hope this guide was helpful. Now grab your wellies, your fiddle, and head off to the Emerald Isle.