In this guide, you are going to discover the best places to visit in Ireland. From stunning scenery, lush landscapes, places to discover Ireland’s history and the best cities to enjoy, these places are the must-visit and must-see in Ireland that you need to consider when planning your Ireland itinerary.
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Top 20 Best Places to Visit in Ireland
To help you decide what places in Ireland to put on your Ireland itinerary, I’ve compiled a list of what I consider to be the best places in Ireland to visit. These will include cities, national parks, areas of interest and I will also give you an idea of what to visit while you are there and where to stay.
If you are still trying to decide the best month to visit Ireland, read this post which gives you a detailed guide to help you decide the best time of year to book your trip to Ireland for.
Most trips to Ireland will probably begin for many with arrival at Dublin Airport. As the capital of Ireland, Dublin is one of the most visited places in Ireland. It is a large city with a bustling city centre which is where most visitors will stay and explore.
There are hotels and other accommodation to suit every budget and a wealth of things to do in Dublin. From tourist attractions to museums, parks and galleries, there is something for everyone in Dublin.
Dublin can also serve as a starting or ending point for a larger Ireland itinerary. Spend a day or two in the city before heading out to explore Ireland or start your exploration first and end with 3 days in Dublin.
Dublin is also a great place in Ireland for a city break and it is also very family-friendly.
Top attraction to visit – Dublin regularly features when list suggest the top 10 attractions in Ireland and one of them is always the Guinness Storehouse. Learn how the famous black drink is made and sample some afterwards. Book your tickets here.
Top place to stay – Jury’s Inn Christchurch, a great mid-range priced hotel. Click here for the latest prices and availability.
Nestled in the Wicklow Mountains National Park is one of the top places to see in Ireland, the monastic site of Glendalough. Founded in the 6th century by St Kevin, Glendalough is a historical site that has a Visitor’s Centre, lots of monuments and buildings, and a 33-meter-tall Round Tower, the most famous structure at Glendalough.
But it is not only the monastic site that is the reason why people visit. The Glendalough Valley is also home to some stunning scenery, thanks to the Upper and Lower Lakes. Head up to the Spink Viewing Spot for incredible views down the valley overlooking the lakes.
There are also walking trails from Glendalough that lead into other parts of the Wicklow Mountains National Park. It is a great place to combine beautiful nature with history.
Top attraction to visit – The Round Tower at the monastic site at Glendalough is not-to-be-missed. You can also book guided tours from the Visitor’s Centre.
Top place to stay – Powerscourt Court Hotel for a little luxury and pampering. Click here to see the latest prices and availability.
If you are looking for the best castle to visit in Ireland, then why not pay a visit to Kilkenny. The town is one of the most popular places in Ireland and was once the medieval capital of the Emerald Isle.
This lovely inland town still holds remnants of its medieval past, with Tudor houses and facades visible, as well as the Cathedral. Kilkenny Castle is one of the best castles in the country and this Norman fortress holds court near the centre of town.
Kilkenny is also known for one of the country’s best art festivals and also for the Cats Laughs Comedy Festival, which sees artists from around the world come to host sketches in the hotels and pubs around the city over a long weekend.
Top attraction to visit – Kilkenny Castle is a must when in the city. You can wander the castle yourself or take a guided tour. The grounds are worth visiting if the weather permits.
Top place to stay – Kilkenny Ormonde Hotel is a budget-friendly hotel in the city. Click here for the latest prices and availability.
One of the best places to visit in southern Ireland is located in the southeast corner. Waterford is Ireland’s oldest city, established in 914 by the Vikings, and is sometimes a city overlooked by visitors. But it shouldn’t be.
Waterford is a great city to visit, particularly if you are interested in history. Not only are there snippets of its Viking origins in the city, but there is a wealth of medieval history in the city too. There are also three fantastic museums in the city and two cathedrals.
The best way to discover Waterford is via the little tourist train that runs through the city. Despite the fact the journey is just less than an hour-long, you can see and learn so much about the city while using it to decide where to visit next.
Top attraction to visit – The House of Waterford Crystal is a must to discover the origins of the famous crystal and see how orbs of molten glass are transformed into stunning crystal pieces. Pre-book your tickets here.
Top place to stay – Waterford Castle for a relaxing but luxurious stay. Click here to see the latest prices and availability.
One of the top destinations in Ireland is the sleepy little town of Cashel in County Tipperary. While the town is small, there is something big that draws thousands of visitors every year.
A majestic stronghold rises from the landscape as soon as you approach the town of Cashel. The Rock of Cashel is one of the best places to visit in Ireland. Once the seat of the High Kings of Munster, it is one of Ireland’s most spectacular historic sites. The site includes the Abbey, chapels, a graveyard, round tower and museum.
But there is more to Cashel than just the Rock. The Brú Ború Culture Centre is located beside the Rock of Cashel and was named after the 11th century High King of Ireland, Brian Ború. Here you can sample Irish culture through a folk theatre, traditional music and a craft shop.
You can also visit the Hore Abbey, Cashel Folk Village and the Cashel Heritage Centre.
Top attraction to visit – Undoubtedly the top attraction to visit is the Rock of Cashel. It is a must-visit when in Cashel.
Top place to stay – Baileys Hotel for a comfortable stay at mid-range prices. Click here for the latest prices and availability.
One of the top 5 best cities to visit in Ireland is Cork. Despite being the Republic’s second city in terms of size, Cork is quite compact, set on an island in the River Lee, making it an ideal destination for an Ireland getaway.
Cork is a vibrant city with lots to offer visitors. It hosts an October jazz festival which is a popular time to visit the city. Attractions to visit in the city include the Cork Butter Museum which tells the story of one of Ireland’s most important exports, as well as Cork City Gaol, the Crawford Municipal Art Gallery, other museums, cathedrals and forts.
Cork is also a great place to base yourself to visit Cobh, the last stop Titanic made before she set sail across the Atlantic. The Titanic Experience is located in the original White Star Line offices and gives visitors a powerful insight into the liners fateful voyage. And from Cork, you can also visit another of the best places to visit in Ireland, Blarney Castle where you may be lucky to bestowed with the gift of the gab if you venture to the top of the castle to kiss the Blarney Stone.
Top attraction to visit – Within Cork, Blackrock Castle and Observatory is a must-visit while just outside Cork, both Blarney Castle and the Titanic Experience in Cobh are highly recommended. Book a full-day tour from Dublin, taking in Cork, Cobh and Blarney here.
Top place to stay – For a budget-friendly, city centre hotel, stay in the Cork Metropole Hotel. Click here to see the latest prices and availability.
One of the top places to visit in Ireland is Killarney in County Kerry. Sitting on the edge of the Killarney National Park, this “tourist town” is busiest in summer when many visitors come to enjoy the lively pubs, great food in the many restaurants available for all budgets, and to spend time in the beautiful Killarney National Park.
The Killarney National Park is home to no less than three beautiful lakes which make up a third of the park. Within the Killarney National Park are lots of things to see and do. There are walking and hiking trails, Ross Castle, Muckross House and Abbey and the Torc Waterfall.
This area is one of natural beauty and it is easy to see why it is so popular with tourists.
Top attraction to visit – The stunning Torc Waterfall and Ross Castle are top attractions to visit while in Killarney. We also highly recommend a visit to the Gap of Dunloe. Book your boat, car and bus tour here.
Top place to stay – For ultimate luxury on the edge of one of the lakes of Killarney National Park, stay in The Europe. Click here for the latest prices and availability.
Ring of Kerry
One of the most beautiful places in Ireland to visit is also one of the most scenic places in Ireland. A 179km circular driving route known as the Ring of Kerry is somewhere that everyone needs on their Ireland bucket list.
The Ring of Kerry also forms part of the Wild Atlantic Way, a 2500km driving route that stretches from Malin Head in County Donegal to the Old Head of Kinsale in County Cork. The Ring of Kerry circuit of the Iveragh Peninsula brings you through pretty villages, past rugged coastline and the landscape changes all the time from beaches to mountains and loughs.
The Killarney National Park is encased in the Ring of Kerry. Valentia Island is just off the Ring of Kerry and is accessed by a car ferry from Portmagee on the mainland. From here you can visit the Skellig Islands, featured in recent Star Wars films.
In each of the villages and towns, you will find things to see and do like museums, castles, heritage centres and more and there are plenty of cafes, restaurants and pubs for a bite to eat. But it is the sheer beauty of the Ring of Kerry which makes it one of the 10 best places to visit in Ireland.
Top attraction to visit – Visit Valentia Island and take a boat across to the Skellig Islands. Just make sure the boat is licenced by the Office of Public Works (www.opw.ie) as numbers are limited on the islands each day. If you don’t fancy doing all the driving yourself, we can recommend this day trip around the Ring of Kerry for Killarney. For more information and to book tickets, click here.
Top place to stay – Parknasilla Resort and Spa is a great place in Sneem to stay if you want to stay on the Ring of Kerry itself. Click here to see the latest prices and availability.
One of the best places to travel in Ireland is to, and along, the Dingle Peninsula. Also part of the Wild Atlantic Way, the Dingle Peninsula has mainland Ireland’s most westerly point and visitors can find prehistoric ring forts and beehive huts, early Christian chapels and picturesque villages, both inhabited and abandoned.
At the centre of this is the gorgeous fishing town of Dingle, and one of the prettiest Irish coastal towns. This charming town has been known to attract artists, craftsmen and musicians, who spend their time in workshops, museums and festivals.
Once the home of Fungi the dolphin, Dingle is a mix of brightly coloured craft shops and cafes with plenty of quaint pubs offering live music and fresh seafood, fished by one of the many fishing boats moored in the harbour.
Top attraction to visit – Dingle Oceanworld is a great aquarium with a walk-through tunnel and touch pool which brings visitors face-to-face with the creatures found in the waters off Ireland.
Top place to stay – Dingle Harbour Lodge for B&B accommodation at reasonable prices and views across the harbour. Click here for the latest prices and availability.
One of the top places to go in Ireland is its third-largest city, Limerick. A vibrant city that bustles all year-round, mainly thanks to its large student population, Limerick can often be overlooked by visitors who favour Dublin or Galway.
Sitting on the tidal banks of Ireland’s longest river, the Shannon, Limerick is a city that boasts a huge castle, a recently rejuvenated waterline, a lively art gallery and a quietly developing food scene.
Most of the places of interest in Limerick are found in the oldest part of the city on King’s Island and around Crescent and Pery Square along the riverbanks. These include King John’s Castle, the Hunt Museum, the Limerick City Gallery of Art, the Frank McCourt Museum (who wrote about it in his book Angela’s Ashes) and the People’s Park.
Limerick is also a good base for visiting Adare Castle and Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, both within an easy drive of the city.
Top attraction to visit – King John’s Castle is probably the best attraction to visit in the city. It is a large castle with a small museum and interactive exhibitions. Book your entry ticket here.
Top place to stay – The George Hotel is a boutique hotel which is centrally located and is hugely popular. Reserve well in advance for this stylish and comfortable, reasonably priced hotel. Click here to check for availability and to see the latest prices.
One of the most amazing places in Ireland is County Clare. This county is one full of rich history and natural beauty which is why it features among the top 5 places to visit in Ireland in terms of overall counties.
County Clare is home to one of the most famous places in Ireland, the Cliffs of Moher. Rising magnetically from the Atlantic Ocean, these sheer cliffs attract hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. These cliffs which reach heights of 214m at their tallest give unparalleled views to the Aran Islands and Galway Bay on a clear day. The Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre offers an interactive exhibition on the flora, fauna, geology and climate of one of Ireland’s most popular tourist destinations.
County Clare is also home to the Burren National Park, famous for its rocky, windswept landscape made predominantly of grey limestone. You will also find several castles to visit including Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, located in the south of the county. This castle is one of Ireland’s most intact medieval castles and the folk park gives visitors an insight into village life in Ireland in the 19th century.
Top attraction to visit – Without a doubt, the top attraction to visit in County Clare are the Cliffs of Moher. For a truly unforgettable view of these awe-inspiring cliffs, take a cruise tour of the cliffs from Doolin. Book this tour here.
Top place to stay – Hotel Doolin in the town of the same name is an ideal base for visiting both the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren National Park. See the latest prices and check availability here.
One of the most popular and best places to go in Ireland is the capital city of the West of Ireland, Galway. Not only is the city hugely popular and a brilliant place for a getaway in Ireland, but County Galway is also just as good.
Galway City sits on the banks of the River Corrib and is a lively university city. Galway City has several churches and cathedrals to visit, a few museums including the Galway City Museum, an Arts Centre and the Spanish Arch, an extension of the city’s medieval walls, is a must. The seaside town of Salthill which is located next to Galway City is also a great place to visit.
Within Galway City, Eyre Square and the Latin Quarter are popular with visitors for the lively bars, pubs and restaurants.
Galway hosts several of Ireland’s best festivals throughout the year including the Galway Races, the Cúirt International Festival of Literature and the Galway International Arts Festival.
Top attraction to visit – Visit the free Galway City Museum where you can enjoy exhibits about the city’s history from 1800 to 1950.
Top place to stay – For a comfortable mid-range price hotel, stay in the Jury’s Inn Galway. Click here for the latest prices and availability.
Connemara National Park
Galway can be a great base for exploring another of the most beautiful parts of Ireland, the Connemara National Park. This national park spans nearly 3000 hectares of bog, mountains, heath and woodlands.
To reach Connemara National Park from Galway, it is best to take the coast road which is part of the Wild Atlantic Way. Trailing through village-like Spiddal, Clifden and Letterfrack, this is an epic part of the driving route.
Visitors come to see the beautiful landscape which includes lakes such as Lough Kylemore, catch a glimpse of Connemara ponies and see traces of the lands previous uses including megalithic tombs which are over 4000 years old. During summer, guided walks are popular activities to partake in.
Top attraction to visit – On the edge of Lough Kylemore is a beautiful former castle, Kylemore Abbey. See restored rooms and explore the gardens before visiting the craft shop.
Top place to stay – The Clifden Bay Lodge is a B&B just 15 minutes from the Connemara National Park with stunning sea views. Click here to see this B&B, latest prices and availability.
Another of the top beautiful places to visit in Ireland is Achill Island, Ireland’s largest island, located in County Mayo. Connected to the mainland by a bridge, Achill is just 22km long by 19km wide.
For a small island, it packs things in, with mountains, rugged cliffs, moorland and beaches to explore. Achill Island is a popular spot for angling and water sports. There is a circular Atlantic Coast drive for those wanting to enjoy the whole island.
Activities include visiting Keem Bay Beach, the Slievemore deserted village which was abandoned during the Great Famine and Grace O’Malley’s Castle, a 40-ft high 15th-century tower that is associated with a pirate queen after who it was named.
Top attraction to visit – Keem Bay Beach is one of the top attractions to visit on Achill Island and one of Ireland’s best beaches. This lovely bay has a sandy beach and from viewing points above it, you can try and spot basking whales who often visit the bay.
Top place to stay – Most accommodation on Achill is B&B-type. Click here to search for accommodation on Achill Island.
Sitting along the River Garavogue is the West of Ireland town of Sligo. With pretty shop fronts and céilidh music spilling from the many pubs, Sligo is the perfect base for exploring the county it shares its name with.
County Sligo is Yeats country which is why it is one of the top ten places to visit in Ireland for poetry and literary buffs. Sligo Town has many things to do including Model, a gallery that houses Irish artwork, including pieces by Jack B Yeats (brother of William). There is also an abbey to visit, a county museum, a memorial building to WB Yeats and more.
Sligo is a great place to discover Irish myths and legends but also Ireland history. And it is also home to Benbulbin, a mountain that is uncommonly flat at its top and near-vertical sides. It is a unique place in Ireland.
Top attraction to visit – Sligo is home to some of the most important places in Ireland when it comes to history in the form of megalithic tombs and cemeteries. Visit the megalithic cemetery at Carrowkeel (3000 to 2000 BC) and the one at Carrowmore (thought to predate the tombs of Brú na Bóinne, see below).
Top place to stay – for a comfortable stay at reasonable prices, stay at the Clayton Hotel & Leisure Club. Click here to see this hotel, and the latest prices and availability.
One of the prettiest places in Ireland to visit is Donegal Town and County Donegal as a whole. Located in the far northwest corner of the Republic, it is often called the wild child of Ireland thanks to its rugged, yet beautiful coastline.
Donegal Town is a small, yet inviting place to visit with a well-preserved castle and 17th century Diamond Obelisk, a market square with an obelisk in the centre. There is a great craft village where local craftwork is showcased.
Donegal sits on the edge of Lough Eske, an area of outstanding natural beauty. Further afield you can find the Glenveagh National Park with a castle of its own. And of course, Slieve League, the amazing cliffs just west of Donegal Town which can hold their own against their Wild Atlantic Way rivals, the Cliffs of Moher. And if you love the Wild Atlantic Way, you can follow it along the Donegal coastline to its northern starting point of Malin Head. Donegal is often overlooked as a place to visit in Ireland but is one which you should definitely consider putting on your Ireland bucket list!
Top attraction to visit – The Slieve League cliffs are by far one of the best attractions to visit in Donegal. These sea cliffs are among the highest in Europe, higher than the Cliffs of Moher, which makes them even more spectacular.
Top place to stay – For a truly unforgettable stay in Donegal, choose the Lough Eske Castle. Click here for the latest prices and availability.
One of the top places to visit in Northern Ireland is the walled town of Derry/Londonderry. Northern Ireland’s second-largest city is an artistic and cultural hub and was the UK’s City of Culture in 2013, resulting in a make-over for many parts of the city.
Derry is steeped in history including the Siege of Derry, Battle of the Bogside and Bloody Sunday. A stroll around the 17th-century city walls is a must as well as a guided walking tour which allows you to learn more about the historically important events in the city’s past.
Derry also has several museums to visit as well as a cathedral, art gallery and memorials to historically important events. Derry also hosts several festivals throughout the year making it a great city in Ireland to visit.
Top attraction to visit – The area within the city walls is littered with great things to see and do including various gates, the Tower Museum, a Guildhall and the Chapel of St Augustine. Book your private walking tour here.
Top place to stay – Stay within the historical city walls in the Bishop’s Gate Hotel. For prices and availability, click here.
One of the best places to visit in Northern Ireland is the Causeway Coast, a spectacular stretch of coastline that runs from the Giant’s Causeway (one of the most famous places in Northern Ireland) to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. It is 16.5km long and if you want to walk it, it will take approximately four hours to complete.
As one of the finest coastal walks in Ireland, the Causeway Coast is hugely popular with visitors in Northern Ireland. Much of the path is narrow and can get muddy when the weather makes a turn for the worst. If walking is not your thing, you can still enjoy the main sites by driving.
The Causeway Coast also features Dunseverick Castle and harbour, Ballintoy Harbour and Hamilton’s Seat, a bench that marks the most northern point of the walk. Dunluce Castle is just beyond the Giant’s Causeway, a 16th-century castle that is well-preserved except for its roof.
Top attraction to visit – Without a doubt, it has to be the Giant’s Causeway with its strange basalt columns said to once have been a bridge laid by Finn MacCool so he could reach Scotland to battle with his Scottish rival.
Top place to stay – The ideal place to stay for exploring the Causeway Coast is the Causeway Hotel. Click here for latest prices and availability.
One of the best places to go in Northern Ireland is its capital city, Belfast. Once shunned by travellers because of the “Troubles”, Belfast is now a popular destination for visitors to Northern Ireland who visit here and places beyond the city.
It is a city that has reinvented itself and has so many great things to see and do. From the Ulster Museum to the Botanic Gardens, to Belfast Castle and more, there’s something for everyone in Belfast.
If you are interested in learning about the history of the city during the Troubles, then take a black cab tour and view the amazing murals dotted around the city. There is a Cathedral Quarter to visit, and if you are visiting the city as a family and looking for the best things to do with kids in Belfast, then a visit to the W5 interactive science museum is sure to be a hit.
However, one of the more popular places of interest in Ireland, and in particular Northern Ireland, is the Titanic Quarter. Titanic Belfast is a huge building with exhibitions and interactive displays to share the story of the famous liner including its construction in the Harland and Wolff shipyard. You can visit HMS Caroline and SS Nomadic. This is one of the busiest areas of the cities with visitors.
Top place to stay – If you are visiting the Titanic Quarter, why not stay in it at the Titanic Hotel. Click here to see the latest prices and availability.
Drogheda, in County Louth, is not usually considered one of the top places in Ireland to visit, but this historic fortified town has a few things to offer visitors as well as being a based for one of the most unique places to visit in Ireland.
Within Drogheda itself, there is a cathedral and interesting museum to visit as well as lots of pubs and restaurants for soaking up some good old Irish craic. There is a 17th-century stately manor, an art gallery that was once a monastery and a tower and gateway stemming from its historical past.
Drogheda is also a great base for visiting Brú na Bóinne or the Boyne Valley. This Neolithic area of one of the most historically important sites in Ireland is one thousand years older than Stonehenge and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is home to Neolithic tombs, the three largest and most important being Knowth, Dowth and Newgrange.
Drogheda can also be a base for visiting the Hill of Tara and Trim, two other important historical sites in Ireland.
Top attraction to visit – The three Neolithic tombs of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth at Brú na Bóinne are the top attraction to visit near Drogheda and make a great day trip from Dublin. Entry is limited each day, so it is advisable to pre-book your tickets in advance.
Top place to stay – The riverside D Hotel is a great place to stay in Drogheda. Click here to check out this hotel with the latest prices and availability.
Deciding the best part of Ireland to visit can be a really hard decision to make. I hope this list of some of the best places to visit on the Emerald Isle has helped somewhat. Or has it? Whether you were thinking of finding stunning places to visit in the Republic or seeking out beautiful places in Northern Ireland, I hope I’ve helped and not hindered your decision making.
Cath is an Irish expat now living in Portugal. She regularly returns to Ireland to explore more of the wonderful island with her family.