Ireland may not look like a giant country when you are looking at it on a map, but there is plenty to do on this green island – and there is something for just about everyone. These are just a few of the things to do in Ireland.
Some visitors never get past the capital city of Dublin, and they still do not leave bored. This incredibly vibrant city is full of life and activity year-round, and is a popular place for a weekend city break or even a more leisurely week spent exploring Dublin and taking day trips. With lots of great shopping, cozy pubs and pretty buildings to look at, it continues to delight even on repeat visits. Despite its often less-than-perfect weather, Dublin is actually Europe’s fourth most visited capital city.
Outside of the capital city, there are other cities and towns which also have a reputation for being interesting places for tourists to visit. Cork, Ireland’s second-largest city, is on the southern coast of the country and was founded in about 600 A.D. The city of Galway in the western part of Ireland is well-known for its many annual festivals. If you are a rugby fan, you will want to stop in Limerick, and if you like medieval towns then Kilkenny is the place to see.
Most people coming to Ireland are looking to get beyond the cities, however, and see the legendary Irish countryside they have heard so much about. The Connemara region in the west is rugged and incredibly beautiful. It boasts windswept mountains and bogs which are teeming with life, and where it is just an occasional Irish castle that will interrupt an otherwise green and blue view.
County Clare in the southwest of Ireland is home to two incredible natural wonders – The Burren and the famous Cliffs of Moher. To call the polished limestone of The Burren “barren” would seem an understatement, and although the conditions are harsh the stark beauty cannot be denied. And the towering majesty of the Cliffs of Moher needs no introduction, really. This area is rich with Irish history, some of which dates back 5,000 years, but when most people come indoors after they have had enough of The Burren they are hunting for one thing – traditional music.
There are pubs all over the country where you can hear traditional Irish music, whether it is scheduled or impromptu, but if you are really in search of the best Ireland has to offer the town of Doolin (also in County Clare) should be on your list. Doolin is well-known as the Irish music capital. Another town which might be worth checking out, especially if you are already in the area, is Dingle in County Kerry.
Even if you are not looking for music, Irish pubs are fantastic places to meet locals and enjoy a local beverage or two (or more). Rather than just being a place to get drunk, pubs are social gathering places and very often serve cheap and good food as well. Ireland’s most famous beer is Guinness, but there are many other types of beers if a stout is not what you are after. When in doubt, tell the bartender what kinds of beers you like and let them set you up with something!
If history is what you are after, Ireland has plenty of that, too. From the castles and castle ruins, ancient circles of standing stones and early Christian churches, and all the museums holding relics of eras in the distant past, history lovers will never tire of the wonders Ireland has to offer.
And speaking of history, many people visit Ireland every year tracing their ancestry. Finding family is a big deal in Ireland, and there is a whole industry set up around helping you do it. The Irish Times has a website dedicated to finding Irish ancestors, which helps you do much of the research yourself. Ultimately, the goal is often to find living relatives who you can then meet in person, which is an unforgettable experience.
What we are trying to say here is that if you have a boring trip to Ireland, you have no one to blame but yourself!
Be sure to check out our ultimate post for planning your trip to Ireland, too!
If you are planning to visit lots of festivals, museums and sights in Ireland, you might also want to look into these Ireland Visitor Discounts – there are discounts which you can get for many attractions all over the country.