places to visit in ireland

16 Best Places to Visit in Ireland

Want to know the best places to visit in Ireland? I’ve tried my best with this list, but it’s hard to know what to include and what to leave out.

Ireland is a stunning country and no matter where you go you’re going to find some incredible places. That’s what makes narrowing this list of places to see in Ireland down, so hard.

From the bright lights of Dublin to the rugged beauty of Connemara, you’ll be left scratching your head about where to visit in Ireland when you arrive. You could easily spend a month or more touring Ireland and still have more places to see.

This is what makes Ireland so great, as well as the history and the character of the people in Ireland. It’s this reason that makes it such an excellent place to visit.

This list of the best places in Ireland will help you to put together your itinerary when you visit.

Places to Visit in Ireland

Backpacking in Ireland is a pleasure as there are so many great places to see.

Dublin, Cork and Galway are fantastic cities and have to be seen, but arguably, Ireland’s best places to visit are those that take you out into the country. Connemara, the Ring of Kerry and the Wicklow mountains.

All of these are beautiful places that showcase just how diverse and incredible Ireland is.

It’s this variety of places that are the reason for so many quotes about Ireland. The beauty and character of Ireland make it such a great destination.

Dublin

Temple Bar in Dublin

You can’t visit Ireland without visiting the capital, Dublin. It’s an incredible place with so much to see and do.

It’s hard to list the places you have to see in the city as there are so many. The Guinness factory is one, and it’s well worth doing a tour to understand the history of ‘the black stuff’ and get a drink at the end.

After that, there’s the history and grandeur of Croke Park, the home of Gaelic sports such as football and hurling. While a stroll down O’Connell Street is a must too.

Add to that the numerous museums and galleries in the city, there’s plenty to do. Given Ireland’s past as a colony of Britain, visiting the museums are a good idea if you want to understand the history of the Emerald Isle. 

Cork

Cork

Cork is known as the rebel city and is without a doubt, one of the best places to visit in Ireland. As the second biggest city in Ireland, there’s plenty of stuff to do once you’re there.

Fitzgerald Park is one place you have to check out in the city. It’s a beautiful park with lakes and perfectly cut grass, making it an ideal place to visit in the warmer summer months and relax for an hour or two.

An interesting place to visit is Blackrock Castle Observatory. It’s an interactive museum and exhibition housed in an old castle next to the water in the city. It’s an odd location for an observatory, but well worth visiting, especially if you’re a family.

If you’re interested in the history of Cork, then a visit to Cork Gaol is a must. The former prison is a fascinating place and will tell you a lot about Irish history, especially the War of Independence. An interesting fact about the gaol is that  Constance Markievicz, the first woman elected to the Houses of Parliament, was sent to the gaol for making a speech encouraging Ireland to secede from the United Kingdom.

Galway

Galway City

Galway is one of the best cities in Ireland for several reasons. It might have the big city lights of Dublin but it does have a lot of charm and character. There’s always something going on and there are a lot of great places to see nearby.

The city itself is small but there’s plenty to do. Walking the main streets is a must as there’s usually something going on. Be it fantastic buskers singing folk songs or some light entertainment, Galway is full of life.

The Galway City Museum is another great place to visit that will tell you a lot about Ireland’s history, the history of Galway and much more. While you have to check out some of the pubs too and sample some Guinness.

For a relaxing stroll and some magnificent views of the Atlantic Ocean, a walk along the Salthill Promenade is one of the best things to do in Galway. 

Belfast

Titanic Museum Belfast

The capital of Northern Ireland is one of the most intriguing places on the island of Ireland. Its recent past has been marked by bloodshed due to sectarian violence but the city is a lively and fun place to visit nowadays.

The recent past should be one of your first points of call when you’re in Belfast. An open-top bus tour is a great way to learn about the city’s past and see the various neighbourhoods and murals that still define the city.

Another of the best things to do in Belfast is to visit the Titanic Museum. The ship was built in Belfast and its voyage has gone down in infamy. The museum details all of this and more and is a must-visit while you’re in the city.

Belfast’s nightlife is lively and it’s well worth checking it out while you’re there. You’ll find plenty of great bars and lots of live music too that will guarantee you have a good time.

Giant’s Causeway

Giant's Causeway

The Giant’s Causeway is one of the most iconic places in Ireland. Located in County Antrim on the north coast of Northern Ireland, the Causeway has beguiled visitors for thousands of years.

The area is home to over 40,000 interlocking basalt columns that look like they have been sculpted by hand. So much so, that Gaelic mythology states the columns were the remains of a causeway built by a giant. 

The reality is a bit less mundane but still exciting. The Causeway was formed 50 to 60 million years ago during the Paleocene Epoch, when the region was subject to intense volcanic activity.

The Causeway is a popular spot and you will have to compete with a host of tourists while you’re there. But that doesn’t take anything away from the beauty of the Giant’s Causeway. It’s still one of the best places to visit in Ireland!

Ring of Kerry

Ring of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry is one of the most intriguing places to see in Ireland. It’s a 180 kilometres (111 miles) trip around the Iveragh peninsula in Kerry that provides you with spectacular views and some great spots to visit.

It’s not the longest route but there’s a surprising amount of things to do along the way. One of the most popular destinations is Skelling Michael, which is an island off the peninsula that was once home to a monastery. If you want to visit, you’ll have to come during the summer months, as the weather during the rest of the year makes it inaccessible.

The summer might be the best time to experience the Ring of Kerry, as then you can check out some of the amazing beaches along the way. Places such as Derrynane, Rossbeigh and St Finian’s Bay have some of the best beaches in Ireland for you to explore.

The Ring of Kerry is one of the top places to visit in Ireland and should be high up on your list when you visit the Emerald Isle.

Carrauntoohil

Carrauntoohil

Carrauntoohil is the highest mountain in Ireland, standing at 1,038.6 metres (3,407 feet 6 inches) tall. It’s located in County Kerry and is the perfect place to visit if you love hiking and want the challenge of a good day’s hike.

I climbed the mountain when I was in Ireland and despite its relatively small size, it’s no mean feat to get to the top. This is especially true if you go up in bad weather, which is not a good idea. The weather can turn quickly and you can find yourself in trouble if you’re not properly prepared.

The easiest route to the top is starting at Cronin’s yard and going to the summit via the Devil’s Ladder, which is essentially a scramble up towards the ridge. Then you turn to your right and make your way up to the summit where you’re greeted by a gigantic cross.

There are other routes but they are dangerous and best left to experienced mountaineers. In total, the route from Cronin’s Yard to the top and back is 12 km (7+12 mi) and takes around 4 to5 hours. Climbing up Carrauntoohil is a great day trip if you’re in the southwest of the country, but make sure you go up on a good day!

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher is without a doubt, one of the best places to go in Ireland. It’s a spectacular setting that will take your breath away.

The cliffs are located at the southwestern edge of the Burren region in County Clare and run for 14 kilometres (9 miles) along the coast. The scenery here is off the charts and just about as good as you’ll find anywhere in the country.

The cliffs rise up from the ocean to over 700 feet and provide excellent views of the Aran Islands out into the distance of Galway Bay.

It’s a popular spot but it’s not hard to see why when you visit. The Cliffs of Moher are incredible and one place you have to include on your Irish bucket list!

Connemara

landscape of Connemara

Connemara is a lesser-known place in Ireland that you have to check out while you’re there. It’s located in County Galway and is home to some spectacular scenery as well as having the largest proportion of Gaelic speakers in Connacht.

If you’ve decided to visit Ireland to explore its beautiful outdoors, then Connemara is the perfect place to do that. Its lush and expansive landscapes are perfect for hiking and many of other activities.

As well as hiking, you can go fishing, kayaking and take part in many other activities around the beautiful Twelve Bens mountain range. 

Connemara National Park is a beautiful place and will have nature lovers reluctant to leave when the time does come.

Wicklow

Mountains in Wicklow

If you’re looking for a great day trip from Dublin, then heading to Wicklow is as good a place to visit as any.

If you love the outdoors, then hiking part of the Wicklow Way is a must. The 131-km (81 miles) track takes you all the way to County Carlow and is too much to take on at once unless you’re a hardcore hiker, but hiking part of the track will provide with you some stunning views of the surrounding area.

The track takes you through the Wicklow Mountains National Park, which you can visit by itself if you wish. Another great path to walk is the coastal walk from Bray to Greystones. It’s a decent walk and the views are well worth it. Hiking to Lough Ouler is worth it too, to see the amazing heart-shaped lake.

One of Wicklow’s most stunning sights is the Powerscourt waterfall, which is the highest in Ireland at 121 metres high. The waterfall is beautiful and offers a good alternative to the more strenuous hikes listed above.

Derry

Peace Bridge in Derry

If you want to visit one of the best places in Ireland, then Derry is where you should go. The city has had a contentious past due to the division between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland from the 1970s to the late 90s.

But things are much better now and Derry is a vibrant city with much to offer. Given that recent past, it’s the history of The Troubles that’s worth exploring. There are multiple museums, murals and more to discover that will tell you all about Derry’s past.

Walking the city walls is a must while you’re in the city. They offer excellent views and allow you to see most of the city, while also being the only such walls remaining intact in Ireland to this day!

Taking a walk along the Peace Bridge, which was only built in 2011 and connects the unionist waterside of Derry with the nationalist cityside of Derry together, is another must. It’s a beautiful bridge and reminder that there is more that unites us than divides us.

Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle

The Blarney Castle is one of the most popular places to visit in Ireland for one reason, the Blarney Stone.

Legend has it that whoever kisses the stone will be imbued with the gift of the gab. Essentially, the ability to woo and cajole anyone with your words. whether this is the case or not, and it’s almost certainly not, it does make it an intriguing place to visit.

As well as the famous stone, there are plenty of other things to do here. You can take a stroll around the gardens which offer a variety of plants and landscapes to explore.

The Blarney Castle in County Cork is a legendary place to visit and one you should take the time to see when you visit Ireland.

Waterford

river in waterford

Waterford might not be a name that’s on everyone’s lips when it comes to Ireland, but there are multiple reasons why you should visit.

One is that it’s Ireland’s oldest city. It was founded in 914 AD by the Vikings and still has parts of the ancient walls from that time still standing today.

The Medieval Museum is the place to go if you want to learn more about the city’s past and Ireland’s in general. You can also check out the House of Waterford Crystal to see how the famous glass is made first hand.

Waterford also has a reputation as a lively place. So, you can enjoy a few bars and restaurants and sample the local nightlife with the locals!

Donegal

coast of Donegal

Despite being part of Ireland and not Northern Ireland, Donegal is actually the northernmost part of Ireland and a fantastic place to visit.

There are a lot of things to do in Donegal such as visiting the Slieve League cliffs, which are up there with the Cliffs of Moher in terms of beauty.

You can also check out one of the lesser-known places in Donegal, Muckross Head, which is a lovely little spot with a great beach that you should check out in the summer.

A trip to Malin Head, the most northerly part of Ireland is well worth it too. It’s just an incredible place and makes it home just how incredible Ireland really is.

Dingle Peninsula

Dingle Peninsula

The Dingle Peninsula is part of the Ring of Kerry and the Wild Atlantic Way, so you’ll experience it as part of either road trip.

It’s only 48 kilometres (30 miles) in length, but there’s more than enough to see along the way. It’s one of Ireland’s best-kept secrets.

If you’re visiting during the summer, you can check out some of the amazing beaches in the area. As well as the nearby mountain ranges such as Slieve Mish.

To appreciate the peninsula in its entirety, you can take a boat tour of Dingle Bay, which will allow you to see the peninsula from the sea and see some dolphins and other marine life that frequent the area.

Newgrange Mound

Newgrange Mound

One of the more unusual places to visit in Ireland is Newgrange Mound. It can be found in County Meath not far from Dublin and dates back to around 3200 BCE.

Its age means it’s older than Stonehenge and the pyramids in Egypt! The circular mound was constructed out of stones and the earth in the local area and served as a passage tomb or burial chamber.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Newgrange Mound is that it’s perfectly aligned with the sun. If you were to visit during the winter solstice, light would shine through a carefully constructed window that illuminates the passageway inside leading to the central chambers.

It’s a remarkable feat and highlights the ingenuity of our ancestors. Just one of the reasons you should pay it a visit while you’re in Ireland.

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