If you’re considering a trip to the Emerald Isle, all types of scenic views, historic sites, and exciting attractions await.
Of course, Ireland is a country you could spend weeks exploring and only scratch the surface of what it has to offer. In order to experience as many highlights as possible, it’s important that you plan your itinerary ahead of time.
From monastic ruins and former prisons to breathtaking overlooks and impressive castles, here are 10 of the best attractions to see during your stay!
1. Behold the Cliffs of Moher
Shortly after landing in Ireland and dropping your bags off at luggage storage, you’re going to want to head directly to the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare—by far, Ireland’s most well-known attraction.
The subject of many photos, postcards, and books, these towering cliffs measure up to 702 feet high and span over five miles along the coast of western Ireland. There is no bad day to stand out on these cliffs, but on an especially clear day, you will enjoy a beautiful view of Galway Bay and the Aran Islands!
2. Kiss the Famous Stone at Blarney Castle
Southern Ireland is home to the famous Blarney Castle—an impressive fortress constructed between the 15th and 17th centuries. The castle features two towers; climb to the top of the lookout tower to enjoy an unmatched view of Blarney Village.
If you’re concerned by neither heights nor germs, extend over the parapet—with assistance, of course—to kiss the Blarney Stone. Legend says that you will have gained the gift of eloquent speech once you leave the castle!
3. Walk the Spine-Chilling Corridors of Kilmainham Gaol
For a glimpse into Ireland’s troubled history, visit Kilmainham Goal—a former prison that was restored in the 1960s and converted into a museum shortly thereafter. Since the 18th century, the jail was notorious for housing far too many common criminals.
Its darkest day occurred within weeks of 1916’s Easter Rising, however, when 14 Irish nationalist leaders were executed on site. Visit the museum to learn more about the rebellion that set the stage for the Irish War of Independence in 1919!
4. Traverse the Scenic Ring of Kerry
If you venture toward the southwest corner of Ireland, you’ll find the Iveragh Peninsula—a stunning landform that juts out over the Atlantic Ocean and provides a gorgeous view of its waters.
One of the highlights of this area is the Ring of Kerry, a 111-mile-long route that gives you a front-row seat to Ireland’s many dreamlike landscapes. From the peninsula’s sprawling mountain range and calming waterfalls to its flat meadows and quaint villages, Ring of Kerry delivers a paradisaical experience like no other!
5. Explore the Historic Campus of Trinity College
Founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I in the heart of Dublin, Trinity College is the oldest university in all of Ireland. Over the years, it has produced some of the greatest minds in Irish history—including Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, Samuel Beckett, and Laurie Winkless.
Today, it remains the highest-ranked university in Ireland. When visiting Trinity College, be sure to walk the halls of the Long Rom. Here, you will find the Book of Kells—a religious manuscript that dates back to medieval times and features the four gospels written in Latin. Otherwise, grab a coffee, wander around the college grounds, and marvel at the impressive 16th-century architecture!
6. Hike Through Killarney National Park
For a date with nature, be sure to visit Killarney National Park. Established in 1932, this park spans 41 square miles—delivering all types of exciting adventures and recreational activities for outdoor enthusiasts.
In addition to three lakes, multiple waterfalls, and many miles of trails through preserved woodlands, the park is home to Ireland’s largest and tallest mountain range, McGillycuddy’s Reeks. There are no entry fees or parking fees to enter Killarney National Park, so be sure to take advantage of this free attraction!
7. Spend a Day at the National Museum of Ireland
If you love nothing more than touring impressive exhibits, viewing ancient artifacts, and gleaning new knowledge about a foreign place, then you’re going to love the National Museum of Ireland.
What makes this attraction so unique is that it is really a collection of four museums: the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology, the National Museum of Ireland—Country Life, the National Museum of Ireland—Decorative Arts & History, and the National Museum of Ireland—Natural History. Each museum offers something unique, and you could easily dedicate an entire day to all four!
8. Explore the Monastic Ruins of Glendalough Valley
Glendalough is known as the settlement that the Christian mystic and hermit St. Kevin founded during the 6th century. Nestled in the Wicklow Mountains, this holy community was home to dozens of monastic buildings and ruins that remain to this day.
Visit one of Ireland’s mysterious round towers before walking the halls of the Cathedral—the largest of Glendalough’s seven churches. Adjacent to the Cathedral, you’ll find a cemetery where St. Kevin’s high cross is difficult to miss. Finally, stop by St. Kevin’s church, a small place of worship built in St. Kevin’s memory a few centuries after his death.
9. Take a Stroll Down Grafton Street
Dublin’s own Grafton Street is more than your average shopping district. In addition to popular cafés, pubs, and restaurants, the area is home to many different pop-up shops and entertaining street performers.
If you have the opportunity to walk Grafton Street at night, you’ll notice that the entire area sparkles from the many strings of hanging lights overhead. It is especially beautiful on a rare snowy evening in Dublin!
10. Brush Up on the History of Beer Over a Pint of Guinness
You would be remiss to visit Ireland and neglect to stop by the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin—home to Ireland’s iconic stout. Originally a fermentation plant built in 1902, this seven-story facility has since been converted into a museum and tasting center for the public to enjoy.
Grab a ticket to enjoy the history of the famous brewery told through interactive exhibits before ascending to the top floor, where you’ll be able to enjoy a pint of beer accompanied by a 360-degree view of the city at the Gravity Bar!