Oh, man! I seriously love traveling. Mix the gorgeous scenery of Ireland in with my love of adventure and you’ve formed a serious addiction for me!
I’ve been to Ireland three times now, and each time I feel at home straight-away.
The people of Ireland are so friendly, funny, caring, and simply an enjoyable bunch. Ireland has such a deep, rich, tragic, and historical history that there is easily a plethora of sights to see to keep everyone entertained. So what are some of my favorite things to do/see/eat etc in the gorgeous Emerald Isle? I am by no means an Ireland native who knows every quaint place and is loaded with recommendations, I do have a few to share! Here is my list of musts for Ireland.
(Note: I always use Dublin as a home base, so all of my recommendations will be from Dublin.)
Where To Stay
If you’re a youthful adventurer, I love staying at Isaac’s Hostel.
This quaint little hostel is perfectly located a short walk to O’Connell Street, and just a short walk to all the major Dublin sights. Isaac’s Hostel oozes character! It’s a quirky little gem, with a café attached, and an underground area perfect for hanging out and meeting new friends. I’ve stayed here twice and have enjoyed it thoroughly both times. The staff is also some of the friendliest I have come across in all my traveling, and they are always eager to call an airport shuttle for you, schedule a tour, or simply give directions or recommendations.
If you are wanting something a bit more private, I recommend searching AirBnB or VRBO for a place to call home.
I love being able to narrow down my search by neighborhood, price, size, whether I want a private room or an entire house, host’s rating, and whether it is pet-friendly.
Last time in Dublin, we rented a flat centrally located, overlooking Saint Peter’s Cathedral with a view of the stunning Wicklow Mountains. It was nearly impossible to leave my balcony!
Tours To Enjoy
I have enjoyed several tours around Ireland and found most of them through Viator. I highly recommend taking a look at all the tours available! There are so many incredible tours available!
Over The Top Tours
The Celtic Experience
Way back in 2007, I was studying abroad and our first option for extra travel arose. I had no idea where to go, so when my friends threw the option of Dublin out there, I was onboard and came along. I was such a newb to travel! My friends booked everything and I just sat back being that person. We ended up booking a tour which would only ever be known to us as “The Mystery Tour”.
After much Googling, “The Mystery Tour” was actually the Celtic Experience.
Over The Top Tours also offers a Mystery Tour, however, I am fairly certain that we just ended up using the Mystery Bus that day for some reason because everything listed on the Celtic Experience tour is what we did that day.
It was an amazing day full of exploring ruins, Celtic myths, and exploration. It was also the day I realized how amazing tours are.
Our Tour Included Sites I would have never known to explore.
PS: I Love You is hands down one of my favorite movies, so of course I would want to do the tour through the Wicklow Mountains, where Gerry and Holly first meet, and the Wicklow Way tour promised just that, weather permitting.
As our luck would have it, some of the higher mountain roads we would need to drive to see the filming locations were iced over, however, our tour guide was sure to not disappoint.
Our tour continued as promised, showing us every place we could manage to get to. In lieu of seeing the filming locations, however, he instead took our large bus through a tiny neighborhood and showed us where Bono from U2 lives, and then around the corner to Enya’s castle. It was an amazing detour which none of us were expecting and definitely provided a fun twist on our tour day.
Included on this tour are Sally Gap, Glendalough, and Sandy Cove.
If you have Pinterest, you have surely drooled over the idea of visiting the locations on this tour before! Without a doubt, you have come across the photos of a precariously terrifying looking rope bridge hanging between two cliffs, or images of a gorgeous hexagonal oceanside landscape.
These lovely places are called Carrick-A-Rede Bridge and the Giant’s Causeway. I would feel terrible not forewarning you, there is a lot of walking on this tour! When the bus parks at Carrick-A-Rede, you have a long, hilly walk to the bridge. If I remember correctly, I would estimate it to be about a mile. Additionally, at the Giant’s Causeway, you should expect about a mile as well, however, they also have a shuttle available for a small fee.
I am also a huge fan of Leonardo DiCaprio, so being able to go to the Titanic Museum was huge on my list! I’ve been intrigued by the Titanic since 1997 when Leo and Kate first graced the screen and hawked phlegm together, and the Titanic Museum does not disappoint.
I do feel like there is not enough time on the tour to thoroughly explore the museum and I would honestly need at least a half day there instead of just an hour or so. However, it is somewhere I thoroughly enjoyed and despite not having enough time, I am so grateful that the tour stopped there!
If you will be visiting Ireland for several days and don’t have any specific tour plans, postpone booking additional tours until after you attend your first. You are generally provided with a coupon of some sort either during your tour or via email afterward which you can apply to your next tour with that company.
I am a huge sucker for the Hop On, Hop Off city tours! They are an excellent way to explore a new town without having to worry about getting lost.
What I love about Dublin, is that the city itself is fairly small, so you reach the tour spots quickly and can see the entire city from the bus. I enjoy having the overhead narration during the tours and being able to learn about my surroundings as we go.
Some of my favorite stops on the Hop On, Hop Off tour are the Guinness Storehouse, Kilmainham Gaol, Trinity College, St Stephen’s Green.
Trinity College houses the gorgeously preserved Book of Kells, and an illuminated manuscript containing the four books of the New Testament. Ooh and ahh over the gorgeous colors and elaborate designs, then be sure to enjoy browsing the immaculate Trinity College Library, then stroll their beautiful college campus as well. They do offer guided tours around campus, however, I have not been on one before.
This is an interesting experience, even for non-drinkers, and the view from the top simply can’t be beaten! See the process Guinness uses to create their famous beer and learn more about the culture of Ireland.
Short story, my friend, and I were waiting for the tour bus to arrive at the Guinness Storehouse, and after a few minutes of standing in the drizzle, we decided just to walk to the next tour site, see the sight, and wait for the bus. As we neared the corner, we heard the bus pull up to the stop. We turned around and ran all the way down the block back to the bus, boarded, and climbed into the top deck- my favorite place to sit. The bus continued down the road, started to chug around the corner we had just run from, and as I turned my head, I saw the film set for Penny Dreadful staring Josh Hartnett. We were so close to seeing him in person! Moral of the story, don’t be afraid to walk around- you may just meet a celebrity.
Let’s be honest for a moment; this is my favorite non-art museum in the entire world. I have two words for you: Bog Bodies! If you’re easily queasy, skip this. If you’re fascinated by nature, archaeology, or crime and punishment and find that human bodies were perfectly preserved in the peat bog, then this is the stop for you!
Entrance is free!
I always love finding a quiet park in the middle of a bustling city. St. Stephen’s Green is perfectly located beside Grafton Street. After a day of browsing the shops, testing Lush’s bath bombs, and listing to buskers, head across the street to the park. Here you can do some people watching, see the statue of a relaxed Oscar Wilde, and simply escape into nature for a bit.
Entrance is free!
This is a chilling visit. Built in the late 1700’s, the jail imprisoned everyone from petty thieves, to children, to Irish Revolutionaries during the Easter Rising. It served also as the execution spot for many of its prisoners.
Want to learn more about it before you visit? I highly recommend the movie The Wind That Shakes The Barley.
Interested to see what other movies based in Ireland I love? Check out this post.
What To Eat:
My absolute favorite food in Ireland comes down to a tough tie between Shepherd’s Pie and Guinness Beef Stew. Eat these when you can and you will not regret it.
If I find myself craving American food, I head over to Eddie Rocket’s on OConnell Street.
Be sure to visit The Brazen Head for a meal or a pint- it’s the oldest pub in Dublin (dating from the 1100’s) and worth the stop for the atmosphere and the Instagram photo.
For a large variety of food options you’ll never be able to narrow down between, visit O’Neill’s Pub & Kitchen, Suffolk Street. It’s beside Trinity College, St Stephen’s Green, and Grafton Street making it an easy stop during your day.
I recommend finding a quiet neighborhood pub close to where you are staying to spend each evening in. You will start to feel at home and make acquaintances who may become lifelong friends.
I hope you have fun in Ireland and that this little guide can be helpful to you! Cheers!