Things to Do in Ireland

Ireland is known to many as the Emerald Isle, mostly because it’s very green thanks to its temperate, yet rainy climate.

a castle things to do in Ireland
The Rock of Cashel. Photo: Tourism Ireland.

But it’s also a country with a rich history, beautiful landscapes, vibrant cities, and of course friendly people.

Here are some of the best things to do in Ireland.

Explore Dublin

Some tourists aren’t keen on visiting cities like Dublin and prefer to explore the Irish countryside instead, but there’s a lot to see in Ireland’s capital.

Some of the main attractions include the Book of Kells, which is currently on display in the Old Library but will be moved to the nearby Trinity College Printing House some time in 2025 as conservation works continues in the library; the Guinness Storehouse, EPIC The Emigration Museum, the cities many whiskey distilleries, and Kilmainham Gaol/Jail.

The Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. Photo: Tara Morgan for Failte Ireland.

No visit to Dublin is complete without spending some time in a traditional Dublin pub.

While the Temple Bar section of the city is the most popular among tourists, there are other, less well-known pubs that offer a true taste of the Dublin hospitality and culture.

McNeills Pub in Dublin. Photo: William Murphy, https://www.flickr.com/photos/infomatique/. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

They include McNeill’s on Capel Street ­— founded in 1834 as a traditional Irish music instruments shop — only to evolve later as a pub and offering sessions from Wednesday through Saturday, the Cobblestone, which offers music nightly, as well as O’Donoghues on Merrion Road, with sessions from 8 p.m. every night.

For a taste of traditional Irish food in Ireland’s capital, head to Gallagher’s Boxty House.

 

Experience the Wild Atlantic Way

Most tourists who attempt Europe’s longest coastal route won’t see it all at one time, at least not in a leisurely fashion, but there are sections of it that are worth exploring.

Ross Castle is on the Ring of Kerry. Photo: Tourism Ireland.

The circular Ring of Kerry looped drive has been a popular destination for years.

It takes about 3-4 hours to complete and long the way, visitors to this area will get breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, lakes and more.

Parts of the Ring can also be accessed on foot or on a bike, and the ideal place to do that is by going through Killarney National Park, which intersects with the Ring between Ladies View and Moll’s Gap.

Muckross House and Gardens in County Kerry. Photo: Chris Hill, Tourism Ireland.

Hike or cycle through this beautiful national park in County Kerry, home to lakes, mountains, woodlands, and historic sites like Muckross House.

The Dingle Peninsula, also in County Kerry, is another popular attraction along the Wild Atlantic Way.

Many visitors are charmed by the region’s picturesque villages, sandy beaches, and stunning vistas.

colorful houses things to do in Ireland
The town of Dingle. Photo: espiegle, Getty Images Signature.

The town of Dingle is particularly popular, given its variety of great restaurants, accommodation and access to dolphin and whale watching tours.

Of course, there’s more to the Wild Atlantic Way, and for visitors who want to explore other, less-touristed areas of the country, it’s a good idea to start the journey at Malin Head in County Donegal and take in that region’s beautiful landscape.

The Cliffs of Moher are a popular destination along The Wild Atlantic Way. Photo: pawopa3336.

Another popular spot along the route is the Cliffs of Moher, but there are other cliffs to see on the Wild Atlantic Way that are equally as awesome, including the Slieve League Cliffs in Donegal and the Croaghaun Cliffs on Achill Island in County Mayo.

There are several activities that can be done along different sections of the route, including hiking, cycling, fishing, surfing, kayaking and golfing.

Of course, you can experience these same activities in other parts of Ireland, too.

Explore Northern Ireland

The Giant's Causeway is one of the popular attractions in Northern Ireland, with its unusual hexagonal basalt columns formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago.

Visitors who decide to cross the seamless border from the Republic of Ireland, will want to visit Belfast, Derry, and a host of other sites along what is known as the Coastal Causeway.


In addition to seeing the famous UNESCO World Heritage Site, other nearby attractions that visitors should see include the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, the Bushmills Whiskey Distillery, Dunluce Castle as well as a number of other attractions that Game of Thrones fans might want to stop by, including the new Game of Thrones studio in County Down.

The Aran Islands

Visitors can take a ferry from either Galway City or Rossaveal in Connemara to explore the rugged islands off the coast of County Galway, known for its traditional Irish culture and stunning landscapes.

Most people visit Inishmore, the largest of the islands and can then explore by bicycle, pony and trap, or take a private tour.

Pony and Trap Ride Aran Islands
Enjoy a pony and trap ride around Inishmore, the largest island of the Aran Islands. Photo: Lukasz Warzecha, Failte Ireland/Tourism Ireland.

Inisheer and Inishmaan are also worth visiting.

Passengers willing to visit the two smaller islands, including Inisheer (or Inis Oírr, its Gaelic name) can get a ferry from Rossaveal (a year-round service) or from Doolin, which is seasonal.

To truly experience the Aran Islands, it’s best to stay overnight.

The Doolin Ferry Company operates several ferries to all the islands, even stopping at the Cliffs of Moher so that visitors can get a special look at the popular attraction from the water.

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Experience Traditional Irish Music in Ireland’s Charming Pubs

Many visitors to Ireland are eager to experience a traditional music session in an Irish pub.

A traditional Irish session at McDermotts Pub, Doolin. Photo: Tim Thompson for Tourism Ireland.

And there are many places to do that, from traditional pubs in Dublin to the popular pubs in Doolin, County Clare, as well as lively sessions in Galway City.

Some visitors who are musicians themselves have been known to join in on a session or two.

See Ireland’s Castles and Other Heritage Attractions

It goes without saying that Ireland has its fair share of castles, some that serve as excellent accommodation as well.

a castle things to do in Ireland
Blarney Castle in County Cork. Photo: Pixabay.

Some of the more popular ones include Blarney Castle, Bunratty Castle, Dublin Castle and Kilkenny Castle.

There are many abbeys and ancient ruins to explore as well.

Popular ones include Kylemore Abbey, the Rock of Cashel, Cahir Castle, as well as the Glendalough and Clonmacnoise monastic sites, to name a few.

Savor the Irish Food and Drink

The culinary offerings in Ireland have improved immensely over the past decade or so. Food is fresh and wholesome and is often locally sourced.

Visitors are encouraged to sample traditional Irish cuisine like Irish stew, seafood chowder, and soda bread, and of course, a pint of Guinness or an Irish whiskey.

The Tullamore Dew Visitor Centre. Photo: Justin Ronan – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74386768.

For whiskey lovers, there are many distilleries scattered throughout the country.

At last count, there were at least 40 of them on the island of Ireland.

Many of them also offer tours, which typically include tastings.

The most popular ones include Jameson’s Distillery in Dublin and Midleton, Cork; Tullamore D.E.W. in County Offaly and Bushmills Distillery in Bushmills, County Antrim.

Attend a Festival or Other Cultural Event

There are festivals and other cultural events going on around Ireland throughout the year, with many of them being held during the summer months.

St. Patricks Day Parade 2
The colorful St. Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin, one of the events that is part of the 3-day St. Patrick's Festival in the city. Photo: Tourism Ireland.

The biggest of them all is the St. Patrick’s Day Festival in Dublin, a weeklong celebration of Ireland’s patron saint.

Halloween is another major holiday in Ireland, with several towns and cities putting on large events.

Derry and Galway are among the most popular.

These are just a few of the many great things to do in Ireland that visitors will appreciate, whether they’re interested in history, nature, culture, or simply enjoying a bit of craic (fun).