Best Places to Visit in Ireland

Ireland's rich culture, enchanting green landscapes and friendly locals are just a few reasons why so many travelers make the journey to this island country. But with so many cities, charming small towns and countryside wonders to choose from, it may be hard to decide exactly what should be on your itinerary. U.S. News took into account sights, adventure, food and culture, plus expert opinions and traveler sentiment, to determine the best places to visit in Ireland. If you want to have a say in next year's list, be sure to vote below. (Note: Some of the below destinations may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Check with the CDC and the U.S. Department of State before traveling.)

SUMMARY

Best Places to Visit in Ireland

  • Dublin
  • Galway
  • Killarney
  • Cork
  • Aran Islands
  • Kilkenny
  • Limerick
  • Cliffs of Moher
  • Iveragh Peninsula
  • Connemara National Park
  • Wicklow Mountains
  • Dingle Peninsula
  • Westport
  • Waterford
  • Tralee
  • Inishowen Peninsula
  • Cobh
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    Dublin

    #1 in Best Places to Visit in Ireland

    If you only have time to visit one place in Ireland, go to Dublin. Not only is Dublin the country's hub for politics, culture and music, but it also offers easy access to Blarney Castle, one of Ireland's top points of interest. While here, do as the Irish do and savor some brews either at the popular Guinness Storehouse or at the always exuberant Temple Bar.

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    Galway

    #2 in Best Places to Visit in Ireland

    Galway offers the best of both worlds for travelers. City slickers can revel in Galway's relatively light but palpable bustle, while outdoor lovers can venture outside the city to see many natural attractions, including the Salthill Promenade and Wild Atlantic Way, a scenic route that runs right through Galway. If you prefer to stay local, stroll through the lively Latin Quarter, then check out historical attractions like the Spanish Arch and St. Nicholas' Collegiate Church.

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    Killarney

    #3 in Best Places to Visit in Ireland

    For the quintessential Irish countryside experience, travel to Killarney. The town is surrounded by evergreen hills and valley on all sides, affording plenty of opportunities to become one with nature. Visitors gravitate toward Killarney National Park, which features Ireland's highest mountain range, MacGillycuddy's Reeks. If you aren't much of a hiker, you can still enjoy the scenic lakes or visit one of Killarney's centuries-old churches or castles.

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    Cork

    #4 in Best Places to Visit in Ireland

    After Dublin, Cork is Ireland's largest city. Located at the southern end of the country, this city of more than 200,000 residents is famous for being home to the Blarney Stone. According to local legend, the stone will grant you the gift of eloquence, if you dare kiss it. Cork is also where you'll find 18th- and 19th-century churches, the Cork City Gaol (a former prison converted into a museum) and lush Fitzgerald Park, among other noteworthy attractions.

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    Aran Islands

    #5 in Best Places to Visit in Ireland

    Travelers keen on getting a taste of what old Ireland looked and felt like should consider visiting the Aran Islands. Accessible by ferry or plane from Rossaveal and Doolin on Ireland's western coast, the Aran Islands feature important historical sites and lots of untouched landscapes. Plus, Irish is widely spoken, providing an authentic cultural experience. Though all three islands offer noteworthy sights, plan on spending the bulk of your time on Inis Mór, where UNESCO World Heritage-listed Dún Aonghasa is located.

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    Kilkenny

    #6 in Best Places to Visit in Ireland

    Kilkenny offers a hearty amount of historical attractions for travelers to explore. This is largely thanks to the town's prior distinction of being the medieval capital of Ireland, which today lives on in the Medieval Mile, Kilkenny's top attraction. Within the Medieval Mile you'll find several interesting sights, such as Kilkenny Castle, St. Canice's Cathedral and the Medieval Mile Museum. This historic part of town is also home to the Smithwick's Experience, where you can learn more about how one of Ireland's most popular ales is brewed.

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    Limerick

    #7 in Best Places to Visit in Ireland

    Dubbed the first Irish City of Culture, Limerick boasts plenty to do for its residents and visitors. King John's Castle and St. Mary's Cathedral are both lauded for their striking architecture, while the Hunt Museum and the Limerick City Gallery of Art offer enviable art collections. There are also pretty parks to peruse, including the People's Park and – if you're willing to drive 12 miles southwest of the city – Curraghchase Forest Park.

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    Cliffs of Moher

    #8 in Best Places to Visit in Ireland

    The Cliffs of Moher are Ireland's most popular tourist attraction, welcoming more than 1 million visitors each year. In fact, the cliffs are so popular that cities situated more than 100 miles away often offer daylong tours to the attraction. Once you lay eyes on this sight, you'll understand why so many people travel hours to gaze at it. Measuring 5 miles long and more than 700 feet tall, the cliffs provide breathtaking views of Galway Bay, parts of Connemara National Park and the Aran Islands on a clear day.

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    Iveragh Peninsula

    #9 in Best Places to Visit in Ireland

    This peninsula in County Kerry is best known for featuring the world-famous Ring of Kerry, a scenic drive that circles around the entire peninsula. Along the way, visitors will enjoy truly spectacular scenery both on the coast and inland. Can't-miss stops include Ladies View, Rossbeigh Strand, Derrynane beach and the Gap of Dunloe. Travelers should also save time for visiting some of the peninsula's picturesque small towns and castles, which are both developed and abandoned.

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    Connemara National Park

    #10 in Best Places to Visit in Ireland

    Expect awe-inspiring scenery everywhere you turn when you visit this 5,000-acre national park during the warmer months. Connemara National Park is home to four mountain ranges, plus woodlands, grasslands, heaths (wild, undeveloped flatlands) and bogs (wetlands) that you can explore via one of several trails. To get a good overview of the park's diverse scenery, hike the Diamond Hill paths, the Cong and Clonbur Forest Trail and the Killary Harbour Coastal Walk. The latter is where you'll find Ireland's only fjord.

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    Wicklow Mountains

    #11 in Best Places to Visit in Ireland

    The Wicklow Mountains are a convenient outdoor escape for many travelers thanks to their location about 30 miles southwest of Dublin. Occupying a national park of the same name, the Wicklow Mountains offer countless sights and activities for visitors to enjoy. Start by exploring the mountain range's evergreen heaths, bogs, peaks, cliffs, valleys and forests via popular hikes like the Bray Head Cliff Walk and the Wicklow Way. Then, check out Glendalough, which features beautiful landscapes, as well as historical ruins.

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    Dingle Peninsula

    #12 in Best Places to Visit in Ireland

    Located along the country's famous Wild Atlantic Way, the Dingle Peninsula consistently stuns with its otherworldly scenery (think: evergreen cliffs, craggy coastlines and vibrant blue waters). Begin your journey by driving along Slea Head Drive, a scenic route known for its photo-worthy vistas. If you'd rather see the peninsula on foot, head down the Dingle Way, a network of trails that spans the entire peninsula. Or, take a ferry to the Blasket Islands to explore jaw-dropping cliffs, look for wildlife like sheep and dolphins, and visit pristine beaches without rubbing elbows with other tourists.

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    Westport

    #13 in Best Places to Visit in Ireland

    Westport features a darling small-town atmosphere that will make you instantly feel like you're enjoying an authentic Irish experience. The town, which sits approximately 50 miles northwest of Galway, exudes old-world charm. Here, you can check out downtown's clock tower, walk across the old stone bridges connecting the Carrowbeg River's tree-lined banks and admire the multicolored buildings situated throughout town. No visit would be complete without spending some time at nearby natural wonders like Croagh Patrick, the Céide Fields and Clare Island.

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    Waterford

    #14 in Best Places to Visit in Ireland

    Head to this small seaport on Ireland's southeastern coast to catch a glimpse of the country's oldest city. Waterford is full of history, and its attractions reflect that. History buffs can learn more about the city's Viking roots at Waterford Treasures' Medieval Museum, Reginald's Tower and Bishop's Palace facilities. Or, they can take a tour of the 18th-century House of Waterford Crystal factory to see how the city's world-renowned crystal is made. For travelers who need a break from Waterford's rich history, there's the Waterford Greenway, a nearly 30-mile-long walking and bike path.

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    Tralee

    #15 in Best Places to Visit in Ireland

    Base yourself in Tralee if seeing the Wild Atlantic Way and the Ring of Kerry are two of your Ireland must-dos. In addition to sitting close to these two top scenic routes, the town is home to several noteworthy attractions, including the Kerry County Museum (a local history museum), Tralee Town Park (one of Ireland's largest urban parks) and Ardfert Cathedral (a historical property with medieval and Romanesque features). What's more, Tralee is where you'll find the Tralee Bay Wetlands Centre, a wildlife haven with opportunities for everything from canoeing to fishing to water zorbing.

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    Inishowen Peninsula

    #16 in Best Places to Visit in Ireland

    Situated just northwest of Ireland's border with Northern Ireland, the Inishowen Peninsula is the country's largest peninsula. Its remote location 170 miles northwest of Dublin plus its otherworldly scenery create a peaceful setting you won't find in Ireland's more tourist-heavy peninsulas. Must-see natural wonders here include Malin Head, Trawbreaga Bay and the Gap of Mamore. If you've always dreamed of seeing the northern lights, be sure to visit in winter when the aurora borealis' beautiful hues are visible throughout the peninsula.

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    Cobh

    #17 in Best Places to Visit in Ireland

    Those who plan on visiting Cork should save time for a daytrip to Cobh. This charming small town, which sits on an island in Cork Harbor, is known for its past as both a major departure point for Irish emigrating to the U.S. and as the last port of call for the Titanic. Travelers who want to learn more about these key roles in Cobh's history can visit the Cobh Heritage Centre and Titanic Experience Cobh. Before leaving, take a stroll around town to admire Cobh's striking Victorian-era architecture and brightly colored storefronts and homes.

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