If you're planning a trip to Ireland, you'll find there is no shortage of amazing sights to see while you're there. From the stunning Cliffs of Moher to the dizzying experience of kissing the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle, there are plenty of must-see attractions to put on your itinerary.
Ten Amazing Places to Visit in Ireland
1. St. Patrick's Cathedral
If you're starting your trip in Dublin, take a couple of hours to tour St. Patrick's Cathedral. This stunning archeological treasure was built in 1220 and is the official National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland. It is a gorgeous example of Gothic architecture and is the burial site of many notable Irish citizens.
Since St. Patrick's Cathedral is a fully functional place of worship, sightseeing visits and tours must work around official worship times. You can see the building almost any day, but it's a good idea to check the schedule of opening times before you visit. You can attend worship at the cathedral for free, but adults will need to pay a fee (six Euros) to tour the building as visitors.
2. National Botanic Gardens
Plant and flower lovers will enjoy the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin. Established in 1795, the gardens contain some amazingly beautiful glasshouses built in the mid-1800s. The mission of the gardens is to further interest in the study and conservation of plants, and you'll see many beautiful examples during your visit.
The National Botanic Gardens are open every day year-round, except for Christmas Day. In the summer, the gardens are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. During the winter, the garden opens at the same times but closes at 4:30 p.m. every day. It's free to enter the garden, but you'll have to pay one to two Euro per hour for parking.
3. National Museum of Ireland
While you're in Dublin, spend an afternoon at the National Museum of Ireland. There's something here for everyone, but the archeological exhibits are especially fascinating. With more than two million artifacts spanning the prehistoric period through the Middle Ages, this is a great place to learn about the history of the Emerald Isle. You'll see notable items like the Tara brooch, an elaborate piece of jewelry made in the eighth century.
The National Museum of Ireland is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday afternoons from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed on Mondays and major holidays. It's important to note that the museum has three locations in Dublin and another in County Mayo, so it's advisable to look at the location overview when planning your visit. Admission to all locations is free.
4. Guinness Storehouse
If you're a fan of Irish stout beer, you've likely enjoyed your fair share of Guinness. If you want to see how this iconic Irish beverage is made, sample some Guinness directly from the source, and purchase a plethora of Guinness-themed merchandise, stop by the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. Start you visit in the atrium, which is shaped like a gigantic pint glass. From there, take a tour with a master brewer and learn about the ingredients and processes that produce Guinness stout. Eat at the Brewers Dining Hall, where many dishes feature Guinness as an ingredient, and then have a pint at the GRAVITY Bar while overlooking the city.
Tickets for the Guinness Storehouse cost 18 Euro for each adult, but you can get a 10% discount by booking online. The price of your ticket includes a pint of Guinness stout or soft drink for those under age 18. The Guinness Storehouse is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week, except for major holidays. In the summer, it stays open until 7 p.m.
5. Cliffs of Moher
For a glimpse of Ireland's stunning natural beauty, be sure to visit the Cliffs of Moher. Reaching up to 702 feet above the sea, the dramatic cliffs are the most popular natural tourist attraction in Ireland. Located in Country Clare, the Cliffs of Moher offer something for everyone. You can take in the jaw-dropping scenery from one of three viewing platforms, take a nature walk along the top of the cliffs, go bird watching, or take a guided tour of the area.
Guided tours are not available during the busy summer months, and they cost about 45 Euro for up to 15 people. You'll need to pre-book a guided tour for your group at least a week in advance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. If you don't want to take a tour or are visiting in the summer, you can purchase admission to cliffs and visitor center for six Euro per adult. The Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience opens at 9 a.m. every day, except for major holidays. Closing time depends on the season, so it's a good idea to check the schedule.
6. Bunratty Castle
While you're in County Clare seeing the Cliffs of Moher, take some time to visit Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. As the most complete example of an Irish medieval fortress, these attractions offer an authentic glimpse at the history of the Emerald Isle. The castle is furnished with period pieces and tapestries, and the folk park offers visitors a chance to experience Irish country life.
Bunratty Castle and Folk Park are open year-round, except for the Christmas holidays. They are open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day, and admission costs ten Euro for adults when you book online.
To get a sense for the truly ancient culture of the Emerald Isle, spend an afternoon exploring Newgrange. This prehistoric site dates back to 3,200 BC, and it's a marvel of engineering and artistry. The site features a huge, round tomb surrounded by standing stones. The tomb is topped with stone weighing more than 200,000 tons and features a long passageway and a central chamber. The entrance stone on the outside of the tomb is carved in elaborate spirals and other beautiful designs.
To visit the site, you'll need to go to the Bru na Boinne Visitor Center in Donere, County Meath. From the visitor center, you'll take a bus to the actual site. Admission is three Euro, and the site is open almost every day of the year. The hours of the center vary quite a bit depending on the day of the week and time of year, so it's wise to check the website before planning your visit.
8. Blarney Castle
While you're in Ireland, you can't miss the chance to visit the famed Blarney Castle and kiss the Blarney Stone. Located in Blarney Village, County Cork, this castle is an almost 600-year-old ruin that offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside and town. Beyond the majesty of the castle itself, the Blarney Stone makes attraction this a popular destination. Kissing this hard-to-reach stone is said to give you the "gift of gab," or the ability to express yourself with eloquence. To kiss it, you'll need to climb to the top of the castle and lean backwards into a crevice. A hand-hold and the help of a guide make the experience slightly less terrifying.
Blarney Castle opens every day at 9 a.m. and is open until at least until sundown every day. If you're planning your visit for later in the day, it's a good idea to check out the opening and closing times for your specific date. Admission is 13 Euro for adults.
9. Hill of Tara
Said to be the seat of the "High King of Ireland," the Hill of Tara is an archeological wonder in County Meath. The iconic coronation stone is the place where 142 Irish kings supposedly first donned their crowns. Although many modern historians see the site as primarily symbolic rather than a literal coronation spot, the 100-acre park is an amazing example of Celtic architecture and history.
You can visit the Hill of Tara from the middle of May through the middle of September. During that period, it is open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free. Guided tours are available upon request.
10. Connemara National Park
To see some of Ireland's natural beauty, visit Connemara National Park. Located in County Galway, this park offers almost 3,000 hectares of majestic mountains, spectacular lakes and bogs, and much more. You can learn about the region through an audio-visual presentation, hike the trails to see wildlife and unique geological formations, or give the kids a chance to stretch their legs on the playground.
Admission to the park is free, and it is open all year. The visitor center hours depend on the season, so it's a good idea to check the website before planning your trip.
A Vacation to Remember
Whether you're interested in natural wonders or prehistoric archeology, there's something for you to see on the Emerald Isle. Planning your trip to include a few of these highlights will help ensure your vacation is one you'll remember for many years to come.