How to Spend the Perfect Week in Ireland!

Cliffs of Moher in County Claire

Ireland is home to some of the friendliest and wittiest people you’ll encounter. We first visited Ireland in 2011 for our six year wedding anniversary and loved Dublin so much that we moved there six months later. We spent 2 and 1/2 years working on the Emerald island, giving us the opportunity to see a lot of the country. Recently we’ve been asked by several people who are planning trips to Ireland, how they should spend a week. So we decided to break down a perfect week in Ireland!

Dublin’s Botanical Gardens are lovely on a rare sunny day.

Where to Stay in Dublin?

First you need a place to stay, and it’s a good idea to book a hotel with free cancellation in advance. Later if prices change and you find a better deal, you can easily cancel your reservation and book another one. Here are hotel and bed and breakfast recommendations for Dublin:

Luxury:

Shelbourne Hotel is Dublin’s most historic luxury hotel, as several US Presidents and many foreign dignitaries have stayed there. They have a wonderful cocktail lounge and fantastic dining options. Even if you’re not a guest, swing in for high tea and enjoy a lovely view of St. Stephen’s Green.

The Merrion Hotel is another excellent luxury choice. This 5 star hotel offers an old world luxury experience in a great location.

Mid Range:

O’Callaghan is a small chain of centrally located, comfortable hotels with good breakfasts. Trinity College often puts job applicants and guests up in these hotels. We stayed at O’Callaghan St. Stephens Green when Bell interviewed for her post doctoral position at Trinity College and highly recommend it.

Budget:

ABC House Dublin and Egans House are quintessentially Irish bed and breakfasts a little outside the center of Dublin. They both offer reasonable comfort for those that don’t want to spend a lot to sleep. We spent a week at ABC House Dublin while searching for our apartment when we first moved to Dublin. We stayed at Egans House on a visit to Ireland.

Backpacker: 

Generator Hostel is conveniently located right next to the Jameson Distillery (fun!) and is part of a reputable chain of hostels in Europe that are known for being clean and having a fun atmosphere.

Families especially will find the best deals on short term apartment rentals. If you’ve never used Airbnb, sign up here for free and receive $40 credit off your first stay!

Dublin: Days 1 & 2

The capital of Ireland is just a million people and if you only have a week, two days in Dublin are enough to see many of the highlights. For convenience, you may want to consider a hop on, hop off bus tour that will take you to many of the big attractions at your leisure. The Guinness Storehouse, next to the Guinness factory is a must for some, and this is very worthwhile for one of the best views of Dublin from the 7th floor Gravity Bar, which has a beautiful panoramic view of Dublin. We’ve previously written on our favorite pubs in Dublin for microbrews, and if you like beer, be sure to try some Irish stouts and reds that aren’t mainstream elsewhere in town.

A stroll through St. Stephen’s Green and Merrion Square parks is lovely, especially when the weather is decent. And a pub crawl in Temple Bar, is good ‘craic’ (Gaelic for “great times”). Pass on drinking Guinness in Temple Bar (a local tip) and save that for neighbourhood Irish pubs. You should also have a walk around Trinity College, conveniently located in the center of Dublin, as it’s the country’s oldest and most prestigious university, sporting a beautiful campus.

moving from Dublin to Boston

Some of the Best Attractions in Dublin:

Dublin Castle was the seat of the United Kingdom’s government until it was handed over to the Irish. You can take an hour tour to see beautiful state rooms, including the impressive room where the President of Ireland is inaugurated.

National Gallery of Ireland (free admission) is home to an impressive collection of works. Don’t miss Caravaggio’s ‘Taking of the Christ,’ it’s a compelling and very famous painting.

Chester Beatty Library (free admission) is a fantastic museum featuring one of the best private book collections in the world. There’s great exhibits on the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.

Natural History Museum (free admission) houses an impressive and extensive zoological collection that has changed little in over a century. This is a throwback that all ages can appreciate.

National Museum of Ireland- Archeology A fantastic museum with a huge collection of artefacts on pre-historic Ireland as the well as the Viking and Medieval periods.

Kilmanhaim Jail is now a museum but previously housed many Irish political prisoners who fought for the nation’s freedom. It offers an important and moving history lesson for those interested.

Kilmainham Jail, where 'In the Name of the Father' was filmed

 

Where to Eat and Drink in Dublin

Casual:

The Brazen Head is Ireland’s oldest pub dating back to 1198 and over the centuries has been frequented by Irish literary giants like James Joyce and Jonathan Swift, and the revolutionary Michael Collins, who was the leader in liberating Ireland from British rule. Brazen Head oozes centuries of history and is a great place to watch live traditional Irish music, albeit it’s a bit touristy.

O’Neill’s is a quintessentially fun Irish pub that offers a fantastic carvery, fish n’ chips, a vast beer selection and features live music nightly. In 2 and 1/2 years in Dublin, we probably ate and drank at O’Neill’s at least 10 times.

Lotts is a fun, and less tourist pub where you can try a plate of Dublin Coddle, an interesting local favorite, or the lamb shank, one of our personal favorites.

For the perfect pint of Guinness (a favorite talking point of some Irish) in another historic pub, head to O’Donoghues, which features live Irish music seven nights a week.

More Upscale:

Cafe en Seine is an impressive restaurant and bar that transforms into one of the most popular nightclubs in town at night. This is a beautiful establishment that even my 85 year old father enjoyed. Depending on the time you go, this is a place all ages can appreciate.

The Bank on College Green is a beautiful venue for cocktails and they serve excellent food. As you might guess from the name, it was previously a bank.

How to Spend the Perfect Week in Ireland

Car Rentals in Ireland

You should only rent a car when you’re ready to leave Dublin. Dublin is a small city and for most, a car will be more hassle than it’s worth within the city limits. You can walk, utilize the hop on hop off bus, catch public transport and use taxis & Uber (sign up to Uber here for free and receive $5 credit). Sites like hotwire.com are great for finding car rentals, just be advised that prices quoted are generally for stick shift vehicles (so you’ll have to do everything on the opposite side). Automatic cars aren’t very common in Ireland, and if you want one, you’ll be charged as much as €40 ($43 US) per day extra.

Half Day Trips Outside Dublin if You Don’t Want to Drive

The towns of Bray and Howth are both accessible via the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) commuter rail. You can reach the Wicklow Mountains via bus to enjoy a great view of Dublin and the surrounding coast. Glendalough is also fantastic for a day trip and Saint Kevin’s Bus can take you there to enjoy the picturesque lakes and historic medieval ruins at your leisure.

Guided Tours from Dublin

This 3 day Southern Ireland Tour including Galway and Kerry from Dublin starts at $298.67. This tour includes visits to Connemara, Galway, the Cliffs of Moher, Dingle Peninsula, Killarney and Ring of Kerry. Those are a lot of magnificent places, so after spending 2 days in Dublin, this tour would be a great idea for days 3-5.

For day 6 in Ireland, you can consider a day tour to Giant’s Causeway and Belfast in Northern Ireland. This Northern Ireland Highlights Day Trip Including Giant’s Causeway from Dublin starts at $89.26. Crossing the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge was definitely a highlight of my time in Ireland.

If you’re looking to drive and see Ireland at your leisure, and you only have a week, you may want to skip Northern Ireland for the west and southwest of the country. You can also utizilize trains and buses if you don’t want to do multi day tours or drive.

Galway & the Cliffs of Moher: Day 3

Quay Street
Pedestrian only Quay Street in Galway is one of Ireland’s best streets for eating and drinking

Galway is like a miniature version of Dublin. A coastal town with some wonderful Irish pubs and restaurants. It’s fantastic for a stroll and to spend the night before heading to the most visited place in Ireland, the dramatic Cliffs of Moher and maybe to take a cruise to the picturesque Aran Islands.

The Cliffs of Moher draws over a million visitors annually and during our time in Ireland we visited twice, once by rental car from Dublin, and the other on a guided media trip with Paddywagon tours. Depending on your comfort level with driving on the opposite side of the road, both are good options that you can read about in our previous articles. Swing by McDonagh’s in Galway (pictured below) for delicious Galway Bay oysters and other tasty seafood.

 

McDonaghs seafood

Guided Tours from Galway:

You can catch the train from Dublin to Galway (check the schedule on the Irish Rail website), then jump on some tours in Galway if you don’t want to drive a car. Consider this Cliffs of Moher Day Trip from Galway, Aran Islands and Cliffs of Moher Day Trip from Galway Including Cliffs of Moher Cruise and Shore Excursion: Cliffs of Moher, Aran Islands and the Burren from Galway. Prices for these tours start from $36 US. You may also want to consider a Galway Food and Drink Walking Tour.

Cliffs of Moher

 

Castle, County Clare, Ireland

Dingle & the Ring of Kerry: Days 4 & 5

Another great seaside Irish town on the west coast is Dingle. While County Clare is phenomenal, County Kerry also has so much breathtaking beauty along the Dingle Peninsula and nearby Ring of Kerry drive. Dingle is one of the best and most laid back Irish towns that’s perfect for relaxing in your bed and breakfast and enjoying some great local pubs and restaurants.

Keep in mind that many Irish roads, particularly on the Ring of Kerry are very narrow and some people are intimidated about driving on the left side of the road. If you’re not a confident driver you should probably book a tour so someone else does the hard part and you just enjoy the view out the window and at stops. Consider this Dingle Peninsula Tour from Dingle. and this Dolphin and Whale Watching Tour from Dingle.

County Kerry, Ireland

Dingle, Ireland boats

 

Lakes of Killarney, Cork, Copper Coast & Kilkenny Castle: Days 6 & 7

Killarney is a charming Irish town nestled between two lovely lakes. Drive here for an afternoon stroll through town, have lunch and check out beautiful Torc Waterfalls. You could spend a night either here or in Cork. Killarney is even closer to the Ring of Kerry compared to Dingle and offers more accommodation options. So if you want to do the Ring of Kerry drive, you can also base yourself in Killarney over Dingle for a couple days. You can then follow this with a stay in Cork.

Guided Tours from Killarney

Ring of Kerry Day Tour including Killarney National Park from Killarney starting at $30 US.

Killarney National Park and Lakes of Killarney Boat Tour starting at $15 US.


Cork is Ireland’s second largest city and arguably the culinary capital of the country. A must visit in Cork is the English Market, which is Ireland’s best market (strangely nothing in Dublin rivals the Cork market). Just outside Cork is another of Ireland’s most popular attractions, Blarney Castle, where you can kiss the famous Blarney Stone!

The Copper Coast is a gorgeous and unspoiled drive where you’ll barely encounter any other people. You can stop here on your way to Kilkenny (home of Kilkenny Castle, one of the best in Ireland). The Copper Coast is a hidden gem that many Irish people aren’t even aware of.

Winding road along the Copper coast in Ireland
Winding road along the Copper coast in Ireland

 

Ireland

Not everyone travels the same and people have different interests. Political buffs should visit Belfast and then visit the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland. You could substitute days 6 and 7 for the itineraries included in the articles mentioned.

Ireland is also a wonderful country for equestrian and golf aficionados. And it strikes a perfect balance for those looking for libations inside, as well as picturesque hikes and drives outside. Ireland is a great vacation for just about everyone!

 

Want to travel to Ireland for Free?

Play the credit card points game and use bonus point sign ups for free plane tickets! The most popular card among travel hackers is the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The card also includes complimentary priority pass lounge access with free food, drinks and wifi. The annual fee seems steep at $450, but it includes $300 in travel credits. The 50,000 bonus point sign up is good for $750 in travel credit, enough for a free plane ticket to Ireland! They’ll also compensate you $100 for free Global Entry and TSA pre-check to skip airport lines.

If you don’t travel very frequently, the Delta Skymiles American Express Gold Card is free the first year and just $95 each year after. They give a 40,000 point bonus after you charge just $1,000, so this is a great card. You’ll typically need around 60,000+ miles for a free flight to Ireland, but you can earn these miles with everyday purchases. There are other perks to having the Delta SkyMiles AMEX Gold Card, like free checked bags on Delta flights.

Have questions about planning your trip to Ireland? Email me at alex@wanderlustmarriage.com or call me at 857-919-9327 and I’ll be happy to assist you!

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. We receive a small commission when you book or sign up through these links and it costs you nothing extra. When it suits you, please use them, as it helps us help you! 

11 thoughts on “How to Spend the Perfect Week in Ireland!

    1. Thanks Corinne! We definitely miss Ireland sometimes! And we also miss having access to cheap Ryanair flights to see so many other beautiful places in Europe.

  1. Oh man, I am not sure I’d be satisfied after one week. I think I would need at least 4 in Ireland. I’ve always dreamt of visiting the green island and I can’t wait to see the lush and green landscape, the rugged cliffs and taste the hearty stews and the creamy beers. What’s not to love about Ireland? Maybe I should move there?!? Is that silly to say, if I’ve never even been there?

    1. Thanks for the nice comment Maria! If you can, why not spend 4 weeks in Ireland?! We’re generally advocates of slow travel ourselves, unfortunately so many Americans get very limited vacation time so it’s not an option for them. Most Americans visit Ireland for a week, and sometimes even less time. We had family visit that flew all the way across the Atlantic for just 4 days.

      And yes, if you have a chance to move to Ireland, again, why not?! We really enjoyed our time there. Happy travels! 🙂

  2. I moved to Galway 7 months ago and I couldn’t agree more with this list. I still haven’t made it to Cork, so thank you for the advice for when I do get to go!

    1. Thanks for sharing, Maydi! Galway is such a cool town. Enjoy your time there to the fullest and have a great time when you visit Cork, which is also a really fun town!

  3. What a wonderful week that would be! We were in Belfast in June of 2014 but didn’t make it to Dublin. But it is definitely in our bucket list, my husband being half Scottish and half Irish!

  4. You’ve described a wonderful week in Ireland. Ireland is so full of beautiful places and the most wonderful food. I really enjoyed your photos took me right back there.

Have something to share?