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 eight months later. We spent 2 and 1/2 years working on the Emerald island, giving us the opportunity to experience 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 to visit on a 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 5 star luxury hotel, as several US Presidents and many foreign dignitaries have stayed there. The hotel is a 5 minutes walk from many of Dublin’s famous attractions, like Trinity College, Grafton Street, National Gallery, National Library and National Museum. They have a wonderful cocktail lounge and great 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 a 5 star hotel furnished with Georgian decor and Italian marble bathrooms. Awarded 2 Michelin stars, Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud serves gourmet French influenced cuisine overlooking the gardens. The hotel also has an infinity pool and spa. Rooms feature city or garden views.

Mid Range:

The Kilronan House is a family run, award winning B&B in Dublin’s picturesque Georgian Quarter that offers good value. Grafton Street and St. Stephen’s Green are a 5 minute walk away. Trinity College and Dublin Castle are within a 15 minute walk from the house. Free parking is provided. The rooms are a little dated but the included breakfasts in their beautiful dining room are wonderful.

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 in quiet neighborhoods in the north 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.

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!

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.

Dublin: Days 1 & 2

The capital of Ireland is home to a million people and is small in comparison to most capital cities. 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 major 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 their 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. 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 if you’re traveling from the US or Canada). 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. You may also want to consider visiting the picturesque Aran Islands from Galway too. Swing by McDonagh’s in Galway (pictured below) for delicious Galway Bay oysters and other tasty seafood.

McDonaghs seafood

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.

 

While not in Galway, luxury travelers and those visiting Ireland for a honeymoon or anniversary should consider staying at Dromoland Castle. This was the ancestral home of the Dromoland O’Briens, whose lineage goes back 1,000 years to Brian Boru, the only High King of Ireland. This is a stay fit for royals, with great on site dining options. It’s close to everything County Clare and County Limerick have to offer too.

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. Also 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 views 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 Cork’s central market). Just outside Cork is another of Ireland’s most popular attractions, Blarney Castle, where you can kiss the famous Blarney Stone! But to be perfectly honest, we never kissed the Blarney Stone ourselves.

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

 

perfect week in Ireland
Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary. It dates to the 12th century.

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 our articles mentioned here.

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. So it’s a great vacation for nearly everyone!

Want to travel to Ireland for Free?

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The Chase Sapphire Preferred has no annual fee the first year and offers 50,000 bonus points at sign up (after you charge $4,000 in 3 months on regular purchases). 50,000 bonus points on Chase rewards is worth about $750 in travel credit. There are no blackouts on flights, meaning that if there are seats you can use your bonus points, and often even earn airline miles with the free flight this way too! The Chase system is easy to use to cash in the points for free flights and hotels around the world.

The Delta Skymiles American Express Gold Card also has no annual fee the first year. They’re currently giving a 60,000 mile sign up bonus which is enough for a free flight to Ireland! You’ll typically need around 25,000+ miles for free domestic flights. Often for 35,000 miles you can score a free flight to the Caribbean or Central America. There are other perks to having the Delta SkyMiles AMEX Gold Card, like free checked bags when you pay with the card for Delta flights.

Have questions about planning your trip to Ireland? Email me at alex@wanderlustmarriage.com or leave a comment below and we can assist you!

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

18 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.

  5. I just found this post and its been the most helpful so far! I am planning a honeymoon and it is a 7 night stay in ireland with the first two nights in dublin and then i have to plan the rest. My only drawback is i dont want to feel like i am driving our entire trip… i don’t know if we would fully enjoy it. So with that said what places to visit would you consider a must. Thanks in advance

    1. Hi Madison. Thanks so much for your comment and compliment! 😀

      The Cliffs of Moher are Ireland’s most visited attraction so that’s a must for most. As for everything else, it depends what your interests are. If you enjoy bigger towns and a good food scene for example you should visit Cork as the town has a great food scene. But if you prefer nature, skip Cork in favor of a coastal drive in County Clare and/or County Kerry. What’s your ideal vacation look like?

      1. Hey thanks for the quick reply! We love a mix and very easy to please. I think were going to do the East and West coast and possibly skip the south end (Cork) unless you believe there is a must see there as well. I know it wont be the same driving over there as in the states that we are familiar with because it will be all new sights so it shouldn’t seem like a long drive but still don’t want to drive all over. Its for a honeymoon as well so if there are any spots you believe are great for that setting im all ears! And again thank you for your input!

        1. You’re welcome, Madison. Wonderful this will be for your honeymoon! Congratulations on your upcoming wedding!

          I wouldn’t say Cork is a must even though for many kissing the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle is. Kilkenny Castle is much more well preserved than Blarney Castle and I’d recommend that instead. Drive south of Dublin along the east coast and visit the lakes and monastic ruins at Glendalough. Consider staying at the Tinakilly Manor House in Wicklow, which is lovely and historic. We stayed there for our 7 year wedding anniversary and loved the history there. The mansion previously belonged to Robert Halpin, who laid down the first telegraph cables connecting Europe and North America (Ireland to New Foundland). This is an old article on our stay there but the property continues to get good reviews: https://wanderlustmarriage.com/sleep-with-history-the-tinakilly-manor-house-in-wicklow-ireland/

          For the west coast, asides from the Cliffs of Moher and a costal drive, visit the Burren and maybe take a boat over to the nearby Aran Islands from Galway. Since it will be your honeymoon, Dromoland Castle is definitely somewhere to consider staying! Or consider basing yourself in Galway a couple nights somewhere like Park House Hotel as the pubs on Quay Street make for a fun way to celebrate the occasion 🙂

  6. Perfect!!! Awesome information, thats exactly what were looking for! So im planning on paying for a vacation package for flight and stay so one that i was looking at was two nights in dublin and 5 nights at B&B’s wherever we want. Have you used B&B’s on the island and would you recommend just paying for individual stays because we do want to stay at some of the castles but the packages dont really give you that option. Sorry for all the questions but your helping tremendously haha

    1. Glad this helps, Madison! I would definitely consider doing separate bookings since the packages you’re looking at don’t include castles and you want to stay in them. Yeah, there are some nice B&B’s in Ireland and it’s a cool experience to stay in them too. Chain hotels like Marriott, Hilton, etc are pretty similar worldwide, so they can take a little away from the cultural experience of travel. Lough Rynn Castle is another great castle hotel. Email me at alex@wanderlustmarriage.com and I can assist more with separate bookings if you’d like 😀

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