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!
Where to Sleep
First you need a place to stay, and you’ll typically find the best hotel deals on booking.com. Families especially will find the best deals on short term apartment rentals. If you’ve never used Airbnb, sign up here and receive $40 credit off your first stay! Here are hotel, B&B & hostel recommendations:
Shelbourne Hotel is Dublin’s most historic upscale hotel, as several US Presidents and many foreign dignitaries have stayed there. They have a nice cocktail lounge, cafe and restaurant. In the afternoon you can swing in for high tea and enjoy a lovely view of St. Stephen’s Green.
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 the O’Callaghan Alexander when Bell interviewed for her post doc at Trinity College.
ABC House Dublin and Egans House are 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 while searching for our apartment when we first moved to Dublin.
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 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 of course, great ‘craic’ (Irish for “great times”), just skip 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.
6 of the Very 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.
Where to Eat and Drink
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.
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.
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 utilize taxis & Uber (sign up here for free and receive $20 credit). Sites like momondo.com and 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 may 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.
Galway & the Cliffs of Moher: Day 3
Galway is like a miniature version of Dublin with fewer museums, containing some wonderfully authentic Irish pubs and eateries. 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. 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 press 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!
Dingle & the ‘Ring of Kerry’: Days 4 & 5
At this point, you may want to slow down a little bit to enjoy your vacation and the lovely town of Dingle is the perfect place to base yourself. While County Clare is phenomenal, County Kerry also has so much breathtaking beauty to take in on the ‘Ring of Kerry’ drive and more. And the town of Dingle is one of the best and most laid back Irish towns that’s perfect for unwinding when you return from exploring the seaside and countryside of County Kerry.
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.
Lakes of Killarney, Cork, Copper Coast & Kilkenny Castle: Days 6 & 7
Killarney is a lovely Irish town that rests between two beautiful lakes. Drive here for an afternoon stroll and explore the lakes and beautiful waterfalls nearby. You could spend a night either here or in Cork.
Cork is Ireland’s second largest city and arguably the culinary capital of the country. A must visit in Cork is the English Market, where you’ll find a wealth of treats to buy in 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. It’s a hidden gem that many Irish people aren’t even aware of.
Of course, 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 previous posts.
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 makes for a great vacation for just about everyone!
Especially during the busy summer months, you’ll typically find the best value booking private apartments and houses on Airbnb. If you’ve never used the service, sign up here for free and receive $40 of credit off your first stay over $75! You can also contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 857-919-9327 and I’ll help you plan the perfect Ireland vacation!