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!
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:
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.
The Kilronan House is a family run, award winning B&B in Dublin’s picturesque Georgian Quarter. Grafton Street and St. Stephen’s Green are less than a 5 minute walk away. Trinity College and Dublin Castle are within a 15 minute walk from the house. Free parking is provided. This is one of Dublin’s best bed & breakfasts for a romantic getaway.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Where to Eat and Drink in Dublin
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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Have questions about planning your trip to Ireland? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below and we can assist you!
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