Interesting Cities to Visit in Ireland


Dublin is the capital of the Republic of Ireland and the largest city on the island. The city was first settled in the 4th century, and gained its name for a monastery named "Duilblinn" that was founded in the 6th century. It also served as the arrival point for the Vikings in the 800s. Visitors will discover this rich history preserved around the city, whether it's the medieval cobbled streets, the old city walls, or the monastic towers. Dublin is not only known for its friendliness, but also its energetic art and music scene. Many famous musicians hail from Dublin, including U2, Sinéad O’Connor, and Thin Lizzy. Of course, Dublin hosts a number of festivals year-round like the annual St. Patrick's Day Festival, Dublin Pride, a gay theatre festival, and an international film festival.


Northern Ireland's capital city, Belfast is a must-visit for those looking to learn more about Ireland’s heritage and history. Belfast served as a major hub during Ireland’s Industrial Revolution with its ports and industries in the early 19th century. Belfast is known for its music scene, which gave rise to artists like Van Morrison, Snow Patrol, and Stiff Little Fingers. The city has the world’s largest Titanic visitor experience, located near the Titanic Slipways from which the Titanic was launched. For pop culture buffs, Belfast, among other locations in Northern Ireland, served as the background for many scenes in the TV series, Game of Thrones.


Cork is known as Ireland’s culinary capital. Located in the south of Ireland, Cork sits on an island surrounded on all sides by the River Lee and includes the nearby areas across the river. Visitors can’t miss Cork’s English Market, the oldest market of its kind in Europe. It even received Queen Elizabeth II’s royal seal of approval in 2011. Cork is also home to the Victorian Quarter, a historical area of the city dotted with 19th-century landmarks and buildings. Music enthusiasts can enjoy the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival, which is Ireland’s international and biggest jazz festival celebrated in venues across the city.


Blarney is a village in the wooded countryside of southern Ireland. Blarney is one of the few villages in Ireland with a true village square. Located in the center, Blarney’s Tudor-style square is lined with picturesque buildings and greenspace. Visitors can't miss the Blarney Castle, a stronghold from medieval Ireland that includes dungeons and caves. It also contains the famous Blarney Stone, which blesses those who kiss it with the "gift of the gab."


Galway is a seaside town in western Ireland, providing some of the country’s most scenic, natural landscapes filled with rugged coastline, mountain ranges, and miles of fields lined by stone walls. June-August is Galway’s high season when visitors enjoy Galway’s beaches and promenades along the Galway Harbor. The city’s strategic location made it a successful sea port for centuries, including trade with Portugal and Spain. The maze of cobbled streets that wind throughout the city are filled with colorful shops, as well as Galway’s sea port history. To take advantage of west Ireland’s natural beauty, Connemara National Park and other nature reserves are nearby.


Killarney, in southern Ireland, gave rise to Ireland’s mining industry, with the oldest copper mine in Ireland and Britain dating back nearly 4,000 years. Dramatic castles, lavish estates, and historic churches are sprinkled across Killarney’s natural landscape, like Ross Castle that stands imposingly over the scenic shores of Lough Leane. Nature and outdoor enthusiasts can’t miss Killarney, which is filled with opportunities for mountain climbing, lake kayaking, horseback riding, and even golf. Killarney National Park is home to Ireland’s only wild herd of native red deer, with routes for walking, hiking, and cycling through the ancient woodlands, lakes, and waterfalls.

Interesting Attractions to Visit in Ireland


This scenic natural site is covered in thousands of basalt columns dating back nearly 60 million years to the volcanic Tertiary Period, when Ireland was still attached to the North American continent. The naturally formed columns are made even more impressive by the rugged cliffs and Atlantic Ocean that surround the volcanic formations from all sides. Miles of walking paths and clifftop trails provide access to the coastline, featuring waterfalls and unique wildlife. Landmarks from the mythology of Giant’s Causeway can be found along the trails, including the Giant’s Boot and the Wishing Chair.


Those looking to road trip will likely have the Wild Atlantic Way Route on their list. The driving route stretches over 300 miles, or 500 km, along the western coast of Ireland, from County Donegal in the north to Cork in the south. The route crosses notable landmarks, including the towering cliffs of Sliabh Liag and Fanad Head Lighthouse in the north, as well as the Old Head of Kinsale and Mizen Head. Dramatic landscapes and views of peninsulas, islands, and marine life make this trip worthwhile.


Located in the west of Ireland, Connemara National Park offers challenging walking and hiking trails over mixed terrain of bogs, wet grasslands, and exposed bedrock in the higher elevations. Visitors planning multi-day hiking trips can camp in the park consistent with their Wild Camping Code. Less demanding park activities include picnicking, nature learning activities, and photography. The park covers an area formerly belonging to the 19th century Letterfrack Industrial School, whose buildings continue to serve as the park’s visitor center. The park also includes the school’s graveyard.


Known as the Archaeological Ensemble of the Bend of the Boyne, the Brú na Bóinne is made up of three main prehistoric sites along the north bank of the River Boyne, about 30 miles or 50 kilometers north of Dublin. The Archaeological Ensemble is Europe’s largest and most important concentration of prehistoric, megalithic art that served social, economic, religious, and burial functions. Each site, separately named Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth, includes a burial mound and passage tomb covered in petroglyphs. The Archaeological Ensemble includes additional, later monuments from the Iron Age, early Christian, and medieval periods


County Donegal marks the northernmost regions of Ireland. Visitors will most likely stay in Donegal Town, which is a gateway to the area’s natural beauty. Outdoor activities are endless, from relaxing on Donegal’s beaches, to kayaking, hiking, cycling, rock climbing, surfing and even deep-sea diving. The Donegal Islands provide opportunities to sail and island-hop to the countless beaches and natural trails that are popular with birdwatchers. In southwestern Donegal, the Sliabh Liag cliffs soar above the Atlantic Ocean below, standing higher than the more popular Cliffs of Moher. County Donegal also offers views of the Aurora Borealis Northern Lights. Malid Head, the most northern point of Ireland, is a popular destination to view the skies because of the low light pollution.


Sceilg Mhichíl, also known as Skellig Michael, is an early religious settlement sitting on a pyramidal rock in the Atlantic Ocean, off the southern coast of Ireland. The site is remarkably preserved because of its remoteness and environment. It offers a unique view into an early Medieval hermitage with human-made terraces and structures made of stone, including a monastery with small chapels and cells. Sceilg Mhichíl further represents the arrival of Christianity to the most remote lands thought beyond the reach of civilization. The island also serves as a breeding site for seabirds, known for colony size and diversity. Pop culture fans will recognize Sceilg Mhichíl as the sanctuary for Luke Skywalker in Star Wars Episode VII and Episode VIII.


Ireland, of course, is known for its alcoholic spirits. Located in Northern Ireland, the Old Bushmills Distillery is the oldest licensed whiskey distillery in the world. It was granted its distillery license in 1608 and continues to produce some of the finest Irish whiskeys and malt whiskeys in the world. Old Bushmills Distillery offers multiple tour and tasting options.


One of Ireland’s most-visited natural attractions, the Cliffs of Moher span the western coast of the island. The Cliffs of Moher line nearly 8 miles of the Irish coastline, towering vertically out of the Atlantic Ocean. The cliffs were formed over 320 million years ago, now offering paved pathways to explore the cliff span. Birdwatching is popular along the cliffs, which have received special protection for the local birds and wildlife. In fact, approximately 30,000 pairs of seabirds nest at the Cliffs of Moher during the breeding season.

Gastronomy Guide

Traditional Irish cuisine brings to mind thick, slow-cooked stews and roasts, shellfish, sausage, potatoes, and cabbage. Irish stew is a common pub menu item, made with lamb or beef, onions, and potatoes. It’ll likely come with dense Irish soda bread, which can be sweet and made without yeast. Oysters and mussels can be served raw in the shell or cooked a variety of ways, whether grilled or baked for oysters and steamed for mussels. A traditional breakfast dish is black pudding, made of pork meat, fat, and blood combined with barley, oatmeal, and suet. There’s the alternative white pudding, which includes everything but the pork blood. Try it as part of a Full Irish Breakfast. Potatoes will always be on the menu, and it can be served as colcannon or mashed potatoes combined with cabbage or kale. There’s also boxty, a fried potato cake made of flour and grated potatoes. A traditional dessert often served chilled is the carrageen moss pudding, made using a type of seaweed known as Irish or carrageen moss, combined with milk, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. Of course, remember to enjoy your meal with a pint of “the black stuff”—otherwise known as Ireland’s beloved Guinness beer.

Safety Considerations for LGBTQ visitors to Ireland

Ireland continues to make progress on LGBTQ+ equality, including a former, openly gay head of government. The Repbulic of Ireland was the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage through a nationwide referendum in 2015. Irish law allows for joint adoptions and second-parent adoptions by same-sex couples. The country prohibits discrimination in employment, public accommodations (goods and services), education, and healthcare on the basis of sexual orientation only, excluding similar, explicit protections based on gender identity and expression. Hate crimes laws are inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity. Despite the gaps in protections for transgender folks, Ireland has enacted legislation to allow transgender individuals to change their name and gender markers without requiring a diagnosis of gender dysphoria or invasive, surgical and medical interventions. This includes driver’s licenses, passports, and birth certificates. However, no third gender marker is recognized in Ireland. Same-sex sexual activity was decriminalized in 1993.

Unfortunately, bias-motivated violence against LGBTQ+ people continues to be a challenge for Ireland, stemming in part from the country’s conservative, Roman Catholic roots. LGBTQ+ conversion therapies remain legal as well. Intersex bodily integrity advocacy continues. People living with an intersex condition are pushing to ban non-consensual surgeries performed on intersex children.

LGBTQ+ Travel Tips & Events

Ireland's tipping culture ranges from 10% to 15% at restaurants, with 15% for higher-end establishments. Many restaurants include a service charge on the bill, so look over your check to see if a tip has already been included. The Irish are known for their friendliness, so while dining out, don't be surprised if those dining or drinking next to you strike up a conversation.

Pride events take place annually throughout the June-August across Ireland. Dublin Pride usually takes place in late June. In July, there are Pride events in Belfast, Carlow, Limerick, Galway, Cork, Drogheda. Usually in August, visitors can enjoy Pride events in Cork and Waterford.

Ireland also hosts LGBTQ+ events at other times of the year. For example, the annual GAZE LGBTQ+ film festival takes place in Dublin, offering screenings, Q&As, and workshops, as well as the International Gay Theatre Festival with productions in small theaters and venues across the city. In County Clare, there is the annual Outing Festival taking place around February, centered around queer music, matchmaking, and arts.