Ireland is truly magical destination, steeped in myth and legend and full of stirring landscapes such as the dramatic Wicklow Mountains National Park and bustling party-loving hubs like Dublin and Cork. So how do you work out the best places to visit in Ireland? We’ve boiled down the myriad choices to make sure you make the most of your Ireland travel programme with these surefire winners.
“I just arrived from the 9 day Ireland tour and what an amazing trip!! Contiki you yet again have exceeded my expectations. We made it out to Dublin, Cork, Kilkenny, and the Aran Islands to name a few. These trips are a two for one package because I feel as if after every tour I come back with another stamp in the passport but more importantly the friends that you come back with! Melts my heart!! :)”
“If you are thinking of doing this tour, it is well worth it!! We saw so much, did a walking tour of the city, saw a live Irish band and Irish Dancing, amazing Irish food and partied the night away on St Paddy's day and much, much more. Met some awesome people!! It is a very quick snippet of Dublin, so I did stay longer. But overall I would definitely recommend this tour!!”
“Words cannot describe the amazing time that I had in the UK and Ireland. I strongly recommend this trip to any person, whether your 18 or 35. I had the time of my life. From the scenery to the night life, everything was amazing! I met a lot of great people and would not trade this experience. I now have an extended contiki family!”
Where do we start? Whether you fancy a bit of casual sightseeing in Dublin or feel game for a weekend exploring the outstanding Glenveagh National Park, there’s so much on offer here that it can be difficult to work out what to see in Ireland. We’ve listed a few of our favourites.
Marvel at the iconic Sagrada Familla in Barcelona.
Gaudi’s majestic creation has been wowing crowds since it first began construction in 1882. Since then, multiple architects have taken up the reins on the project, some honouring Gaudi’s original designs, other’s redefining the creation completely. The multiple and varied facades of the building, plus its sheer size and majesty, make it a must do for any traveller visiting Barcelona.See all trips that visit Barcelona
Indulge in traditional Andalusian delicacies in Seville.
Seville is renowned for its gastronomic offerings, and whilst the traditional dishes may be simple to prepare, they’re bursting with fresh regional flavours. Gazpacho, Pescaito frito and Huevos a la Flamenca are all famed Andalusian specialities, or for those preferring traditional tapas, Seville has around 4,000 tapas bars to choose from – take your pick!See all trips that visit Seville
Live like a King in the Royal Palace of Madrid.
Get a glimpse of life as the other half live with a guided tour of the Royal Palace in Madrid. The largest palace in Europe, the Palacio Real de Madrid is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family, though is only used formally for state ceremonies. Gorge your eyes on the many works of art by famed Spanish painters as you delve a little deeper into Spain’s rich history.See all trips that visit Madrid
Party till dawn in the clubbing mecca of Ibiza.
Nowhere on Earth will you experience clubbing quite like Ibiza. Home to some of the world’s most infamous clubs, come and join the party as night after night revered world class DJ’s play their hearts out to adoring crowds. Get into the mood with sunset cocktails at Café Del Mar then party till sunrise at Space, DC-10 or Ibiza Rocks.See all trips that visit Ibiza
Bask in sunlight on Barceloneta Beach.
Some cities are fortunate enough to have the perfect city/beach balance, and Barcelona is one of them. Whilst Barceloneta Beach may be man-made, the water is clear and refreshing and the beach is alive with travellers and locals alike chatting, swimming and generally loving life. Spend long leisurely lunches in the surrounding cafes and restaurants, hire bikes or rollerblades or just relax in the sunshine.See all trips that visit Barcelona
Explore the Islamic inspired fortress of Alhambra.
Rising from woods of cypress and elm, the Alhambra reigns supreme on the hillside of Gibraltar. Born in the 11th Century and then further developed over the 14th and 15th century’s, the fortress holds an extensive network of lavishly decorated palaces and irrigated gardens and gives those who visit it a glimpse into the rich history of the Spanish empire and the influence both Islam and Catholicism had on the Alhambra’s design.See all trips that visit Gibraltar
1. Galway Oyster Festival – Among the best food in Galway is its internationally recognised oyster yield. Each September, for over 60 years, the city has celebrated this seafood delicacy with the world’s longest running oyster festival, which ranks as one of the top food festivals in Ireland.
For more information on Galway Oyster Festival, click here.
2. Rose of Tralee – One of the longest-standing festivals in Ireland, this event takes place every August in County Kerry’s Tralee, just a stone’s throw from the glorious Dingle Peninsula. The beauty pageant has evolved to celebrate Irish culture in general and Roses travel from all over the world to take part. Fancy trying for the crown? As long as you’re female and have Irish ancestry, you’re welcome to enter.
For more information on Rose of Tralee, click here.
3. Cork Jazz Festival – The most celebrated of the festivals in Cork boasts past performances from the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and endures as one of the world’s leading international jazz festivals. Held every October, it’s cited as one of the major attractions in Ireland and offers a diverse line up of acts.
For more information on Cork Jazz Festival, click here.
4. St. Patrick’s Day – What list of Ireland festivals would be complete without mentioning this world-famous event? For the ultimate Irish experience, the celebrations held in Dublin over 17th March every year are second to none. Head to the capital for the Daddy of all Dublin festivals to celebrate Ireland’s patron saint and glorious heritage. And get ready to sink a lot of Guinness.
For more information on St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Dublin, click here.
5. Electric Picnic – Ireland’s equivalent to Glastonbury features world-class bands and performers each September, and tickets sell out fast. It’s possibly the best of the music festivals in Ireland and is worth making a trip for on its own.
For more information on the Electric Picnic, click here.
1. National Leprechaun Museum – Whether you believe in the little people or not, you must check out one of the more unusual of the Dublin museums. Dedicated to folklore and mythology, the National Leprechaun Museum is a mine of information on Ireland’s inspiring history.
For more information on the National Leprechaun Museum, click here.
2. National Museum of Ireland – If you want to delve deeper into Irish folk life, industry and creativity, try this, the ultimate museum Ireland has to offer. Spread over four sites, you’ll find three in Dublin and the folk life collection in County Mayo.
For more information on the National Museum of Ireland, click here.
3. Famine Museum – The great Irish famine, or the Potato Famine as many know it, was a decade-long social catastrophe beginning in 1840. This haunting museum details how a quarter of Ireland’s population was lost to either death or emigration, and can be found within the grounds of the imposing Georgian Strokesdown Park in County Roscommon.
For more information on the Museum of Vodka, click here.
4. Cork City Gaol – Among the many tourists attractions in Cork is its decommissioned prison building. Built in 1824, the imposing gaol now operates as a function venue and heritage centre. If you’ve got nerves of steel and can gather a group of people together we highly recommend their night tour.
For more information on the Cork City Gaol, click here.
5. The James Joyce Centre – One for the literary inclined, the museum was created in honour of the Irish author behind Ulysses and offers a varied programme of exhibitions. They also runs guided tours of the capital and events, giving visitors the chance to learn even more about one of the 20th century’s greatest writers.
For more information on the James Joyce Centre, click here.
You’ve guessed it - the most famous food in Ireland is the humble potato. However, choice isn’t limited to staples like stews and colcannon. You can take your pick of international cuisine and hundreds of restaurants in Ireland; but your trip won’t be complete until you sample our top 5 quintessentially Irish dishes.
Dublin Coddle – The bottom line on traditional Irish food, Dublin Coddle is a simple but delicious stew of sausage, onions and potato. Variations include other root vegetables and bacon and nothing quite reflects Ireland’s landscape through flavour than this dish.
Best eaten at - The Bakehouse Bakery & Eatery, 6 Bachelors Walk, Dublin
Boxty – This simple potato pancake began life as a widely eaten meal during the 19th century when food in Ireland was scarce. Made from nothing more than partially mashed potato and flour, it’s great as a side dish.
Best eaten at – Gallagher’s Boxty House, 20-21 Temple Bar, Dublin
Guinness – We couldn’t leave this off the list. Ireland’s famous stout might be exported across the globe, but believe it when people tell you that the Guinness in Ireland’s capital is the best in the world. A must-do in Dublin.
Best eaten at – The Gravity Bar at The Guinness Storehouse, St James’s Gate, Dublin
Soda bread – Another simple staple, soda bread is a big deal in Ireland. The country’s national dish comes in all shapes and varieties, from bacon and cheese, to cinnamon and sultana.
Best eaten at – Fallon & Byrne, 11-17 Exchequer St, Dublin
Gur Cake – Also – and more commonly these days – known as Chester cake, Gur is a sweet speciality of fruit layered between slices of pastry. It can be quite rich but it sure as anything hits the spot.
Best eaten at – The English Market, Cork city centre
Painkillers - Ireland is famed for its Guinness and whisky. Enough said.
Water and windproof jacket - It’s also famed for its generous rainfall and brisk Atlantic winds. Stay dry and warm.
Indigestion relief - Remember that authentic Irish food can be on the rich side.
Sturdy shoes - If you’re planning on tackling some of its magnificent landscape on foot, you want to make sure your footwear is appropriate – Ireland is craggy.
Plug convertor - This one is for you guys travelling from the USA. Most electrical appliance from the States will not work, so check the voltage and ensure you’ve got a convertor.