Best Places To Visit In Ireland: Top 5 Emerald Isle Cities According To Experts

From gorgeous castle ruins to lively pubs, a trip to Ireland offers plenty to see and experience. And whether your idea of vacation consists of exploring beaches and cliffs or enjoying a Guinness in the city, the best places to visit in Ireland will impress all sorts of travelers.

Since the pandemic, many people have put making it to their bucket list destinations on the back burner. In fact, a recent survey found that the average American hasn’t left their home state in about three and a half years. Out of 2,000 Americans surveyed, less than 10 percent said they’ve been out of their home state over the past year.

But travel can be a great way to get out of your typical routine and experience something new. A 2021 survey from researchers at Washington State University found that travel may even have long-term benefits for emotional wellness. Results from 500 participants revealed that people who regularly take trips of at least 75 miles from their home are about seven percent happier than respondents who rarely travel.

Eager to book a trip? With the warmer weather of spring and summer right around the corner, it’s a great time to get planning. To help you choose your vacation destination, StudyFinds searched the internet for expert rankings of the best places to visit in Ireland. These five are the top recommendations, but if you have a favorite that we missed, be sure to let us know in the comments below!

The List: Best Places to Visit in Ireland for 2023, Per Travel Experts

1. Dublin

With a cozy feel, tons of history, and a vibrant downtown, Dublin is our top choice for a visit to Ireland. “If you only have time to visit one place in Ireland, go to Dublin,” says U.S. News. “Not only is Dublin the country’s hub for politics, culture and music, but it also offers easy access to Blarney Castle, one of Ireland’s top points of interest. While here, do as the Irish do and savor some brews either at the popular Guinness Storehouse or at the always exuberant Temple Bar.”

“Once you explore some of the capital’s historical and cultural attractions, you’ll wonder why you didn’t take a trip to Dublin sooner,” claims Nordic Visitor. “Make sure to roam the capital city of Ireland and its pretty canals lined with cobbled streets. Here you’ll discover some of the best live Irish folk music you’ll ever tap your foot to.”

“No trip to Ireland is complete without a stop in its lively capital,” PlanetWare states. “What it lacks in size and population it makes up for with a large (and long) history, and an intimacy you won’t find in other metropolitan cities.”

downtown street in Dublin, Ireland
Anne Street in downtown Dublin (Photo by Gregory Dalleau on Unsplash)

2. Cliffs of Moher

Pictured in many movies and television shows, including the Harry Potter series, the Cliffs of Moher are a striking must-see. As PlanetWare says, “there are few natural Irish landmarks as impressive as the beguiling Cliffs of Moher.”

“At a whopping 120 meters in height, these great cliffs offer dramatic views of the coastline and the Aran Islands out at sea,” notes The Crazy Tourist. “An all-new visitors’ center makes it easy for travelers to uncover the hundreds of millions of years of geological history that helped form the stratas of sandstone and shale.”

“The Cliffs of Moher are Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction, welcoming more than 1 million visitors each year,” says U.S. News. “In fact, the cliffs are so popular that cities situated more than 100 miles away often offer daylong tours to the attraction. Once you lay eyes on this sight, you’ll understand why so many people travel hours to gaze at it.”

green grass field near body of water under cloudy sky during daytime
The Cliffs of Moher (Photo by Jason Murphy on Unsplash)

3. Galway

Sound familiar? Yes, this is the place that inspired Ed Sheeran’s song “Galway Girl.” With cobblestoned streets and easy access to beautiful Irish landscapes, Galway is a great destination for all kinds of travelers. As U.S. News says, “Galway offers the best of both worlds for travelers. City slickers can revel in Galway’s relatively light but palpable bustle, while outdoor lovers can venture outside the city to see many natural attractions, including the Salthill Promenade and Wild Atlantic Way, a scenic route that runs right through Galway.”

“The colorful harbor city of Galway is effortlessly cool, with its burgeoning art scene, rich musical background and roots in Irish history and language,” Nordic Visitor says. “Dull is not a word you’ll ever find associated with Galway City. Listen closely and you’ll hear a bagpipe (or two). You’ll probably see people dancing in the street. Speaking of the street, that’s where you’ll find buskers and theater performers strutting their stuff,” adds PlanetWare.

Crowned by the colossal Gothicism of St Nicholas’ Church, Galway City once boomed as Ireland’s foremost medieval trading port with connections to the Med,” writes The Crazy Tourist. “Sights like Lynch’s Castle belie the rich history of the city’s merchant mayors from this period, while the real character of Galway lies in its boho, quirky side, which bubbles up along the old town’s streets with performers and magicians on the weekend, bursts out of the cafes on the Promenade of Salthill, becomes palpable during the city’s art festival in July, and is never far away between the pubs of Cross Street and the center.”

people walking in Galway
A quaint street in Galway (Photo by Justin Scocchio on Unsplash)

4. Cork

Cork is a charming city, with top-rated restaurants, coffee shops, architectural sites, and more nestled within its borders. “Lively, fun-loving, a tad laid-back and proudly divergent to Dublin, the locals here enjoy flitting between their town’s curious coffee shops and traditional pubs, all of which hide in tight-knit streets spouting off the central vein of St Patrick’s,” says The Crazy Tourist.

If you’re looking to take in some uniquely Irish destinations, Cork is full of potential spots. “Located at the southern end of the country, this city of more than 200,000 residents is famous for being home to the Blarney Stone. According to local legend, the stone will grant you the gift of eloquence, if you dare kiss it,” notes U.S. News. “Wander the historic streets to soak up cool vibes emanating from small cafés, eccentric shops, unique museums (that means you, Cork Butter Museum), and lurid art galleries,” PlanetWare adds.

Nordic Visitor advises: “Be sure to visit the English Market, with its high ornate vaulted ceilings and grand marble fountain. This market sells some of the best fresh produce in the region.”

homes and a church in Cork, Ireland
Homes in Cork, Ireland (Photo by Jason Murphy on Unsplash)

5. Dingle

The town of Dingle is a beloved tourist destination for its access to the striking Dingle Peninsula. Says U.S. News, “the Dingle Peninsula consistently stuns with its otherworldly scenery (think: evergreen cliffs, craggy coastlines and vibrant blue waters).” However, the town itself is also more than worth a visit.”

“This famed peninsula boasts things you’ve likely never seen (like beehive huts) and beauty you’ll be hard-pressed to surpass (that point where the azure waves crash against jagged cliffs to reveal secret sandy coves),” PlanetWare adds.

“Visitors to Dingle surely won’t be disappointed by the spectacular views and a scenic drive around the coast of Kerry,” says Road Affair. “Like many little villages in Ireland, the quaint pubs are a vibrant cauldron of friendly locals, great ale and foot-tapping fiddle music. What is extra special about Dingle is the sumptuous fresh catch served up by many chefs. You might not get better fish anywhere else in Ireland!”

green grass field near body of water during daytime
The Dingle Peninsula (Photo by Mark de Jong on Unsplash)

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This article may contain affiliate links.