I’ve been to many countries in Europe, but none have stolen my heart as quickly as Ireland has. Having seen the movie ‘P.S. I Love You’ (which is set in Ireland) many times, I obviously was SO excited about visiting – but I had NO idea how much I would love this country. It’s beautiful, the people are kind and funny, and there is so much to see & do. This travel guide will be contributed by both Emma and myself because we’ve both been!
We’ll be sharing our Dublin Guide, Galway Guide and sharing day trip reviews like Cliffs of Moher & Connemare, Kylemore Abbey and Cong Village below. Let’s dive right in to our Ireland Travel Guide.
Ireland Travel Guide
Know Before You Go
- Overview: The republic of Ireland is an island off the coast of England and Wales. It’s dubbed the “Emerald Isle” for it’s beautiful green landscape. Some of the famous attributes are Guinness Beer, Cliffs of Moher, Book of Kells and more.
- Language: The majority of people speak English as their first language, but a large majority also speaks Irish (Gaelic).. a small minority claim it as their first language.
- Politics: The island of Ireland has 2 separate political jurisdictions – The sovereign state known as the Republic of Ireland, which occupies about 5/6’s of the island (capital is Dublin – this is where I visited), and Northern Ireland – which is part of the U.K. and lies in the northeast part of the island (capital is Belfast).
- Currency: The Euro is used in the Republic of Ireland which makes it easy if you’re traveling throughout European countries for an extended trip. (If you’re visiting Northern Ireland, they use the British pound)
- Credit Cards: Many credit cards are accepted at hotels, restaurants, museums and smaller retailers. Mastercard and Visa tend to be accepted more often than American Express.
- Weather: Ireland is famous for rain (hence the Emerald Isle nickname) so expect to run into a bit of this while you’re traveling through.. even if you’re visiting during the Summer. (Emma visited in June and she had to wear a jacket the whole time!) It’s on the cooler side so definitely bring layers – jackets, rain jackets, jeans, and more.. no matter the month you visit.
There are many places to visit while traveling in Ireland. You can either do a short trip and visit Dublin & Galway or you can take a road trip around the entire island. We’ll highlight all of these options and give our recommendations. A benefit of visiting Ireland is that it’s usually pretty affordable to fly there from the U.S.
Emma and Jeff have both visited Dublin. It’s the capital of the Republic of Ireland. They absolutely love this city and think it’s a great place to start an epic trip around Ireland. There are many wonderful places to stay and lots to do in this city, so here are some of our tips.
Tip: If you fly into the Dublin Airport and want an easy and affordable way to get into the city center, definitely take the green Airlink Express Bus. The airport is around 30 mins outside of the city center and Taxis usually cost 25-30 euros. For less than 7 euros per person, it’s an affordable hop on bus that will take you directly into the center of town and stop at a few locations so that way you can get to your accommodation. You can buy your tickets for the bus right outside the arrivals terminal – click here for an easy guide.
Where to Stay
- The Alex Hotel – Recently completely refurbished, this hotel is not only stylish, comfortable and adorable, but it’s also in a great location. It is right next to Trinity College (home to the Book of Kells) and just a few blocks away from the famous Temple Bar area. I also love the prices for this hotel and the reviews!
- The Westbury Hotel – Voted the best hotel in Ireland in 2019, it’s definitely on the pricier side.. but it’s absolutely beautiful and a great 5-star option. Really chic interiors and it’s restaurants are adorable (even to just stop in & sneak a peek).
- Jacobs Hostel – For those of you on a budget or looking to backpack through Europe.. this hostel has amazing reviews and looks like a fun & trendy place to stay. The dorm runs an average of $25 per night.. pretty good deal if you ask me! When Emma & her boyfriend visited Dublin they stayed in a hostel and it was a great option for their budget. She is a huge fan of hostel accommodations.
- AirBnb – We are big fans of this service and have used AirBnb’s in many places throughout Europe and other parts of the world. Make sure to check options for them as well!
Where to Eat
- The Bakehouse – A popular yummy place to get brunch. It also has authentic local Irish food options as well. Top rated and reviewed and the food looks absolutely delicious.
- Matt the Thresher – Irish seafood restaurant that would be perfect for dinner. Top rated and the ambiance is beautiful.
- Gerry’s Coffee Shop – Little cafe with great coffee and cheap eats for breakfast & lunch! Lots of authentic Irish breakfast options.. as well as yummy to-go croissants and tarts.
- Soup Dragon – Perfect place to stop in for a quick lunch on a cold day.. tons of soups! Affordable as well and highly rated.
- Fish Shack Cafe – Great lunch or dinner spot with really good seafood and a delightful ambiance! Relaxed and casual.
Where to Drink
- Temple Bar Bars – Okay this sounds redundant, but this area is called the Temple Bar & I think the bars located there are worth a visit! It’s quite a touristy area as a whole, so while I wouldn’t recommend eating here.. I would recommend drinking here and enjoying a Guinness while listening to live Irish bands. Really fun nights to be had!
- Devitt’s Pub – Authentic Irish music and great drinks. Known for their wall of gin.
- Lanigan’s Pub Eden Quay – Quirky place with great food & drinks but also SO MANY THINGS hanging from their ceiling. Fun place with a lot of soul.
What to Do
- Visit St. Stephen’s Green – One of our favorite activities while in Dublin was taking a stroll through this beautiful park. It’s really large with a nice lake in the middle & lots of historical spots to stop and read.
- Visit Trinity College & The Book of Kells – This a must-do for anyone visiting Dublin.. this college is historic and absolutely gorgeous. The grounds are stunning. Located on the property is the beautiful ‘Old Library’ which houses the world’s most famous medieval manuscript (one of the oldest books still around) ‘The Book of Kells’. It’s from the 9th century and truly a marvel. There’s really no need for a tour for this one.
- Take a tour through the Guinness Storehouse Brewery – Another must-do for anyone who even remotely likes beer. More like a museum than a brewery.. lots of cool exhibits and you learn how Guinness started making beer & how they make it today and throughout their history. Both Emma and Jeff did the tour and at the end did a tasting which was great fun. (Also take a Jameson Whiskey Distillery tour if you like Irish Whisky!)
- Visit the Temple Bar area – Extremely touristy but fun area with lots of restaurants, bars and shops. Great place to walk around and people watch!
- Take a walking tour or food tour – This city is extremely walkable and it’s really fun to learn about history through a walking or food tour. There is a free walking tour that has times available all day and has great reviews – click here. Click here for an extremely popular food tour that takes you throughout the city.
- Visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral – Emma and Zach visited this historic cathedral while in Dublin and they really enjoyed it. It’s very beautiful and founded in 1192… so extremely interesting to learn about.
- Hike the Greystones – A small train ride outside of the city will take you to the small town of Bray. From there you can take the incredibly scenic and lovely Cliff Walk. It’s more of a hike than a walk but it’s lovely right on the coast.
- Take a day trip to visit the Cliffs of Moher – (Look at the Galway Guide to see my review of visiting these majestic cliffs)
Jeff has visited this coastal town 3 times for work and this last time I decided to tag along because I had heard so many great things about Ireland from Emma and Jeff. It’s a charming town with a vibrant look and feel due to the large college.. over 80% of the population are university students. Lots of adorable shops, fun pubs, trendy restaurants and more – tons of things to do. Even though I was in Galway for just a few days, I was able to accomplish quite a bit and have lots of recommendations to share.
History from Wikipedia: Galway, a harbor city on Ireland’s west coast, sits where the River Corrib meets the Atlantic Ocean. The city’s hub is 18th-century Eyre Square, a popular meeting spot surrounded by shops and traditional pubs that often offer live Irish folk music. Nearby, stone-clad cafes, boutiques and art galleries line the winding lanes of the Latin Quarter, which retains portions of the medieval city walls.
Where to Stay
- The Galmont Hotel – Jeff has stayed here 3 different times and he knows now to always book a bay-view room. Really convenient location for downtown and really close to the coach station where all the day tours depart from. Affordable as well.
- The G Hotel – Jeff has also stayed here and it’s a cute boutique hotel. Lovely rooms and good service! A little farther away from downtown though so not as easy to walk from.
- Galway City Hostel & Bar – Great budget option for the backpackers! Voted best hostel in Ireland for 4 years in a row, this hostel is affordable, fun and looks to be the best budget option in the city. Highly rated with over 3000 reviews & 9.6/10 on Hostelworld. Only dorm options though – $20 per night.
- Ballynahinch Castle Hotel – About 1 hr outside of Galway city center, this castle that was converted into a beautiful hotel looks like a STUNNING option. How fun would this be for 2 nights?! Lovely rooms and atmosphere set on a pretty lake. Rooms start at $240.
Where to Eat
- Cava Bodega – Really popular tapas restaurant with great food and lovely ambiance. Definitely need to make a reservation at least a day before for this place. Jam-packed. The wines are amazing.
- The Dough Bros – Voted one of the best restaurants in Ireland.. this pizza place is absolutely DELICIOUS! Amazing pizza with a casual vibe.
- John Keogh’s Gastropub – Really popular Irish Seafood restaurant, perfect for dinner. Has a pub-like feel so grab a good drink, meal and enjoy the ambiance.
- Sheridan’s Cheesemongers Shop & Wine Bar – Excellent cheese and wine bar tucked off the main street. Don’t let the entrance/door fool you. The wine bar is upstairs on top of the cheese shop, such a cute and cozy place. They’ll make you any kind of charcuterie board you want with lots of local Irish cheeses included. Just ask! Very lovely way to spend an hour or two. Popular with wine people.
- Anair Restaurant – One of the most popular restaurants in Ireland.. a culinary experience with 10 courses. Need to make reservations at least a month in advance.
Things to Do
- Walk around the Latin Quarter – This area is picturesque and it’s where most of the popular restaurants and shops are located. It’s easy to spend hours here popping into the miscellaneous book shops, stores art galleries, listening to street performers and more.
- Have Afternoon Tea at Cupan Tae – This adorable tea shop and tea room is in the Latin Quarter and it’s the cutest and coziest place ever. Bone China cups and an adorable atmosphere.
- Take The Long Walk – One of the most popular things to do in Galway is to walk along the bay, see the stretch of houses on the coast, and walk under the Spanish Arch. The spanish arches are the last piece of history to remain from the 1500s.
- Visit Eyre Square – Famous & large square in the middle of Galway. Has a large fountain sculpture with old boating hooks that is worth a look. In December, Galway hosts a large Christmas market that is located here.
- Take a food tour – I always think one of the best ways to get to know a city & it’s history/culture is by taking a food tour! Click here for a popular one we recommend.
Day Tours From Galway
One of the best things about Galway is it’s accessibility to some of the prettiest and most famous day trips that Ireland has to offer. The famous Cliffs of Moher & Kylemore Abbey are both just an hour away from the city – so whether you rent a car and drive to them yourself or take a tour from the city center, Galway’s location cannot be understated.
I decided to take day trips using Galway Tour Company because I wanted to see as much as I could during a short period of time. Both of the tours were really affordable – just 30-35 euros for a full day tour. Galway Tour Company has incredible reviews and I loved the experience both days. Their tour guides are really informative and sweet and took us to out of the way sights that not all companies stop at. Click here to see their tour offerings.
Cliffs of Moher & The Burren Day Trip
This was an incredible tour! It started at 10am and ended at 6pm.. such a great day filled with sights and little villages that I would have never known to stop at. We first visited a fishing village where we saw Dunguaire Castle. We then headed into the Burren – home to over 75% of Ireland’s native flora. We saw many ancient burial grounds here including a 5,800 year old tomb.
The tour was on a bus throughout the day, but the guides are amazing and don’t make you feel like you’re on a ‘stereotypical boring bus tour’. They are amazingly funny and you stop at SO many places.
After the tomb, we visited Kilefenora to see the famous Celtic Crosses and then stopped at Doolen (a small village) for lunch! The pub we ate at had the BEST seafood chowder I’ve ever had – so delicious. After lunch, we headed to the famous Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs are absolutely ginormous (200 meters high & 8kms long) and so beautiful. I walked around the cliffs for 2.5 hours and it was a stunning day. I was lucky because the sun was shining the entire time we were there, and it wasn’t too windy. ( really rare). We then drove back to Galway City along the coast which was stunning!
Great day tour from Galway and I highly recommend it. Click here to book it through the tour company I used.
The Connemara, Kylemore Abbey & Cong Village Day Trip
An ‘off the beaten tourist track’ type of tour to take while visiting Galway! I would highly recommend anyone taking this tour if you like scenic countryside shots and seeing some of Ireland’s less populated areas. The Cliffs of Moher is a way more popular tour so I would recommend that you take that first then this if you still have time. That being said, this was very lovely and the sites were beautiful.
I loved this tour, although I have to say.. I wish I visited during the summertime so I could see the Kylemore Abbey gardens in full bloom.
This tour began at 10 a.m. from the Galway Coach station as well and ended at 5:30pm.. We began by visiting Ross Errily Friary, a friary from the 14th century. Extremely fascinating history. We then headed into the village of Cong where the classic movie, “The Quiet Man” starring John Wayne was set. Afterwards, we explored Cong Woods & saw the famous Ashford Castle which sits on the edge of the Lough Corrib. It was recently renovated with a 60 million dollar budget and is now a luxury hotel.. quite amazing.
We then entered the Connemara, a gorgeous route with hidden valleys and small villages dotting the way, with Killary Fjord as a backdrop. After that we went to the famous Kylemore Abbey & Gardens, which was absolutely gorgeous. On our way back to Galway we drove through more beautiful valleys and Irish countryside before returning home. What a wonderful day! Definitely worthwhile – click here to see the tour I booked.
Overall, our whole family has a soft spot in our hearts for Ireland. The country is full of so much incredible natural beauty and the kindest people. We all plan to return to see more of the island, including the North & South which we omitted during our stays. There are so many cute villages and sights to see that we would love to visit the next time!
Have you visited Ireland? If so, please leave all suggestions in the comments below of what you’ve seen, where you’ve stayed and more!
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Kristy & Emma