Ireland is separated into two main regions; the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The history of both regions has been fierce and often bloody, however, more recently, the two have joined together to welcome visitors from all over the world to Ireland. In Northern Ireland, the currency is British Pounds, the same as used in the rest of the UK, while the Republic of Ireland uses the Euro. Be sure to check which currency you need before you travel.
Regardless of where you go in Ireland, you can expect stunningly beautiful, harsh and dramatic natural landscapes, vibrant cities, beautiful art and architecture, and friendly and welcoming locals. Experience Irish ‘craic’ (a good or fun time) first-hand in bars and pubs, and even on locally guided tours. Ireland is famous for its nightlife, be it simply having a pint or two in a local pub or heading out to a nightclub’s glittering lights and loud music.
Ireland is loved by film and TV makers for its historic buildings and majestic landscapes. Much of Game of Thrones was filmed in Ireland, and some of its most notable filming locations can be visited on guided tours. Popular UK TV show Derry Girls was also filmed in Ireland across the city of Derry in Northern Ireland, with many areas visitable on guided tours. There is so much to do in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland that a short Irish city break may not be enough to take it all in. If you decide to go, here are the best towns and cities in Ireland to visit.
- Cities in Ireland
- Northern Ireland Cities
- Northern Ireland Towns
- Republic of Ireland Cities
- Republic of Ireland Towns
Cities in Ireland
Northern Ireland Cities
Belfast is the capital city of Northern Ireland and is a popular city break destination for UK travellers as it is only a short plane or ferry ride away.
This Irish city is filled with plenty of historical and cultural activities to get involved with and beautiful architecture to admire and photograph.
The city was a popular destination for various literary greats, including C.S. Lewis.
Visit C.S.Lewis Square to see statues from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, including the lion Aslan.
Belfast is home to many great museums covering history, art and engineering.
The Ulster Museum houses treasures from Northern Ireland’s comprehensive history and has a tranquil botanical garden.
Uncover the secrets of the Titanic at the Titanic Museum and learn more about the ship’s creation in the city and its fateful journey.
When in Armagh, explore the famous Navan Fort, an important and key archeological site in Ulster.
The fort, which is mostly ruined foundations today, has many ties to the legends of Cúchulainn, a demigod and hero in Irish mythology.
To escape the city noise, wander around the second largest park in Northern Ireland, Phoenix Park.
The park has a boating lake with rowboats and canoes available for hire, plenty of walks and large open spaces for picnicking in summer.
For something a little spookier, brave the empty halls of Armagh Gaol.
The gaol opened in the 1780s and was predominately a women’s prison with a history of violence and misery for the prisoners.
Listen out for the slamming of cell doors and distant voices, and keep your eyes peeled for the woman in white.
Londonderry, or Derry, has a rich 400-year-old history inside its traditional protective walls.
The city’s recent history has seen a tourism boom thanks to the popular TV show ‘Derry Girls’, which centres around schoolgirls in the city.
Fans of the show should book a show-themed guided tour of the city to take in some of the most iconic areas, including the Derry Girls mural.
To slow things down and take in the tour at a gentler pace, book a Derry Girls-themed afternoon tea, including a short walking tour of some of the main filming locations.
Head out of the city and explore the Giants Causeway, a unique geological phenomenon that has drawn and intrigued visitors for centuries.
The causeway is formed of more than 40,000 volcanic basalt columns and is perfect for dramatic photographs of Ireland’s raw natural beauty.
Newry lies alongside a river with the same name and is a beautiful and historical city to visit in Northern Ireland.
Spend some time discovering the history of Derymore House.
Built in the 18th century, the house, with its traditional thatched roof and sunny yellow exterior walls, is currently run by the National Trust.
For those looking for more ancient history, visit Ballymacdermot Court Tomb, a stone age monument that reveals the history of ancient settlements in the area.
From the main tomb, there are beautiful views across the surrounding meigh plain and out towards Ballymacdermot mountain.
Lisburn has a rich history in manufacturing, particularly in the textiles industry, where linen mills thrived.
Uncover more of this manufacturing history at the Irish Linen Centre & Lisburn Museum.
Here you will learn about the entire process of transforming flax into linen fabric, see the machines that were used throughout the process and even get to experience the process through a range of hands-on experiences.
HRH King Charles III has a royal residence in the city named Hillsborough.
This castle and gardens are open to the public, with guided tours of some of the castle’s rooms available.
See the ornate throne room, the dining room set and ready to receive guests and some of the private suites used by the Royal Family and their guests.
Start your day in Bangor with a hearty breakfast at Guillemot Kitchen Café.
Order Captain Ahab’s breakfast for a filling start to your day, or visit at lunchtime and feast on their seasonal and local fish chowder.
Make the most of your seaside destination and stroll along North Pier and Bangor Marina.
While taking in the boats, lobster pots and fishing nets, keep your eyes peeled for the famous ‘Pasty Supper’ sculpture, which depicts a local fisherman enjoying a pasty lunch.
Experience the outdoors in Bangor and hike along the North Down Coastal Path.
This trail has stunning views across the coast and the surrounding cliffs and grasslands.
While walking, look out for grey seals that can be seen in the water and relaxing on the rocks and sands below.
Looking for more to do in Ireland? Check these out:
Northern Ireland Towns
Kilkeel is a seaside town famous for its delicious fresh seafood.
Make the most of the day’s catch at the Seafood Cookery School located on the harbour for an educational and enjoyable experience.
Continue to learn about this coastal region at Seascope Hatchery, where Lucy the Lobster will teach children and adults alike about a lobster’s life through interactive displays and hands-on experiences.
Venture further inland from the town and lose yourself in the beauty and wilderness of Silent Valley Mountain Park.
Enjoy a day by the lake or a gentle hike through the mountains during the summer.
In winter, warm up and experience the snow-covered mountain tracks.
Pack your camera and head out to find the Carrickfergus Knights, a sculpture depicting Anglo-Norman and Edward Bruce’s knights.
Continue learning about the knights of old at Carrickfergus Castle, the most famous landmark in the town.
John De Courcy built the castle in the 12th century as a fortress to protect the town against sieges.
Despite many fortifications, the castle was laid to siege by the Scots, the English and the French.
It is, however, remarkably well preserved and guided tours of the castle and its ruins are available.
When visiting Portstewart, make the most of the stunning coastal paths, waterfront and harbour.
The coastal paths and beaches span approximately two miles (3.21 kilometres) and are managed by the National Trust.
Wander along the sands, known as Portstewart Strand, and take in the coastal air, clean water and pristine beach.
The beach area has Blue Flag status and is beloved by local families for summer days out and picnics.
Surfers should make the most of the waves here as during summer, the sea is calmer and perfect for beginners, while winter offers more challenging waves.
Portrush is a short drive from Portstewart, and they are connected by a coastal path that takes approximately three hours to walk and covers part of the larger Causeway Coast Way Walk.
Take your camera on this walk as you will walk past stunning coastal vistas, shady coves, the Inishowen Peninsula and even Ballyreagh Castle.
If you are travelling with children or want to learn more about the coast, head to Portrush Coastal Zone.
Portrush Coastal Zone is an exhibition space with rock pools filled with various local sea creatures.
Republic of Ireland Cities
Dublin is one the most visited city in the Republic of Ireland and is ideal for a city break if you are based in the UK or Europe as flights are frequent and often well priced.
Once you arrive in Dublin, immerse yourself in the local culture.
Visit The Temple Bar, one of the most popular pubs in the city, with its unmistakable bright red facade and gold text.
Inside, order a Guinness and enjoy the local vibe.
If Guinness is your preferred tipple or you want to learn more about this iconic drink, visit the Guinness Storehouse Factory.
On a guided tour, you will journey through a pint of Guinness, thanks to the factory’s clever design, to uncover the drink’s history and how it is made.
Enjoy a pint with spectacular views over the rest of the city at the end of your tour.
Spend some time in the medieval city of Kilkenny and discover more about its heritage at Kilkenny Castle, Park and Gardens.
The castle is in the heart of the city and is the perfect place to relax in beautiful gardens or to explore inside the castle itself.
The Normans built the castle in 1195, with many of the grounds added later when the castle was used as a family home during the 19th century.
Learn more about the city’s history at Kilkenny’s Medieval Mile and Museum.
This stretch of the city leads from St Canice’s Cathedral to the castle, with the museum housed in the nearby St Mary’s church.
Tours of the mile uncover the city’s history as it changed throughout the medieval years, opening up some historical sites for further exploration.
Waterford dates to the time of the Vikings and is the oldest city in the Republic of Ireland, founded in 914 AD.
While much of the city has developed from its medieval origins, some elements remain, including part of the city walls and Reginald’s Tower.
Visiting the Medieval Museum is a great way to learn about Waterford’s history.
The museum is dedicated to the city’s Viking heritage and includes a representation of a cloister hall, 15th-century vaults, antiques and clothing from medieval kings.
The city is popular for its crystal made at the House of Waterford Crystal.
Here you will see skilled glassmakers creating beautiful glassware items in their workshops, with plenty to purchase at their onsite shop.
To get a feel for Cork, the second-largest city in the Republic of Ireland, climb the 132 steps to the top of Shandon Bell Tower.
The bell tower is part of the Church of St Anne, a 17th-century church.
From the top of the 170ft (51.81m) high tower, there are beautiful 360-degree views across the city.
Continue exploring the city along the Shandon Walk, a marked trail encouraging you to uncover the old town.
As you follow the trail, there are plenty of historic buildings to explore, pubs to enjoy a traditional lunch in or cafes to relax in. The Jameson Experience Whiskey Tour is also popular.
Limerick is on the banks of the River Shannon and has plenty of pleasant walks along its banks and beautiful views over the waters from its many bridges.
King John’s Castle overlooks the river and was recently renovated to make it more visitor friendly. King John had the castle built in the Norman style in 1210.
Following its modernisation, the castle is filled with interactive exhibitions which tell the story of King John and life during the 1200s.
Foodies should explore the Milk Market, one of the Republic of Ireland’s best food and farmers markets.
Underneath the canopy roof are over 50 stalls selling freshly baked bread, local cheeses, vegetables and more.
Explore the history of Galway by visiting the 16th-century Dunguaire Castle.
The O’Hynes clan built the castle on the shores of Galway Bay.
The castle is open between April and September, with special events, including medieval banquets, available to experience the 16th century.
Immerse yourself in Irish culture by wandering along the colourful flag-lined Quay Street, where you will find traditional Irish pubs filled with locals, good drinks, excellent food and live music.
Head out of the city on the short drive to Lough Corrib, the largest lake in Ireland. The lake is beautiful year-round and has plenty of sandy shores to relax on and many woodland walks.
A ticket on the Hop-On Hop-Off sightseeing bus will get you to most places in Galway.
Republic of Ireland Towns
On the shores of Lough Leanne is the pretty town of Killarney.
Make the most of this picturesque area and head out into Killarney National Park, a 10,236-hectare expanse of mountains, ancient old lands and the Killarney Lakes.
The park has plenty of hiking and cycling routes and lake access via rental row boats or canoes. You may also like this Lakes of Killarney boat cruise.
Visit Ross Castle on the banks of Lough Leane to see a pristinely preserved 15th-century castle filled with ghosts and legends.
O’Donoghue Mór built the castle in the 15th century and died while he lived there. According to legend, his restless spirit lies in the lake, and every seven years,-he returns and can be seen riding a white horse around the lake.
Kinsale dates back to medieval times and is a traditional fishing port town filled with colourful houses.
The streets are lined with bold and vibrantly coloured houses with traditional cobblestone paths intertwining between them.
Plenty of cute cafes and cosy restaurants are dotted among the houses and overflowing floral planters.
If you are a book lover, a must-visit shop in Kinsale is the literary haven of Poet’s Corner.
The bookshop and cafe is cosy and quaint, with wooden furniture, plenty of plants and fresh-cut flowers, great coffee and plenty of books.
The shop has incredible offers, including a book exchange and their delicious Literary Poet Breakfast, which comes with a free book when you exchange two.
If you are in Dingle in October, explore the food festival.
More than 50 stalls are open throughout the town, with locals and those from further afield selling a range of delicious foods and drinks.
During the festival, there are also wine tastings and a food trail highlighting the best food outlets in the town.
Spend time on a boat or dolphin-watching tour on the water at Dingle Bay.
Once on your vessel, look out for a range of sea birds and plenty of local landmarks visible from the water.
Explore Ireland’s most beautiful home, Westport House, owned by the Browne Family.
The family, who built the home in the 18th century, are direct descendants of Grace O’Malley, the 15th-century pirate queen.
The house is stunning inside and out and is open to the public through guided tours.
The town of Westport is filled with beautiful buildings, arch bridges crossing the river and plenty of opportunities for a picturesque photograph.
The streets are perfect for wandering around, and there are plenty of independent shops and restaurants to visit.
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