With so many places in the world beginning to slowly open back up, it feels like we can take a big breath again. Dreams of traveling, flights across oceans, road trips through deserts, relaxing on sandy beaches and brisk mountains – all of it sounds alluring, especially after being cooped up at home.
Many vacation plans may have been sidelined in 2020 – whether rescheduled or cancelled altogether. If you’re someone who feels like you could use a nice holiday vacation when this all winds down, you’re not alone! I recently made a poll with some of the places I’ve loved visiting most, asking where you would like to visit. Ireland was the overwhelming winner!
We’ve been lucky enough to have visited Ireland a number of times over the past several years – I’ve come to think of it as a second home. I wanted to share some of my favorite places to see, places to dine, and places to explore – hopefully to inspire you to plan your visit!
The capital of Ireland is usually the first place people think of when planning their trip. It’s located in the Leinster province, on the eastern shore of the country, facing the Irish sea that stretches across to the shores of Wales.
Dublin is a seaside town bustling with tourists and locals alike. The cab driver from the airport will point out the touristy bars and restaurants if you only ask – ever heard of Temple Bar? The streets of Dublin will change according to the season; during the spring and summer months the windows will be decorated with gorgeous bouquets of flowers. Trinity College’s library is something out of Harry Potter – books piled upon bookshelves while university students study for their higher education.
Pubs are a-plenty, so you’ll find them on practically every corner. A favorite of ours is The Hairy Lemon, located on Stephen’s Street Lower. You can’t miss it from the bright lemon yellow paint that borders the gorgeous Ireland green on the building. They have live Irish music 7 nights a week and its a place you’ll feel welcomed as a tourist and immersed in tradition. Grab a pint and enjoy singing along!
If you’re in the search for a place to wander endlessly for hours or have a picnic, look no further than Phoenix Park. Phoenix Park is three times larger than NYC’s Central Park and it lies just a few kilometers from the city center. This is where we had our engagement photo shoot!
You can’t mention Dublin and not talk about the Guinness Storehouse. The question many ask: is it worth it? I’d say it’s definitely worth visiting at least once! Its a tried and true right of passage on your first visit to Dublin. They offer an array of different tours for varying prices, but the normal entrance tickets are €19.50 for adults 18+ – entrance ticket includes a self-guided tour of the 7-story Storehouse (shaped to look like a giant pint glass) and one free drink at the coveted Gravity Bar. The Gravity Bar is located at the very top of the storehouse, where you can sip on your pint of Guinness beer and enjoy a 360 degree panorama view of the city. Kids are welcome! They just get to sip on a soft drink instead. The gift shop is like none-other… we may have spent our coin there on everything from t-shirts to table coasters.
If you prefer your whiskey to beer, check out the Jameson Distillery on Bow St., a favorite spot of ours. The Jameson Experience is a 40 minute tour offered for €25 that teaches you the history of Jameson, shows the differences between Kentucky bourbon, Scotch whiskey, and Irish whiskey, and offers a taste test or two. IF you’re feeling more adventurous, they offer an in-depth whiskey blending class as well. (I highly recommend!) No judgements for that whiskey sour at 11am… you’re on vacation, after all!
In southern Ireland, lies its second-largest city. It’s located in the Munster province and locals will often refer to it as the ‘actual’ capital of Ireland. It’s steeped in rich Viking history and the people have an accent that sounds slightly different than most other places in the country. The city center is not confusing; its smaller and vibrant and teeming with life, like an art district of your favorite metropolitan city.
Gallagher’s Gastro Pub is a crowd-pleaser. Its located next to Patrick’s Hill in the Victorian Quarter of Cork City, sitting in the shadow of St. Anne’s Church’s gorgeous bell tower. It’s a classy establishment that doesn’t feel fussy, staffed with some of the most attentive service you could ask for. Don’t be afraid to inhale an entire parfait; I wouldn’t blame you. If you’re looking for something slightly more budget-friendly, check out O’Flynns Gourmet Sausages on Winthrop St. for €5 gourmet sausage sandwiches. Or swing by KC & Son & Sons in the nearby village of Douglas for some fish and chips that will make your mouth water. And don’t forget the pineapple fritters!!!
Located a short drive away is Blarney, home of the famous Blarney Castle & Gardens. Legend says that if you hang upside down from the rafters’ of the castle and kiss the coveted Blarney Stone, you’ll have the “gift of gab” for seven years. Or so they say. I have kissed the stone and I’m not sure I received the gift of eloquence that was promised… but to be frank, I’m not sure if anyone will be kissing that stone ever again. Maybe with a mask on! Entrance to Blarney Gardens is currently €16 for adults and €7 for children. The grounds of the castle and gardens are stunning, complete with a creek, dungeons, and beautiful pathways to explore. They even have a Poison Garden hidden behind the castle that includes poisonous plants from all over the world… including marijuana! So make sure to grab a hot cocoa at the Stable Yard Cafe on your way in and explore!
On the western coast of Ireland lies the city of Galway in the Connacht province. Galway is revered as being one of the most lively and vibrant places in all of Ireland. It is currently the European Capital of Culture in the year 2020, an honor shared with Rijeka, Croatia. While here, expect to see and hear plenty of Irish music and meet many of the loveliest locals.
Inside the city itself sits the Latin Quarter, lined with cobblestone and bustling activity among cafes and shops. Stop for a bite at McDonagh’s – complete with fresh seafood and a fish & chips bar. Or a plate of oysters! (If you fancy that sort of thing.) Sip or guzzle something delicious over at The Front Door on Cross Street Upper and enjoy some live music – anything from a band to a DJ.
South of Galway along the Burren in County Clare lies the world-famous Cliffs of Moher. These gorgeous cliffs stretch for about 5 miles along the coast and are named after the Gaelic word ‘mothar’ which means ‘the ruin of a fort’. The price of admission to the cliffs if €7, but the view on a clear day is priceless. With the salty wind whipping through your hair, you can climb to the top of the Hag’s Head signal tower and catch a glimpse of the Aran Islands, mist and clouds permitting.