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The Best Cities to Visit in Ireland, Region by Region

Updated September 17, 2023

Ireland is full of incredible places to visit, so to help narrow it down we asked a few of our Irish trip planners to weigh in. Here's what they say about some of the best cities to visit in Ireland!

Whether you’re visiting Ireland or planning a staycation, work with an Irish local to plan your trip. Our locals in Ireland will plan a safe trip away from the crowds—full of up-to-date info you might not find online. Learn more.

Eastern Ireland: Dublin and Waterford

Obviously, delightful Dublin will make any list of the best cities to visit in Ireland—it’s an absolutely fantastic place to explore. But locals tell us you shouldn't discount nearby Waterford—Ireland’s oldest city—which they say offers plenty of Irish charm without Dublin's crowds. 


Dublin | Skitterphoto/Pixabay

We love to wax poetic about Dublin—just like the many Irish poets who’ve wandered through its cobblestone streets—but we’ll keep it short and simple. Dublin is incredible. It’s the capital of Ireland and the country’s biggest city. Locals tell us that anyone can find their niche here!

Admire Dublin’s famous colored doors, explore the gorgeous stacks at Trinity College Library, go wild in the Temple Bar neighborhood, and hoist a pint of Guinness at the St. James Gate brewery.

The secret about Dublin is out—but it's definitely possible to find hidden gems in this dynamic city. Our trip planners are locals who can suggest their favorite things to do in town (and let you know which tourist sites you can skip).

Local Tip:

The Dublin Museum is like a love letter to the city—and a cool little museum to check out. 

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Reginald's Tower in Waterford | Vadrefjord/Wikimedia Commons

Locals tell us that many of the coolest places to go in Ireland are the most historical. Waterford, Ireland's oldest city, falls happily into this category.

About two hours south of Dublin, Waterford’s history stretches back to the days of the Vikings, who founded the city around 914 CE. The crown jewel of Viking history in Waterford (and the oldest civic building in Ireland) is the stout, stone Reginald’s Tower, now a museum. 

Aside from retracing the steps of the Vikings, locals suggest checking out the House of Waterford Crystal Factory and Store and exploring the Copper Coast, a stretch of coastal land and UNESCO geopark about thirty minutes from the city proper. 

Northern Ireland: Belfast and Derry

Locals tell us that the cities of Northern Ireland have experienced an incredible renaissance in the last couple of decades. Casting off the legacy of “the Troubles”, cities like Belfast and Derry have become hubs for incredible food, amazing nightlife, and unparalleled history. Our trip planners note that you’ll need pounds (£) here, not euros (€)—Derry and Belfast are part of the United Kingdom, not the Republic of Ireland.

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Belfast | Kaeli Hearn/Unsplash

Since the dark days of the Troubles, locals tell us that Belfast has bloomed into a wonderful metropolis. They say that the city’s compelling mix of history, food, and seaside activities makes it one of the top Irish cities to visit. Plus, as the capital of Northern Ireland, Belfast always has something going on. 

Get local tips in Belfast. Our trip planners suggest exploring the harbor sights alongside the Maritime Mile (they say this is especially fun to do with kids) and checking out the world-famous Titanic Belfast museum.

Local Tip:

Belfast day trips are an excellent idea. From here, you can easily get to fantastic Irish sights like Giant's Causeway. 


Derry | Greg Clarke/Flickr

The second-largest city in Northern Ireland, Derry doesn't lack in charm or things to do. Once the poster child for conflict in the region, Derry today is one of Ireland's coolest places to visit—locals especially recommend scaling the 17th-century city walls and searching for authentic souvenirs in Derry’s adorable Craft Village

But the city doesn’t shy away from its past—our trip planners tell us that Derry does an excellent job remembering its harder days through museums like the Museum of Free Derry, and of course, the gorgeous Peace Bridge that stretches across the River Foyle. 

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Western Ireland: Galway and Limerick

If you’re looking for an Irish getaway that features incredible nature, romantic coasts, and (of course) amazing food and music, locals suggest visiting Galway and Limerick. Nestled along Ireland’s gorgeous Atlantic Way, both cities offer a wealth of activities—and tons to see nearby as well. 


Busker in Galway | Kelan Chad/Unsplash

We love Galway’s pops of color, winding canals, medieval buildings, and salty sea air. Less visited than Dublin or Belfast, Galway was recently named one of Europe's Capitals of Culture for 2020. (It also happens to be one of our top destinations to visit this year.)

Locals suggest hanging out in Eyre Square (also known as John F. Kennedy Memorial Park, in honor of the president’s 1963 visit to Galway), exploring medieval sights like the 16th-century Dunguaire Castle, and taking advantage of the city’s easy to access to a unique place to visit in Ireland—the isolated and beautiful Aran Islands

Local Tip:

Galway is a great place to catch some Irish music—you’ll see buskers everywhere—so make sure to catch a live show!


Limerick | William Murphy/Flickr

Locals rave that there are so many lovely things to do in Limerick. Love sports? Locals suggest catching a rugby game at Thomond Park. Looking to get off-the-beaten path? Our trip planners recommend taking an unforgettable bike ride through the mystical Ballyhoura Woods.

Or, simply wander into one of Limerick's many pubs. Chances are, you'll stumble upon some live music.

Local Tip:

Limerick has emerged as one of Ireland’s hubs for craft beer, so keep an eye out for labels like Treaty City.

Southern Ireland: Cork and Kinsale

Cork, Ireland’s second-largest city, shines on its own—but Cork also offers easy proximity to many of Ireland's popular attractions. Locals say that Kinsale, about thirty minutes south of Cork, awes visitors with its windswept beauty and Irish charm. 


Cork | Fabian Walden/Flickr

Cork grew around the beautiful River Lee, which gives the city a brightly romantic feel—prepare to fall in love as you traverse Cork’s old stone bridges. Locals say that the wide variety of historic sights, from cathedrals to monuments, makes it easy to appreciate Cork’s rich history. 

Cork is less visited than Dublin, so benefit from local suggestions. Our trip planners suggest grabbing a snack from the 18th-century English Market, exploring the city’s incredible Saint Finn Barre’s Cathedral, and wandering the Hogwartsian grounds of the University College Cork. 

Local Tip:

From the Blarney Stone to Ballycotton Cliffs, you’ll have plenty of exciting options to explore nearby. 


Kinsale | Enrico Strocchi/Flickr

Colorful Kinsale, about thirty minutes south of Cork, may be small—it notched a population of just 5,000 souls in 2016—but locals say it packs a major punch. Often referred to as one of Ireland’s prettiest towns, as well as Ireland’s seafood capital, Kinsale’s cobblestone streets are filled with incredible food, gorgeous architecture, and amazing history. Locals suggest exploring Kinsale’s forts (Charles Fort and James Fort), wandering through the vibrant town center, and trekking the breathtakingly beautiful Kinsale Loop.

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