Ah, Ireland. When one has the opportunity for a few weeks in Ireland it’s great to make the most of it. Keep reading to learn all the best places to stop (and what to do and eat there!) in 2 weeks in Ireland.
2 Weeks in Ireland – The Basics
If you’re looking to spend a few weeks in Ireland without renting a car, then this is the guide for you. While I would generally recommend people rent a car, not everyone can. If you’re under 25 or simply don’t want to risk the narrow roads with their left hand driving, then no worries! While limiting, there are ways to see just about everything you’d like without a car.
I personally don’t find the southeast of Ireland to be all that interesting (comparatively) but if you want to check out the likes of Kilkenny or Waterford just add a few days on. Kilkenny can easily be seen as a day trip from Dublin.
Remember, though, all roads lead to Dublin – exclusively. When you go to another place you’re generally going to have to return to Dublin to move on elsewhere.
Days 1-4 Dublin
I’ll be honest, not my favorite capital city but lots of people do love it. My recommendation if you’re not feeling “little London” is to sign up for a walking tour. I did this Literary Drinking Tour towards the end of my trip and I wish I’d done it earlier, along with a general walking tour.
You can often find “free” walking tours at hostels with a suggested tip of 5-10 euros.
St. Patricks Cathedral is lovely in the evening when locals bring their dogs to play in the park next door. Dublin Castle has some nice exhibits which are a good intro to modern Irish history. The National Gallery is perfect for art lovers and the National Museum of Archaeology is perfect for the history buffs. And of course nothing is complete without a trip to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells (and the school that so many famous authors attended).
If you’re not traveling during Covid then it’s a fantastic idea to take a tour of the Hill of Tara and Newgrange. These places are very difficult to reach via public transport and a tour will often afford you many extras.
Howth is a great option for those who want to see a different side of Dublin – and maybe visit an island! Ireland’s Eye is easy to reach via ferry – but double check whether you want to actually land on the island or take a cruise around it as there are different companies which offer different things.
As previously mentioned, Kilkenny is another good day trip option about an hour away from Dublin if you’re wanting to see another town.
Deciding where to eat in Dublin is the epitome of the phrase “spoiled by choice.” There are so many options it can be difficult to choose. My favorite meal was at the popular Bewley’s Grafton Street, where my love of vegetable puree soups began. Also brown bread, a ubiquitous accompaniment with any soup in Ireland.
Joy of Cha is a cute cafe that has a good tea selection and several nice lunch options such as quiche, and an assortment of pastries.
When it comes to alcohol, Celtic Whiskey Shop has a great assortment. In particular, their mini whiskeys make fantastic souvenirs. In regards to pubs, as long as they have potato chips to accompany your Guinness you’re good to go!
And while it is a chain, I have to shout out Butler’s hot chocolate. Truly some of the best hot chocolate that I haven’t made myself!
Jacobs Inn Hostel is fantastic value for a hostel with pod-style beds, personal lighting, and electronic in-room lockers. The pub downstairs is actually pretty great and we spent several evenings in just enjoying the space. Be aware that they do charge you for locker use prior to check-in time, but since it is frequently too full you can kinda just shove your bags in a corner if you’re not worried about theft.
NOTE: If you bought your tickets onward from the Dublin Connolly Station then it’s possible you will have to take a tram to Heuston (included in your ticket price). They give absolutely no indication of this when you buy your ticket and the staff at the station are frequently MIA.
Despite what security guards might tell you, the tram opens at 5:30AM so don’t be tricked into getting taxi. If your ticket shows a connection through Heuston then a tram is probably what you’ll have to take.
Days 4-5 Cork
Cork is the “true” capital of Ireland as Dublin is felt by many to be too cosmopolitan to really represent the country. I’d have to agree. While I still think your best value in Ireland is to get out into the West, Cork is a perfect stop on the way.
Above and beyond the best museum to visit is the Nano Nagle Place, the only museum in Ireland dedicated solely to a woman. Fascinating history about the Irish religious and educational struggle against the British centered around a single Catholic nun. I really enjoyed my time here.
For art, the Crawford Art Gallery has a nice collection and some fascinating visiting exhibits.
Simply enjoying your time wandering about the city will do you more good than trying to track down specific sites like the Red Abbey Tower or the Elizabethan Fort. Those are interesting to see, but it is more exciting to randomly come across it.
There’s no question that Cobh is the best day trip. A lovely 30 minute train trip along the coast brings you to the surprisingly interactive Titanic Museum and a cute (but very uphill) village. I highly recommend this Rebel Walking Tour that is all about Cobh’s history in the independence movement – who knew that a tiny place could have so much going on? There’s not a heck of a lot food-wise happening here so you might want to time things so you can either bring your lunch from the English Market or head back to Cork.
The English Market is simply the best place to go in Cork to get a taste of real Irish produce on your own terms. The best cheese, meats, and breads that you can find. I wish I’d bought more!
For dinner and drinks, Greenes has the best outdoor seating situation in the city. The food is tapas style and while we found the desserts disappointing, the creative seasonal cocktails and savories were excellent.
When it comes to cafes, Alchemy is going to have the better hot chocolates. For tea, the adorable Tara’s Tea Room has great outdoor and indoor seating.
Sheila’s Hostel is, well, cheap and decent enough if you’re on a shoestring budget. Be warned about the fantastically steep hill to get there, though. But if you want to choose a place to splurge a little, then Cork is some of the best value for your buck. The Metropole is an excellent hotel that is better located (no hill!) with a restaurant cum pub downstairs if you’re looking for easy eats.
Days 5-7 Killarney
I would call this city the Gateway to the West. If, at this point, you’ve been somewhat underwhelmed by Ireland then your trip is about to get a whole lot better. Killarney itself is a cute town with a fair amount to do – especially if you like the outdoors.
By far the best place to visit is Killarney National Park. You can take a jaunting car (like a horse drawn carriage) for a reasonable price from the town to Ross Castle. It’s better to simply go to the meeting point near the Killarney Hotel as they will likely give you a discount (as opposed to booking online). It’s fun to trot through the park with a blanket to keep you warm.
Once you are in the park, take a quick gander at Ross Castle – definitely one of the better castles to see as it has period-specific furniture and it’s been carefully restored.
Then, talk to one of the people with the small motor boats at the docks next to the castle. For about 10 euros they will take you to Innisfallen. This is an island in the middle of the lake that has the remains of a monastery. They will typically give you about an hour to explore and it’s one of the best things I did on my trip – there’s also tons of adorable deer!
Here is where you really get to see some things. Kilkenny is the best place to take a Ring of Kerry or a Dingle Peninsula tour from. Personally, we were rather disappointed by the Ring of Kerry. Our tour driver was great but the stops were…meh. Skip the Bog Village for sure if you can. The best part of the tour was the place we had the least time in, Moll’s Gap.
So, if you can I recommend you spring for a private tour. If you can only do one, make sure it’s the Dingle Peninsula. I highly recommend South Kerry Taxi Tours. We were taken absolutely all over the Dingle Peninsula, stopping and leaving at our wish – all with some expert commentary from our driver.
From the beehive huts to stunning cliffside beaches we saw so much in just a single day! You’ll also get the chance to have possibly the best seafood of your life in Dingle Town. I also recommend stopping at Dingle Crystal.
I am always hesitant when a tour driver wants to stop at a shop of some kind – but this was different. We weren’t encouraged to buy anything but we fell in love with the display of mastery the owner had over cutting crystal. We simply had to buy something and it’s my favorite souvenir from our weeks in Ireland.
I wish we had been able to add on a Ring of Kerry tour with them, but alas it wasn’t in our schedule. Being able to control where we were going (and being able to go some places the large tour buses can’t go like the Cliffs of Kerry) would have made the whole thing so much better.
Treyvauds for a bit of fancy and any of the pubs for a great seasonal vegetable soup. I’ve talked about these soups already – but it was awesome to ask what exactly the vegetables in the soup were going to be that day. Almost always the waiter would pause, and occasionally they’d have to ask the chef! Whatever vegetables they happen to have on hand? Into the soup! Mushrooms and cream, potato and leek, butternut squash and sour cream, the combinations are endless and hearty.
The Black Sheep Hostel is probably my favorite place that we stayed during our weeks in Ireland. It’s simply adorable, with free breakfast (including fresh eggs from the chickens out back!), and it’s in a quieter location. It has a great crowd of people staying there as well.
Days 7-10 Galway
I did love Galway, but be aware that during the school season the city is packed with thousands of students who seem to be drunk from about 3PM onwards everyday. It might be the only city I’ve ever been to that’s probably less busy in the summer (and it might be the ideal time to visit).
I did love it, but it did have the feel of Florence, Italy, for me. Too many people crammed into a city where not that many actually live. As though the bounds of the city strain at the seams. If you’re here for a trad session you can expect to be waiting for an hour or two outside. But don’t let that deter you, it’s a great city to explore and especially to eat in.
The best things to do in Galway are primarily centered around eating and drinking. But that’s not to say there aren’t things to do as well. For one, walking around the city, especially the paths that take you by the Spanish Arch, is a delight.
You might catch a nice market day where there will be small businesses selling handmade pottery and more. This is also perhaps the best place in Ireland to shop for traditional souvenirs. The Claddagh ring design comes from a shop that still calls Galway home. There are also several traditional instrument shops that are worth popping in.
The Cliffs of Moher is definitely the best day trip you can take from here. There are tons of different options but make sure you find one that includes The Burren. The Burren is another national park in Ireland (there are only six), and it’s unlike anywhere I’ve ever been before. It’s like standing on the surface of the moon while the sea crashes in the background and cows get fat off the apparently super nutritious grass.
For the Cliffs of Moher there are cruises that will take you alongside the Cliffs, along with a trip to the Aran Islands. If you decide to do this (and the Aran Islands are high on my list) make sure they still include at least 2.5 hours at the Cliffs for walking. Otherwise, I don’t think you’ll be able to truly appreciate the views without having a nice wander.
Another option if you’re in the mood for national parks is a trip to the Connemara National Park – home to the world famous Connemara marble. I was highly impressed with the three national parks I saw in Ireland, so I am certain Connemara would live up to the hype.
No doubt, the best place to eat is Aniar, a Michelin Star restaurant that I carefully chose out of all the stars in Ireland for it’s take on authentic Irish food. One of the struggles I had with food in Ireland was finding “upscale” traditional Irish dishes. In the past two years I have transformed into something of a foodie and splurging on a nice meal for every trip has become something I budget for now.
But I don’t have any desire to eat world class French or Japanese food in Ireland! Of the mere 20 Michelin starred restaurants in Ireland, only a handful feature traditional Irish fare using local Irish ingredients. Aniar has all of that and more over the course of a sumptuous tasting menu.
Of course, not everyone wants or can go to this kind of restaurant and Galway still has you covered. The King’s Head is the place to go if you’re interested in oysters. Galways oysters are world-renowned, and it’s said the British royal family specifically look to eat these oysters over any other.
If you’re wanting fusion, Kappa-ya has amazing sushi with a Celtic twist. And, if you’re wanting a taste of what a Michelin star chef can do without paying the hefty prices, check out Tartare just across the street from Aniar for lunch. It’s the same head chef!
Another note, Aniar has cooking classes which, while pricey, sound pretty amazing and work for any level.
I highly recommend the Savoy Hostel. With cheap prices and a free basic breakfast in a good location, it’s hard to beat.
Days 10-13 Sligo (2 Weeks in Ireland)
Is it odd that Sligo is my favorite place in Ireland? Of all our weeks in Ireland, the final destination was the best. And it doesn’t seem that I’m alone.
While fewer people come this far north, those who do seem to love it! Now, it must be said that the best experiences will require a car and I honestly wouldn’t recommend coming here unless you plan to either rent a car or hire a driver for the day like we did. You can check out my guide to Sligo’s Sights for more information!
The Yeats Museum is small, overpriced, and yet informative. The Yeats Society frequently does events and it’s worth checking with them to see if they have any walking tours or lectures.
Sligo Abbey is actually super beautiful although it is frequently closed (for Covid…an open air museum closed for Covid – Ireland’s Covid laws are frequently weird). You can still see quite a bit from the outside.
Here’s where the fun is really at. Sligo Town is lovely to just relax in Ireland for a bit, but the scenery and amazing sites just outside it are worth splurging.
Strand Hill. This one doesn’t even require a splurge! Just take the local bus for a couple euro for around 15 minutes each way. Don’t necessarily trust the Google Maps times, inquire at the gas station/convenience store for what time you can expect the bus to leave.
But what do you do in Strand Hill? The Voya Seaweed Baths! It might seem gimmicky but this is actually a popular phenomenon in this area. These are simply the baths that are easiest to reach and even locals will come! They’re super warm and relaxing and a great way to rejuvenate on your trip.
As for the private driver experience I recommend following the path of this tour offered by Sligo Tours. You’ll see the Carrowmore, Carrowkeel (my favorite!), and Queen Maeve stone cairn tombs. You’ll also see the Caves of Kesh, the Fairy Glen, Yeats Grave, Glencar Waterfall, and more – including amazing seafood restaurants.
You essentially can customize your tour to whatever will fit in the day. I was converted to the appeal of private tours from our two experiences. Expensive, but very much worth the price for the personalization. Big bus tours are still cheaper and useful, but if there’s something I really want to see I’ll spring for this in the future.
Sligo has a surprising amount of delicious restaurants. Eala Bhan has a great early-bird dinner option where you get a set menu at a discounted price. It’s also in a lovely location although they seemed very short staffed when I was there. Hopefully that’s improved because our order was messed up several times despite there not being many people in the restaurant. Despite that, it’s worth it for the great food and creative plating.
Any restaurant along the river honestly looked great.
Best Stays for Your Weeks in Ireland
The Railway Hostel is a bit more confusing to book, but worth it for the far lower prices. Just email the proprietor and he’ll make the booking. It’s nothing special, but it’s a nice enough place to stay in a place that doesn’t have tons of options.
Days 13-15 Dublin & the Wicklow Mountains
It’s good to finish up in Dublin but don’t skip a day trip to the Wicklow Mountains during your weeks in Ireland. The Wicklow Mountains are another national park in Ireland that, interestingly, reminds me of the Northeast of the US. It’s different, obviously, but it did make me wonder if Irish immigrants found themselves more at home in that area for a reason.
Wrap up your time in Dublin catching up on any spots you missed or heard about after traveling around for 2 weeks in Ireland!
Wondering Where You Should Go After 2 Weeks in Ireland?
Europe awaits! The World awaits! If you have the time after a few weeks in Ireland, it’s a great idea to check out some other countries such as a guide to Italy. If you want more information on Ireland, you can check out my city guides (coming soon).