Not gonna lie, I had zero expectations of Ireland. I went for a work trip, and I imagined my 8 days consisting of work, rain (February isn’t exactly peak season), Guinness, and more rain. I did do work (with some rad coworkers), and I did drink a LOT of Guinness (more on that later), but with a perfectly packed suitcase, I survived the cold weather and experienced a charming country with lots more going on than I gave it credit for.
During my stay, I visited Dublin, Galway, and the Aran Islands, and I recommend all three if you have 5 or 6 days. Each place is unique and combined, they provide a cool mix of old world life, outdoor life, and of course, nightlife. Below are my tips and recs for each place, including where to stay, what to eat, and what to do!
It’s the largest city in Ireland, but it’s not crowded and overwhelming like many other capital cities are. There are pubs on pubs, and while they all looked the same to me, someone will assure you that THIS place has the best Guinness is while someone else will tell you it’s THAT place. So basically just try them all and yes, Guinness does taste better in Ireland.
Where to stay: To be near the action, the city centre is your best bet near Trinity College. For a more local vibe, stay in Rathmines down south.
Where to eat: I loved Coppinger Row for dinner.
Know before you go:
Everyone is super nice in Ireland in general. I’m not sure why, but it’s really refreshing.
Never ask for a “glass” of beer. It’s always a pint. If you ask for a glass, you will be made fun of, since it’s a very small size and nobody drinks that.
Brown bread and Irish butter are some of the best things on earth. Eat it whenever you can. Irish better is notoriously tasty because the cows have a high-grass diet, and European butter also has a higher fat content. I would’ve brought back pounds of butter with me if I wasn’t flying to London after this trip. Eat it as much as possible.
Other Irish foods to try: Relish (Irish ketchup) and Barry’s tea (the Earl Grey of Ireland).
Pancake Tuesdays is a NATIONWIDE phenomenon where every place will serve pancakes. I’m not sure how this is a thing, but it is and it’s amazing.
Book a tour at the Jameson Distillery.
It’s a transient town about 2.5 hours drive from Dublin, where backpackers come to watch rugby and have a night of partying, both of which we did. The city itself is tiny, with all the action siphoned into a few blocks. Think more Guinness and as it gets later, and Oasis playing on the streets (the Irish seem to really love Oasis; I don’t know why).
Where to stay: Grab an Airbnb anywhere near the city centre.
Where to eat: Ard Bia is a fantastic restaurant; we ate here for dinner and brunch. It’s a beautiful place with beautiful food that overlooks the water. And they have a cookbook! For the best pot pies, visit Pie Maker, a tiny space that barely fits 10 people. The pies are hearty and delicious.
Know before you go: Book a rugby game if you can; it’s great fun to watch and an excuse to drink Guinness. From there, you can walk around to basically any pub and have a good time. Just don’t do what I did and eat garlic cheese fries from Supermac’s at 2am and THEN eat 2 slices of pizza at Papa John’s at 3am. V unnecessary.
The main reason to stay in Galway is to use it as home base to explore the countryside. You can drive around all day to see the lush countryside; the Cliffs of Moher aren’t too far. We opted to take the ferry to the Aran Islands which was the coolest experience. People speak more Irish than English, and you can spend the entire day hiking or biking to explore. Highly recommended for a more offbeat day trip.
Where to stay: You can camp on Inishmore (the big island that we visited) and spent a weekend hiking.
Know before you go: Buy your ferry ticket online; it’s about a 1 hour ride from Galway. Do NOT do what we did which was stay out until 4am and then catch the 9am ferry. It was a feat to be remembered for the ages, but it was also a hangover to be remembered forever and ever.
Inishmore is massive, so rent bicycles from the dock and cycle your way to see Dun Aonghasa, a fort set on a 300 foot cliff. To be honest, this was way cooler than the Cliffs of Moher, and it has some interesting history behind it.
There are lots of animals roaming on the island. We spotted cows, donkeys with bangs better than mine, and kittens which we fed ham to; maybe not the best idea to feed them, but they were so cute!