If you have any Irish in your blood, or if you just want to pretend with a Guinness in hand, you must make the trip to Ireland. Ireland is relatively easy to get to from the East Coast and is a pretty cost friendly location. Take the Red Eye and arrive first thing in the morning. You will have the whole day to explore. Push through the jet lag and you'll be fine.
There is quite a lot to do in Ireland! A full week is needed if you truly want to experience all Ireland has to offer. You can spend time in both the city of Dublin as well as exploring the beauty of the countryside and its many villages/castles. Come prepared to hike! There are many hiking paths with gorgeous panoramic views. The iconic Cliffs of Moher are a must if you venture away from the city.
People in Ireland are very nice and helpful. If you need directions, just ask! Also, chat with the locals and ask them about their favorite places to eat and drink. They won't steer you wrong. You will most likely end up having a truly authentic Irish experience with live music and great pub vibes.
Pretty much everyone in Ireland speaks English. However, it may be a little difficult to understand at times due to the dialect, pronunciation and potential drunkenness. Don't worry, you'll fit right in and eventually your ear will tune into the accent. If you go to small villages off the beaten path, you may hear some Gaelic, which is pretty cool.
Food in Ireland is very hearty. You will not leave any meal hungry ha. Starting with the traditional Irish Breakfast, you will be eating toast (brown bread or soda bread), eggs, bacon, sausage, baked beans, pudding, potatoes, mushrooms and tomatoes. Lunch and dinner options consist of a lot of fried foods and potato variations. There are also some delicious stews. You cannot go wrong with the fish and chips (french fries) or the corned beef. Just be prepared for a little saltiness. In the city, if you go to a more international restaurant, you'll obviously get a more diverse menu with salads. But if you eat authentic or local, don't hold your breath for many healthy options. But hey, you're on vacation!
You will also be drinking a lot of beers, ciders and whiskey. And believe me, they all taste so much better coming from the source! Pace yourself. Don't be that guy just because you're in Ireland. The Irish are obviously big drinkers, but they can handle themselves. Americans tend to try to keep up and fail miserably. But if you want to add some entertainment for the locals, be my guest.
Like the rest of the EU, Ireland also has the Euro as its currency. If you stay in the city, you'll be able to use your credit card everywhere with just a little cash here and there for a tip or if you find some awesome 'hole in the wall' pubs. If you leave the city, I would recommend taking a good bit of cash out. You will be traveling around and staying in villages that are as quaint as it gets. Cash is always the safer bet in these types of areas.
If you want to explore outside of the city, you will need to rent a car. Be prepared to drive on a lot of single lane roads, dirt paths and along windy cliffs. Also, be forewarned to request an Automatic with insurance and plan to get acquainted with driving on the opposite side of the road.
Unfortunately, we only had enough time to explore Dublin on our trip to Ireland. We have many family members that have spent a lot of time all over Ireland and have loved it! We will eventually make it back to travel along the countryside.
We spent our time in Dublin, right after Christmas. The city was beautifully decorated in the holiday spirit. Everyone out and about, just strolling with their families. Be forewarned however, primarily Catholic countries shut down to observe the holidays. Literally everything is closed, so plan your trip accordingly. Also, the day after Christmas is Boxing Day in Ireland. This is also an observed holiday. We made the mistake of coming to the city that day. Don't get me wrong, we had an amazing time just walking around and exploring, but the only bar/restaurant we found that was open was an American bar haha.
Dublin is a city, but it really feels like a large town. All the buildings have the old European charm and you can explore the entire city on foot without any issues. Around every bend in the road you'll find another restaurant, pub or shop. You can also venture out of the main strips and into more local areas that have the true Irish vibes. We asked a few locals we met, where to go for some authentic pubs and ended up at some super cool dives. Also, some of the restaurants in Dublin do cafeteria style meals. Meaning, you grab a tray and get in line. There are a lot of options to choose from. Some options with signs and some without. The food is freshly cooked and served right in front of you. You pay at the end of the line and then find your own seating. It is a very affordable dining option and the food was delicious.
You can't go to Dublin without going on at least one of the boozy tours. Home to the Guinness Factory, Jameson Distillery and the Whiskey Museum, you will feel Irish in no time. Another thing Ireland is known for, is its wool. Make sure you buy something made from the local sheep's wool. You'll see shops full of beanies, gloves, scarves, vests, jackets and more. It's a great way to purchase a souvenir from your trip that you will actually use.
I enjoyed Dublin a lot, but personally, I wouldn't spend more than 2-3 full days in the city. There is so much more to see elsewhere in the country.
Just a heads up, we did have to pay in cash for our Taxi from the airport to our hotel. I am not sure if it was our timing or what, but we were caught a little off guard.
TOUR THE GUINNESS
If you go to Dublin, you have to tour the Guinness Factory. The tour is actually an interactive experience, which is super cool. You learn all about the history of the family, but also how the beer is actually brewed. You can pour your own pint, which comes with your admission ticket and do other additives if you would like. There are full restaurants inside and a 360 degree view of the city. The Gravity Bar at the top, towers over Dublin. Not a traditional Guinness fan? The brand makes many other varieties as well that you can sample. But again, even if you aren't into the beer thing, it's the experience and view that makes this tour totally worthwhile.
ST. PATRICK'S CATHEDRAL
St. Patrick's Cathedral is the largest church in Ireland and is truly very pretty. It's right in the heart of the city, so you really can't miss it as you are strolling about. It is nice to walk around the immaculate grounds and see the church from all sides. There are also benches and seating places where you can take a movement to relax and immerse yourself in its ambiance. This is an active Catholic church. If you want to tour the church or go to a mass, you will have to look into the details of attendance.
STROLL THE PARKS AND GARDENS
There are surprisingly a lot of parks and gardens in the center of Dublin. They are all public and are nice to walk through. You can sit off on a bench or in the grass. St. Stephen's Green was very quaint and was a nice way to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. There are paths that loop around and pop you out at different areas. The Botanical Gardens are also supposed to be very nice as well. Winter isn't its season however.
There are much larger parks that are slightly outside of the city. They are near the zoo, if you are interested in that as well.
I mean, it wouldn't be vacationing in Ireland without a pub crawl...
Like I said, there is a plethora of pubs to choose from. Grab a pint, hangout a little bit and then hit the next. There are all varieties of pubs and bars depending what you're looking for. The truly authentic pubs are more up my ally, but there were mainstream options too. Venture all over the city. There are even more if you cross over the river by way of the Ha'penny Bridge. The Temple Bar, right downtown, is the most well known bar. It was a 'must do,' which we obviously did, but it was packed. Have a drink or two and then move on! Also, you will have buskers and live music everywhere. It's awesome!
WHEN IN IRELAND...
The Dublin Castle was on our list, but unfortunately it was closed for the holidays. From what we read, it seemed like something you had to see. The castle itself is pretty large, with massive grounds. It is also filled with museums and libraries. Our family has visited and enjoyed it. Until next time...
VISIT THE DUBLIN CASTLE
Find the most authentic dining experiences that you can. Try some of the traditional meals. You can't go wrong with food that has been soaking in Guinness for hours and hours. Mmmm... delish. These spots are much more chill and have overall better Irish vibes than the touristy locations. Try the cafeteria option one night. It was pretty unique and the food was really good.