Wondering about the best places to visit in Ireland in 2024?
And, if you are planning on visiting one of these tops spots, you've probably wondered if there are any secrets to having an amazing visit – and maybe avoiding the crowds (as much as possible).
The answers to your questions are below – based on my own experiences from over 20 years of traveling through Ireland.
podcast episode 195
Top 10 Visitor Attractions in Ireland
These are the top spots to visit in Ireland, as voted on in the Reader Travel Awards at the Irish Independent.
- Guinness Storehouse, Dublin (up 1 from 2023 – also rated #1 visitor attraction in the world at the 2023 World Travel Awards)
- Cliffs of Moher, Co Clare (down 1 from 2023)
- Waterford Greenway (same as 2023)
- Dublin Zoo (not on 2023 list)
- Emerald Park, Co Meath (up from #8 in 2023 as Tayto Park)
- Killarney National Park, Co Kerry (not on 2023 list)
- Titanic Belfast (same as 2023)
- Giant’s Causeway, Co Antrim (not on 2023 list)
- Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin (down from #5 in 2023)
- Spike Island, Co Cork (not on 2023 list)
If you're looking for more tips for visiting Ireland's tops spots – as well as some amazing alternate attractions to consider- subscribe to the Traveling in Ireland Newsletter and receive Spectacular Alternates to Ireland's ‘Must See' Sights as a bonus!
See all the winners of the 2024 Irish Independent Reader Travel Awards
Expert Tips for Visiting the Most Popular Attractions in Ireland
These top sites are popular for a reason. They deliver a terrific visitor experience that creates lasting memories.
But popularity has a downside. At some sites it is lack of tickets, at others it is overwhelming crowds.
Here's how to have the best experience at the most popular spots in Ireland.
I personally prefer the final tour of the evening, but if you want to experience fewer people that may linger from earlier tours, choose the first two tours of the day.
Guinness Storehouse is easily reached via one of the Hop-on Hop-off buses and pairs well with a tour of Kilmainham Gaol.
Cliffs of Moher
If you've been listening to me for any amount of time you know that I advocate for people to visit the Cliffs before 10am or after 4pm to avoid the majority of tour buses.
You can also prebook your tickets on the Cliffs of Moher website to save money on earlier or later visits. These tickets give you full access to the visitor centre and experiences there.
Another option, if you are fit for an uphill hike and don't want to explore the visitor's centre, is to park at Guerin's Path, just south of the cliffs (look for signs). This per-car parking spot is at the highest point of the Cliffs. You can walk down a bit of the cliff walk to the main Cliffs of Moher visitor's area – just know that the hike back up can be challenging if you have mobility issues.
If you love a great hike be sure to book into a cliffs hike with Ollie's Tours.
I do not – ever – recommend a day tour to the Cliffs of Moher from Dublin. This is an exceptionally long day with nearly 7.5 hours of driving (10 hours total trip on average) for a very short view of the cliffs and other locations. It's just not worth it.
I think the best way to explore the Waterford Greenway is on bike. We rented electric bikes from Waterford Greenway Bike Hire in Waterford and cycled to Dungarvin where the rental company picked us up and shuttled us back to Waterford. If you wanted a bit of a touring on your return to Waterford contact Bob McAuliffe at About Ireland Taxi Tours – he'll arrange a great one-way tour for you.
If you have a car and want to drive the route near the greenway you can stop at trailheads along the greenway and explore on foot. A few highlights along the greenway to check out are Mount Congreve Gardens, the Durrow Viaduct, and the Copper Coast.
Located in Dublin's sprawling Phoenix Park, this is a terrific place to visit with young kids. If you can visit in mid to late afternoon to align with animal feeding that is a great way to see the animals be active. We just followed the feeder from cage to cage.
Phoenix Park can be accessed via Dublin bus, Hop-on Hop-off bus, and the Luas drops off nearby.
Learn more about How to get Around in Dublin
Spend some time in the park, as well. It's a great place to wander on a nice day and you may even see the herd of deer.
Emerald Park (formerly Tayto Park) is Ireland's only amusement park.
If you are an amusement park fan, the park has an area for young kids as well as larger rides.
Additionally you'll find a zoo, petting farm, fun Lemur Woods and zoo talks, a couple playgrounds and splash park, a fairy forest and a steam train.
Emerald Park is approximately 45 minutes from Dublin.
Killarney National Park
Covering over 25,000 acres of mountains, woods, moors, lakes and rivers in County Kerry, Killarney National Park is a wonderful natural playground. It also includes a stunning manor house, terrific abbey ruin, and fabulous Ross Castle.
A great way to get an overview of Killarney National Park is with a jaunting cart tour. You can queue for a jaunting cart in Killarney near the park entrance. The jarvey will entrance you with stories as you ride through the park to Ross Castle.
The national park is easy to cycle and you'll also find boat tours and walking tours.
While the pathways near Muckross House and at the entrance from Killarney town can be busy, there are plenty of remote spots where you can feel like the only person around.
This is the most popular tourist attraction in Belfast so you want to be sure to prebook your timed tickets.
If you don't want to take the guided tour in the building you can still explore the exterior areas, including the dry dock areas of the Titanic and Olympic.
I really like to do an early tour here and follow with a Black Taxi tour of the Peace Walls and murals – the taxi can pick you up at Titanic Belfast and drop you wherever you wish.
My favorite way to visit the Giant's Causeway is to arrive before the visitor's centre opens or after it closes to avoid the heaviest crowds. You can't park at the visitor's centre, but there are a few parking spots nearby that only cost a few pounds.
It's a steep walk down to the causeway – and back up – but if you visit during visitor's centre open hours there is a bus that is £1 or €1 per ride (up or down).
For those who enjoy a good hike you can follow the path from the famed stones along the coast for a bit, before needing to ascend steps up the side of the cliff. The views here are terrific. If you don't want to climb those steps you can also access this path near the upper bus parking.
Is it a bit morbid to visit a place where so many people were treated brutally, starved, and executed?
Probably. But these stories, and the ties to the 2016 Easter Rising, draw thousands of visitors to Dublin's notorious jail each year.
While you *might* get lucky and find same-day tickets, your best option is to prebook your tickets 28 days in advance as close to midnight Irish time as possible for best availability.
Kilmainham Gaol is an OPW Heritage site, so if you plan to purchase a card when you arrive (can be purchased on site or at Dublin Castle in the city centre) be sure to scroll down the booking page and choose One Year OPW Heritage Card to place a zero cost booking.
Pair this with a visit to Guinness Storehouse (if it's on your itinerary), visiting the jail first. Give yourself at least 30 minutes after your tour to visit the museum and exhibitions.
Spike Island, Cobh
Spike Island, off the coast of Cobh in County Cork, is known as ‘Ireland's Alcatraz' but before that it was home to a 7th century monestery and a Cromwellian prison.
Construction of the star-shaped fortress began in 1779 and the famine era prison, the largest in the world in the 1850s, was built in 1847. The island retained a prison through 1985. From 1938 through 1985 the island was the Irish Army and Navy base.
The ferry to reach Spike Island takes 12 minutes and you will be met by a guide for the first 45 minutes of your visit. After that you are welcome to explore using the map you were provided with your ticket. You can also self-guide for your entire island visit.
The thing to remember about this tour is that your return boat is 3.5 hours later, so you need to be sure you have plenty of time in your itinerary. I prefer the noon sailing. It offers plenty of time to arrive and depart Cobh.
If you are staying nearby – and you like a spooky experience – see if the After Dark tour is available.