I will admit, about 90% of my time in Ireland has been spent in County Kerry. I have never been to Northern Ireland. I haven't been north of Galway...so my list is a little incomplete. As we visit new places throughout the country I am sure some of my ten things will change but for now, these are my "must-dos" if you ever find yourself in Ireland.
1. Dublin - It's the big city. Your plane will probably land there. We have spent a few days in the city before and after flights. There are amazing restaurants, there are fun bars, and there are a million places to shop. It's a big city so the normal big city things apply.
If you find yourself in Dublin....
...go to Kilmainham Gaol. It's a jail and has a great little museum where you can learn all about the Irish fight for independence, the civil war, and more. The tour is fantastic but cold! So wear a coat.
...Ride a bus - sounds stupid but they're cheap and you can sit upstairs and ride around the entire city. It's an inexpensive way to see the city.
....Shop at Avoca - it's the Irish equivalent of Anthro and has a wonderful little cafe on the top floor.
....Eat at The Rustic Stone - seasonal ingredients, great salads, and one of the best burgers I have ever had, which is saying a lot because I eat a lot of burgers.
...Shop at The Loft Market - it's a great collection of Irish designers and vintage sellers. It's like Irish Etsy brought to life. And don't think you are going to see shamrocks and wooly sweaters. That stuff is only in the touristy shops.
2. Hold a lamb! I know there are things like foot and mouth disease or whatever but they are the fluffiest, softest, cutest things ever. If you get the chance, hold one.
4. Drink Guinness - it's better in Ireland, that's just a fact.
5. Drive The Ring of Kerry - The views and photo opportunities are worth it. If it's sunny, there's nothing like it.
If you find yourself in Dingle....
....go to Murphy's Ice Cream. It's the BEST.
....check out the Dingle Brewing Company. It's relatively new (we just discovered it last year), the beer is really good, and their business model is inspiring. The country could use more businesses like this one.
....look for Fungie - a dolphin that lives in the Dingle Bay. You can take a boat trip out for a chance to spot him. I have never seen him....one day!
7. Galway - this is one of my favorite cities in Ireland. It's a big-ish city - not as big as Dublin but big enough to have something for everyone. It's considered an "artsy" place and I always have fun when I am there.
If you find yourself in Galway.....
....eat at Ard Bia - a cafe with lots of healthy options that is set in a beautiful and cozy old building right by the water.
....eat at Martine's - expensive and kind of fancy but you will eat the best steak of your life here. Just a note, the Irish tend to order their steaks well done or medium-well. In America, I usually get medium-rare. In Ireland, I order rare and it comes out medium or medium-rare.
...buy a Claddagh ring - the original one came from Galway City
...listen to traditional music - Galway has some of the best pubs for music if this is your thing.
8. Eat lamb and chicken and beef and eggs and cheese. If you're a vegan...not sure what to tell you. Irish beef and lamb is the best in the world. The beef is all grass fed and you can taste the difference. The dairy is also amazing. I am not a huge fan of lamb but lamb in Ireland? SO good. Same goes with chicken. I pretty much never eat chicken at an average America restaurant but in Ireland, it's different. It tastes like chicken.
9. Watch a Gaelic Football game - it's the country's national sport and it's a fun, fast moving game. It is also a really big deal in Kerry. My husband is obsessed.
10. Talk to people. I am not friendly in general but Irish people are really friendly, which makes it easy. A bartender or cab driver might be all chat and it's fun to listen to what they have to say. Ireland is a very hospitable country and they are good to their visitors.