We just returned home from Ireland after a week in what I would consider the most wonderful time of the year to visit. Fall weather and beautiful leaves haven’t hit Hotlanta yet. We are still staggering through hot temperatures and a mild October. Not only was it our first time in Europe since COVID, but we got to celebrate and visit our best friends while abroad. Check out this great guide for traveling to Ireland. You won’t be disappointed. Sláinte!
Traveling During COVID
In order to travel easily through Ireland, you must be fully vaccinated and have CDC documentation. You will want to bring your CDC card with you, along with your passport, to pretty much any place you go in Ireland. You can’t get into museums, restaurants, pubs, or go on tours without being fully vaccinated. They will also check your name on the CDC card against your passport.
Before you travel, you will want to visit the Ireland travel website for any updated travel mandates. Before we left, we had to complete a country travel form with our travel details. We received a QR code that was scanned upon arrival in the airport. It was super easy. However, if you are not fully vaccinated, the process is much harder. This is my soapbox to tell you to get fully vaccinated before traveling!
Staying in Ireland
We decided to spend all of our trip staying at a hotel base in Dublin. However, we saw all of the country through day trips that departed from central Dublin. Although we have driven on some of the busiest roads in Europe and can actually say we once got a speeding ticket on the autobahn…we didn’t want to fool with driving on the opposite side of the road. We enjoyed having one hotel throughout our trip. Pre-COVID, we always bounced around Europe to see the most on our trips, so we enjoyed staying in one hotel during our trip to Ireland. It made things very easy. We stayed in the Temple Bar area (great hotels, but don’t plan to drink in this area as you can get a pint cheaper at another pub in a non tourist location). We opted for a spacious suite at the Morgan Hotel. We loved this area, and it was walkable to every location in Dublin.
Things to Do in Dublin
We did spend two full days exploring Dublin as a city. We loved it! It is a very walkable city, and there is so much to do. Here are some things to not miss out on in Dublin…
Guinness and Jameson Factory Tour – You can’t miss this one! This was one of our favorite tours. Guinness just tastes different in Dublin. Even if you don’t like Guinness, you have to try it in Ireland.
EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum – If you love history, then don’t miss this museum. It is so well done! You won’t find leprechauns or pots of gold here, but you’ll discover that what it means to be Irish expands far beyond the borders of Ireland through the stories of Irish emigrants who became scientists, politicians, poets, artists and even outlaws all over the world.
Drink a Guinness at the Stags Head or Brazen Head – These are two of the oldest pubs in Dublin. You have to stop in for a pint while in Ireland.
Private Food Tour – We love a food tour, because they are usually done by locals. We loved our tour with Marg. She was amazing and showed us all the cool local spots.
Kilmainham Gaol Museum – Kilmainham Gaol opened in 1796 as the new County Gaol (jail) for Dublin. It closed its doors in 1924. The tickets for this tour are free, and Kilmainham Gaol is one of the most popular tours in Dublin. Make sure to book your tickets in advance, as this tour fills up fast with tickets being free. They release canceled tickets at 9am every morning on their website.
Day Tours to See Ireland
We were able to see most of Ireland through day tours that left Dublin. The buses were comfortable and had WiFi available. This worked for us, but you can always rent a car and travel the country on your own. Here are the tours we took that left Dublin directly.
Cork and Blarney Castle Rail Tour – We loved Blarney Castle! It was a highlight on our trip. The grounds are stunning and the local sweet shops nearby are so delicious with homemade cakes and treats.
Cliffs of Moher – Another stunning location in Ireland. We could have stayed at the Cliffs of Moher all day. The views are beautiful. After walking around the cliffs, we recommend grabbing a pint at the local pub down the street. This was a 12 hour tour, but the time flew by. You are back in Dublin by 8pm to grab dinner.
Northern Ireland and Giant’s Causeway – If you go to Ireland, you can’t miss the stories and troubled history behind Northern Ireland. This was an eyeopening tour for us. The tour gave us two options in Belfast, seeing a Titanic Museum or going on a political tour in a black cab. We did the political tour (you can visit a Titanic Museum in the states). We spent two hours driving around Belfast in a black cab hearing about the political history from a local. Don’t miss this, as you don’t learn about Irish and British history in grade school back in the states. This was another long tour, but you are back in time for an 8:30 dinner.
Glendalough,Wicklow and Kilkenny Tour – This was another wonderful day trip. We loved Kilkenny and the sheepdogs. Kilkenny was one of our favorite city spots we stopped at. The farm stop on this tour and sheepdog demonstration were a highlight on our trip.
Places to Eat in Dublin
We were able to book all of our dinner reservations before our trip. With COVID guidelines, we found this easier than waiting until we arrived. Restaurants have capacity limits, so booking beforehand is vital if you want to eat at the great spots.
Fade Street Social – One of our favorite meals of the trip! Great location close to everything for a nice and easy first night dinner.
L Mulligan Grocer – For more traditional Irish food, this is your place. If you get cold, you can even request a hot water bottle and blanket. Try the fish and chips.
WILDE – This was another one of our favorite meals. I loved their Oysters and seafood. It is upscale, so plan this meal for a dress up night.
Grover’s Alley – If you are looking for a nice Michelin Star restaurant, look no further. We loved this wine and tasting pairing menu. It was unique food and a lovely setting.
Don’t Miss Ireland
We loved Ireland in the fall. It was one of our favorite trips to date. Don’t miss this great country filled with so much history. May you live as long as you want, and never want as long as you live. Enjoy!