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Céad míle fáilte!
The Irish saying that means ‘a hundred thousand welcomes’ is something that you’ll hear plenty of times when traveling around Ireland. It’s the unofficial slogan of the Emerald Isle, often considered to be one of the friendliest places on earth and renowned around the world for its iconic symbols: clover leafs, leprechauns, St. Patrick, whiskey and Guinness.
Ireland’s welcoming population will help with any questions you may have concerning things to do, sights to see and pubs to visit. Ireland is an island of green hedge-lined fields, narrow winding country roads, spectacular coastlines, desolate mountain regions, church-dotted towns and old cities. In this post, five of the greatest cities in Ireland are featured—Ireland, in this case, meaning both the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland, which belongs to Great Britain; the island of Ireland in other words.
Cork is the second city in the country of Ireland and the third largest city on the island, but many locals consider it to be the actual capital. There’s an interesting rivalry between Cork and Dublin, a rivalry that ranges from sports to arts and food. Talking about food, Cork is without question the epicenter of food in Ireland, filled with great restaurants and taverns, and home to the amazing English Market.
Other highlights include St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral, St. Patrick’s Street and the signposted self-guided walking tours that offer a great introduction to the city.
Located on the Irish west coast, the city of Galway is arguably the prettiest of all Irish cities. It boasts a superbly colorful waterfront, at the point where the River Corrib flows into the Atlantic Ocean, and many, many historic sites.
The Galway city center consists of cobbled medieval alleys, countless pubs, a beautiful park and an imposing cathedral. In summer, Galway is crowded with tourists and backpackers, which creates a vibrant atmosphere.
Galway is also a great base to explore beautiful places such as Connemara, the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher.
The capital of Northern Ireland, Belfast is technically a British city. But because it’s also located on the Irish isle—it’s the second largest city on the island—it’s inclusion in this list is justified. Belfast is a fascinating city, home to unexpected futuristic architecture and a place with a gruesome past. The history of political and religious hatred can still be seen in the murals that line Shankill and Falls Roads, those murals being one of the absolute highlights of the city.
Other attractions are Titanic Belfast, including the Titanic museum and the dock where RMS Titanic was fitted out; and the Game of Thrones studios.
Dublin, capital and largest city of Ireland, is where most people commence their visit to the country. This bustling city has so much to offer that it’s possible to spend weeks on end only in the city. It’s said that there are more a thousand pubs in Dublin, a testimony to the jovial, welcoming and social spirit of the Irish.
Besides pubs, visitors should also make sure not to miss Trinity College, the Chester Beatty Library, Grafton Street, the Guinness Storehouse, the Jameson Distillery, Phoenix Park, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin Castle and the National Museums of Ireland. It’s a great city.
A jewel of a city situated in the southeastern corner of the island, Kilkenny may be small, but packs a huge punch. Home to no more than 25,000 people, Kilkenny is chock-full with historic sites, churches, cathedrals and pubs. It’s a medieval city with a city center that’s made up of narrow medieval lanes, cobbled streets and old buildings, including Kyteler’s Inn, established in 1324 and one of the oldest inns in Ireland that are still open to this day. Additional landmarks include the impressive St. Canice’s Cathedral, magnificent Kilkenny Castle, the Black Abbey and St. Mary’s Cathedral.
The brightly colored pubs on John Street are fantastic places to spend an evening listening to local trad music and enjoying a pint of Kilkenny or Smithwick’s, both excellent beers that are brewed in this little city.
Article written by and photos by guest contributor Bram Reusen for EuropeUpClose.com. Bram Reusen is a freelance travel writer, translator and photographer from Belgium who currently lives in Vermont, USA. Bram’s preferred ways of traveling and getting around are hiking, cycling and road tripping. You can follow his adventures at Travel Experience Live .