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Ireland: Destination Guides

The top 5 things to do in Ireland

Considering Ireland for your studies? Here's 5 things you have to try for a fully Irish experience.

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Ireland, also known as the Emerald Island, is a beautiful, culturally unique, and interesting place to live, work and study. With a strong and world-renowned education system, students can gain a reputable qualification while also soaking up everything that Ireland has to offer. If you love the outdoors, sport, food, music, and friendly people, it sounds like Ireland could be the perfect place for you. Let’s explore five of the top things to do in Ireland to give you a taste of what you could expect from your Irish study experience.


1. Explore the cities

First of all, the island of Ireland is politically split into two parts with the Republic of Ireland occupying roughly 80 per cent of the land while the other section of the country is referred to as Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK. There are six major cities which you may have heard of including Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Derry, Limerick, and Galway. Each city has its own charm and distinguishing features, each worthy of a visit while you’re in Ireland. Let’s run through the top three.




The capital and the largest city in the Republic of Ireland, Dublin is a hub of entertainment. There is heaps to see and do including museums, shopping, restaurants, a thriving night life, a zoo and much more. Dublin is also known for its multiculturalism, with residents from countries all over the world, making Dublin a particularly welcoming place to be. If you are looking to study in Dublin, make sure to check out Trinity College Dublin, Ireland’s leading university.



Based in Northern Ireland (UK), Belfast is a buzzing and popular city. As the birthplace of both Game of Thrones and the Titanic, this compact city attracts people from all around the world. Belfast is a historically rich city with a lively music, arts and night scene. With the whole city based around the River Lagan, it’s not just the pints of Guinness that flow through Belfast. If you’re interested in the city and might want to consider Belfast, check out Queen’s University Belfast, a Russell Group university and arguably one of the most beautiful.



A city famed for its street festivals, literary figures, art and music, Galway is filled with buskers performing on the streets and in pubs, creating a lively and vibrant atmosphere. Needless to say, Galway has a truly distinctive character with its colourful shop fronts and year-round festivities. Located on the west coast by the sea, Galway is famous for oysters and hosts food festivals to celebrate its produce. For a more traditional Irish experience, give Galway a go.


2. Watch Irish dancing

Ireland has its very own styles of dance which include jigs, reels, and step dancing. These dances, with their Gaelic and Celtic roots, became popularised during the 1990’s when shows like Riverdance were broadcast around the globe. In addition to the traditional dance moves and music, Irish dancers will also wear quintessentially Irish outfits. You can watch a performance in most of the major cities with shows put on all throughout the year.

Find out more about what Ireland can offer international students.


3. Try authentic Irish food

While you’re studying in Ireland, you’ve got to try some of the local food to truly experience the culture. Popular Irish dishes include:

  • Soda bread
  • Irish stew – consisting of potatoes, meat, onion, and vegetables
  • Colcannon – mashed potatoes and cabbage
  • Champ – potatoes, butter, salt, and pepper
  • Shellfish – when in season, shellfish dishes are a popular cuisine in Ireland.
  • Potato cakes – deep fried potatoes, thinly sliced
  • Fifteen’s – Fridge cake (digestive biscuits, marshmallow, glace cherries)
  • Irish breakfast (also known as the Ulster fry in Ulster) – similar to an English breakfast consisting of black and white pudding, bacon, eggs, sausages, beans, potato cakes etc.


However, you will also find lots of other cuisines in Ireland due to the country’s diversity and mix of cultures, so you won’t be at a loss for choice.


4. Visit a castle in Ireland

Ireland is steeped in history and home to over 30,000 castles, with the oldest dating back to the 11th century. Many of these castles are based in the luscious green countryside or by the coast so you can see the spectacular views over the ocean. If you’re not a history buff, it’s still worth visiting at least one castle while you’re in Ireland, even if it’s just to feel like you’re starring in Game of Thrones. In fact, Dunluce Castle is a medieval castle based on the top of a cliff, with views of the coast and did in fact feature in the hit show. Overall, visiting a castle is a great way to gain some knowledge about Irish history and politics.


5. Go hiking in Ireland

Ireland didn’t get its nickname as the Emerald Isle for no reason. The rolling green hills, and regular rain showers makes for lush landscapes, perfect for walking and hiking. Popular trails include:

  • The Causeway Coast Way (Northern Ireland) – a world heritage site based along coastal cliffs, passing Dunluce Castle on the way and views of bays and sandy beaches.
  • Hare’s Gap (Northern Ireland) – a route with spectacular views of the Mourne mountains taking approximately 2-2.5 hours to complete.
  • Dingle Way (South West Ireland) – a trail taking roughly eight to nine days, passing villages and towns along the way such as Dingle and Tralee. This walk is not for the faint-hearted though and hikers should prepare for difficult conditions.
  • Slieve Gullion (Northern Ireland) – a mountain trail located within the Ring of Gullion Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, famous for purple heather and volcanic landscapes. This trail is associated with Irish mythology and legends.

So, Ireland is the perfect destination if you want to study somewhere with both a bustling city life and nearby hiking trails for a balanced and healthy lifestyle.


For more inspiration, check out the following universities based across the country:


Or alternatively, you can use our course matcher tool to find a course and university based on your preferences.  If you want to do some more research into studying abroad you can read our take on what international students are studying in Ireland, our university application guide and how to prepare to study abroad

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