The largest city on the island of Ireland features a 1,000-year old past, a cosmopolitan present and a bright future. Established by Vikings on the River Liffey in the 9th century, this UNESCO City of Literature is the birthplace of greats like Bram Stoker, James Joyce and Oscar Wilde, the home of Guinness and Trinity College, and consistently voted one of the friendliest cities in Europe!
The city that designed and built the Titanic is a hub of fine food, fun culture and spectacular scenery. Clamber to the top of Cave Hill Country Park – inspiration for Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels – for unparalleled views over Belfast, eat fresh local and artisan food at St George's Market, get to grips with history on a Black Taxi Tour, or venture outside the city to explore the legendary Causeway Coast – Lonely Planet’s No 1 Best in Travel region for 2018!
Laid-back and always ready to party, Galway has a bohemian flavour that perfectly suits its location at the heart of the Wild Atlantic Way. With a calendar full of internationally renowned events, including arts, music and oysters, kick back and enjoy the traditional sounds emanating from pubs like Roisín Dubh, dine out on fresh seafood straight from the boats, and enjoy the cinematic quality of the surroundings that have made this a UNESCO City of Film.
Corkonians are fiercely proud of their home city, and rightly so! Sitting on the River Lee, Cork has a cool atmosphere and an off-beat personality, made even more memorable by its locals. Every year, the city lights up for the famous Guinness Cork Jazz Festival, but the free-spirited feel lasts all year round, with art hubs like the Crawford Gallery and the Triskel Arts Centre a magnet for visitors, while Blackrock Castle and Elizabeth Fort pay homage to the city's sea-faring legacy.
With a 1.5km circumference, and anywhere between 4-10m wide, the walls of Derry~Londonderry have seen history unfold in their shadows since first erected some 400 years ago. Wander over the Peace Bridge above the River Foyle, take in the Guildhall, with its clock tower modelled on Big Ben, celebrate Halloween with an entire city dressed as ghouls and ghosts, and bite into warm buttery potato farls in one of the city's cosmopolitan cafés. Perfection.
Waterford is a historical marvel – often vying with Kilkenny for the title of Ireland's oldest city, it started out life as a Viking settlement, before going through Norman invasion and eventually embodying Georgian glamour. All three of these distinct eras are celebrated at the Waterford Treasures, a trio of museums around the Viking Reginald's Tower. Of course, no trip to Waterford is complete without a trip to the House of Waterford Crystal, and sampling the melt-in-your-mouth local delicacy, the "blaa".
Ireland's ecclesiastical capital is perfect for wandering feet and intrepid minds. Cosy and compact, you can go from admiring the two beautiful cathedrals honouring St Patrick on opposite hills, to gazing into the Milky Way at the Armagh Planetarium, to checking out the first edition copy of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels in the Armagh Library, complete with his handwritten notes!
Lisburn's history is tied up with the linen industry: beloved by European royalty, Lisburn's most famous craft has ended up on the Titanic, and was even used in Neil Armstrong's parachute during his trip to the moon! But it's not all about fabric in this County Antrim city – you’ll also find Hillsborough Castle here, a magnificent estate that acts as the official residence of the Queen when she's in Northern Ireland, with gardens open to the public.
Otherwise known as the Marble City, Kilkenny is a medieval marvel in Ireland’s Ancient East: a labyrinth of winding streets, the city is dominated by 12th century Kilkenny Castle, which was given to the city by the 6th Marquess of Ormonde for a mere £50. Kilkenny is the home of hurling, a national sport of Ireland and one of the fastest games in the world, as well as the 13th century Black Abbey, the 6th century round tower (one of only two on the island of Ireland you can still climb) and Ireland's oldest ale, the delicious Smithwick's.
It may be one of Ireland's newest cities and the gateway to Northern Ireland, but the site of Newry in County Down has signs of occupation that date back over 6,000 years. And no wonder: the Mourne Mountains and the Ring of Gullion that surround the city are utterly beautiful. Today, it's a bustling centre for shopping, as well as acting as the perfect base for exploration of the Mournes, Carlingford Lough, Rostrevor Forest and the city of Belfast.
On the banks of the River Shannon, Limerick is an arty city with a unique charm. A plethora of galleries, like the Hunt Museum and the Limerick City Gallery of Art, have encouraged an artistic revival in the city, while the Milk Market is its cultural centre, with pop-up restaurants, performances, antiques and music on any given day. Relive the siege of the city at the 800-year-old King John's Castle, or soak up the city's proud sporting heritage at Thomond Park, home of the Munster rugby team!