For a small country, Ireland has much to offer, from the majestic mountains of Glendalough, to the excitement and fun of the Guinness Storehouse.
Visitors can enjoy urban sophistication in many of the coctail bars in Dublin Centre, or they can bask in the solitude and peace of Kylemore Abbey.
Despite the Irish tourism industry facing a difficult few years, the sector has rebounded, with airports reporting record numbers of visitors this year.
The Top Ten
With all these factors in mind, Hospitality Ireland decided to examine the top ten visitor attractions in Ireland, based on Fáilte Ireland's Visitor Attractions Survey 2019, which was carried out by SRI in the third quarter of 2020.
The year 2019 was chosen as a good indicator because it was pre-covid and so the sample was more in line with tourists behaviour in normal circumstances, rather than during an exceptional event like the coronavirous pandemic.
Some of the attractions on this list have to be paid for, while some are completely free.
1. Guinness Storehouse
(1.7 million visitors)
At the top of the list is the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, with 1,700,000 visitors each year.
The Guinness Storehouse opened at the beginning of the millennium in 2000 and offers a history of Guinness, complete with interactive exhibits.
Following its success last year, visitors can also enjoy Ireland's highest garden at the Gravity Bar, surrounded by greenery and florals. This includes live music and performances.
2. Cliffs Of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience takes second place, drawing in 1,600,000 visitors annually.
Formed over 320 million years ago, the cliffs loom large over the west Clare coast.
Visitors can walk the paved pathways and enjoy the spectacular views over the Atlantic Ocean and the Aran Islands.
3. Dublin Zoo
Dublin Zoo takes third spot with an annual visitor count of 1,283,424.
Dublin Zoo is home to over 400 rare, exotic and endangered animals from around the world, and offers carefully designed habitats for the animals that are inspired by the wild and that create an exciting experience for visitors.
4. The Book of Kells
(1.14 million visitors)
The Book of Kells is an illuminated religious manuscript from the medieval period which attracted 1,144,410 visitors as of 2019.
Written in Latin, it contains the four Gospels of the New Testament and would have been crafted by the Celtic monks in the Columban monastery on Iona, circa 800.
Located in Trinity College Dublin, concession tickets are available for senior citizens (those over 60 years old) and students.
5. National Gallery of Ireland
The National Gallery of Ireland is located in Dublin and takes fifth spot with 761,469 visitors in 2019.
Since 1864, the Gallery has offered a varied programme of world class exhibitions throughout the year.
6. Glendalough Monument & Site Wicklow
Glendalough is home to one of the most important monastic sites in Ireland, and attracted 732, 362 visitors in 2019.
This early Christian monastic settlement was founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century. Most of the buildings that survive today date from the 10th through 12th centuries.
Despite attacks by Vikings over the years, Glendalough thrived as one of Ireland’s great ecclesiastical foundations and schools of learning until the Normans destroyed the monastery in 1214 A.D. and the dioceses of Glendalough and Dublin were united.
Glendalough is one of the top attraction on Ireland's Ancient East.
7. Tayto Park
Tayto Park in Meath was the seventh most popular attraction in Ireland in 2019, with 720,000 visitors.
It has since changed its name to Emerald Park and offers roller coaster rides, a zoo and numerous fun events.
8. National Botanic Gardens Dublin
The National Botanic Gardens in Dublin takes eigth position with 684,561 visitors in 2019.
The gardens are located in Glasnevin, just three kilometres from Dublin City Centre, and are famous for the restored historic glasshouses.
An important scientific institution, the Gardens contain important collections of plant species and cultivars from all over the world.
9. St Patrick’s Cathedral
St. Patrick's Cathedral, the largest cathedral in Ireland, attracted 628,000 visitors in 2019.
Since Saint Patrick baptised Christian converts nearby over 1500 years ago, this holy site has been a place of spiritual encounter for many generations.
10. Kylemore Abbey & Garden
Located just over one hour from Galway City, Kylemore Castle was built in the late 1800s by Mitchell Henry MP, a wealthy businessman, and liberal politician.
Today Kylemore Abbey is owned and run by the Benedictine community who have been in residence here since 1920.
It offers woodland and lakeshore walks, impressive buildings and Ireland’s largest walled garden.