Guinness Storehouse remains the most popular tourist attraction in Ireland with a record year for visitors. Little wonder the company is set to open a US facility, brewery and visitor center in Maryland to capitalize on the extraordinary interest in the product.
With a record year for Irish tourism in 2016, many of the country’s largest tourist attractions also experienced a massive surge in the number of visitors flocking through their doors/gates. In its best ever year, Ireland welcomed 11 percent growth in visitor numbers and earnings of $5.75 billion but what sights and sounds were the most popular for travelers?
Fáilte Ireland, the national tourism development authority, this week released the top tourist attraction, both free and fee-paying, for the Republic of Ireland last year and with no surprises, the likes of the Guinness Storehouse and the Cliffs of Moher came out on top. The Co. Clare cliffs, in fact, experienced a fantastic 14% jump in visitors while the Storehouse also welcomed a 10% increase.
“Attractions are one of the key reasons why many overseas visitors choose Ireland as a destination – they create the variety of experiences that make for an enjoyable holiday and are the basis of visitor memories and moments to share that are critical to the growth of tourism in Ireland,” said Paul Kelly, CEO of Fáilte Ireland.
“This growth can be even stronger if we all work together to unlock the further potential of our natural landscapes and built heritage,” he said.
Read more: Top ten caravan and camping sites for your Irish vacation
We take a look at the top five choices for tourists here while you can view the complete list below.
Top five fee-paying attractions:
1. Guinness Storehouse – 1,647,408 (+10%)
It would be wrong to head to Dublin without dropping into the Storehouse for a pint of the Black Stuff with a great view over the capital and over a million and a half visitors to Ireland agreed.
2. Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience – 1,427,166 (+14%)
The Cliffs of Moher had the largest jump in visitors of all the most popular fee-paying attractions this year. Come rain or shine, the cliffs are truly magnificent and we expect that the numbers can only but continue to rise.
3. Dublin Zoo – 1,143,908 (+3%)
Located in the center of the magnificent Phoenix Park, one of the largest walled parks in Europe, a sunny day in Dublin sends plenty of people to the zoo for a family excursion.
4. National Aquatic Center – 1,037,992 (+4.5%)
While the National Aquatic Center is popular with Irish visitors, there’s no reason why those traveling from further afield can not take advantage of the fun. If you’ve spent a good few days traveling around the country and are in need of a break from the hiking and bus tours, the indoor aquatics facility in Dublin will be sure to offer a welcome reprieve.
5. Book of Kells – 890,781 (+6%)
Presented in Trinity College Dublin, this beautiful manuscript is drawing ever closer to attracting a million annual visitors. If you’re a big reader then a trip to see the Book of Kells is a must if only to walk in the incredible library.
Top five free attractions:
1. The National Gallery of Ireland – 755,577 (+5%)
A grand collection of European art spanning the 14th to the 20th-century covering all major schools, the National Gallery of Ireland offers a respite from the hustle and bustle of Dublin, offering up musical events, workshops, and classes, as well as a nice little café spot.
2. Irish Museum of Modern Art – 584,856 (+20%)
The Irish Museum of Modern Art experienced an incredible 20% leap in visitors this year, for the first time reaching over half a million guests to Ireland's leading national institution for the collection and presentation of modern and contemporary art at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham.
3. National Botanic Gardens – 583,539 (+5.5%)
Located just beside the famous Glasnevin Cemetery, where tourists can visit the graves of the likes of Michael Collins, the Botanic Gardens should not be overlooked. Be sure to carry on into the Gardens once you’ve finished your cemetery tour and then head to the Gravediggers Pub for some subsistence.
4. Doneraile Wildlife Park – 480,000 (+11%)
One of the generally lesser known names higher up on the list, Doneraile Park in Co. Cork spans 500 acres of woodland, wetlands and deer parks adjacent to the River Awbeg. It contains formal gardens, pleasure grounds, river cascades and lakes, ancient trees, deer herds, Kerry cattle, and beautiful flora and fauna associated with the river and managed woodlands. A perfect family day out!
5. National Museum of Ireland – 479,261 (+4.8%)
We can imagine that the spectacular bog bodies on display in the National Museum of Ireland are a massive attraction for overseas visitors eager to see the incredibly preserved human remains. Other great pieces within the museum include famous examples of early medieval Celtic metalwork in Ireland such as the Ardagh Chalice, the Tara Brooch, and the Derrynaflan Hoard.
TOP 20 FEE-PAYING VISITOR ATTRACTIONS
- Guinness Storehouse Dublin 1,647,408
- Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience, Clare 1,427,166
- Dublin Zoo 1,143,908
- National Aquatic Centre, Dublin 1,037,992
- Book of Kells, Dublin 890,781
- Tayto Park, Meath 762,000
- St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin 563,000
- Castletown House & Parklands, Kildare 547,324
- Powerscourt House & Gardens, Wicklow 467,507
- Fota Wildlife Park, Cork 465,281
- Kylemore Abbey & Garden, Galway 458,000
- Blarney Castle, Cork 420,000
- Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin 390,970
- Kilkenny Castle Kilkenny, 384,918
- Bunratty Castle & Folk Park, Clare 352,286
- Rock of Cashel Tipperary, 338,830
- Emo Court House & Gardens, Laois 293,056
- Old Jameson Distillery, Dublin 269,000
- Dublin Castle, Dublin 253,786
- Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin 229,085
TOP 20 FREE VISITOR ATTRACTIONS
- The National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin 755,577
- Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin 584,856
- National Botanic Gardens, Dublin 583,539
- Doneraile Wildlife Park, Cork 480,000
- National Museum of Ireland, Kildare St, Dublin 479,261
- Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin 413,900
- National Museum, Collins Barracks, Dublin 411,391
- Farmleigh, Dublin 383,335
- Newbridge Silverware Museum, Kildare 350,000
- National Museum - Natural History, Dublin 317,269
- Galway City Museum Galway 213,390
- Connemara National Park, Galway 210,812
- The Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin 193,229
- Crawford Art Gallery, Cork 178,302
- Sliabh Liag Cliffs, Donegal 177,333
- Malin Head Viewing Point, Donegal 162,468
- Kilmacurragh Gardens Wicklow, 156,045
- National Museum of Country Life, Mayo 107,855
- Grianan of Aileach , Donegal 104,398
- Gallery of Photography, Dublin 80,000
How many of the top Irish tourist attractions have you visited? Let us know what your own favorites are in the comments section, below.