To dream of Ireland is to dream of rolling hills, flawlessly green fields, and welcoming locals that open their country up to you as if it were your own. Despite its relatively small size, Ireland has no end of beautifully authentic small towns across the map, each more enchanting than its neighbor.

When it comes to passing an evening in this incredible country, history dictates that the best option is always an open fire, meticulously poured pint, and pleasant company — always within the walls of a typical Irish establishment.

To help narrow the choices down, here are 10 of the best locations to journey to and the best public house to visit while in town.

10 Carlingford

The medieval streets of Carlingford open up like the storied pages of Irish history and you won’t be able to stop flipping. While this part of the world seems to be overflowing with magnificently imposing battlements, King John Castle in the town center perhaps stands above them all. Be sure to stroll its ramparts and courtyards before going in search of some of the country’s best seafood Ireland has to offer.

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After dinner, John Longs is the best way to while away the evening hours with new friends and intoxicating liquids. Try the extremely reasonably priced Guinness beside the open fire and tap your toes to the traditional music always in full swing at this quiet yet rowdy venue.

9 Dalkey

Masterfully straddling the roles of a busy city and quaint town, Dalkey has a notorious history involving two different invasions. Firstly, the Vikings in the 8th century and then the plague that would tear apart so much of Europe many years later. Thankfully, Dalkey is now better known for the famous names to emerge from its borders such as Bono, Enya, and Van Morrison.

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Another name of note in this delightful town is Finnergan’s of Dalkey. Throughout several renovations across the decades, the pub has never lost its homely feel that welcomes visitors and locals alike. This is a family-run business and it shows from the moment you walk in. Known for its delicious food and refreshing drinks, this is a must visit for everyone in Dalkey, be they just passing through or lingering awhile.

8 Westport

Westport caters to those wanting an arduous, adventurous trek, a lazy day reading and everything in-between. Climb Croagh Patrick mountain if you brought your hiking shoes, sprawl out on Old Head Beach if you brought your towel or amble along Carrowbeg River if you brought snacks and a love of nature.

Just don’t leave town without popping into Mac Brides, a gloriously traditional Irish pub. To step inside is to step back in time and enjoy the smooth taste of old Ireland. Boasting an open fire and kind, attentive staff, you may not find a better place to rest your legs in all Ireland. This is the kind of pub you imagine a grandfather would drink with his grandson, so be sure to say hello when you see them at the bar. 

7 Killarney

One for the sports fans, Killarney is a perfect spot to enjoy some hurling or Gaelic football action thanks to an abundance of teams calling the town their home. If athletic pursuits aren’t what you are in Ireland for, worry not, there is still plenty to do in the form of Killarney National Park and the majestic Ross Castle. It is, in fact, a town that requires no to-do list; a simple stroll will transport you back to a simpler time and fill every Irish desire you could possibly hold.

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Once that desire calls for a tipple, don’t miss the candy-shop turned pub John M. Reidy that contains countless nooks and crannies ripe for exploration. Exposed rafters across the ceiling give this cozy spot an old Irish farmhouse feel while the meticulous attention to detail in the furnishings leave visitors knowing they are without doubt somewhere very special.

6 Ardara

This beautiful coastal town in County Donegal is the perfect place to find out what Irish life is all about. With rural surrounds, rugged coastline and rolling hills, it showcases exactly what a daydream about Ireland conjures in the imagination. While here, visit the Maghera Falls on Loughros Point for majestic Atlantic Ocean views and the Kilclooney Dolmen tombs which date back over 3,500 years.

When you feel the call of a refreshing ale, the Ceili House Bar is the establishment to find. It is a first-class venue for traditional Irish music featuring outstanding customer service and the chance to unwind in a completely authentic environment while resting an elbow upon the bar.

5 Malahide

A charming town reliant on its sublime fishing, Malahide plays host to a huge marina that is perhaps its most endearing spot. The small beach is an ideal sport to allow a summer’s day to trickle away and also serves as the beginning point for a stunning coastal walk to Portmarnock where a larger beach rests elegantly.

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The only way to end a quintessentially Irish day exploring Malahide is in an iconically Irish pub, and Duffy’s fits the bill like a charm. If you head there early in the morning for tea and coffee, stick around for the best lunch in town bursting with seafood and every Irish delicacy imaginable. Night owls will be treated to live music and a host of options when it comes to nourishing local food to line the stomach before a night on the town with friends new and old.

4 Dingle

This incredible fishing harbor on the Dingle Peninsula rests at one end of Conor Pass and contains some of Ireland’s most astonishing panoramic views. With Gaelic spoken in town as much as English, this is a truly authentic Old Irish town that also offers visitors a chance to get out on the water and spend time with the bottle-nosed dolphins that love Dingle just as much as its residents.

Despite just 2,000 people calling Dingle home, the town features 32 watering holes, each more raucous and enjoyable than the last. A pub crawl is perhaps the best option here, but just make sure Dick Mack’s Pub & Brewery makes the list. The beer garden alone makes this a destination worth experiencing, with live and local music joyously flooding the entire grounds seven days a week.

3 Kilkenny

Able to be reached easily in a day trip from Dublin, Kilkenny has long been one of the most popular tourist towns in Ireland, and for good reason. Home to a host of historical treasures such as Kilkenny Castle, Rothe House, and St. Canice’s Cathedral, a single day will never be enough to sample everything Kilkenny has to offer.

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As night falls, stroll into the beating heart of town and find Kyteler’s Inn, which was established all the way back in 1324. Named for its founder, Alice de Kyteler, it is steeped in history due to a violent witch hunt that took place in Kilkenny and saw poor Alice run from town lest she be burned at the stake. Now it is a stunningly outfitted traditional pub serving unbeatable food and, if the locals are to be believed, housing more than one ethereal being.

2 Garrykennedy

This 15th-century fortification is still standing today and bears the scars and tales of history with pride throughout the town center. Home to a castle that records indicate was decayed beyond repair as far back as the 17th century, renovations to the city in more recent years used stone from the structure to ensure it stayed alive in the imagination for Garrykennedy residents. This is one of the loveliest spots in Ireland to get away from the rush of life and simply rest in a beautiful setting alongside cheerful locals.

While enjoying that relax, make sure you wash down the incredible views with a pint at Larkins, a thatch-roofed family run bar and restaurant just meters from the shoreline. Don’t be surprised if a local convince you to hit the dance floor as the sun disappears over the horizon, and don’t be afraid to show off your moves when the music starts.

1 Galway

One of the coolest and most engaging cities in the country, Galway is a vibrant and bright town bursting at the seams with live music, restaurants, street theatre and of course some of the best pubs in the world. Remnants of the medieval town walls are visible in-between shops showcasing the best local art and handicrafts on offer while the River Corrib flows through the center like the past trickling through Galway’s modern day.

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Students make up a fifth of the population here, and the world-over that means there are going to be pubs and they are going to be good. Tig Coili is one of the oldest establishments in Galway and musicians come from all over the planet to play here so pull up a stool and let the world come to you. This is a true Galway experience and one that will not be forgotten.