Dublin, home to Joyce and Guinness, welcomes millions yearly and is getting pricey

Dublin is an adorable city rich in history, literary figures, nature and Guinness, and there’s plenty to do there. For example, a tour like the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl will take you to pubs throughout the city, where authors such as Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker and James Joyce sipped suds while penning their novels.

If you haven’t had enough Guinness by the end of the two-hour tour, you can visit the Guinness Storehouse, founded in 1759, to learn everything you ever wanted to know about Dublin’s drink of choice.

Visiting the Irish capital isn’t all about drinking. You can tour Kilmainham Gaol, the city’s former prison, to learn about Ireland’s rebels and members of the Irish Republican movement during the Anglo-Irish War who were imprisoned there. And there’s also Phoenix Park, one of Europe’s largest, home to the president of Ireland and the Dublin Zoo — in separate spots, of course.

But in recent years, there have been a record number of tourists, hotel prices have skyrocketed and it’s becoming less of a quaint city and more of a tourism district.

Location: Dublin is on the east coast of Ireland.

Walkable Galway has fewer tourists and is a jumping-off point for the Aran Islands

For a totally different Irish city check out Galway, about three hours west by train. The pubs are free from busloads of tourists, and you can walk everywhere, from the pubs to the beach (don’t expect blue water and white sand — this is Ireland, after all) to picturesque Dunguaire Castle on Galway Bay. This 16th century fortress, said to be the most photographed castle in Ireland, is named for a 7th century king and later became a meeting place for literary figures — Galway had them, too — including George Bernard Shaw and William Butler Yeats.

If you really want to explore Ireland like it used to be (picture those old Irish films of flowing green-lands and the random strolling lamb), you can take a ferry from Galway Bay to the rugged Aran Islands. In these sparse but stunning islands, native Irish is spoken, Irish tunes are played and ancient church ruins are waiting to be explored. It’s worthwhile to glamp or camp for a night so you can truly detox from the modern world.

When you return to Galway civilization, explore the Latin Quarter, where you can grab a drink, check out quirky local art galleries and buy some wool knitwear, a must if you’re visiting Ireland. Eyre Square is another popular shopping spot, where all the big, more popular chains and European stores reside.

The Galway Arts Festival in July draws international comedians, musicians, writers and dancers for two weeks who wander into the streets and pubs to strut their talent. (Ireland isn’t the most formal country.) And September brings the Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival. Experience oyster shucking championships, food talks and tours, and a contest to find oyster pearls. Wash it all down with champagne and Guinness.

Remember to capture some of that Irish good luck before you leave: It’s tradition in Galway to take a seaside stroll along the promenade. When you reach the end, kick the wall for good luck. It’s easier than searching for gold at the end of the rainbow.

Location: Galway is on Ireland’s west coast.

Braff is a writer based in Chicago. Find her on Twitter: @daniellebraff.

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