Food and Drinks
Traditional Irish food is hearty, filling and made with fresh and local ingredients. The country's famed Irish breakfast usually consists of eggs, bacon, sausage, baked tomatoes, black pudding and white pudding. Other traditional dishes include corned beef and cabbage, Irish stew -- a mixture of mashed potatoes, seasonings and cabbage or kale called colcannon -- and soda bread, a quick bread made with baking soda instead of yeast.
Seafood is also common in Irish cooking with salmon, cod and shellfish being the most popular. Prawns are used frequently in Dublin, and Galway holds an Oyster Festival each year. The city of Kinsale in western Cork is quickly becoming the culinary capital of the country as new chefs refresh traditional dishes with modern and innovative interpretations.
But the Irish know that what's in your glass is just as important, if not more so, than what's on your plate. Breweries, alehouses and pubs abound here. Ireland's pub culture is famous worldwide not only for its drinks, but also for the raucous laughter, tall tales of folklore and traditional Irish music that often accompany a pub session. Guinness, Murphy's Stout, Beamish Stout, and Harp Lager are among the most popular beers brewed in Ireland. Irish whiskey is also popular throughout the island and comes in many forms including single malt, single grain and blended whiskey.
The customary tip in Ireland is 10 to 12%. Many hotels and restaurants add this in the form of a service charge indicated on the menu or bill. It is not customary to tip in bars unless you have table service when a small tip is advised.
Ireland is the perfect place for celebrating and rediscovering romance. The wistful mist cast over this country is equal parts enchanting, inspiring and nostalgic. Ancient relics, medieval castles, abandoned abbeys and the swan songs of the sea, cliffs and mountains lend a spiritual and mystical quality to the country, while the warmth of animated pubs and vibrant city streets keep your hearts racing. From lush countrysides to wild coastlines, couples can revel, explore and get lost on this island together.
Art, Literature and Music
Ireland's natural beauty and provocative past have long been a source of stimulation for artists, writers and poets. Art and history aficionados can retrace Ireland's history beginning with Bronze Age relics at Limerick's Hunt Museum and ending with contemporary works on display at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin.
Two of the most noteworthy museums in Ireland are The National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin and Ulster Museum in Belfast. The National Gallery contains art from around the world including Caravaggio's “The Taking of Christ,” Vermeer's “Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid” and Reynold's “First Earl of Bellamont”; as well as pieces from Irish artists such as Roderic O'Conor, William Leech, Sir William Orpen, John Butler Yeats and son Jack Butler Yeats. You'll find collections of archaeology, natural sciences, and Irish and international art at the Ulster Museum.
Ireland has produced famous writers and poets such as James Joyce and Oscar Wilde, in addition to Nobel Prize winners William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney. Study Ireland's literary heritage at Dublin Writers Museum, visit the Shaw Birthplace honoring the playwright, and tiptoe your way through Trinity College Library to view the “Book of Kells,” a ninth-century manuscript of the four gospels.
Tourists and travelers often call the Irish the friendliest people in the world. Remarkably convivial, sociable and welcoming, the Irish know how to warm even the grayest of days with their robust humor and charm. English and Irish are the official languages of Ireland, though English is the dominant language.