The historic county town of Tralee might not get as much attention as some of County Kerry's other towns, but that's not to say it's not equally worth a visit. Founded during the 13th century, it's packed with attractions, from ancient ruins and medieval burial sites to sprawling shopping centers and fun-packed water parks. Whether you're visiting alone or with the family, you'll find no end of things to keep you entertained in Ireland. Without further ado, these are the 20 best things to do in Tralee, Ireland.
20. Take a stroll at Tralee Town Park
Set in the very heart of Tralee is Tralee Town Park, a scenic spot that's perfect for relaxing, strolling, and picnicking. The rose garden is unmissable: covering three acres of parkland, it boasts 35 varieties of roses. Look out for the Rose Wall, a series of glass plaques honoring the contestants of the Rose of Tralee International Festival. Once you've had your fill of roses, take a stroll through the rest of the park - with over 35 acres to explore, you're guaranteed to find plenty of things to keep you entertained. If you're visiting in June, be sure to check out the Tralee Garden Festival, a three extravaganza boasting everything from Teddy Bear picnics for the kids to garden tours, live music concerts, and gardening demonstrations.
19. Splash around at Aqua Dome
Let's be honest, Ireland isn't known for getting sizzling hot in summer. Fortunately, it doesn't have to be 80 degrees outside to enjoy a refreshing dip at Aqua Dome. Tralee's premier (and only) water park is perfect for family fun. Relax on the lazy river, splash around in the wave pool, catch a wave on the surf simulator, plunge down the waterfall, or take a relaxing dip in the whirlpool spa - the choice is yours. When you're ready to dry off, take in a round on the 18-hole mini-putt course. If you're in the mood for some head-to-toe indulgence, leave the kids to enjoy the children's pool while you head for the adults-only Vitality Spa.
18. Indulge in some retail therapy at Manor West Shopping Centre
You won't find much Irish folklore at Manor West Shopping Centre, but what you will find is enough shops, restaurants, and coffee shops to keep you well and truly entertained. With a good mix of boutiques and high street department stores, it's the perfect place to update your wardrobe, grab a few gifts to take home, or simply sip on a coffee and enjoy a bit of people watching. If you're driving, you're in luck - the center offers 1000 parking spaces, none of which will cost you a single euro.
17. Enjoy a performance at Siamsa Tíre
If you want to take a peep into the world of Irish folklore and legend, take the advice of Trip 101 and head for Siamsa Tíre, one of the finest venues in town to catch a performance. With song, dance, and theater all on offer, you're promised a fabulous evening of traditional Irish entertainment.
16. Explore Ballyseedy Wood
Located just 3 kilometers from Tralee is Ballyseedy Wood, a magnificent woodland that promises nature lovers a day of magical serenity. It's the kind of place you could easily imagine fairies, elves, and hobbits camping out. It's not, obviously, and you're more likely to encounter another happy hiker as you walk the Ballyseedy Wood Walk trail than you are Bilbo Baggins. But still, Ireland is a place of myth and legend - after a few hours here, you'll understand why.
15. Tuck into a full Irish breakfast at Yummy Cafe Market
The Irish know the value of starting the day with a good meal. A full Irish breakfast consists of bacon, sausages, baked beans, eggs, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, both black and white puddings, and potatoes made into either a hash or bubble and squeak. If it sounds a lot, it's because it is. It's also delicious enough to leave you hungry for more. According to theirishroadtrip.com, the best place in town to grab a decent breakfast is Yummy Cafe. The only thing you can't get there is a Guinness, which brings us nicely round to the next suggestion...
14. Grab a Guinness at Paddy Mac's Pub
It'd be remiss to visit Tralee and not indulge in a pint or two of the black stuff. The town is stuffed with pups, but according to locals, you'll be hard-pressed to find one better than Paddy Mac's Pub. An old-school, traditional Irish pub with a relaxed atmosphere, great food, and even greater Guinness, it's an excellent place to enjoy a bevy, a sing-song, and some fine company. Come between June and September, and you'll be treated to live music from traditional Irish folk acts each night.
13. Explore the dunes at Banna Strand
Beaches don't come much more pristine than Banna Strand. The Foundation for Environmental Education has even awarded it the status of a Blue Flag beach in recognition of its "cleanliness, safety, and enhanced efforts in the fields of environmental awareness and sustainable development." Cleanliness aside, it's also stunningly beautiful, with 40 ft soft white sand dunes rolling down into crystal clear azure waters. During low tide, the beach stretches on for miles, making it ideal for strolling. Surfing, bodyboarding, and windsurfing are also popular activities. Nearby amenities are limited, so be sure to bring your own food and drink to enjoy a picnic on the sand.
12. Join the festivities at the Rose of Tralee International Festival
If you're around in August, be sure to check out the Rose of Tralee International Festival. The festival began as a small celebration in 1959, but has steadily grown each year to become the 2nd biggest festival in the Irish calendar after St. Patrick's Day. It's named after the Rose of Tralee, a woman so beautiful she inspired both a famous 19th-century Irish ballad and, many years later, a beauty pageant. But this isn't your typical beauty pageant. Sure, some lucky gal gets crowned the Rose of Tralee at the end of it, but this is a festival that's about having fun, not looking good. Expect funfair rides, circus performances, dancing, fireworks, a parade, and lots and lots of jigs.
11. Visit Scotia’s Grave
Scotia's Grave is surrounded by trails, all of which promise gorgeous views of the surrounding landscape and a good excuse to put down the Guinness for a few hours and get back to nature. Just as intriguing as the natural beauty of the area is its history: according to legend (and as told by GoKerry), the site is the final resting place of Queen Scotia, who was killed during the great battle of Sliabh Mish. According to the same legend, she tried to escape the battle by jumping from the bank. She didn't make it, and was lain to rest where she fell.
10. Check out the gargoyles at Ardfert Cathedral
Located around nine kilometers northwest of Tralee are the ruins of Ardfert Cathedral. Built during the 13th century, it stands on the site of a much earlier monastery, which was constructed by St. Brendan the Navigator in the 6th century. It fell into ruins centuries ago, but it's still in impressive condition, with its three medieval churches and battlements clearly visible. Key features to look out for include the grand Romanesque doorway in its western wall and the lancet windows. Be sure to pop by the visitor center, which houses an intriguing collection of stone carvings, gargoyles, and carved grave slabs.
9. Take a drive to Ballybunion
If you plan on making any day trips during your stay in Tralee, make one of them to Ballybunion. Blessed with an awesome name, breathtaking cliffside walks, a world-class golf course, and a fine selection of bars and restaurants, it's more than worth the 30-minute drive from Tralee.
8. Take the kids to the Playdium
If you've got kids, make their day with a visit to the Playdium. The largest play center in Kerry promises hours of fun for little ones, with climbing frames, ball pools, and soft play centers. It also does a fine line in parties - if one of your kids has a big day coming up, be sure to check it out.
7. Visit Rattoo Round Tower
Located around 22 kilometers north of Tralee near the village of Ballyduff sits Rattoo Round Tower, a dramatic stone tower topped with an unmissable pointed cone roof. The tower has sat in the same place since 1100, and while not a lot's known about its origins, it's believed to have been commissioned by Bishop Lughach, who served as one of the first Christian missionaries in the area. It's in remarkable condition, and well worth a few photos. Keep your eyes peeled for the carving of the sheela-na-gig on the north window - the symbols were historically used as a form of protection in castles and churches, but this is the last remaining one that can be seen on an Irish round tower. While you're there, be sure to check out Rattoo Abbey; originally built as a hospital, it later became a monastery before falling into ruin. There is just so much to do when traveling this part of Europe.
6. Visit Fenit for the day
Set just 15 minutes west of Tralee is the picturesque village of Fenit. It's a pretty village to explore, but its chief attraction is its coastline, which sports not one but two lighthouses: Fenit Lighthouse, which was erected in 1851, and Great Samphire Lighthouse, which can be accessed from the mainland by an 800-meter causeway. The views over the bay are sublime, so be sure to keep your camera to hand. While you're in the village, stop by the monument to St Brendan the Navigator, a legendary seafarer who was born in Tralee in 484 and who made his way into Irish mythology when he set off on a voyage to track down the Garden of Eden. Some say he's still searching to this day.
5. Hike the Slieve Mish Mountains
Named as one of the best things to do in Tralee by The Crazy Tourist, the Slieve Mish Mountains are a must-visit for nature lovers. Starting just south of Tralee, the mountains run for 19 kilometers along the Dingle Peninsula. If you're feeling adventurous, you could try exploring the northern flank of the range by walking the Dingle Way. At 162 kilometers, you'll have your work cut out if you plan on tackling it in its entirety, but even if you only venture a few miles, you'll still be rewarded with some of the most scenic views in Ireland.
4. Take some snaps at Blennerville Windmill
Blennerville Windmill was made for Instagram. Well, technically, it was made to grind flour, but there's no denying its photogenic appeal. Located just five minutes from the center of Tralee, its snow-white cone and giant blades look awe-inspiring against their backdrop of lush green hills. The mill was restored to full working order in the 1980s: according to blennerville-windmill.ie, it's now the only windmill along Ireland’s Atlantic Way and the largest working windmill in Ireland. Spread over five floors, it offers history buffs the chance to check out piles of 19th and early 20th century agricultural and trade equipment. The site is also home to the Kerry Model Railway, a miniature replica of the Tralee Dingle narrow-gauge that's always a huge hit with kids. Before you leave, pop by the visitor center to learn more about the migration of citizens from the port of Blennerville during the Great Famine.
3. Explore the Tralee Bay Wetlands Centre
A visit to Tralee Bay Wetlands Centre is an unmissable part of any visit to Tralee. A huge nature reserve peppered with hiking trails and awash with native flora and fauna, it offers hours of family-friendly recreation. There's a ton of activities to enjoy, from guided nature boat tours to water zorbing and rock climbing. Be sure to climb the 20-meter high viewing and observation tower to check out the glorious views over the surrounding countryside. When you're ready for a rest, hit the cafe for some coffee and cake.
2. Admire the windows at St. John's Church
Located in the very heart of Tralee is St. John's Church. Built on the site of an 18th chapel, the church was renovated during the '50s in a breathtaking Gothic revival style. The stained glass windows are astonishing, especially when the sun pours through them on a warm day. The most famous of its windows is the Great Sanctuary Window, a stunning kaleidoscope of images featuring Christ, St. John the Baptist, and the Twelve Apostles that dates back to 1861.
1. Step into the past at Kerry County Museum
Named as one of the top-rated attractions in Tralee by PlanetWare, Kerry County Museum ranks as one of the very best museums in the area. Stuffed with exhibits that showcase the history and culture of County Kerry, it's a fascinating place to explore. The chief highlight is the Archaeology Hall, which features a vast array of medical artifacts uncovered during the excavation of Tralee's Dominican Priory. These are some of the most amazing things to do in Ireland.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn