Temple Bar in Dublin, Ireland

Sober Ireland: What to do in Ireland if You Don’t Drink

It’s an image of Ireland every traveller who dreams of visiting has had: you and your travel companions (or you and all your new Irish best friends) sitting down in a cozy pub. The food is great, the company is better, and, of course, you all have a pint in hand… right? 

Ireland is certainly not known as a dry destination – from brewery tours to those nights at the pub, not to mention the country’s famous nightlife and all-day party scene on day like St. Patrick’s Day in March, it seems almost impossible to enjoy Ireland without sampling all of it, including some of its alcoholic offerings. But what do you do if you’ve been dreaming of visiting Ireland and you don’t or can’t drink, you’re trying to cut back, or you’re travelling with children? 

Fear not! While Ireland may be touted as a boozy destination, it’s more than possible to get an authentic experience without drinking – you’ll enjoy every bit of Ireland all the same!

Travel to: Ireland

Visiting Irish pubs sober

First thing’s first: if you’ve been dreaming of getting the cultural experience of spending an evening in a cozy Irish pub, you can absolutely do that sober! Pubs are more than places to go drinking – most will offer delicious food, live music, and a lively atmosphere that drinkers and non-drinkers alike will find completely captivating. While non-drinking travellers should note that some pubs are likely to become more rowdy as the night goes on (especially those in major cities such as Dublin), it’s perfectly normal to find locals and travellers alike in a pub at all hours of the day without drinking!

If you’re travelling with kids, they don’t need to miss out on the experience either! Pubs are often as child-friendly as any other restaurant during the day, and it’s always easy to camp out at a table for an afternoon with your family or travel partners. However, travellers should be aware that most pubs will have a turnover time after which people under the age of 18 (or sometimes 16) aren’t permitted inside. However, in May of 2019 Dublin’s first “booze-free bar” opened, allowing travellers and locals the chance to experience the pub atmosphere without any alcohol at all on hand.

A road in Dublin, Ireland
Ireland’s pub scene isn’t all about alcohol | © Gregory Dalleau/Unsplash

Alcohol-free Irish cultural events

As with almost every other country, cultural events in Ireland are rarely totally alcohol-free – you’ll find a mulled wine stand in every Christmas market and a bar at every festival! But, as Ireland can conjure images of rowdy St. Patrick’s Day festivities, travellers should know that there are many other cultural events in Ireland that are mostly attended by families, and the pressure to drink will often be much less. 

A classical library in Dublin, Ireland
Ireland is home to so many sober cultural sites! | © Alex Block/Unsplash

Consider taking the chance to delve into Ireland’s history and culture – in Dublin, for example, the “Viking Splash” tours offer travellers the opportunity to dress up in viking helmets and drive through the streets of Dublin – until their amphibious vehicle also takes them into the Dublin canal! There are also countless museums and art attractions, such as theatres and art installations, that will keep everyone in your party happy and entertained without a drop of alcohol. Take in an afternoon high tea, or visit the Dublin Zoo – or do it all!

Can you survive St. Patrick’s Day sober?

Of course, if you’ve been dreaming of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in the place it all began, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t just because you’re not drinking! If you’re travelling with kids, there are always family-friendly areas of the festivities where they can watch children’s performers, take part in arts and crafts activities, or just enjoy the lively atmosphere. 

For adults travelling without kids, it’s still entirely possible to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day sober – if you’re okay with the less-than-sober participants! There’s even an organization called Sober St. Patrick’s Day that puts on events and offers fun activities and a festive atmosphere minus the alcohol. 

Get in touch with nature

Ireland’s natural beauty is one of the main reasons why travellers flock to the country – the first time I stepped into Killarney National Park, I said “I understand why people would believe in fairies here!” 

A ruined castle in County Cork, Ireland
Take in Ireland’s history and natural beauty | © Andre Ouellet/Unsplash

One of the most beautiful parts of Ireland is known as the Wild Atlantic Way, the ultimate Irish road trip that runs along the country’s southern coast – along this route, you’ll be able to catch stunning ocean views, stop in quaint seaside towns for lunch, and visit national parks. 

Ireland is home to six national parks, each more beautiful than the last – enjoy hiking, encounters with Ireland’s wildlife, and plenty of photo opportunities! 

The best part of travelling in Ireland, though, is you don’t need to visit a national park to take in some seriously amazing nature. The whole country is beautiful, no matter where you turn!

When you don’t drink, it can be difficult to find travel recommendations that don’t revolve around nightlife and drinking – especially when your destination happens to be famous for it! While you’ll be hard pressed to travel almost anywhere in the world without being offered a drink or told about a region’s famous cocktail, there are always options for those who prefer to go without. 

If you’re dreaming of visiting Ireland, but you aren’t sure if the country is for you, know that there’s so much more to Ireland than Guiness! Whether you’re getting back to nature and exploring the stunning cliffs and oceans surrounding the Emerald Isle, or you want to dive headfirst into Irish culture, you’ll always be able to do it sober.

What’s your favourite part of visiting Ireland?

Maggie is a life-long traveller who, after three years abroad, has returned home to Toronto, where she works as a Content Editor at TourRadar. When she's not reading, writing, or dreaming about her next trip, you can find her talking at length about her dog to anyone who'll listen.

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