Ireland's 20 Largest Towns and Cities

Skyline of Dublin City, Ireland

 

David Soanes Photography/Getty Images

Can you name the largest cities in Ireland? If not, can you at least name 20 Irish cities and/or towns? And which of those are actually Ireland's largest towns?

Well, the capitals Dublin (in the Republic) and Belfast (in Northern Ireland) immediately spring to mind, but which other places make the grade after these two big hitters? There might be some surprises here, as more often than not Ireland's cities are reminiscent of an assortment of villages that have somehow grown together—organically in some cases, less so in others.

Take Dublin, for example. It is the only city in Ireland that has more than a million inhabitants. And of those, only a fraction are living in the city proper, with many suburbs making up the bulk of the population. When you leave Dublin (or Belfast, for that matter) you will also notice that most towns in the country resemble nothing more than grown-up villages. 

Note that Northern Ireland tends to skew the statistics a bit because it has regrouped local governments, and the new council areas in the (former) six counties lumped large areas together and called them "towns," even when they consisted of a central urban area with many further off rural settlements.

Definitions aside, read on to learn more about the 20 largest towns in Ireland.

01 of 20

Dublin

Dublin City at dawn

David Soanes Photography/Getty Images

There are only five official cities in the Republic of Ireland (the rest are towns or villages), and Dublin is at the absolute top of the list. The Central Statistics Office estimated that the number of people living in Dublin grew to 1.42 million in April 2020, meaning that 28.5 percent of the entire population of Ireland lives in or around the capital city. From castles and world-class museums to pubs and great restaurants, there is truly something for everyone in Dublin. The largest city in Ireland is surprisingly walkable, and navigating without a car is the best way to explore the city's neighborhoods.

Address
Dublin, Ireland
02 of 20

Belfast (Northern Ireland)

Belfast city street

William Murphy/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0

Part of the United Kingdom, Belfast's urban center boasts 342,560 inhabitants. The city is best known for being the birthplace of the ill-fated H.M.S. Titanic, and now has an incredible museum dedicated to the history of the ship. In addition to museums, the vibrant city has a famous botanical garden, a large zoo, a buzzing culinary scene, and lots of cozy pubs. 

Address
Belfast, UK
03 of 20

Cork

Cork City at sunset

Walter Bibikow/Getty Images

With 210,853 inhabitants, Cork is one of Ireland’s largest cities, yet it still manages to feel like a small town thanks to its welcoming attitude and slower pace of life. Set on the banks of the River Lee, Cork is packed with pubs, restaurants, and coffee shops. After eating your fill at the lovely English Market, head for the historic Cork City Gaol, where prisoners were once held before being shipped off to Australia. Though it is the Republic of Ireland’s second-largest city in terms of size, proud Cork locals joke that it is the real capital of Ireland. It is an excellent place for pints, craic, hometown pride, specialty coffee, and even contemporary art. 

Address
Cork, Ireland
04 of 20

Limerick

Limerick Ireland at dusk

 Walter Bibikow/Getty Images

Located in the province of Munster, Limerick is Ireland's third-largest city, with half a million people living within a 60-minute drive. No one knows why those funny short poems were named after the city, but the locals are always happy to crack a few jokes—and even happier to chat about their local Gaelic sports teams. Set at the origin of the Shannon, Ireland’s longest river, the city has a pretty updated waterfront and a museum dedicated to hometown hero Frank McCourt, the author of Angela’s Ashes.

Address
Limerick, Ireland
Continue to 5 of 20 below.
05 of 20

Derry City

Derry Northern Ireland

Henryk Sadura/Getty Images

There are an estimated 151,109 people who call the local government district of Derry City and Strabane home. The town of Derry (officially named Londonderry in 1613) is the second-largest city in Northern Ireland and is close to the border with Donegal. Derry is famous for its city walls, which date back to the 17th century and offer views over the modern city. Derry played an important role in more recent Irish history during The Troubles, and the Free Derry Corner is a well-known landmark commemorating the difficult times. 

Address
Kilmoylan Upper, Derry, Co. Limerick, Ireland
06 of 20

Galway City

Medieval arch in Galway

Peter Zoeller/Design Pics/Getty Images

The charming college town of Galway City is home to 79,934 people (although that number expands significantly when the Galway Races are in town). Centered around Eyre Square, the small but lively city runs along the banks of the River Corrib and stretches out towards Galway Bay. The town is a popular stop for live music, and many of the area pubs have triad sessions every night of the week. Take a walk through the Spanish Arch and enjoy the medieval lanes, or visit the Cathedral where Christopher Columbus is said to have sat in the pews before setting sail for the new world—there is plenty to do in Galway

Address
Galway City, Galway, Ireland
07 of 20

Lisburn (Northern Ireland)

Lisburn, Northern Ireland

Bobby McKay/Flickr

Located 8 miles outside of the Northern Ireland capital, the local government district of Lisburn and Castlereagh is home to 146,452 inhabitants. Considered part of the Belfast Metropolitan Area, Lisburn was a borough until 2002 when Lisburn was granted city status as part of the Golden Jubilee. The town’s layout dates back to 1620 and its special Tuesday market has been taking place since 1628. Lisburn has long been known for its excellent linen production, and there is even a museum dedicated to the fabric and the history of local manufacturing. The city center is pedestrianized and boasts several green parks—making Lisburn a perfect stop for a stroll.

Address
Lisburn, UK
08 of 20

Newtownabbey (Northern Ireland)

Newtownabbey Northern Ireland

Kieth Ruffles/CC BY 3.0

The local government district of Antrim and Newtownabbey has a population of 143,756 inhabitants and lies just outside of Belfast in Northern Ireland. Sometimes considered a suburb, Newtownabbey was created in 1958 when seven villages were merged together under a single local government. The Belfast Zoo is located here and plenty of wild birds can be spotted along the shores of Belfast Lough. Located in County Antrim, the town is also an excellent jumping-off point for exploring nearby mountains or planning a fishing trip. It is bordered by Carrickfergus and Ballymena—two other towns that also make the list of the 20 largest cities in Ireland. 

Address
Newtownabbey, UK
Continue to 9 of 20 below.
09 of 20

Ballymena (Northern Ireland)

Ballymena Ireland town hall in County Antrim

Jimmyray123/Creative Commons 

Located in County Antrim, Ballymena has 67,410 inhabitants. The town is close to Slemish, the mountain which legend holds was once home to Saint Patrick. Ballymena is also the real-life home of actor Liam Neeson, who has been honored by the City Council. The Northern Ireland town is known for its golf courses but also boasts more naturally occurring green spaces. Best of all is Glenariff Forest Park, one of the Ireland filming locations for Game of Thrones.  

Address
Ballymena, UK
10 of 20

Bangor (Northern Ireland)

Bangor, Northern Ireland

Leimenide/Flickr

Boasting 61,011 inhabitants, Bangor is technically a part of the Belfast Metropolitan Area. It occupies a pretty seaside spot on the south side of the Belfast Lough. The city is found about 14 miles outside of downtown and has been a popular summer vacation spot since the Victorian era. The best way to take in the area is to walk along the coast or settle in to watch the activity at the lively marina, which is the largest in Ireland. Other major sites in the well-to-do Irish town include the Bangor Castle and the Bangor Abbey—which was a major monastery during the Middle Ages.  

Address
Bangor, UK
11 of 20

Waterford City

Waterford City Ireland

William Murphy/Flickr

The 2016 Census puts the population of Waterford at 53,504 inhabitants. While it is not the absolutely largest city in Ireland, it is the oldest. First settled by Vikings in 914 AD, Waterford's name comes from the Old Norse for “ram (wether) fjord.” Archaeological finds dating back to this time period can be found at the Waterford Museum of Treasures. Located in the southeast of the Republic of Ireland, the harbor city is probably best known for its history of glassmaking and is home to the famed manufacturer Waterford Crystal. 

Address
Waterford City, Co. Waterford, Ireland
12 of 20

Drogheda

View of Drogheda Ireland from the Martello tower

William Murphy/Flickr 

There are 40,956 inhabitants in Drogheda—a town that technically spreads out into two different counties. Drogheda is mostly located in County Louth, but the southern part of the town stretches into County Meath. Rich in archeological finds, it lies just outside of Newgrange, a complex of prehistoric monuments that is one of the top places to see in Ireland. Drogheda is an important commuter town for Dublin but it has plenty to do in its own right.

Address
Drogheda, Co. Louth, Ireland
Continue to 13 of 20 below.
13 of 20

Swords

Swords Castle, Co. Dublin

 

mikroman6/Getty Images

Coming in at a population of 39,248 inhabitants, Swords in Fingal is one of the largest towns that make up the greater Dublin metro area. Local legend says that Swords was founded in the year 560 when Saint Colmcille blessed a local well and declared it “Sord” (pure). Swords is home to one of the best castles near Dublin, but it is better known for being close to Dublin airport. With several shopping centers, it is also a major destination for serious retail therapy outside of the Irish Capital.  

Address
Swords, Co. Dublin, Ireland
14 of 20

Dundalk

Castle Roche ruin in Dundalk, Louth, Ireland

 

Michal Baran/Getty Images

Located in County Louth in the Republic of Ireland, Dundalk lies close to the border with Northern Ireland. Louth may be the smallest county in Ireland, but Dundalk is still one of the country’s largest towns with a population of a whopping 39,004 people. The town lies almost exactly halfway between Dublin and Belfast and is the legendary home of the Irish mythical figure of Cú Chulainn. It is possible to visit the stone where the Celtic hero supposedly tied himself up so he would die on his feet, still facing his enemies. Well known for its rich archeological treasures, the town also features the ruins of several castles and forts.

Address
Dundalk, Co. Louth, Ireland
15 of 20

Bray

Houses in Bray Ireland

 Alexey Ivanov/Flickr

A mere 12 miles south of Dublin, Bray is the largest town in County Wicklow. The seaside area is home to 32,600 people, some of whom commute back into the capital because Bray is conveniently reachable by​ the DART. Even out-of-towners know to beeline to Bray for a beach day under sunny Irish skies, or for an excuse to hike along the scenic cliff walk at Bray Head in nearly any weather. With the moody sea as a backdrop, Bray offers tasty food and fun pub options. There is also a popular sea life center and horse riding school for animal lovers who stop in the Wicklow town.  

Address
Bray, Co. Wicklow, Ireland
16 of 20

Navan

Navan Ireland newbridge

Patrick Janicek/Flickr

The only town in Ireland that is spelled the same both backward and forward, Navan is home to 30,173 people. Located in County Meath, it is the hometown of actor Pierce Brosnan and famous Irish comic Tommy Tiernan. The traditional town is close to the Hill of Tara, which is probably the most famous hill fort in Ireland. If prehistoric monuments aren’t on your agenda, there are plenty of pubs and Causey Farm—a working farm that offers tours, Irish dancing classes, and bog wading.  

Address
Navan, Co. Meath, Ireland
Continue to 17 of 20 below.
17 of 20

Newtownards (Northern Ireland)

Scrabo Tower Newtownards, County Down, Northern Ireland,

Surfin Chef/Getty Images

With 28,050 inhabitants, Newtownards is one of the largest towns in Ireland and is part of the greater Belfast metro area. Located on the Ards Peninsula in County Down, the town is sometimes known simply as “Ards” by locals. From just about anywhere in town, you can see the Scrabo Tower, a hilltop monument to Charles Stewart, a 19th-century nobleman who attempted to save his tenants during the great famine. First settled by monks, the area features several ruined abbeys just outside of town. 

Address
Newtownards BT23, UK
18 of 20

Newry (Northern Ireland)

Road down the hill from Bernish viewpoint near Newry, Northern Ireland

 

Dmitri Korobtsov/Getty Images 

Split by the Clanry River, the 181,700 inhabitants of the local government district of Newry, Mourne, and Down are spread out in both County Down and County Armagh. Despite the area having been settled since the Bronze Age, Newry is technically one of Ireland’s newest cities because it was only granted city status in 2002. Today, Newry is known for its shopping centers, but it is also well placed to act as a gateway to the great wide open. Both the Mourne Mountains and Ring of Gullion are nearby.

Address
Newry, UK
19 of 20

Carrickfergus (Northern Ireland)

Castle and marina in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, UK

 

Krzysztof Nahlik/Getty Images 

There are 27,998 inhabitants living in Carrickfergus, on the north side of the Belfast Lough. The town is only 11 miles outside of the Northern Ireland capital city and makes up part of the metropolitan area. Though it has been eclipsed by Belfast in terms of population, Carrickfergus is actually much older and has been settled since around 1170. The modern-day town is a popular spot to depart from for day sails and has a pretty marina, but it will always be best known for the Irish folk song “Carrickfergus,” in which an emigrant pines away for the hometown he left behind.

Address
Carrickfergus, UK
20 of 20

Kilkenny

Kilkenny town Ireland

 Olivier Bruchez/ Flickr

Kilkenny’s population of 26,512 makes it the 11th largest town in the Republic of Ireland. It is the county town of County Kilkenny in Leinster. If the name sounds familiar, that might be because the town became a brewery center in the 17th century. It's still known for its beer, the most famous of which is an Irish cream ale that bears the name of the town. Kilkenny is also known for its well-preserved medieval structures, including Kilkenny Castle and St. Canice’s Cathedral. It is a popular destination for its numerous gardens, art galleries, and traditional handicraft workshops, too.

Address
Kilkenny, Ireland
Article Sources
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  1. World Population Review. "Population of Cities in Ireland (2022)." Accessed March 30, 2022.

  2. Central Statistics Office. "Population and Migration Estimates: April 2020." August 20, 2020.

  3. Office for National Statistics. "Estimates of the Population for the UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, Mid-2020." Retrieved March 31, 2022.

  4. Cork City Development Plan 2022-2028. "Cork City Socio-Economic Summary Profile." June 2020.

  5. Limerick City and County Council. "Growing Limerick: Limerick Facts & Figures." Accessed March 31, 2022.

  6. Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. "Population Estimates for Derry City and Strabane Local Government District." June 30, 2022.

  7. Central Statistics Office. "Census 2016 Sapmap Area: Settlements Galway City and Suburbs." Accessed March 31, 2022.

  8. Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. "Population Estimates for Lisburn and Castlereagh Local Government District." June 30, 2020.

  9. Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. "Population Estimates for Antrim and Newtownabbey Local Government District." June 30, 2020.

  10. Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. "Population Estimates for Ballymena Local Government District." June 30, 2020.

  11. Belfast Live. "Bangor City Status Application Gets Green Light Despite Council Split." October 1, 2021.

  12. Central Statistics Office. "Census 2016 Sapmap Area: Settlements Waterford City and Suburbs." Accessed March 31, 2022.

  13. Visit Waterford. "Ireland's Oldest City." Accessed March 31, 2022.

  14. Central Statistics Office. "Census 2016 Sapmap Area: Settlements Drogheda." Accessed March 31, 2022.

  15. Central Statistics Office. "Census 2016 Sapmap Area: Settlements Swords." Accessed March 31, 2022.

  16. Central Statistics Office. "Census 2016 Sapmap Area: Settlements Dundalk." Accessed March 31, 2022.

  17. Central Statistics Office. "Census 2016 Sapmap Area: Settlements Bray." Accessed March 31, 2022.

  18. Central Statistics Office. "Census 2016 Sapmap Area: Settlements An Uaimh (Navan)." Accessed March 31, 2022.

  19. Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. "Census 2011 Population Statistics for Newtownards Settlement." Accessed March 31, 2022.

  20. Newry.ie. "Population Ageing in Newry, Mourne, and Down." June 25, 2021.

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  22. Central Statistics Office. "Census 2016 Sapmap Area: Settlements Kilkenny." Accessed March 31, 2022.

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Ireland's 20 Largest Towns and Cities