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Culture and craic in Dublin

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Ireland’s capital city boasts shops galore, incredible sports and stunning scenery.

Looking for a European city break without too much hassle? Well, there’s one on your doorstep, where visitors are always welcome. There’s no need to look beyond Dublin.

With a bit of luck, it’s possible to get from your home to your hotel in just a few hours, and then you can start exploring the city. Offering culture during the day and a good craic at night, the Irish capital has something to suit all tastes, as it plays host to more than 3.5 million visitors every year.

And it’s more than just a destination for stag and hen parties.

For any first-time visitor, hopping on a tourist bus is a great way to get an instant view of a city. It’s no different in Dublin, but the Viking Splash Tour has a twist.

Travelling in old DUKW vehicles (or Ducks) that were first used in the Second World War, you get to see Dublin from both land and water in a 90-minute tour.

Take in sights such as Dublin Castle and the city’s two major cathedrals before splashing down in the Grand Canal, where you can see the Windmill Lane Studios where Bono and the boys recorded many of U2’s albums.

One of the newest attractions is the Skyline at Croke Park. The stadium is the spiritual home of Irish sport and huge crowds flock there every September to the All-Ireland finals in Gaelic football and hurling, which are amongst the biggest social events on the calendar. Opened in June 2012, the Skyline sees visitors taken on to a walkway on top of the roof of this 82,000-capacity stadium. It’s 44 metres above ground, the equivalent of 17 storeys high. The Skyline has five viewing platforms that offer vistas over the city and the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains beyond. Don’t worry everyone wears a special harness that attaches to a zip wire along the walkway.

If that appeals mainly to the men, Dublin has great shopping to appease the ladies. The two main areas are dotted on either side of the River Liffey.

And to cross between them, use the pedestrian Ha’penny Bridge, so named because locals had to pay a toll to use it when first opened in 1819.

Henry Street on the north side of the river has large department stores, including famous Irish names Dunnes and Penneys.

Grafton Street contains a mix of familiar names and gift shops but part of the fun is mingling with the crowds and enjoying the buskers and entertainers who line the street.

Any keen shopper needs a place to rest weary arms saddled with bags, so Bewley’s Grafton Street Caf is ideal.

It opened in 1927 and has many stained glass windows, as well as housing a small 50-seat Caf Theatre, which puts on performances every lunchtime.

At the top of Grafton Street, you can make your way to St Stephen’s Green, the city’s largest green space and a pleasant spot to avoid the crowds.

From the modern joys of shopping, it’s possible to step back and discover more of Dublin’s rich history.

Dublin Castle is tucked away but once inside the gates, visitors can wander round the 800-year-old building and take in its history.

The Chester Beatty Library in the castle’s grounds houses an impressive collection of paintings and takes the name of the American mining magnate who bequeathed them to the city.

A more famous library is the one at Trinity College, the oldest university in Ireland. Situated in the heart of the city, it’s possible to escape the bustling streets and mingle with the students in grounds that date back to 1592.

The library contains the Book of Kells, written and decorated in the 8th Century, and kept for safekeeping at Kells Monastery until it was transferred to Dublin.

However, just 200 metres from the Trinity gates, a replica of the book is on display in the stylish surroundings of the Bank on College Green.

As the name suggests, the building used to be a bank, but it’s now a trendy bar, ideal for a bite to eat or a fancy cocktail.

Speaking of drinks, no visit to Dublin is complete without a trip into the world famous Temple Bar. While officially recognised as the city’s Cultural Quarter, it’s best known for pubs and bars.

Establishments like Oliver St John Gogartys and the Quays Bar are always worth a visit, while Gallagher’s Boxty House is a good choice for classic Irish food.

But you’re likely to be surrounded by fellow tourists if you fancy a pint of Guinness and some beef stew while being serenaded by traditional music.

If you want an alternative, then follow the locals and head to South William Street and Dawson Street.

These are packed with trendy bars such as Pygmalion and SamSara, and squeeze into the Dawson Lounge if you can. The city’s smallest pub has room for just 25 customers!

Like any major city, there’s a wide range of international restaurants to satisfy all tastes. Salamanca is one of Dublin’s most popular tapas bars, while Dada serves excellent Moroccan food.

At the end of a busy day, the Castle Hotel offers comfortable rooms in a Georgian setting just two minutes from O’Connell Street. While its restaurant in a converted 19th Century wine cellar serves decent Irish food and has live music every weekend.

With all this to offer, it would be a shame to overlook Dublin.

Aer Lingus flies daily to Dublin Airport from Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Return fares start from £79. To book visit

Ryanair also has daily flights to Dublin from Edinburgh and Glasgow with prices starting from £75. See for details.

Accommodation at the Castle Hotel is available from €74 per night. For more info visit