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Dublin

It's easy to find your feet in friendly, compact Dublin. With a turbulent history behind it ever since the Vikings came to town, the laid-back Irish capital is a harmonious blend of Victorian bars, flat-fronted Georgian townhouses and glass-apartments in the renovated Docklands. Above them all looms the spindly Millennium Spire, better known as the 'Stiletto in the Ghetto' by witty Dubliners.

Things to Do

From the National Museum and its Iron Age 'bog bodies', stroll along graceful Georgian terraces around Merrion Square, past former homes of literary luminaries like Yeats, Joyce and Beckett. Nearby is Dublin Castle, which now houses the wooden table on which the Good Friday Agreement was signed. You'll find plenty of Dubliners welcoming sunny days on the flower-strewn St Stephen's Green, but don't miss the near-deserted Iveagh Gardens with ivy-clad statues and fountains. Take the short walk north over the River Liffey up mammoth O'Connell Street, to the bijoux Dublin City Gallery for Francis Bacon's chaotic recreated studio.

Shopping

Weekends in Temple Bar see markets filling its cobbled squares, where stalls are piled high with farmhouse cheeses. Splash out on your favorite Kevin Sharkey abstract painting or delicate Georgian furniture along Francis Street's arts and antique stores. At Powerscourt Centre's Loft Market, local young designers sell reworked vintage clothes and delicate silver jewelry, affordable ways to revamp your wardrobe. Edge past buskers on pedestrianized Grafton Street, where the top-hatted doorman greets you at the elegant, 160-year-old Brown Thomas department store.

Nightlife and Entertainment

From the century-old Abbey Theatre to Daniel Libeskind-designed Grand Canal Theatre, Dublin's theatre scene continues to thrive. Settle down in a wood-paneled booth to catch an impromptu traditional music session with fiddles and pipes, or perch up at the bar where it won't take long for the gregarious locals to start a conversation. For sports lovers, you can't beat cheering on the 'Dubs' at the mammothCroke Park stadium at a high-octane hurling match.

Restaurants and Dining

Dublin's horizons are widening, from Goan fish curries to top sushi. Stylish wine bars dot the Docklands area, serving a crisp white alongside steaming bouillabaisse. Locals favor fresh Dublin Bay oysters or a hearty lamb-and-Guinness pie in leafy suburb Ballsbridge, just south of the center. At the Italian Quartier Bloom on the Liffey's northern bank, tucked-away trattorias offer homemade pasta with crusty bread.

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