St Patricks day drummers march across Dublin city centre

You don’t need the luck of the Irish to book a break in Ireland’s capital city. Famed for its sense of fun and a drop of the black stuff, Dublin is alive with culture, history and first-class shopping

Today Dublin has regained some of the charm that it lost in those ‘Celtic Tiger’ days, when its super-heated economy turned the Irish capital into one of the most expensive cities to visit in Europe.

The people genuinely are very friendly, and the legendary Irish ‘craic’ still very much exists in the pubs and clubs. Plus, Dublin has managed to retain a real villagey feel in its pubs and back streets, with cobbled alleys, Georgian squares and a history which dates back more than a thousand years.

The city is deeply in touch with its literary and historical roots and is packed with museums and galleries, but without trading solely on those, so it also one that is constantly evolving in its contemporary arts, music and culinary scenes.

For somewhere as small as Dublin it punches way above its weight in so many areas in particular literary: Joyce, Yeats, Shaw and Beckett and music: U2 and Van Morrison – all native sons to the city.

There are tours to take in all aspects of contemporary and historical Dublin, and as winter approaches the city transforms itself with ice-skating rinks and Christmas markets.

What to see and do

The best way to see the city within a short space of time is The Dublin Bus Tour, which has 20 designated stops, each located at the popular attractions.

You really should see Trinity College, founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth and the oldest university in Ireland. Just wandering around its cobbled squares, gardens and parks is extraordinary; but if you have time look at the Book of Kells, a 9th-century illuminated manuscript.

Temple Bar is Dublin’s cultural quarter – home to performing artists and the contemporary art scene during the day and mainly groups of stag and hen parties on Friday and Saturday nights. The Guinness Storehouse, on St James’ Gate proves a fascinating history of the city’s favourite drink, whether or not you are partial to a drop of the ‘black stuff’. At Dublin Writers Museum, you’ll find a collection of letters, books and personal items of some of the city’s aforementioned great literary names.

Where to eat

Like the city, you’ve got a choice of the traditional pubs and the ultra-modern restaurants, so if you prefer trad fayre try: Doheny and Nesbitt (5 Baggot St Lower), that looks as if it hasn’t changed for more than 100 years; Stag’s Head (1 Dame Court), which is all mahogany stained glass and mirrors; and Kehoe’s (9 South Anne Street), which is regarded as having the finest pint of Guinness in Dublin.

If you prefer your restaurants more modern, try: The Mermaid Café, which was established by chef-restaurateur Ben Gorman and artist Mark Harrell; The Odessa Lounge & Grill, with its California/Mediterranean menu; or Leftbank, a trendy bar and restaurant with a great bar food menu.

Where to drink

The question should really be where not to drink; Dublin has so many bars and pubs to choose from. Try the Temple Bar in which literally every other doorway is a bar or a pub.

Standouts in a city with so many are: Davy Byrne’s, which was immortalised by James Joyce in Ulysses, and has beautiful murals depicting that age and is well known for its seafood and homemade beef. Cellar Bar, is set in the original 18th-century wine vaults under the Merrion Hotel. Dawson Street is a good place to explore at night: Ron Blacks, is ideal if you like your bars crowded and noisy. By contrast, Cocoon, is a trendy lounge bar with a distinctive New York vibe with big sofas and plasma screens on the walls. SamSara, has more of an exotic, Oriental feel.

Round off the night with a drink in the Clarence Hotel, owned by Bono and The Edge (see Where to Stay).

Where to stay

The Bono and The Edge-owned Clarence Hotel, is a luxury hotel overlooking The River Liffey. The Four Seasons Hotel, has recently opened in the Ballsbridge part of the city, or try The Westin Hotel, if you are after US-style luxury. The Morgan Hotel, is slap bang in the heart of Temple Bar – which is great for nightlife, but disastrous if you’re after an early night. The Fitzwilliam Hotel, is in a desirable spot off Grafton Street, the city’s main shopping thoroughfare.

Day trips

If you head along Dublin’s north coast you’ll hit Howth, a peninsula populated with wonderful seafood restaurants at varying price ranges and traditional Irish pubs. Malahide Castle, is well worth a visit as is Dalkey Castle, on the south coast, which will give you a glimpse into Ireland’s medieval past. Ireland boasts some of the most challenging and visually stunning golf courses in the world, many just a short drive from the city. The tourist board is encouraging visitors to sample them via the Dublin Golf Pass.

Who cruises there?

★Carnival Cruise Lines – Tel: 0845 351 0556;
★Cunard – Tel: 0845 678 0013;
★Holland America Line – Tel: 0845 351 0557;
★Norwegian Cruise Line – Tel: 0845 201 8900;
★Princess Cruises – Tel: 0845 355 5800;
★Celebrity Cruises – Tel: 0844 493 2043;
★MSC Cruises – Tel:0203 426 3010;
★P&O Cruises – Tel: 0845 678 0014;
★Royal Caribbean International – Tel: 0844 493 4005;