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For such an ancient town, Dublin is doing a pretty good job of not showing its age. Despite its stony gray appearance, the Irish capital is actually one of Europe’s most youthful cities, with the average age of its population somewhere around 36 years old. It’s growing rapidly, too—a full 50% more people now call Dublin home than did in the year 2000, and almost a third of Ireland’s entire population now lives in the greater Dublin area. This is by far Ireland’s most cosmopolitan city, and its most diverse; at times it feels more like a modern European city than it does the Irish capital. Edgy bars and cafes buzz alongside pubs that have stood for centuries, and chic boutiques are snuggled into the medieval precincts of the old city. It’s yours to discover afresh—and even if you think you know what to expect, you’re almost certain to be surprised by what you find.



By Plane    Aer Lingus (www.aerlingus.com;  081/836-5000), Ireland’s national airline, operates regular, direct, scheduled flights between Dublin International Airport and numerous cities worldwide. Direct routes from the United States include Boston, Chicago (O’Hare), New York (JFK), Orlando, and San Francisco. American Airlines (www.aa.com;  1800/433-7300), Delta (www.delta.com;  800/241-4141), and United (www.united.com;  1800/864-8331) all fly direct to Dublin from at least one of those same cities. From Canada, direct flights are operated by Air Canada (www.aircanada.com;  1888/247-2262). From Australia, Qantas (www.qantas.com;  13-13-13 from within Australia) flies to Dublin with a change in London or Dubai. Air New Zealand (www.airnewzealand.co.nz;  080/0737-000) flies to Dublin, changing in San Francisco or Los Angeles and then London. Most major European airlines have direct flights to Dublin.

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Temple Bar.

10 Favorite Moments

For such an ancient town, Dublin does a pretty good job of not showing its age. This is a town where you’ll find history at every turn, whether it be down winding Georgian alleyways, in the crypts of ancient Medieval churches, or even in the timeworn snugs of its storied old pubs. Much about Dublin has changed enormously over the past couple of decades, and it now feels as much like a cosmopolitan European city as it does merely the capital of Ireland. Entire districts have been transformed almost out of recognition for anybody who might have visited here, say, 20 or 30 years ago. But some things don’t change. Many of these favorite moments will feel as permanent for lovers of this captivating old town as they ever were.

❶ People-watching from the balcony at Bewley’s. The human traffic of busy Grafton Street flows past the tiny balcony at this beloved café, immortalized in literature and a favored hangout of Dubliners for a century. Stopping here for coffee and cake is still a quintessential Dublin experience. See p 93.

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The Best of Ireland

Tiny, and with ever-changing scenery, Ireland is an addictive place to explore. Within a few miles you can travel from plunging cliffs and flat pastureland to towering mountains and gloomy peat bogs. You can spend the night in ancient castles or state-of-the-art spa hotels, dine on fine Irish cuisine or snack on crispy fish and chips served in a paper bag. The sheer number of sights, little villages, charming pubs, and adorable restaurants and shops can be overwhelming—that’s why we’ve put together this list of some of our favorite places and things to do in Ireland. We hope that while you’re exploring this magical country, you’ll find a few of your own.

The best Authentic Experiences

Seeing a Traditional Music Session at a Proper Irish Pub: While there are plenty of shows for the tourist crowd, nothing beats the energy, atmosphere, and authenticity of a genuine small-town traditional music session. Buy a pint, grab a seat (preferably one near a smoldering peat fire), and wait for the action to begin. We’ve listed some of the best places in this book, including the Long Valley in Cork (see p. 133) or Gus O’Connor’s and McGann’s in little Doolin, County Clare (see p. 188).

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The Olympia Theatre.

Arts & Entertainment Best Bets

The audience at a concert in the National Concert Hall.

Best Theater for Kids

★★ Lambert Puppet Theatre, Clifton Lane, Monkstown (p 128)

Best for Cutting-Edge Opera

★★ Opera Theatre Company, various venues, citywide (p 128)

Best Sporting Crowds

★★★ Croke Park, Jones’s Rd. (p 131), and ★★ Aviva Stadium, 62 Lansdowne Rd. (p 131)

Best for Cinephiles

★★ Irish Film Institute, 6 Eustace St. (p 129)

Best for Belly Laughs

★★ The Comedy Cellar, 21 Wicklow St. (p 128)

Best for Beckett Plays

★★ Gate Theatre, 1 Cavendish Row (p 134)

Best Concert Acoustics

★★ National Concert Hall, Earlsfort Terrace (p 128)

Most Dramatic Architecture

★★ Grand Canal Theatre, Grand Canal Sq. (p 176)

Best for Blockbuster Gigs

★ 3Arena, N. Wall Quay (p 130)

Best Daytime Drama

★★ Bewley’s Cafe Theatre, 78–79 Grafton St. (p 134)

Best Spun Yarn

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County Galway

For many travelers to Ireland, Galway is the farthest edge of their journey. Part of the reason they draw the line here is because the depths of the county look so forbidding—with its bleak bogs, heather-clad moors, and extraordinary light—they think that it must be the end of all that’s worth seeing in Ireland. It isn’t, of course, but Galway is just far enough west to escape much of the touristy bustle of Kerry or Cork. And that’s a compelling part of its attraction—here you can climb hills, catch fish, explore history, and get away from it all in the Irish countryside. With its misty, mountain-fringed lakes, rugged coastline, and extensive wilderness, County Galway is a wild and wooly area. And yet, nestled just outside its most dramatic and unkempt part—the windswept, boggy expanse of Connemara—is one of Ireland’s most sophisticated towns. Though small, Galway City has long been a center for the arts, and the winding, medieval streets of its oldest quarter have a seductively bohemian air.

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