Belinda Jackson presents the best of Ireland's capital.
Give the shabby digs in Dublin 1 a wide berth and plump for Oliver St John Gogarty, one of Temple Bar's most famous trad music hotels. It has apartments (from €90/$143, sleeps four), twins and hostel dorms (from €12 B&B), great for groups (58-59 Fleet Street, +353 1671 1822, www.gogartys.ie ). Bargain alert: Sandymount Hotel in upmarket Ballsbridge is close to the hallowed rugby epicentre on Lansdowne Road. Online specials from €29 a person (Herbert Road, Sandymount, +353 1614 2000, www.sandymounthotel.ie ); or nearby Lansdowne Hotel, midweek from €58.50 a double (27-29 Pembroke Road, Ballsbridge, www.lansdownehotel.ie).
The brainchild of fashion designer John Rocha, The Morrison on the River Liffey is slick and happening, with a be-seen-in cocktail bar, from €95 a double, room only (Ormond Quay, +353 1887 2400, www.morrisonhotel.ie ). Contemporary Irish art lines the walls of the The Morgan, a cool modern four-star, 121-room hotel in Temple Bar, from €95 (10 Fleet Street, Temple Bar, +353 1643 7000, www.themorgan.com ). Maritime buffs and yachties should aim for the Royal Marine Hotel, a 228-room four-star revamped Georgian manor in Dublin's south, near the port for ferries from Wales, from €80 double, room only (Marine Road, Dun Laoghaire, +353 1230 0030, www.royalmarine.ie).
Beloved by high-calibre businessmen, the Fitzwilliam is a Terence Conran-designed hotel in the heart of the city. Check its excellent cocktail list (St Stephen's Green, +353 1478 7000, www.fitzwilliam-hotel.com ). The elegant Merrion is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World, a beautiful Georgian restoration near busy Grafton Street, from €199 (Upper Merrion Street, +353 1603 0600, www.merrionhotel.com ). Of course you know The Clarence's famous owners, Bono and the Edge of U2. Set on the River Liffey, each of the 49 rooms has custom furniture and the hotel's Octagon bar is hip to the eyeballs, from €135 double (86 Wellington Quay, +353 1407 0800, www.theclarence.ie).
The best address in town is The Shelbourne. Book the Heritage Wing with park views from €200 (27 St Stephen's Green, +353 1663 4500, www.theshelbourne.ie ). Half an hour from the city, The Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt in Co Wicklow has a Gordon Ramsay restaurant. From €250 double, room only (Powerscourt Estate, Enniskerry, +353 1274 8888, www.ritzcarlton.com).
SHOP & PLAY
Make a beeline for Temple Bar on the weekends to the new designer Cow's Lane Market (10am-5pm Saturdays), organic fruit and veg at the Meeting House Square (10am-4.30pm Saturdays) and the Temple Bar Book Market (11am-6pm, Sat and Sun, www.templebar.ie ). One of Dublin's oldest regions, the cobbled streets of Smithfield, behind the Four Courts off Usher's Quay, has an outdoor market for jewellery and food (11am-3pm Fridays) but on the first Sunday of every month, it goes back to its roots, with the 400-year old pony market. Raucous and rough, it's a laugh but not pretty.
Wield your credit card in the beautiful Powerscourt Townhouse shopping centre. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons, head for Powerscourt's designer market, The Loft, with one-off, vintage and handmade clothes and live DJs to set the tone (59 South William Street, Dublin 2, www.powerscourtcentre.com ). Nip around the corner to visit Irish designer Helen McAlinden at Number 6 (6 Castle Market, Dublin 2, +353 1670 8846) then lust after the cool Celtic jewellery, perfect homewares, floaty smocks and fab weaves that are the preserve of Avoca Handweavers (11-13 Suffolk Street, Dublin 2, +353 1677 4215, www.avoca.ie).
Join the fray at beloved music pub O'Donoghues, home of the famed band the Dubliners (15 Merrion Row, +353 1660 7194, Dublin 2), or try the early-opener, Hughes Bar, near the Four Courts at night (19 Chancery Street, Dublin 7, +353 1872 6540). The sticky floors of Whelan's (25 Wexford Street, Dublin 2, +353 1478 0766) attest to its success as a contemporary music venue, while Vicar Street (58 Thomas Street, Dublin 8, +353 1454 5533, www.vicarstreet.com ) lures big names — Blondie, Dinosaur Jr and Powderfinger are playing there. To take it all home, Claddagh Records, the first to record the Chieftains, specialises in folk, world and trad music (65 Middle Abbey Street, Dublin 1, +353 1872 0075, www.claddaghrecords.com).
Cashed-up A-listers hang at Lillie's Bordello, so expect high swank and serious scrutiny at the door (Adam Court, Grafton Street, +353 1679 9204, www.lilliesbordello.ie ). The Sugar Club will have you throwing your arms in the air, €15 (8 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2, +353 1678 7188, www.thesugarclub.com ). Warm up at The Globe with acid jazz and hip-hop, then slip next door into exuberant, trance-free Ri-Ra, 11pm-2.30am nightly, bar Sundays, with DJs and live bands, both free (11 South Great Georges Street, Dublin 2, both +353 1671 1220, www.globe.ie and www.rira.ie).
SEE & DO
The best views of Dublin are from Guinness Storehouse's sky-high Gravity Bar. Ireland's most famous export (after limericks) was first brewed here in 1759 (St James's Gate, Dublin 8, +353 1408 4800, www.guinness-storehouse.com, entry €15/€5). St Patrick's Cathedral was built in 1220 on a holy site first recorded in the fifth century. Matins is held daily, except Sundays, at 9.40am: note it's a working church, yet charges €5.50 adults/€4.50 kids (St Patrick's Close, Dublin 8, +353 1453 9472, www.stpatrickscathedral.ie). The prime drawcard of Trinity College, established in 1592, is the Book of Kells, a divinely illustrated monkish manuscript dated from AD800, (College Green, Dublin 2, +353 1896 2320, www.bookofkells.ie, €8.50 adults/€17 family).
The Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane is crowned by the crazy studio of painter Francis Bacon in the gallery's midst, with free Sunday concerts at noon and kids' classes, (Parnell Square North, Dublin 1, +353 1222 5550, www.hughlane.ie). The trek out to the Irish Museum of Modern Art is worth it for its beautiful architecture, great cafe and the current exhibition, which includes works by Rothko, Pollock and Mondrian, free (Military Road, Kilmainham, + 353 1612 9900, www.modernart.ie). The Sandycove Martello tower, built to keep Napoleon at bay, is now the James Joyce Gallery, a fascinating museum of the author's life, €7.25/€6 (Sandycove, +353 1280 9265, podcasts at www.joycesdublin.ie). Pack your swimmers for a dip off the nearby rocks of the famed Forty-Foot, if you're game.
Walk through St Stephen's Green's city gardens, lined with elegant Georgian townhouses, down to Grafton Street mall and its buskers — the good, the bad and the brutal. The mall ends with Molly Malone (aka "the tart with the cart"), who's a whole lot less dressed than you'd expect for such a famous monument of a fishmonger's daughter. She's said to haunt the city's streets with her seafood advertisement, "Alive, alive-oh!" Keep on past Trinity College and you'll come to the River Liffey and north-side Dublin. Download free Dublin iWalk podcasts at visitdublin.ie. Too lazy? The Hop-On Hop-Off bus takes you all around Dublin, (€15 adults/€6 kids online, +353 1703 3028, www.dublinsightseeing.ie).
Follow the leader
Dublin's famed Literary Pub Crawl explores Ireland's great loves: pints, prose and poetry. Oscar Wilde, Brendan Behan, W. B. Yeats and George Bernard Shaw feature in the nightly tours, €12 adults/€10 students (+353 1670 5602, www.dublinpubcrawl.com). Scream on a Viking Splash Tour, as its amphibious World War II vehicles crawl the Grand Canal and city streets, €20 adults/€18 kids/€60 families (+353 1707 6000, www.vikingsplash.ie). Not your cuppa? Scream your lungs out on the spooky Ghostbus as a storyteller recalls Dracula's inventor, Bram Stoker, hangmen, gallows and body-snatchers, €25/adults (+353 1703 3028, www.dublinsightseeing.ie).
EAT & DRINK
The leader of Ireland's tea culture since 1840, Bewley's breakfast tea blend has a cult following, which includes Maeve Binchy and Van Morrison. Now stocking fair-trade coffees, it does dirty great budget fry-ups from 8am in its landmark city cafe (78-79 Grafton Street, +353 1672 7720, www.bewleys.com). For brunch and a glass of wine, head to little Olyesa's, which offers 100 wines by the glass (18 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2, +353 1672 4087, www.olesyaswinebar.com). Dubliners quibble about whether the best tapas is at the heaving Market Bar (14a Fade Street, Dublin 2, +353 1613 9094, www.marketbar.ie) or Bar Pinxto (12 Eustace Street, Dublin 2, +353 1672 8590).
Listons Food Store is one of a new breed of providores, with its vast charcuterie counter, Irish and French farmhouse cheeses, salads and ever-changing hot pots (25-26 Lower Camden Street, Dublin 2, +353 1405 4779, www.listonsfoodstore.ie). Fill up on cheap, delicious vegetarian and allergy-free food, soups and good vibes at the revamped restaurant at Cornucopia Wholefoods (19 Wicklow Street, Dublin 2, +353 1677 7583, www.cornucopia.ie). Sheridan's Cheese Shop is an institution bent on reviving Irish cheesemaking, led by the sublime examples Gubbeen and Durras. Stock up for a picnic in nearby St Stephen's Green (11 South Anne Street, Dublin 2, +353 1679 3143, www.sheridanscheesemongers.com).
Top of the town
For high-class Irish produce — think wild salmon and boutique cheeses — book a table at the Michelin-star-awarded l'Ecrivain headed by chef-owner Derry Clarke. Also recently voted best sommelier and wine list (109a Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2, +353 1661 1919, www.lecrivain.com). Nearby, old guard two-star Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud is never off the must-eat lists, yet you can still sneak in for a bargain €38 set lunch (21 Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2, +353 1676 4192, www.restaurantpatrickguilbaud.ie). New kid on the block Fallon & Byrne is justly famed for its food hall and its busy, sleek restaurant featuring aged Irish beef and exemplary seafood (11-17 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2, +353 1472 1010, www.fallonandbyrne.com).
By the glass
Old-school Kavanaghs, aka The Gravediggers, is said to be haunted and to serve the best Guinness in town (Prospect Square, Glasnevin), slugging it out with lively Slattery's (129 Capel Street, Dublin 9, +353 1874 6844) and family-run Hartigan's (100 Leeson Street, Dublin 2, +353 1676 2280). The Long Hall is one of the most beautiful (51 South Great Georges Street, Dublin 2, +353 1475 1590) while Mulligan's is a traditionalist with great pints, (8 Poolbeg Street, Dublin 2, +353 1677 5582, www.mulligans.ie) and Doheny & Nesbitt's, near the parliament, is always packed with movers and shakers (5 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2, +353 1676 2945).
Dublin Tourism's Dublin Pass includes airport transfers, entry into the major sights, a guidebook and shopping discounts for one to six days, from €35 adults/€19 children aged one to five, +353 1605 7700, www.dublinpass.ie.
Etihad Airways flies Sydney-Dublin via Abu Dhabi, etihadairways.com. Virgin Atlantic (1300 727 340, www.virginatlantic.com) and Qantas (13 13 13, www.qantas.com.au) fly to London Heathrow daily with onward connections to Dublin.
Visas and currency
Australian tourists don't need a visa to visit Ireland. The Irish currency is the euro: $1 is €0.70