City break guide: Dublin

As weekend city breaks go Dublin has it all to offer - unrivalled nightlife, gourmet restaurants, great shopping and a history saturated with cultural highlights.

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City break guide: Dublin
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City break guide: Dublin

Sleep where the stars sleep at The Clarence - famously owned by U2's Bono and The Edge. Despite its rock star credentials you'll find a fairly refined crowd here; most of the elegant rooms overlook the river and the hotel bar is one of the most popular in the city.

Inside the elegant Powercourt Townhouse you'll find lots of antique jewellery dealers as well as some lovely independent boutiques, cafes and restaurants. Brown Thomas is Dublin's destination department store for designer labels and brands.

But for a real Irish souvenir you'll find everything and more at the three-level Avoca store; where among the handwoven Irish wool blankets there's gifts galore to chose from - as well as amazing home baked scones served in the third floor cafe.

Is as big in Dublin as the pub variety. Gibson's, with its Farrow and Ball cosiness is perfect for people watching at the window, tucking into one of their homemade muffins and a hot chocolate. The Cake Cafe is a little out of town, found behind the Daintree Paper shop on Camden Road; you just need to walk through their secret garden to find cupcake heaven. For food gifts to take home you'll find everything you need at the scrumptious Fallon & Byrne deli.

For a low-key affair Gruel does stellar bistro food in a hip cafe-style setting with little formica tables and wooden chairs. For stylish canteen-style food try the Mermaid Cafe and for push-the-boat out dining go for the tastier menu at the Michelin-Starred restaurant of Patrick Guilbaud.

Where do you start? In a city notorious for its nightlife and cosy pubs, its hard to put a foot wrong. The Bernard Shaw combines the charm of a traditional Irish boozer with a young artsy crowd, while the Elephant & Castle in the ever-lively Temple Bar district is a safe bet amongst the throng of clubs. For a taste of something a bit more, well, local, take a taxi out to Kavanagh's, better known as The Gravedigger's due to its close proximity to a cemetery. No frills, just good Guinness and lively banter.

When in Dublin sip a pint of the black stuff on the top floor bar of the Guinness Storehouse. Its a pilgrimage that must be fulfilled we're afraid.

Francis Bacon's London art studio was catalogued, packed up and picked up, oily rag by oily rag, and relocated to Dublin's Hugh Lane Gallery in 1998; a curated 'mess' of over 7000 objects in total. The spectacular site of Bacon's paint splattered walls, knee-high piles of source materials and paintbrushes caked in pigment is a real treat.

Art house and foreign language films at The Lighthouse Cinema in the rapidly-changing Smithfield neighbourhood. Resurrected by DTA Architects in 2008, the cinema is all contemporary cool - with eye popping colour and conceptual design, and a great cafe-bar to boot.

At any one given moment in Dublin you're bound to cross the path of at least one literary walking tour. Go the DIY route and take a stroll around the leafy grounds of Trinity College, whose esteemed alumni include Samuel Beckett, Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde.

Just under an hour outside Dublin, get a quick fix detox at the Temple Spa and Retreat, where a dose of the country air and some of their signature chocotherapy (we kid you not) will put a natural glow black in your cheeks.

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