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"The City of Tribes" provides a fun blast of the Ireland many first-time visitors expect. The compact city centre, with its winding streets, packed pubs and air of celebration, is easily walked - or pubcrawled. The west-coast city of almost 70,000 is home to merry bands of students, artists, writers and craftspeople, and is merriest during summer's Galway's Arts Festival. Don't miss shopping for Claddagh rings, the Druid Theatre or having a pint o' the black stuff at the atmospheric Tigh Neachtain pub.
Kilkenny is over 400 years old, but it sure doesn’t show its age. Yes, it's an awe-inspiring throng of medieval cathedrals, castles, abbeys and other massive stone buildings, but Kilkenny loves to party. An endless stream of arts festivals celebrating theater, comedy, bluegrass and dance is constantly pumping the city with new life, toe-tapping energy and international flavor.
You've probably heard that Guinness tastes better in Dublin (fresh from the factory), but what you may not know is that Dublin is a perfect destination for the whole family. No, we're not suggesting you let the kiddies drink a pint. Instead, take them to the Dublin Zoo, to feed the ducks in Stephen's Green or on a picnic in Phoenix Park. Scholars enjoy walking in the literary footsteps of such writers as Yeats and Joyce, while discerning shoppers have their pick of designer boutiques.
Plan to cross many bridges when in Cork. Ireland's third-largest city began life as an island and now spans both banks of the River Lee, with watery channels running beneath some of its main thoroughfares. The best way to experience this hilly southern seaport is on foot, following the signposted walking tour past St. Finn Barre's Cathedral and the riverside quadrangle of University College up the hill to red and white Shandon Church. Along the way, you'll meet plenty of the city's talkative residents.
Don your most comfortable shoes for Killarney, where town trails offer history lessons and country walks traverse Ireland's first national park: 26,000 acres of woodlands, sandstone mountains and low-lying lakes. In the town centre, Killarney House and Gardens provide a break for urban explorers. Renowned Muckross House, with its 15th-century abbey ruins and massive yew tree, is just outside the town. If your feet wear out, take in Killarney National Park's legendary scenery from a boat trip from Ross Castle.
Belfast has grown into a cosmopolitan city and become a popular weekend-break destination. The city pulses with an irrepressible optimism and energy. The Northern Ireland capital has an increasing number of intriguing bus, taxi, boat and pedestrian tours. Attractions such as Ulster Folk Museum and Belfast Cathedral, award-winning restaurants, lively bars from modern lounges to traditional pubs, hip clubs, great shopping, impressive theatres, galleries and live music make it a vivacious destination.
Liverpool's fortunes have been inextricably tied to shipping. Imports and exports, such as sugar, spice and tobacco, however, pale to insignificance for most visitors, compared with Liverpool's most famous export of all, the Beatles. It's no surprise that the city's most popular attractions are Fab Four-related, but in addition to reliving the hysteria at the Beatles Story Experience and Paul's childhood home, catch local buses to visit Albert Dock's stores, Liverpool Cathedral and Walker Art Gallery.
Famed for its football team and music scene, which has produced the likes of The Smiths and Oasis, this centre for sports and the arts is a down-to-earth and friendly city. The so-called Capital of the North has overcome industrial decline, bombing (in WWII and by the IRA) to become a confident and cosmopolitan city of well over two million. It is well served by a bus and light rail network. Top attractions include the Lowry art complex, arcade Affleck's Palace and Canal Street gay village.
Edinburgh is Scotland’s capital city, renowned for its heritage, culture and festivals.
Take a long walk around the centre to explore the World Heritage Sites of the Old Town and New Town, as well as all the area’s museums and galleries. Then stop for a delicious meal made from fresh Scottish produce before heading out to take in one of Edinburgh’s many events — including the famous summer festivals of culture, or the Winter Festivals of music, light and ceilidhs.
From Shoreditch’s swaggering style to Camden’s punky vibe and chic Portobello Road, London is many worlds in one. The city’s energy means that no two days are the same. Explore royal or historic sites, tick off landmarks from your bucket list, eat and drink in exclusive Michelin-starred restaurants, enjoy a pint in a traditional pub, or get lost down winding cobbled streets and see what you stumble across – when it comes to London, the possibilities are endless.
Amsterdam is truly a biker’s city, although pedaling along the labyrinthine streets can get a little chaotic. Stick to walking and you won’t be disappointed. The gentle canals make a perfect backdrop for exploring the Jordaan and Rembrandtplein square. Pop into the Red Light District if you must—if only so you can say you’ve been there. The Anne Frank House is one of the most moving experiences a traveller can have, and the Van Gogh Museum boasts a sensational collection of works.
Everyone who visits Paris for the first time probably has the same punchlist of major attractions to hit: The Louvre, Notre Dame, The Eiffel Tower, etc. Just make sure you leave some time to wander the city’s grand boulevards and eat in as many cafes, bistros and brasseries as possible. And don’t forget the shopping—whether your tastes run to Louis Vuitton or Les Puces (the flea market), you can find it here.
It’s nicknamed the Eternal City for a reason. In Rome, you can drink from a street fountain fed by an ancient aqueduct. Or see the same profile on a statue in the Capitoline Museum and the guy making your cappuccino. (Which, of course, you know never to order after 11 am.) Rome is also a city of contrasts—what other place on earth could be home to both the Vatican and La Dolce Vita?