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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.
From the bustling charm of Galway City to the rugged, otherworldly Burren, Western Ireland offers a wonderful wealth of experiences. Exuberant Galway, City of Tribes, packs summers with festivals and packs pubs with locals and visitors. Westport is another charismatic town, full of colourful shopfronts, pubs and great restaurants. The near-lunar landscape of the Burren delights with its unexpected flora. Don't miss its Stone Age burial monuments, fishing village Ballyvaughan or cheerful Lisdoonvarna.
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.
The home of Majorcan merrymarking, the resort town of Magaluf offers sun-soaked beaches by day and buzzing nightlife once the sun sets. Theme parks and upscale hotels cater to families, while unihabited islets off the coast await exploration.
Ibiza: Old Spanish for "party 'til you drop." Perhaps not literally, but this is definitely one of Europe's favourite nightlife playgrounds. Ibiza boasts more than 100 miles of coastline with some 50 beaches, plus plenty of restaurants, bars, and water sports—and clubs, of course. Fit in a little culture and visit Ibiza's UNESCO-designated old town.
Bask on four miles of golden beaches, hit the Mediterranean Sea on water skis or stroll along Benidorm's promenade and revel in its seaside charms; it's a true Spanish beauty of the Costa Blanca. Originally a fishing town, the city's historic center wows with its blue-domed 18th-century church and picturesque alleyways. Panoramic views reward those who climb into the surrounding Canfali hills, and nearby rocky coves reveal underwater riches for scuba enthusiasts. End a day in the sun with a feast of local seafood.
With its prime vantage point atop multi-hued cliffs in Portugal's southern Algarve region, it's easy to imagine Albufeira's eighth- century Arab occupants calling the city "Castle of the Sea." Brightly painted fishing boats, stunningly white houses with Moorish flair and remnants of its old fortress provide echoes of earlier days, while lively nightlife accentuates its modern resort charms. Spend time sunbathing on the more than 20 diverse beaches that hug the coast or venture inland, where almond trees blossom and local handicrafts are abundant.
In the chic, sun-drenched Costa del Sol town of Marbella, hints of its former Moorish occupation mingle with modern-day resort amenities. Bask on the sands of famous La Fontanilla beach or ricochet among the area's family-oriented water, wildlife and theme parks. Experience the Andalusian charm of the historic quarter, filled with whitewashed buildings, remnants of a ninth-century Arab fortress and fragrant orange trees. End a relaxing day with a dish of the cold almond soup ajoblanco and some of the region's excellent dessert wine.
Strongly influenced by the tribal culture of the Guanches (the original inhabitants), Tenerife was conquered by the Spanish 500 years ago. It's home to Mount Teide, Spain's tallest peak, and to the popular beach resort of Los Gigantes. Today visitors flock to Loro Park to see tropical birds, to Tenerife Zoo Monkey Park and to Parque Nacional Las Canadas del Teide's volcanic rock formations. Explore by car or with a "bono bus" ticket, which offers reductions on regular prices.
Dubai is a destination that mixes modern culture with history, adventure with world-class shopping and entertainment. Catch a show at the Dubai Opera, see downtown from atop the Burj Khalifa and spend an afternoon along Dubai Creek exploring the gold, textile and spice souks. If you’re looking for thrills, you can float above the desert dunes in a hot air balloon, climb aboard a high-speed ride at IMG Worlds of Adventure or skydive over the Palm Jumeirah.