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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.
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.
"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.
There once was an Irish city… You might think "naughty poem" when you hear the word Limerick, but in truth the city inspires so much more than just knowing giggles. Medieval castles and churches give the city a grand feel, while the pubs crawl with lively locals and students who are all craving just one more pint of Guinness. The Hunt Museum boasts a collection of pieces from history's most important and influential artists, while the Foynes Flying Boat Museum will marvel visitors of all ages with its whimsical flying machines.
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.
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.
If your kids are sick of the same old beach holiday you take every year, consider taking them to Lanzarote. There are great beaches, to be sure, but this UNESCO World Biosphere reserve has unique attractions and activities. We're talking camel rides on volcanoes (at Timanfaya National Park), or eating at a restaurant in a volcanic cave (at Jameos del Agua). Even the most jaded teens will be impressed.