Dublin: Europe's new weekend hot spot

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- Europe's latest hot spot, Dublin, blends some of the best things Ireland has to offer: friendly people, great literature and cold glasses of Guinness with a trendy twist. Some of Europe's trendiest, bars and restaurants can be found here. Visitors can spend their days immersed in the works of W.B. Yeats or researching their ancestors in the National Library and their nights trying the haute cuisine in the latest upscale restaurant.

Sights to see:
From famous writers to revolutionaries, Dublin has many sights that showcase the people that have influenced their country and the world. Below is just a short list of some of Dublin's main attractions. For more detailed information and trip ideas, visit www.discoverireland.com and www.tourismireland.com. For up-to-date events, performances and shows, visit www.irishtourist.com/events.

Trinity College - Ireland's oldest and most prestigious college has taught the like of students such as Bram Stoker, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett. Besides its academic heritage, the college is also home to the Book of Kells, a beautifully hand-drawn manuscript of the four gospels. It's extraordinary to look at the intricate detailing mixed in among the calligraphy and to imagine how it was all done by hand more than 800 years ago. To preserve the books, only small portions are displayed, but the vivid colors and details can still be seen. Visiting the college is free, but entrance to the Old Library, where the Book of Kells is located, costs €8. This includes entrance to the library's Long Room, where thousands of rare books are on display. The library is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 4:30 p.m. Sunday.

Guinness Storehouse - This museum of sorts takes visitors through the process of brewing the famous full-bodied beverage, from the ingredients to the pouring the final product. The audio-visual displays are interesting and detailed but best of all is the last stop on the self-guided tour: the Gravity Bar. Here, visitors can sip a free pint of Guinness while marveling at the 360 degree view of Dublin through the glass walls. The storehouse is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and costs €14 for adults, €9 for seniors and students and €5 for children under age 5. For more information, visit www.guinness-storehouse.com.

St. Patrick's Cathedral - The national cathedral of Ireland also happens to be the country's largest. Although it dates to 1190, fire and re-building have ruined much of the original foundation. It holds a monument to Irish soldiers who died in both world wars - despite Ireland's neutral status in World War II, an estimated 50,000 were killed fighting alongside the British. Admission costs €5 for adults and is open year round from 9 a.m. - 6 p.m., except for services on Dec. 24-26 and Jan. 1. For more information, visit www.stpartickscathedral.ie.

Phoenix Park - On a sunny day, the place to be is Phoenix Park. With more than 1,700 acres of open grass and shady spots, the park is a good place for a picnic or peaceful walk. It's also where the Dublin Zoo and the Irish president's house are located. For more information on the zoo, visit www.dublinzoo.ie.

Other sites: There are also many free museums and libraries celebrating Ireland's rich literary history. The Chester Beatty Library features a large array of religious manuscripts, including ancient copies of the Bible and Koran. The Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art houses Hugh Lane's personal collection that he left to the city of Dublin when he was killed on the Lusitania in 1915. Featured are Impressionist works by Manet and Degas as well as many Irish artists.

The National Gallery of Ireland houses a collection of European art from the 14th to 20th centuries. There is also a room dedicated to W.B. Yeats. The National Museum showcases Ireland's history from 2000 B.C. to modern times including ancient artifacts. Other free sights include the National Library, which is a good place to research your heritage, and the Irish Museum of Modern Art which focuses on temporary exhibits. For information on currenty displays, visit www.modernart.ie.

Temple Bar area - A mix of older pubs and newer bars, this area is for the young and wild crowd. During the day, it's a good area to see what's playing at the theaters or grab a pub lunch, but when the clubs open it transforms into party central. Those looking for the traditional Irish pub experience should avoid the Temple Bar area at night.

Grafton Street - This is Dublin's main shopping area. A pedestrian-only area, Grafton Street is lined with hotels, restaurants and shops and is a great place to walk, but don't look for bargain shopping here - most of the shops are upscale. The streets around Grafton are also great for shopping and feature many specialty stores.

Getting there and around:
Many low-cost airlines fly into Dublin airport, which is about seven miles north of the city. Getting into the city is easy, with several bus service and taxi options. Inexpensive options include the Air Coach, which runs every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day and stops in areas heavily populated by hotels. The coach costs €7 one way or €12 round-trip. Another option is the Dublin bus, which stops in many of the same places and costs €5 but takes a bit longer to get into town. The bus runs daily from 6 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Taxis are also available at the airport, but because of the Dublin traffic situation the drive can take 30-45 minutes depending on the destination. Buses have their own lane.

Car rentals are available at the airport, but unless visitors are exploring other parts of Ireland, I wouldn't recommend renting a car in Dublin. The traffic is terrible and parking is expensive. The city itself is compact and it's quicker and easier to walk places.

For visitors exploring outside of Dublin, there's the Dublin Area Rapid Transit (DART) system. This ground-level train travels to the outskirts of the city and the seaside towns to the north and south. For schedules and routes, visit www.irishrail.ie.