Give me a break: Dublin for pounds 250

City to city: it's Friday; you are in the City of London, with pounds 250 for a weekend away. Sue Gaisford prescribes how to spend your time and money in one of Europe's most exciting capitals
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Down payment

Aer Lingus (0645 737747), British Airways (0345 222111), British Midland (0345 554554), CityJet (0345 445588) and Ryanair (0541 569569) are slugging it out between various London airports and the Irish capital. Weekend rates are higher than the pounds 50-ish midweek specials; out Friday, back Monday on CityJet from London City airport costs pounds 93 return. The bus fare from Liverpool Street to the Docklands airport (a 20-minute journey on a good day) is pounds 8 return. On arrival in Dublin, an airport bus costs pounds 3 and operates every half-hour, bringing you to the city centre in 20 minutes.

Instant briefing

The Irish Tourist Board in London is at 150 New Bond Street (0171-493 9085); it has stacks of maps and brochures and lists of hotels, pubs and restaurants. Or call the Dublin tourist information centre before you go (00 353 1 602 4000). The tourist office in St Andrew's church on Suffolk Street has extremely helpful staff. The city is compact and easy to explore on foot, once you've got your bearings (see Must see below).

Rest assured

The centre of Georgian Dublin is full of small hotels. One of the nicest is Staunton's, 83 St Stephen's Green South (00 353 1 478 2300) with views over the famous Green at the front and their own gardens at the back; bed-and-enormous-breakfast costs pounds 59 a night. At pounds 30 B&B is the Clifden Guesthouse, 32 Gardener Place (00 353 1 874 6364). Or try Oliver St John Gogarty's, 18-21 Anglesea Street, Temple Bar (00 353 1 671 1822), on the trendy Left Bank, where a bed costs as little as pounds 12 - and you find your own breakfast.

Must see

Must buy

Check out Brown Thomas in Grafton Street, a kind of Fortnums/ Harvey Nichols. For real shopping and a broad range of the very best of Irish design make for the Kilkenny Shop, Nassau Street where there is gorgeous pottery, irresistible linen, tweed and much, much more.

Must eat

Night moves

Many Dubliners are young: half the population is under 28 and they frequent a bewildering variety of clubs. Check at the tourist board for a customised venue to suit your tastes.

If you fancy the theatre go to the Gate - small, rococo sister of the Abbey: book in advance if possible (00 353 1 874 4045) and marvel at the good-humoured complicity of the audience.

A literary pub-crawl (pounds 6, apply at the Duke, Duke Street) consists of two actors with a bottomless fund of Joyce, Wilde and Behan stories leading you around famous watering-holes for long, slow pints of Guinness and asking you impossible quiz questions: good fun.

Every third bar provides live Irish music, or at least a fiddler - or you could find your Dart ticket again and return to Howth for a rousing evening of ballad-singing in the old Abbey Tavern. The restaurant is good value and comfortable, with turf fires and candles; the ballads cost a further pounds 3. You may fear the experience will be corny and touristy, but it somehow transcends all that (or maybe my judgement was clouded by the Jameson's).