You can follow in the wake of James Joyce, admire the Spike, or shop till you need a drop of the black stuff, reports Aoife O'Riordain

WHY GO NOW?

Monday sees the annual Bloomsday celebrations; 16 June is when Dublin remembers one of its most famous sons, James Joyce. This was the day when Joyce first went walking in Ringsend - an event later immortalised in his epic novel Ulysses. The festivities, which include walking tours, exhibitions, performances and readings, get under way today and culminate on Monday. Tickets and a full list of events can be obtained from The James Joyce Centre (00 353 1 878 8547; www.jamesjoyce.ie), 35 North Great George's Street. It opens 9.30am-7pm Monday to Saturday and 12.30-5pm on Sunday. For further information contact Ireland Tourism on 0800 039 7000 or see www.tourismireland.com.

DOWN PAYMENT

Aer Lingus (www.aerlingus.com; 0845 084 4444) flies from London, Leeds, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Plymouth to Dublin. This weekend, return fares from Heathrow to Dublin start from £140. Ryanair (0871 246 0000; www.ryanair.com) flies to Dublin from Stansted, Luton and Gatwick. It offers a fare of £108 return this weekend from Stansted. BMI (0870 60 70 555; www.flybmi.com) has return fares from £120. Flybe (0870 889 0905; www.flybe.com) also flies to Dublin from Southampton, Jersey and Exeter.

Dublin Airport is 13km north of the city. Taxis cost around €24 (£15) one way. A regular coach service, Aircoach (00 353 1 844 7118; www.aircoach.ie), departs from outside the terminal building every 15 minutes and stops at several locations throughout the city. Fares are €6 (£4.20) one way and €10 (£7.15) return.

INSTANT BRIEFING

The city of Dublin sweeps around the arc of Dublin Bay. It's a city of two halves, known as the Northside and the Southside, which are divided by the River Liffey. Dublin boasts several grandly proportioned Georgian streets and squares such as Merrion Square, St Stephen's Green and Parnell Square. The medieval section of the city is located around the Temple Bar, just south of the Liffey and Christchurch.

The city's streets are currently in chaos due to extensive roadworks for a new tram system called the LUAS. This was due to open at the end of 2003, but has suffered many setbacks. To explore the city like a Joycean scholar, buy a Ulysses map for €1.30 (90p) from the Dublin Tourism centre and follow in the footsteps of his most famous character, Leopold Bloom.

The Dublin Tourism Centre (00 353 1 605 77 00) is located in the church of St Andrew on Suffolk Street. Open 9am-5.30pm daily except Sunday. For more information visit www.ireland.travel.ie or www.visitdublin.com.

REST ASSURED

The Merrion Hotel (00 353 1 603 0600; www.merrionhotel.com), Upper Merrion Street, is a gracious townhouse located in the heart of Georgian Dublin opposite the Irish government buildings, known as the Dail. This weekend it is offering a special Bloomsday package of €120 (£86) per person per night including breakfast and a student guide to Ulysses. Number 31 at 31 Leeson Close (www.number31.ie; 00 353 1 675 5011) is a perennially popular place to stay in the heart of the city. Part Georgian townhouse, part groovy 1970s pad, Number 31 has its own private garden and an interior designed by one of Ireland's leading architects, Sam Stephenson. Doubles cost from €150 (£107). Avalon House (00 353 1 475 0001; www.avalon-house.ie), 55 Aungier Street, is much cheaper - a centrally located hostel housed in an old medical school. A bed in a dorm starts at €15 (£9.30).

MUST SEE

One of Dublin's newest landmarks is the 120m tall, brushed-stainless-steel tower called the Millennium Spire, which stands on O'Connell Street at the intersection with Henry Street. It was designed by British architect Ian Ritchie as a millennium project, but opened three years behind schedule. Nicknamed "the Spike" by local wags, it stands in the same location occupied by Nelson's Column, which was blown up in the 1960s. The National Gallery of Ireland (00 353 1 661 5133; www.nationalgallery.ie), Merrion Square West, displays an extensive collection of both Irish and international art dating from the 14th century. It is open 9.30am-5.30pm Monday to Saturday, except Thursdays when it is open until 8.30pm, and 12pm-5.30pm Sunday. Admission is free.

The National Museum, Kildare Street (00 353 1 677 7444) exhibits priceless archaeological artefacts such as the Derrynaflan Chalice, the Tara Brooch and extensive collections of prehistoric gold and Viking treasures. It is open 10.30am-5.30pm Tuesday-Saturday, 2-5pm Sunday, closed Monday. There is also a shuttle bus link from outside the Museum to the National Museum of Ireland, Decorative Arts & History, Collins Barracks (00 353 1 677 7444).

If you'd rather learn a bit more about the heritage of the black stuff, the Guinness Storehouse (00 353 1 408 4800; www.guinness-storehouse.com) in St James's Gate explains exactly what goes into making the perfect pint and houses an extensive collection of Guinness memorabilia and displays. The entrance price of €13.50 (£9.60) per adult also entitles you to a free pint at the Gravity Bar on the seventh floor, which offers panoramic views of the city. Open 9.30am-5pm daily.

MUST BUY

Grafton Street is Dublin's main shopping thoroughfare, offering many of the same shops that you'll find on UK high streets.

Brown Thomas (00 353 1 605 6666) at 88-95 Grafton Street is Dublin's smartest department store, stuffed with designer labels and homewares.

Behind Grafton Street you'll find interesting independent boutiques and shops around South William Street and Castle Market and the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre. The latter is a grand Georgian mansion which has been converted into a shopping centre.

Every Saturday between 10am and 6pm, Meeting House Square in Temple Bar is transformed into a bustling outdoor farmers' market, with stalls selling cheeses, meat, coffees, juices, cakes and olives, and also features a little oyster bar.

Kilkenny (00 353 1 677 7066), 5/6 Nassau Street, sells tasteful Irish-made goods, such as crystal, linen and pottery and also has a café overlooking Trinity College.

MUST EAT

One of Dublin's newest restaurants is the Bleu Bistro (00 353 1 676 7015), Joshua House, Dawson Street. It serves a range of brasserie-style dishes, with main courses starting from around €14 (£10) and is open daily 12-10pm, but closed Sunday.

Dunne & Crescenzi (00 353 1 677 3815), 14 South Frederick Street, is an Italian deli-cum-restaurant which stays open late for dinner Tuesday to Saturday, 12-10pm.

Bang Café (00 353 1 676 0898; www.cafebang.com), 11 Merrion Row, is a trendy restaurant serving modern and more traditional dishes.

INTO THE NIGHT

Dublin's nightlife revolves around pubs and bars and there is plenty of choice. Two pubs worth seeking out are Ryans (00 353 1 677 6097), 28 Parkgate Street, and Doheny & Nesbitt's (00 353 1 676 2945), 5 Lower Baggot Street, for their authentic surroundings of etched glass, wood panelling, plenty of brass and good pints of Guinness.

In the up and coming area of Smithfield, the Dice Bar (00 353 1 872 8622), Queen Street, is the current favourite for trendy cocktails. Or, if you'd rather dance the night away, Spy (00 353 1 677 0014; www.spydublin.com) in the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre is a plush cocktail bar and nightclub with three different rooms. It opens six days a week, Tuesday to Sunday 6.30pm-3am.

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