You can't go to Ireland and not experience Dublin. It's like drinking a Guinness without the creamy head. Here are a few suggestions to help you get to the heart of the capital.
The Irish are, at least nominally, a religious lot. And one of the most sacred altars is Croke Park, a world-class stadium, where thousands worship the twin gods of gaelic football and hurling (think ice hockey without the ice, blades or body armour!). If you really want to experience a day in the life of a true Dubliner, get yourself a ticket for the Hill 16 section of the ground on a day the Dubs are playing. Head to Meagher's pub in Ballybough (around the corner from 'Croker') a few hours before the game to hang out with the faithful and enjoy a 'jar' (a pint of beer). Oh, and be sure to wear a sky-blue top to fit right in.
Want to get off the beaten path? Head to Glasnevin, not far from Dublin city centre, and treat yourself to a sublime pint of Guinness at Kavanagh's. This cracking little establishment is set next to the old gates of Glasnevin Cemetery. The Gravediggers' sobriquet came about due to 19th-century funeral workers stopping off for a pint here after a hard day burying people. Walking into the pub via the left-hand door is literally stepping back in time; local lore has it that the original owner decreed that all subsequent owners not change the décor. It is an other-worldly experience.
Housed in Trinity College (alma mater of such luminaries as Oscar Wilde, Nobel winner Samuel Beckett and Dracula's creator, Bram Stoker) the 1200-year-old manuscript is a feat of artistic intricacy: it depicts the four gospels of the New Testament on pages of curlicued complexity. Your experience here, however, may be a fleeting one, since visitors are herded through pretty sharpish. Mind you, you can get your own copy of the book...if you have €22,000 lying around!
Creator of arguably the greatest novel of the 20th-century, Joyce has a whole museum to himself. Set in a striking Martello tower (built by the British along part of the Dublin coast to watch for any invading French) it was set up by Sylvia Beach, who dared to first publish the controversial Ulysses. Tickle your fancy with this thought: the opening scene of Ulysses is set here. You can head on down to the Forty Foot - a famous Dublin swimming spot featured in the novel - for a traditional early morning swim. A word of advice: it'll be cold, no matter what time of year you're there. Unless you're a Muscovite, in which case it'll be positively balmy!
Books and beer: a marriage made in heaven for many Dubliners. Be wittily guided through Dublin's streets to landmarks celebrating such giants as Joyce, Beckett, Behan, Yeats and Flann O'Brien. There are worse things to do! (translating Dublin humour, that means 'it's worth doing'!)
Ever wanted to swing a cat in a pub? This is the place to do it. Dublin's smallest pub gives new meaning to the term 'cosy', so forget those inhibitions around personal space and sink a pint or two. We can neither confirm nor deny that 'Ireland's most famous living person'TM (hint: he usually has a microphone stuck in front of his 'gob') drops in here from time to time. Oh, and the cat thing? We were joking: cats are barred...
If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Dublin city for a few hours, hop on the DART and head south to Bray. The train ride offers beautiful vistas of Dublin Bay, but the view back north across the bay from the top of Bray Head itself makes the clamber up it well worth the effort.