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EXCLUSIVE | Three Gay Days: Dublin Part One

EXCLUSIVE | Three Gay Days: Dublin Part One

Here's your must-have road map to 72 hours in one of the world's gayest destinations. Where to stay, eat, play and meet in warm and charming Dublin.

Chances are that within a few moments of your arrival in Dublin, you'll have one of the classic Irish stereotypes confirmed for you. Whether you're in the cab on your ride from the airport, in the lobby of your hotel or in one of Dublin's 1,000 pubs ordering your first pint of Guinness, you're sure to be confronted by that warmest of Irish clich?s -- the friendly, chatty Irish person. And frankly, folks in Dublin, and in most of Ireland, have much to be jolly about. Armed with EU money, intelligent government investment incentives and Irish charm, the spectacular somersault of the Irish economy, christened the Celtic Tiger, created a very different Dublin from the parochial small town it was 10 years ago. Ireland apparently now has more millionaires per head of population than anywhere other than the U.S.

Formerly forlorn streets have been spruced up with new businesses and smart restaurants, using the past decade's makeover of the city's Temple Bar neighborhood as an inspiration. Once considered "the second city of the British Empire," Dublin now shines in its own right, boasting enough culture and coolness to wow any visitor. One of the new titles being used about Ireland is "the world's smallest cultural superpower."

What also impresses about Dublin is its vibrant atmosphere. Any weekday afternoon sees the city center's streets full of people -- shopping on Grafton Street, dashing to meet friends or just out and about. Gay folks are part of this bustle, too. Only officially legalized in 1993, homosexuality has found a firm footing in Dublin's social scene, with gay venues buzzing even on a Monday. And throughout Dublin, there's a fun mix of traditional Irish tempered with 21st-century style -- whether it's the slick, modernist bar that serves classic pints of stout, or the savvy, state-of-the-art museum that showcases the ancient Book of Kells. Equal parts St. Patrick and Sinead O' Connor, the blissful blend of the old and new in Ireland will captivate you.

The hippest overnight address in town is The Morrison (Lower Ormond Quay; +353-1-887-2400; EUR345+) - the stylish, broody, designer John Rocha-created delight on the River Liffey. Also at the top of the list, the super-swanky Clarence Hotel (6-8 Wellington Quay; +353-1-670-9000;; EUR340+), owned by Bono and U2 bandmate The Edge. They poured millions into this classic riverside hotel's re-do, and it shows. The rooms are statements in contemporary style.

Smack-dab in the heart of the Temple Bar nightlife is the very stylish Morgan Hotel (10 Fleet Street; +353-1-679-3939; EUR140+). Considering the lively locale, this is a refreshingly tranquil boutique option. Drink in the fine, stark (but not sterile) lines, light tones and stellar attention to detail. The delightfully inexpensive Aston Hotel (7-9 Aston Quay; +353-1-677-9300; EUR70+) is located right on the Liffey on the edge of trendy Temple Bar. The Aston offers sunny rooms, crisp service and an indulgent, full Irish breakfast. This could be Dublin's best bargain.

If you prefer to stay gay, check into Nua Haven Gay Guesthouse (Harold's Cross; +353-87-686-7062;; EUR100+), a clean, basic gay-owned address, ten minutes' taxi or bus from the city center.

Part One | Part Two | Part Three

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Joe Okonkwo