Looking for a cool city getaway in Ireland?

Here’s what’s going on in some of Ireland’s best-known cities, especially in the run-up to the festive season.

Dublin

The New Year’s Festival (NYF) is back in Dublin from December 30-January 1 to usher in 2015 in style!

Look for three action-packed days of music, comedy, arts and even a Food Village, all taking place across Dublin city. This year’s Countdown Concert line-up boasts indie chart-toppers Kodaline alongside four other incredible acts. You can also catch live acoustic, and pop-up sessions in cafés and restaurants scattered across the city.

Stages will be raised at some pretty spectacular locations, too, including College Green, Christ Church Cathedral and Meeting House Square in Temple Bar.

Dublin has loads of great new restaurants lining its cobbled streets and hidden lanes. Once you have sampled the stalls in the NYF Food Village, wander along Drury Street and into Super Miss Sue for Irish seafood at its best, or head to the Winding Stair. This landmark restaurant overlooks the River Liffey and has its own bookshop.

For more information on the NYF, visit www.nyfdublin.com.

Christmas Markets

Ireland's Christmas markets promise a magic atmosphere, with carol singing and general merriness.

One of the prettiest is Belfast’s Christmas Market, perfectly placed in front of a festive and perennially handsome City Hall. In Kerry, Killarney hosts an open-air affair while Waterford’s Winterval hosts a traditional Christmas market in the city.

Dublin has a floating market, no less: the Docklands 12 days of Christmas festival is moored over George’s Dock in the city center. Come for the gifts, stay for mulled wine, hot chocolate and live music. In Galway, Eyre Square turns winter wonderland for the Galway Continental Christmas Market. Bring comfy shoes for the dancing!

Belfast

Northern Ireland's capital city offers an ideal location to not only spend a city break, but is perfectly located to act as a gateway to the rest of Northern Ireland.

City break or longer stay, Belfast offers the buzz and vibrancy of a capital city while being a gateway to the rural retreat of Northern Ireland.

At the head of Belfast Lough, the city is compact and easy to get around, whether by car or on foot. Like all capital cities, Belfast offers a wide range of accommodation to suit all pockets, from cozy B&Bs around Queen’s University, to well appointed riverside self-catering establishments, to city center boutique hotels.

Belfast is teeming with a multitude of stylish bars, gourmet restaurants, trendy clubs and some of the best shopping in the U.K. Visitors can enjoy traditional Irish music in a local pub or dance the night away to the latest vibes -- the choice is theirs!

The birthplace of the Titanic, Belfast's industrial heritage has shaped a city steeped in culture; shown at the City Hall, the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum and the city's many preserved historic buildings. Also, the city's many parks, gardens and galleries offer a perfect haven to relax.

Cork

Cork City lies at the center of Ireland’s biggest county. Cork is home to the excellent Crawford Art Gallery and to a sparkling annual jazz festival. It boasts the wide boulevard of Patrick Street, the nooks and crannies of a tight-knit Huguenot Quarter.

Put on your ear defenders, climb the bell tower at St. Anne’s Church in the historic Shandon area of Cork and pull the ropes hard to ring the bells. Choose your own tune, from “Amazing Grace” to “Waltzing Matilda.” When you ring the bells of Shandon out over Cork city, you become part of a centuries-old tradition.

A charming way to explore the stories and history of Cork City is with a tour, and there are quite a few to choose from. Cork City Tours operates open-top double-decker buses, which run regularly during the day. The route is through the main streets, along the quays and past city center landmarks.

The Cork Fabulous Tasting Trail is led by Alice Coyle on Saturday mornings and lasts three hours. Stops are made at outdoor and indoor markets, cafés, restaurants and pubs.

And for the bookish-minded, you can pick up a free audio walking literary tour of Cork, or download one on to your MP3 player at the Cork City Library.

Galway

With a youthful population and a bohemian spirit, Galway’s charms are best enjoyed by strolling the city lanes and soaking up the atmosphere. There’s plenty to keep sightseers happy, too.

Call in and watch Jonathan Margetts tinkering with rings in Thomas Dillon’s shop. He’s an expert on the history of the Claddagh Ring, Ireland’s most famous traditional ring. The rings were originally made in the shop, which date back to 1750.

From fabulous farmhouse Irish cheeses at Sheridan’s to the irresistible McCambridge’s food emporium– you’ll find something to your taste in Galway. No visit is complete without calling in to the family-owned Griffin’s Bakery (going strong since 1876 and now in its fifth generation) for their unbeatable breads.

A true Galway icon, the Spanish Arch was built in 1584 and overlooks the River Corrib. The arches were used to access the quays from the town when Galway was a walled city and this is all that remains.

Nearby, the Spanish Arch Hotel on the bustling Quay Street is the perfect spot to enjoy a locally brewed beer and some people watching from its outdoor seating.

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