If You Love Dublin, Try...Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Friendly locals, historic pubs, easy access to the countryside—imagine Belfast as a less crowded, less expensive Dublin. Since the end of Northern Ireland's "Troubles," its capital city has got a new lease on life that includes the opening of Victoria Square, an indoor-outdoor mall topped with a Fabergé-like glass dome.
The essentials: The Cathedral Quarter is popping with galleries and warehouse restaurants. Book a Black Taxi Tour to visit local landmarks, or journey to the coast to see the Giant's Causeway, an amazing volcanic rock formation consisting of 40,000 basalt columns stretching up to 40 feet tall (www.belfasttours.com).
Where to eat: Northern Ireland's star chef, Paul Rankin, emphasizes fresh seasonal ingredients at Roscoff Brasserie. If you want a nightcap, the Crown Liquor Saloon has mosaic-tiled floors, stained-glass windows, and "snugs," signature wooden booths with their own little doors.
Where to stay: Converted from a 19th-century seed warehouse, the Malmaison is a design-conscious hotel with a sleek bar and a "Homegrown & Local" restaurant menu (doubles from $295; malmaison.com).