If Dublin is the nation's New York, Galway has got to be its LA. A stunning west coast location, plenty of arty types and a place that's got all the attractions of a city with a more laidback lifestyle. And the renamed Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa has done the nigh-on impossible in recent years rising from the position of new kid on the block to become THE place to stay in the City of the Tribes.
It's also the unofficial beating heart of the Galway Races, where punters go to let their hair down, and thankfully you don't need a Galway tent-sized fortune to stay here.
As with all Radissons, you can expect an excellent standard of comfort. Rooms are American-sized (big), boast 32" LCD TVs, movies on demand, a mini bar and blackout curtains (which will come in handy the morning after a night on the tiles).
One of the more recent innovations is the Level 5 area -- a floor that's a cut above the rest, which are already of a great standard. The executive-class rooms have some lovely touches, including terraces and stunning views of either Lough Atalia or the city.
If you want to chill away from the throng, there is members-only access with Club Lounge, complimentary use of the business centre and a library of DVDs, books and CDs.
If you want to push out the boat, the penthouse suites have beautiful views and they take the Level 5 idea one stage further, with a private kitchen, dining room, lounge, office, bedroom and spacious bathroom.
Now I'd never think of Galway as a place where I'd want to do any work -- it's much too fun for that-- but it's great to see Wi-Fi access in all rooms, something which still hasn't caught on elsewhere as it should have.
If you've got the family in tow, a nice alternative to a normal room is a one- or even two-bedroom duplex apartment beside the hotel. Apartments offer the convenience of self-catering (kitchen, washer-dryer, dishwasher, fridge, cooker, etc) with the thrill of having a top-notch hotel (and all its facilities) on your doorstep. Aside from families, they are also a handy option for execs as Wi-Fi, voicemail, satellite TV and DVD players are included in each apartment.
Galway's got a host of dining and drinking options, but take time to chill out in the hotel's Marinas restaurant -- itself a destination eaterie in the city, with nice views.
Dining-wise, it's also interesting to see a "grab and run" option, where you can get a takeaway snack and coffee from 5am.
Hotel bars are an essential feature of the Irish experience, but it's amazed me time and again how many hoteliers just don't get it. To be fair, Radisson were on the money, with the hotel boasting two great drinking areas -- the Atrium and Verandah lounges both perfect spots for an indoor cocktail or an al fresco drink to lap up the stunning Lough Atalia views.
Not much can keep me away from the sights and sounds of the likes of Eyre Square or Shop Street, but the Spirit One spa and leisure centre do just that. If you could, you'd bring home one of the ergonomic, heated, relaxation loungers before energising yourself again in one of the experience showers or after a serious signature massage. And if you want a taste of the exotic, the Turkish-style hammam is a very nice touch.
Friends who'd visited before had mixed reports about some of the staff, but the ones we came across were nice and friendly, which is a key part of any local break.
The only downside we could find is that if you're looking for a quiet weekend, Galway city's probably not the place for you. But if you want to be at the heart of the action in a lively location, this is up there.
The hotel is running a special over-50s offer for mid-March and also has a host of other special offers including a St Patrick's Day-themed offer, with two nights' bed and buffet breakfast at €148.50 per person sharing at the weekend or from €65 midweek. Radisson Blu, Galway, call 091 538 300 or see www.radissonhotelgalway.com