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Clarence, Dublin 

6–8 Wellington Quay
Ireland 2
Tel: 353 1 407 0800
view web site ›'s insider take:

The one hotel everyone's heard of, because it's part-owned by Bono and The Edge. For some time, however, the Clarence has been doing something U2 would not contemplate: resting on its laurels. When it opened in 1996—raising Dublin-hysteria to a new high—couture hotelier Grace Leo-Andrieu ran the show, but she's long gone, and it shows. The sensitively understated Arts and Crafts/Shaker styling—with American oak, Portland stone, and Italian limestone—still looks good, as does the more boldly colored decor in the 49 bedrooms. Many of these rooms are cramped and loud, however (the racket from Temple Bar outside can be overwhelming). Also, and unforgivably at these rates, service can falter, veering madly from friendly-polite all the way down to rude. Change could be afoot—permission was recently granted for a Norman Foster–designed refurbishment, which provides for a complete gutting of the Art Deco building and four Georgian houses alongside. The transformation, if it goes ahead, will extend the hotel to 114 rooms and 28 suites. In the meantime, a few draws remain: the Tea Room restaurant, the cozy Octagon Bar, and the Study, a residents-only librarylike lounge, are cool spaces; children are especially cared for; and there's a miniature spa and fitness room, too.—Kate Sekules; updated by Pól Ó Conghaile

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