Every year, the Patrick’s’ Day celebrations and annual parade in Dublin attracts over 1 million visitors. Eight years ago when I lived there, I was excited to be one of them. But looking back, it wasn’t at all what I had expected. Here’s what you need to know before heading to Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day:
Book Accommodation Well in Advance
Accommodations will sell out well ahead of St. Paddy’s. While I was living in Ireland, my visiting friends were kicked out of their hostel because the beds for March 17th had been sold out for months. If you do not have a friend to stay with, be sure to book your accommodations several months in advance.
Big Purple Blob
My sole memory of the world famous Dublin St. Patrick’s Day parade was a big purple blob of a float. Quite the contrast to the pipers clad in traditional green garb that is a common feature of the Toronto St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Don’t even bother going to Temple Bar on St. Patrick’s Day. Temple Bar is the preserved cultural centre of Dublin and is one of the city’s must-sees; however on St. Patrick’s Day, the pubs that are normally popular with tourists are overcrowded with stupid drunk tourists.
While in Ireland, visiting a traditional pub is an experience not to be missed. It is common to have a pint after work in your local pub, and this was a much more satisfying experience. For a more authentic experience, visit a neighbourhood pub in Ireland on any other day of the year that doesn’t involve leprechauns or saints.
If you are young and want to get shitfaced, then St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin is the place for you. Since I couldn’t stand the sardine-packed pubs, but was at a life stage where I drank too much for my own good, I opted to celebrate with a bunch of ex-pats and Irish friends at a house party. For me, the highlight of this night was an American student climbing up and then sliding down the roof of a 6 storey apartment building with his mouth full of cigarettes. Needless to say, none of the photos from that night are shareable.
This may not be your cup of tea (or pint), but seek out your own memorable St. Patrick’s Day experience in Ireland.
Do Visit Ireland
If you must spend St. Paddy’s in Ireland, go to smaller town or city that is likely to have fewer tourists. Since it’s a public holiday, you would likely meet plenty of locals in the pubs. Depending on what area of Ireland you are in, do be mindful of which type of stout you order. Guinness is brewed and commonly served in Dublin (and most of Ireland), but most pubs in Cork refuse to sell Guinness, preferring the locally made Murphy’s instead.
Ireland is a beautiful country rich in culture and the Irish are renowned for their hospitality. I highly recommend a visit — regardless of the day.
(Photographs courtesy of Alicia Vandeweghe & the Irish Tourist Board)