For many, Dublin is a great place to visit — especially on St. Patrick’s Day. Every year, the St. Patrick’s’ Day parade and festival in Dublin attract 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.
Colourful Floats and Crowds
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.
It’s also incredibly crowded. You’ll have to line up early if you want to snag a spot at the front. Dress up, wear comfy shoes, and bring drinks and snacks.
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. And don’t miss out on these fabulous Irish food experiences.
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.
Explore All of Ireland!
If you must spend St. Paddy’s in Ireland, go to a smaller town or city (like Doolin—near the Cliffs of Moher) 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 beer 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.
If you love festivals, the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival is a blast. It’s also a short car ride away from the famed Cliffs of Moher.
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.
When is St. Patrick’s Day 2021?
St. Patrick’s Day is always celebrated on March 17th.
Does Ireland celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?
Yes! St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland is an official public holiday. This year, the Dublin St Patrick’s Festival runs from March 12-17. However, because of COVID-19, there will be no street gatherings this year. However, you can still participate by streaming the event live through the festival’s website.
Will there be a St. Patrick’s Day parade for 2021?
No. Unfortunately, due to the global pandemic, the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin has been cancelled for the second year in a row. However, you can still participate by streaming the event live through the festival’s website. The same goes for 2021 Belfast St. Patrick’s Day parade: cancelled.
(Photographs courtesy of Alicia Vandeweghe & the Irish Tourist Board)