When talking to people about their bucket lists – often the desire to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin is included. A city known for its personality comes alive with Irish pride and happiness throughout the entire month of March.
St. Patrick’s Day marks the death of Ireland’s patron saint – St. Patrick- who, according to folklore, introduced Christianity to Ireland and banished the snakes from the island. While now we associate celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with green beer, weird leprechaun outfits, and parades – it wasn’t always this way. Traditionally, St. Patrick’s Day was marked by a day off from work so one could attend church. Around the 1980s the beer companies decided to use the holiday for marketing purposes. St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin remains the ultimate way to celebrate this holiday.
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Fast forward a few years, and now St. Patrick’s Day is an international phenomenon. The center of it all, however, still remains in Dublin. I recommend spending a week in Dublin at any time of the year, but especially for this festival. Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Fun Fact: St. Patrick is said to have used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity when talking to the pagans.
Arrive (and book) early
While it is technically St. Patrick’s DAY – the festivities last about a week. Typically the celebrations begin on March 14th and run through the 18th. Hotel prices increase for the entire week, so be sure to book early. The city center shuts down as well, making it very difficult to get around the city. On the 16th and 17th, more of the city is blocked off from cars in preparation for the parade, making travel even more difficult.
Travel Tip: Don’t drive in the city. It’s not worth the hassle with the crowds & parade. Parking costs would also be through the roof.
No matter what the forecast says, always pack an umbrella, light jacket, and sunglasses in Dublin. The weather in most of Ireland is unpredictable, and you may need all of them over the course of the day. In order to truly celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin, pack a LOT of green! Locals wear green all week in celebration. If you don’t wear green on St. Patrick’s Day, local customs say you may get pinched. The green makes you invisible to leprechauns!
Enjoy local tastes at the Guinness Supper Club.
This annual event is only offered during the St. Patrick’s Festival. Learn about Guinness in a way that you can’t otherwise. Meet the chef who’s going to prepare tapas-style food. Check out Guinness’s video for more information. It’s an incredible experience that I wish I could have afforded as a college student.
Enjoy the beer, but savor the food.
The Celtic culinary scene should not be missed. Colcannon – Irish mashed potatoes – is mixes with cabbage or kale. Coddle is a dish I dream about on cold winter days. Take the traditional foods of Ireland – sausage and potatoes, add some spices, and slow cook until you have a nice flavorful soup. Typically served with fresh Irish Soda Bread – yum! Try the seafood chowder at Matt the Thresher or potato pancakes at Gallaghers Boxty House for some other local favorites.
Travel tip: Don’t order a green beer – it’s gross and they’ll laugh at you. Don’t order Irish Car Bombs either – that’s totally insensitive.
Sit in the Grandstand
For the best views of the parade, secure your spot in one of the four grandstands along the route. Tickets are affordable and can be bought on the official St. Patrick’s Day Festival Ireland Facebook page usually in September for the following year. We did not opt to do this, so we got to our spot early – around 10 am, to be able to see. The parade starts at noon, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes!
After the parade, skip Temple Bar.
I know, I know – I recommended Temple bar in my Things to do in Dublin post, but NOT after the parade – do it another time. There are simply way too many people and chances are you’ll wait very long for a simple beer. Head away from the crowds toward St. Stephen’s Green. Here you’ll find a number of old-school pubs and fewer crowds. The Swan and The Long Hall are two pubs located right on the parade route. You’ll find friendly (and lighter) crowds to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with!
Travel Tip: It’s St. Paddy’s Day, not St. Patty’s Day. Patty is the short version of Patricia.
The St. Patrick’s Day parade is built on heritage, history and the arts.
The parade itself was not like any other parade I’ve ever seen. In one word, it’s other-worldly. The Irish are very mythical and artistic – both of which are fully displayed during the St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Be prepared to be blown away.
Where to stay in Dublin
I stayed at a friend’s place during the week, so I was lucky. However, these four hotels have a great location for the parade and celebrations:
The Dean Dublin – A fun hotel about a ten-minute walk from St. Stephen’s Green has a great rooftop restaurant and bar!
The Wilder – A mid-range hotel located 5 minutes from St. Stephen’s Green! Enjoy a homecooked breakfast each morning at this hotel.
Maldron Hotel Parnell Square – A mid-range hotel located right in the city center. You’re close to most attractions including Trinity College and Christchurch Cathedral.
The Merrion Hotel Dublin – A luxury hotel created from four Georgian townhouses is located right near Merrion Square! The in-house restaurant is a two-star Michelin restaurant!