St Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland many centuries ago and now his day is probably the most celebrated patron’s day. Whether you’re planing to explore Irish culture or just want to join a cheerful crowd, this is probably the best time to visit Ireland.
Dublin is the capital of Republic of Ireland and its biggest city with a good half of country’s population living there. About 70 million people all over the world claim to have Irish ancestors or consider themselves as Irishmen and this is 12 times more than the island’s population! No surprise, St Patrick’s Day is widely celebrated in many countries and festivals are held in most of the English-speaking world. But, of course, the most authentic parade and the noisiest crowds can be found in Dublin.
You can expect most of the hotels to have higher prices and be sold-out a year in advance. Keeping that in mind, it is a good idea to start planning as soon as you decide to come. When we started planning, only B’n’B options were available so we booked a lovely accommodation near central Dublin. However, the host cancelled the booking two weeks before our arrival putting the whole trip under risk. Fortunately, a lovely bedroom kindly provided by Ivan came out in search results so we’ve started packing our bags.
St Patrick’s Day is celebrated on 17th of March so we arrived a day before to explore the city and get ready for the festival. Dublin airport is very conveniently located with a short bus trip to city centre. After meeting the host and putting on rainproof clothes we headed to the centre. There is a lot of things to see and explore in Dublin, but as our goal was a bit different we went to just a handful of places. St Patrick’s Cathedral and Christ Church Cathedral were among them. The beautiful arches and stained-glass windows of the cathedrals attract many tourists which makes both churches two of the several most visited attractions in Dublin. We also went to Trinity College which is one of the most famous educational institutions in Ireland where you can feel the academic spirit of young students and have a look at one of the oldest Irish artefacts – The Book of Kells.
TIP: Dublin Pass may be very useful for eager sightseers. For €70 it opens the doors of most of Dublin’s attractions for 3 days and gives you free public transport access including the trip to and from the airport.
The main attraction of day one, however, had nothing in common with neither religion nor education (maybe just a tiny bit). This is the famous Guinness Storehouse, just a few feet from the place where the world renowned beer is born. This is, probably, the busiest place in Dublin during St Patrick’s Festival period. Tickets are sold online and at the entrance, however buying one on the Internet is more preferable as long as you don’t want to queue for few hours. For €20-25 per person you’ll get a “tour” on the premises and a complimentary pint of black stuff. The “tour” consists of 3 (or 4) floors of TVs telling about the history and process of brewing and you’ll be able to exchange your beer token for a pint on any of the remaining floors. In Guinness Academy you’ll be able to pour your own glass after a short course and receive a corresponding certificate (not a real certificate but you can now pour your Guinness professionally at the parties :)). The “tour” ends with a visit to a Gravity Bar with 360° view over Irish capital.
The Big Day starts early. Everyone in Dublin holds the breath as the marching bands prepare to perform. At 12pm, the St Patrick’s Day parade kicks of near Parnell Square where thousands of performers start their passage all the way to St Patrick’s Cathedral. The parade was held for 16th time hosting performers from many countries who gathered together to bring joy to about a million of spectators. Heavy raining was forecasted, but the first drops were waiting before the bands pass through first rows of spectators and make their way to O’Connell Street.
The parade is over, but the celebrations have just started. Comfort yourself at one of the pubs in Temple Bar area or pay a visit to one of the famous Dublin’s pub. The Church is a very nice church-conversion serving fresh beer and entertaining the guests with live music. Another interesting pub is The Brazen Head. It claims to be the oldest pub in Dublin dating back to at least 17th century (or event to 12th century but it wasn’t a pub at that stage). An ancient atmosphere and cheerful crowd helps you to enjoy your perfect pint of Guinness. Sláinte! If you feel well enough, you can test your body at the funfair near The Custom House, however it is strictly advisable to consult with your vestibular system before doing so.
Although the famous Dirty Old Town song was not about Dublin originally, it was popularised here and describes the city very well. Some areas of Dublin are particularly dirty and may seem unfriendly to some tourists. To avoid any disappointment, try to escape from the centre and take the train to the suburbs. Howth is technically a part of Dublin, bit it takes 30 minutes to reach it. Located near the sea it is home to best Irish seafood and stunning views. Take the Cliff Walk for some fresh air and nice photos. Here you can see why Ireland is such a popular filming location for many recent films and series. Prawn festival takes place in Howth as part of St Patrick’s Festival where you can enjoy local oysters, mussels, prawns and famous fish’n’chips.
The last but not least event for us was Ireland vs England rugby playing in Dublin that night. There is no better gift for St Patrick’s Day than win of the national team over strong rival. After celebrating rugby success at the pub in Howth we headed to the city to pack our bags for the return journey. Thank you, Ireland, for the great time, we’ll see you soon!
How to get there?
Dublin airport is one of the biggest low-cost airline hubs in Europe, so finding a ticket from any major city shouldn’t be a problem. Ireland also has very deep links with the United States with direct flights from major American cities. Bus ride to central Dublin takes around 30 minutes and costs €6. Bank cards are accepted.
Where to stay?
Dublin is considered as a relatively inexpensive destination, however during festival period accommodation rises in prices and find something reasonably priced close to the date is almost impossible, so book as soon as you decide to go there. You may also consider b’n’b stay as we did.
What to eat?
There’s no big difference between British and Irish food. When you go to the pub, you may expect burgers and fish’n’chips to be there. Alfie Byrne’s has some good pub food to offer as well as variety of craft beers from Galway. Howth is famous for it’s seafood (which is also not very expensive compared to many other cities), so if you are travelling to the seaside, be sure to have it on your list.
What to do?
Depending on the time of the year, there are different things Dublin offers for tourists. Obviously, during St Patrick’s Day festival various tourist attractions, such as St Patricks Day parade, are there. Check official festival website for any upcoming events. Also, consider visiting Guinness Storehouse, home of famous stout. Any other time of the year, try to escape from the city and explore Irish nature. Although the weather may be nasty, great views are guaranteed.
How to get around?
Dublin city centre is rather small, so if you live in or next to it, you may go without public transport. Otherwise, buses tend to be very handy. Taxi is also an option with average €10 rides around the centre.