Sláinte! Here's How to Celebrate St. Paddy's Day in Ireland the Right Way
There's no better place to celebrate St. Patrick's Day than Ireland if you're looking for some mighty craic. While Dublin attracts thousands of tourists ever year on March 17, that's definitely not the only place on the Emerald Isle you should consider visiting for the holiday. While there's plenty to do no matter where you are in Ireland, it can be tricky to take advantage of everything while also navigating the crowds. Celebrating Paddy's Day the right way involves more than imbibing, and we've rounded up the tips that every tourist should know before visiting. If crowds, folk music, and Guinness appeal to you, here's some key advice for celebrating St. Patrick's Day in Ireland.
Arrive at Least a Few Days Before the 17th
You might think that the 17th is the only day that matters, but the holiday is really celebrated all month long. The 2020 St. Patrick's Day Festival actually lasts from the Friday, March 13th, through Tuesday, March 17th, in Dublin. For five days and nights, the city will celebrate St. Paddy's with fairs, live music, historic tours, treasure hunts, food festivals, poetry slams, and more, and you'll want to take advantage by arriving at least a few days before the 17th. Also, you know, to get rid of jet lag so you're ready to have fun!
Get to the Parade Early
Cities and towns all over Ireland celebrate the 17th with parades, but since Dublin is the biggest hub, you can expect the parade to attract a crowd of over half a million spectators. In 2020, the St. Patrick's Day Parade route through Dublin runs from Parnell Square (which is north of the River Liffey) to St. Patrick's Cathedral (which is south of the river). O'Connell Street is one of the best places to snag a spot, but it gets packed early, so you'll want to arrive by no later than 10 a.m. You can also book a seat in the Grandstands instead for €70 per person if you don't want to deal with the crowds.
Visit the Guinness Storehouse
Visiting the Guinness Storehouse is a must-do at some point during your visit to see where the magic happens and to pour your own pint. Over the five days of the St. Patrick's Day Festival, you can expect to find Irish music, food, and dancing at the Storehouse, as well as one of the best panoramic views of the city from the Gravity Bar.
Check Out Temple Bar If You Can Handle the Crowds
If you want to be in the heart of the action, the Temple Bar district in Dublin is the place to be. Pubs in the area include The Porterhouse, The Oliver St. John Gogarty, The Turk's Head, Czech Inn, The Quays Bar, The Foggy Dew, The Auld Dubliner, The Stag's Head, Bad Bobs, and — of course — The Temple Bar Pub. Though they're guaranteed to be crowded (especially on the 17th), you can expect to find drink specials, live music, and the majority of the city's revelers.
If You Want a Table, Go Outside City Center
If you're looking to actually find a table and enjoy a pint in peace on the 17th, you'll want to move away from Temple Bar if you're in Dublin, where most places will be packed (and most prices will be inflated). The Smithfield area is a great place to head to avoid the crowds, where you can check out live music at The Cobblestone, visit the Jameson Whiskey Distillery, or explore Ireland's oldest pub, The Brazen Head.
Take Advantage of Celebrations Outside of Dublin
Dublin may have the biggest city-wide party, but it certainly doesn't have the only St. Paddy's Day celebration going on in Ireland. Cork, the second biggest city in the Republic of Ireland, hosts a five-day festival, offering street performers, food vendors, live music, and an elaborate parade. You'll also find a three-day festival in Limerick, a six-day festival in Killarney, a four-day festival in Galway, and dozens of other parades and celebrations happening throughout the country.
Hotels and hostels — especially in Ireland's bigger cities — fill up fast for St. Patrick's Day, so book as far in advance as you can. Cabs in Ireland only take cash, and some pubs have a card minimum, so you'll also want to visit an ATM before the big day to withdraw cash. And as is the case with any crowded area, pickpocketing is common, so leave your valuables at home if you can.