For five days every March, Dublin transforms into a living, breathing sea of green. The St. Patrick’s Festival is the emerald-hued mother of all Irish celebrations, reflecting the talents and achievements of Irish citizens and celebrating what it means to be Irish. If you’re thinking of heading to the Emerald Isle to join in the hullaballoo, here are some things to know before you go.
St. Patrick is the patron saint and national apostle of Ireland, credited with bringing Christianity to the country. Born in what is now Scotland, he was captured in a raid and brought to Ireland as a slave at the age of 16. He escaped after six years of captivity but returned to the country well into his adulthood to spread the word of Christianity. The church established a Feast Day in his honor in 1631, held on March 17th—the anniversary of his death in the fifth century. Thus began the annual celebration. Though the holiday falls during Lent, Lenten prohibitions are lifted for the day so Irish citizens can participate in the festivities.
The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is the largest celebration in the country and one of the most iconic processions worldwide. The spectacle begins at noon in Parnell Square and proceeds along O’Connell St. and Dame St., ending at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Upwards of 800,000 observers line the streets to witness giant puppets, colorful floats, international marching bands, and costumed dancers wind their way along the two-mile route. If you want to ensure a spot at the front of crowd, aim to get there by 10am. You’ll have better luck opting for space toward the end of the route, though you also have the option of purchasing grandstand tickets online if you’re looking to avoid the hassle of having to arrive early. The parade lasts for two hours but if you stay in one place you can see it all in about 45 minutes.
It doesn’t get much more Irish than grabbing a meal or a pint in a pub on St. Patrick’s Day. Locals tend to disperse after the parade, heading out of the city to attend live music shows or grab a meal in a pub away from the bustle of the festivities. The neighborhood around the Temple Bar absolutely swarms with people (mostly tourists), so you’re probably better off finding a pub on a quieter street away from the majority of the crowds.
Get the Authentic Irish Experience
If you’ve journeyed all the way to Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day, why not milk your trip for all it’s worth? Consider a visit to one of these quintessentially Irish attractions.
- The city’s most-visited attraction, the Guinness Storehouse, hosts a St. Patrick’s Day party of its very own. What better way to celebrate than with live music, traditional food, Irish dancers, face-painters, and, of course, the perfect pint? Plus, the festivities are free if your name is Patrick (or a close variation).
- Head to the Jameson Whiskey Distillery to delve into the history and evolution of Ireland’s best-selling Irish whiskey.
- The National Leprechaun Museum is the first-ever attraction dedicated to Irish mythology. Guided tours of the exhibits aim to teach visitors about Celtic culture and introduce them to ancient Irish folklore and the art of oral storytelling. For a darker twist on Irish mythology, sign up for the adults-only DarkLand tour.
- At the Glasnevin Museum at Glasnevin Cemetery you can learn about prominent figures in Irish history and use the museum’s vast genealogical resources to trace your own Irish ancestry.
- See the greening of the city. Buildings and venues across the city glow green during the festival, including the Mansion House, the Guinness Storehouse, the Custom House, and the Convention Centre.
Fun Facts to Make You the St. Patrick’s Day Expert in Any Room
- St. Patrick’s color was originally blue. It shifted to green after the Irish independence movement in the 18th century.
- Until 1970, St. Patrick’s Day was a strictly religious holiday and pubs across the country had to be closed.
- According to Irish lore, St. Patrick banished all the snakes from Ireland. However, scientists cite fossil records as evidence that the country never had any snakes to begin with.
- The worldwide bar tab on St. Patrick’s Day runs upwards of $245 million—not including bar tips.
- Patrick was born Maewyn Succat. He changed his name to Patricius, or “father figure,” after becoming a priest.
- Irish folklore maintains that there is no such thing as a female leprechaun.
- The first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in New York City in 1762, with the first in Ireland not coming until 1903 (in Waterford).
- On an average day, 5.5 million pints of Guinness are consumed worldwide. On St. Patrick’s Day, that number skyrockets to 13 million.