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- Posted:Tuesday, February 18, 2014
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There’s so much going on to celebrate St Patrick’s Day in Dublin that in recent years it’s been expanded into a festival across four days. From the 14th to 17th March, Dublin city centre will be busy, busy, busy with live music, street performances, markets and more.
If it’s your first time experiencing St Patrick’s Day in Dublin, you will probably be wondering what to expect once you’re there. No worries – we’ve got you sorted.
St Patrick’s Day itself is a national holiday in Ireland. This means that most offices and some businesses are closed or will be open for shorter hours.
The parade is an absolute must if you’re going for the festival. There are a few famous St Patrick’s Day parades around the world but the Dublin one is arguably the most colourful and fun – a real street party as huge parade floats roll by representing the diversity of multicultural Ireland. Previous years have seen circus performers and huge mythical creatures roving the streets between marching bands and vintage cars. Make sure your camera is ready!
The parade kicks off at noon and some of the best vantage points are along Lord Edward Street near Christ Church Cathedral; the road there is on a slope so you can see over people’s heads a little easier and there’s a bit more space to move about.
Food and drink
Throughout the festival you can find some delicious things to eat and drink down at the Irish Craft Beer and Food Market in the CHQ building on Custom House Quay. There you’ll be able to taste Irish craft beers (there’s more than Guinness!) and handmade Irish food...if the weather’s cold we recommend chowing down on some savoury pies.
Interested in more than just a taste of Irish beers? On St Patrick’s Day, the pubs will serve drinks as usual but grocers and off-licences (liquor stores) will not be selling alcohol until late afternoon. Drinking on the street is illegal and police are quite vigilant about enforcing this on the day. Please drink safely. No, really.
Most restaurants will be open on St Patrick’s Day but the area around Temple Bar and Dame Street will be quite busy on St Patrick’s Day itself. Good alternatives are Capel Street or Parnell Street on the north side of the city centre, where you’ll find quite a few cheaply-priced authentic Chinese, Korean and Japanese restaurants that are likely to be a bit less packed.
So what do the locals drink, anyway?
If you’re visiting from North America, chances are you’re looking forward to a nice pint of Beamish...a stout that most Irish people strangely don’t drink themselves. You’ll still find it in city centre pubs, however. And yes, the Guinness is better in Ireland – a thicker, maltier-tasting beer than when it’s served anywhere else. O’Hara’s is another Irish brewer who makes high-quality stouts and ales. Prefer shots? Don’t ask for an ‘Irish Car Bomb’ or a ‘Black and Tan’ – try a Baby Guinness instead. It's a shot of coffee liqueur and Irish cream that looks like a tiny pint of the black stuff.
Spring in Ireland is very changeable. We cannot stress enough how important it is to dress in layers. It’s quite possible that this Festival weekend will be entirely warm and sunny, but it’s also possible that you could experience hail, rain, sun, wind and snow – all within a single hour. Bring a sense of humour and waterproof shoes.
St Patrick’s Festival for children
This is a great festival for those travelling with children. On Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th March, street performers will be roaming the city centre, doing skits and circus tricks. There are also daily funfairs at Merrion Square and Custom House Quay as well as a free outdoor céilí with live traditional Irish music and dancing on St Stephen’s Green on Friday 14th March. On Sunday, 16th March, you’ll find a street carnival for children called Big Day Out on Merrion Square between 12pm and 6pm.
Another fantastic option is the Ark, a cultural centre in Temple Bar aimed at children aged 2 to 12. They’ll be hosting a lot of fun Irish-themed workshops during the festival and it’s a great spot to go if the weather’s rubbish. Check out their website here for a more complete schedule of events.
Off the beaten path
Not into parades? How about Irish sports instead? The AIB GAA Club Finals are on at Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day. This is a great alternative option as you can soak up some real Irish culture and history and have a great family day, all while watching hurling and Gaelic football matches. Gaelic football is somewhat similar to Aussie-rules football, while hurling is a 3,000-year-old game similar to Gaelic football but with sticks and no protective padding. It’s fast, fun and fierce. While you’re there, you can try to get your mouth around Irish words like sliotar and camán. Tickets and more info will be available here as the date draws near.
The official St Patrick’s Festival 2014 website is here and includes tons more events with times, locations and other handy info.
Are you going to Dublin for St Patrick’s Day? Or have you experienced it before? Tell us about it in the comments!
Photos courtesy of William Murphy, Martijn van Exel and Paolo Trabattoni. All images used under the Creative Commons license.