St. Patrick’s Day: what to do in Dublin and around the world

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A group of young people taking a selfie on St. Patrick's Day.
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Everything you need to know but never asked about St. Patrick's Day

Every year on St. Patrick’s Day, Dubliners paint the town green. And the rest of the world eagerly joins the party. On March 17th, everyone turns a wee bit Irish, at least for a day.

While there’s no better place to spend St, Paddy’s Day than Dublin, there are plenty of other cities where you can raise a glass to Saint Patrick. Read on to find out where it all started, how to best celebrate and where to go. Sláinte!

A statue of Irish Saint, St. Patrick.

So, who was St. Patrick? Despite being one of Christianity’s most popular Saints, relatively few people know much about his fascinating life.

He was born around 385 to a wealthy Roman family in Scotland. Yes, it’s hard to believe, but St. Patrick was not Irish!

When he was a teenager, poor Patrick was kidnapped and taken to Ireland, where he spent six years in captivity, forced to work as a sheep farmer. Scared and far away from his family, he found solace in religion.

After God spoke to him in a dream, he made his escape. Patrick walked along the Irish coast and back to Britain. He became a missionary and dedicated his life to spreading Christianity throughout Ireland.

Now, what does all this have to do, you may well be asking, with today’s boozy blowouts? Well, it’s well-documented that St. Patrick liked a drink.

And 300 years ago in Ireland, the local men used to go to the tavern and drink from ‘St. Patrick’s pot‘ (or, perhaps more likely, pots!)

St. Patrick’s Day spread across the globe. Now, it’s a day of partying, (over) indulgence and head-spinning fun. Or maybe that’s just the Guinness.

St. Patrick's Day symbols: shamrock and leprechauns

St Patrick's Day green beer, shamrock and Leprechaun hat.

When it comes to St Paddy’s Day, there are two symbols that reign supreme: the Shamrock and the mischievous Leprechaun.

The Shamrock, a three-leaf clover, represents the Holy Trinity in Irish folklore. St. Patrick used this unassuming green leaf to explain the Trinity. 

And what about those cheeky little Leprechauns? The loveable bearded creatures play tricks, hide pots of gold at the end of rainbows and are always dressed to the nines in their green and gold outfits.

The 1959 Disney film Darby O’Gill and the Little People popularised these pint-sized pranksters. As the popularity of St. Patrick’s Day in the U.S. increased right around this time, leprechauns became associated with the raucous March 17th celebrations.

St. Patrick's Day in Dublin: what to do for the most special Irish day of the year

Friends celebrating St. Patricks day with drinks in a bar

Dublin is the birthplace of St. Patrick’s Day. Visit Dublin for a weekend break at any time of the year and you’re sure to have a brilliant time! It’s a fairly compact city. So, it’s easy to get around Dublin and see all the sights. All this makes it the ultimate destination for celebrating this festive day.

Here are a few must-do activities on St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin:

Get a front row spot at the parade

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin is quite a spectacle. Get swept up in the tidal wave of green. Dancers, musicians and dazzling floats take the city by storm, filling the streets with vibrant colours and contagious energy.

Get there early or secure a spot in the grandstand for the best views.

Join the traditional outdoor dance: the Céilí Mór

Join the street party at Merrion Square and have go at the traditional Irish dance called Céilí Mór. No worries if you don’t know the steps – just follow the Céilí caller’s instructions and let loose!

Cheers with a pint of the black stuff!

You simply can’t visit Dublin without having a pint of the legendary black stuff: Guinness. Head to the Guinness Storehouse to learn all about the history of the drink and sip on a freshly-pulled pint of Ireland’s most famous tipple.

Alternatively, Dublin has some historic pubs where you can immerse yourself in the local culture and experience Irish “craic” – think infectious laughter and entertaining stories.

  • Raise your glass and toast to the luck of the Irish at the Brazen Head, Ireland’s oldest pub. It’s been around since 1198, which is before Ireland even had a Guinness! It has a cosy, friendly atmosphere as if you were sitting in your granny’s living room. Expect this popular pub to be packed on St. Patrick’s Day.
  • Temple Bar is the shining star of Dublin’s nightlife. And on St. Patrick’s Day, this area shines brighter than a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow! It’s an endless maze of pubs, restaurants and dance floors. Pretty much anything goes here on St. Patrick’s Day. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself dancing an Irish jig on a table with complete strangers!
  • If you’re looking for a more laid-back pub, The Cobblestone is the place for you. This venue often puts on Irish music, but on St. Patrick’s Day, they crank the volume up to 11. Tap your foot to traditional tunes from fiddles, bodhráns and other Irish instruments.

Try out some tasty St. Patrick's Day recipes

Traditional St. Patrick's Day dish, Irish stew, made with beef, potatoes, carrots and herbs.

You can’t truly experience St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin without sampling some Irish delights.

Try some hearty Dublin Coddle, a stew packed with bacon, sausages, and potatoes, simmered to perfection. Or Irish Stew, a beefy delight made with beef, potatoes, carrots and herbs.

Got a sweet tooth? A chocolate stout cake will make you weak at the knees.

Not only in Ireland: St. Patrick's Day around the world

Chicago River dyed green for St. Patrick's Day.

St. Patrick’s Day has well and truly escaped Ireland’s borders and planted its green flag all over the world. These are some of the cities that know how to throw a St. Patrick’s Day bash to rival Dublin:

  • New York City: The Big Apple has hosted the largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the U.S. since 1762. Don your greenest garments and march along with pipers, drummers, dancers and performers. Hop on a sightseeing bus in New York to see the best of the Big Apple!
  • Sydney: The land down under gets a taste of Irish revelry with one of the biggest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the Southern Hemisphere. Prepare for a sea of green and cheers of sláinte (cheers)!
  • Chicago: The Windy City takes it up a notch by dyeing the Chicago River a lovely shade of emerald green! This unique event started in 1962. It generally takes place the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day (which is the same day the parade happens).
  • London: Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in London! London embraces its Irish neighbour’s traditions and does the 17th March big-style with events happening throughout the city. Enjoy parades, live music, theatre and performances by Irish national treasures. And while you’re there, hop on our bus to get the best views of London!
  • Buenos Aires: Sociable Argentinians might not have Irish roots, but that won’t stop them from throwing a week-long festival celebrating Irish-Argentinian ties. The street festival is a grand spectacle.

Get ready for a shamrockin' St. Patrick's Day!

A group of people having fun at a bar on 17th March.

From its humble roots, this Irish celebration has become a worldwide phenomenon. And it’s not just for the Irish diaspora; everyone is invited. From Dublin to New York and Sydney to Buenos Aires, get ready for a sea of green, a whirlwind of parades and cheers of sláinte throughout the streets.

Wherever you are in the world, we hope you have a very happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Frequently Asked Questions

Absolutely! St. Patrick’s Day is a day that the whole family can enjoy. Check out a local St. Patrick’s Day parade with colourful floats, dancers and musicians. Or head to a park for a good old-fashioned picnic with traditional Irish dishes like soda bread or colcannon, and don’t forget the green desserts. You could also organise a treasure hunt, pretending to be chasing the end of a rainbow.

St. Patrick’s Day is known for its parades and green beer, but there are some lesser-known traditions too. One is the tradition of “drowning the shamrock.” This involves placing a shamrock at the bottom of one’s whiskey or Guinness pint, toasting St. Patrick, and then drinking up. Irish folklore says that this brings good luck for the year ahead. Another tradition is wearing St. Patrick’s Cross, a red saltire on a white background. It’s a symbol of Ireland and can be seen adorning flags and clothing on this special day.

St. Patrick’s Day wouldn’t be complete without indulging in Irish drinks. Of course, a classic choice is the pint of Guinness. But if you’re feeling adventurous, try an Irish Car Bomb, a shot of Irish whiskey and Irish cream dropped into a pint of Guinness. Warning: it packs a punch! For a sweeter option, go for an Irish Coffee. It’s a delicious blend of hot coffee, Irish whiskey, brown sugar and whipped cream. And let’s not forget about the popular green beer. Just add a few drops of green food colouring to your pint, and voila!