While living in Scotland three years ago, I came up with the great idea to fly to Dublin for St. Patrick's Day. Like any American with less than 10% Irish ancestry, I had loved my college years of celebrating at both Parade Day in Scranton (honestly this was crazier than Dublin and not for the faint of heart or light weight), and in the city of Philadelphia where Irish themed pubs abound. Going to Ireland to celebrate seemed like a no-brainer, when was I ever going to live close enough again to do this? The bard part of this great idea? I only had it about a month before St. Patrick's Day. As you can imagine, this is the type of thing most people book very very far in advance. So! If St. Patrick's Day in Ireland is on your bucket list too, make sure to do the opposite of what I did and plan ahead. This will help you optimize your time there and get some of the better deals, especially if you have never been to Ireland. My only saving grace upon arrival was that I'd been to Dublin twice before, so I knew the lay of the land even while it was covered in tourists dressed in green.
Somehow my roommate and I managed to book one of the last rooms in the entire city. Even all of the hostels were full. So we settled for a place about 25 minutes walk from the center of the city, where our beds were in a dingy basement in a very interesting inn that I do not recall the name of, nor would I reccommend anyway. Luckily I never spend much time in hotel rooms and managed to leave without any creepy crawler nteractions.
One month later we caught our 25 GBP RyanAir flight to Dublin. RyanAir, the notoriously cheap and terrible European airline, has its second largest hub in Dublin. We landed the morning of the day before St. Patrick's Day, and as imagined the city was packed but not quite yet consumed with chaos. Everyone seemed to be saving their energy for the festivities to come.
I do not believe in reserving any energy whilst traveling though, so we made the most of our day by starting it off with a walking tour titled "In the Footsteps of St. Patrick."
The walking tour, spanning several hours and indeed involving a lot of walking, was absolutely incredible and informational. We saw so many places we would not have seen otherwise and learned a good bit of Dublin history for the cost of around 20 USD. Our guide was a lovely Irish woman who was very passionate about her country and the preservation of the Gaelic language. During the tour you pass through....
- City Hall
- Dublin Castle
- Christ Church Cathedral
- The former Viking & Medieval Quarter (my favorite part)
- The Old City Walls
and end at St. Patrick's Cathedral where you can explore at your leisure. Even if you pass up on this walking tour, I would recommend visiting the Cathedral as the architecture and accompanying park is stunning. Wee Tip: I always walk alongside the tour guide throughout the excursion, as it's nice to engage them in extra conversation, get to know them better, and learn even more. I've even remained friends with some of the tour guides I've had the pleasure of meeting.
Following the walking tour, we hit up lunch at a pub and then made our way to the Guinness Factory, aka Heaven on Earth. (If you know me, you know that this is my favorite beverage on earth and this is the best place to consume it). I would also suggest booking your time slot before you get there so you don't have to wait in queue. They only let a certain number of people in at a time, which is great because the place is so massive it never seems too crowded. You can also spend extra and book a tasting tour, which I'd done in the past and is well worth it. One thing you do not want to miss at the Guinness Factory is the sky bar, offering one of the best panoramic views of Dublin, especially at sunset. Don't forget to stop by the famous St. James Gate. Somehow I've been to Dublin multiple times without visiting the Jameson Distillery ... probably because I'm more of a Scotch and Bourbon gal, and I am not a fan of Jameson (sorry). However, I'd recommend picking your personal poison and making an afternoon out of it.
That night, we hit up Temple Bar so that we could avoid it the next day, knowing it would be too crowded to enjoy. During the day the older architecture is quaint and stunning, and after dark it turns into the center of nightlife for tourists. We had such a blast listening to live music in one of the many pubs and walking home along the River Liffey, which runs through the center of Dublin.
St. Patrick's Day itself is like nothing I have ever seen. You won't want to miss the parade, the focal point of the day. It starts around 11am, but I would recommend getting to the parade route by 930 - 10am at the latest if you want to get a half-decent place to stand. We stood in front of Trinity College's campus, which ended up being a great location. Make sure you bring a refillable water bottle and some snacks. If you haven't got sufficient green, no worries. The city will be full of t-shirts and everything else imaginable. All you need to walk is out of your accomodation with some cash and you can dress yourself right there. Once the parade ends the city is a bit of a free for all. I would suggest having zero plans and good walking shoes. The fun of the day is wandering around to see what revelry you can find. There are street performers everywhere, dancing in the streets, outdoor beer stalls on the river bank, and every pub is bursting at the seams. I would suggest checking out some pubs off of the parade route. We found a less crowded, less foreign filled pub with traditional dancing and lots of fiddles.
I had this perception that St. Patrick's Day may be more of a tourist holiday, as we make such a big deal out of it in the States. However, I found this not to be the case. The pub we ended up spending the whole night in was full of Irish folk clad in green, having the time of their lives and helping us to do the same. Whether anyone truly cares for the man who has many adventurous stories written about him set long ago or not, the day is one of celebration, drinking, and unmatched joy.
Leaving was made even more bitter by our 8am flight back to Glasgow. Once again, book ahead, because this flight was our only option. However, upon arriving at the airport we realized we weren't alone. The whole place was filled with what seemed to be folks who were still far from sober and still wearing their outfits from the day before, as if they walked right in off of the festive streets. Our quick flight home was quiet, as visions of leprechauns danced in drunken heads.