St. Patrick’s Day is believed to be one of the most internationally celebrated national days outside its home country. The feast day of St. Patrick has officially been the Republic of Ireland’s national day since the earliest days of independence, and since the 1990s, the St. Patrick’s Festival has been a celebration of Ireland as a creative, sophisticated visitor destination.
Each year, the festival culminates with the St. Patrick’s Festival Parade in Dublin, which attracts visitors from all over the world and appears on many international travelers’ to-do lists.
Although Dublin is a pleasant city to visit any time of the year, thanks to the country’s mild weather and friendly people, it takes on a distinct buzz during the St. Patrick’s Festival. For those planning to visit Dublin to attend the parade, we’ve collected a few tips.
Book Airfare Early
One feature of the St. Patrick’s Festival Parade is an influx of marching bands from colleges in the United States taking up scores of available airline seats months in advance. Savvy travelers will confirm their air seats across the Atlantic as soon as their plans are firm.
Go For The Whole Festival
The St. Patrick’s Festival is more than just a parade—it’s a five-day festival celebrating many facets of Irish culture, from literature and music to art, history and cuisine. Many of the events are free or low-cost, and enjoyed by visitors and Irish alike, so there are plenty of opportunities for cultural immersion for those wishing to understand both historic and modern Ireland and the Irish.
Dress in Layers
Ireland’s mild weather is still unpredictable, and mid-March in Dublin can mean sunshine, rain or even the occasional snow flurry. Parades invariable means standing outside for hours, so it’s smart to bring a waterproof shell along with hats and/or gloves or mittens should the weather turn chilly.
Legend has it that St. Patrick used the shamrock to teach the Irish about the Holy Trinity, and it’s tradition to wear a bunch on the lapel. Many hotels in Dublin will have bunches available for guests to wear on the day, so get in the spirit and sport a bunch.
Book Hotels Close
Another important reminder for parades is that they tend to snarl traffic, and the St. Patrick’s Festival Parade is no exception. The Westin Dublin is right on the parade route, while the fancily plush The Shelbourne, and The Merrion are just a few blocks away. Buswell’s is a more moderately priced option with a cozy lobby and a lively bar.
There are plenty of places to view the parade along the route, and unless you’ve secured paid grandstand seating, it makes sense to turn up early for a good spot with a view. Spots just north of the O’Connell Bridge are well located to shops and restaurants for warm-ups and hot beverages while waiting for the parade to start.
Pace the Drinking
St. Patrick’s Day has a long history of drink. Centuries ago, Lenten prohibitions on eating and drinking were lifted on St. Patrick’s Day, and the revels got so out of hand that the Irish Government banned alcohol sales on the day in the middle decades of the 20th Century.
Even today, some criticize the secular, drink-loving culture associated with the holiday. In Dublin, many Irish and visitors alike will enjoy a beverage on the holiday, and many will avoid the parade because they still perceive it to be an atmosphere of overindulgence. In my own experience, the crowd is generally sober, and it makes for one of the better ways to enjoy the parade.
See the Country
Although Dublin can easily fill a number of visitor days, it’s worth remembering that Ireland is a relatively small island and there are plenty of attractions just outside the city worth visiting on day trips. Take a train ride along the surf-swept coast to Dalkey or explore the ancient monastic ruins at Glendalough for glimpses of fascinating periods in Ireland’s past.
The Bottom Line
As far as major festivals go, Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Festival is a relatively hassle-free, enjoyable glimpse into Irish culture. For more tips on planning a visit to Ireland for St. Patrick’s Festival, visit Tourism Ireland.
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