While St Patrick’s Day is (historically) a cultural and religious holiday celebrating the life of Ireland’s patron saint and the arrival of Christianity in the Emerald Isle, it has become a day for revellers to don anything green, drink the black stuff and be Irish for a day.
In Dripsey, Cork, the parade lasts just 100 yards and travels between the village’s two pubs
St Paddy’s Day (as it is better known colloquially) is celebrated in many countries, with people lining the streets to see the parades go by, while others line the bars to see the pints of Irish stout slowly empty.
Even in Malta all Irish pubs get into the swing of things (as well as most other bars looking to piggyback on this holiday), by decking the place in green shamrocks and distributing large promotional hats.
While St Paddy’s Day in Malta is great fun indeed, if you decide you want to experience the celebrations in all their authenticity, then you might want to hop on a plane and travel to the country where it all began – Ireland.
And these are the places where the celebrations will be in full swing.
Capital city of the Republic of Ireland, Dublin is a bustling place with a kind heart and friendly people. St Patrick’s Day celebrations here span over four days from March 14 to 18 and are big, loud and guaranteed to be fun.
The St Patrick’s Day Festival is an annual event in Dublin comprising a Beer Village (why just stick to a pub when you can have a village?); street performances (anyone up for an Irish jig?); walking tours (there’s always place for some cultural fun); funfairs (suitable for young and old, it’s a great family outing); a five-kilometre road race (potentially better to do this before becoming friends with your pint of choice), and loads more.
The parade is held on the actual feast day of March 17, which falls on a Sunday this year. You can fly to Dublin direct with Ryanair.
2) Downpatrick, County Down – Northern Ireland
Downpatrick, Co. Down is one of Ireland’s most ancient and historic towns and plays a key part in the history of St Patrick. This is the place where St Patrick is rumoured to be buried, a slice of information that the people of the place are proud of and keen to share. Located in Northern Ireland, just southeast of Belfast, Downpatrick holds the biggest St Patrick’s Day celebrations outside of Dublin.
If you want to immerse yourself in history and celebrations, then the best way to get to Downpatrick is to fly to Belfast with Easyjet. From there, it’s a 40-minute drive down the A7 motorway.
Ireland’s second largest city and ‘other capital city’ according to many who hail from the county; the rivalry between Dublin and Cork can be intense.
Celebrations in Cork are boisterous with people filling the pubs; however, Cork’s claim to fame when it comes to St Patrick’s Day celebrations is that it holds the title for the shortest St Patrick’s Day parade in the world. This takes place in Dripsey, Cork, where the parade lasts just 100 yards and travels between the village’s two pubs. Dripsey is only a half-hour drive from Cork city centre so it might be worth heading there.
4) Belfast – Northern Ireland
While Northern Ireland forms part of the UK, St Patrick’s Day is still widely celebrated by most Christians who live there, plus it is the only part of the UK that recognises March 17 as a bank holiday.
Since St Patrick’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, Monday will be recognised as a bank holiday – giving you a longer weekend.
Belfast organises its annual parade and outdoor music festival; however, last November talks were held to expand this programme with a range of new events, including a food market, city tours and films, targeting a family audience, where alcohol will be banned.
5) Derry, Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick and Waterford
Besides Dublin and Cork, many other cities, towns and villages in Ireland hold their own parades and festivals, including Derry, Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick and Waterford. A quick search on a map and you’ll realise that these places are scattered all over the country, with each of them celebrating the feast of the country’s patron saint.
So if you want to keep out of the largest cities and search for a more traditional Ireland, no matter where you go, there’ll always be a pub, a pint and a shamrock to welcome you. Remember wherever you decide to celebrate, it’s always best to get there early, whether to watch the parade or enjoy a drink or seven. And always celebrate in style, and in safety.