A local's guide to Saint Patrick's Day in Dublin

Date: 6 March, 2019
A local's guide to Saint Patrick's Day in Dublin
March has begun, and in Dublin that means two things: One - daffodils start to colour the parks & gardens of the city with dots of yellow, ushering in “a grand stretch in the day” as we wish good riddance to winter, despite having no immediate guarantee of improved weather or climate, and two - saint Patrick’s day and the related festivities are but a couple of weeks away!

So, with the latter of the two in mind, we thought you could use a local’s guide to St. Patrick’s day in Dublin, and some insider knowledge and local hints & tips for enjoying the festivities but, before we get into that, it’s only right we give you a little background to the man himself, answer some of the most commonly asked questions about St. Patrick’s day in Ireland and dispel some of the more prominent myths surrounding Saint Paddy.

Why is Saint Patrick’s Day on March 17th?

 March 17th is, reputedly, the date that Saint Patrick died in the year 461 AD. Truth is, however, we've no idea what year he died, never mind what day! There are conflicting accounts and reports of the time and place of Patrick’s death, some of which have him living to the grand old age of 120.

Was Saint Patrick Irish?

Nope. Although he is the patron Saint of Ireland, Patrick actually came from Great Britain, Wales to be more precise, and his name was originally Maewyn Succat. Captured by Irish pirates in the 5th Century, Maewyn was taken to Ireland and forced into slavery for several years. While in captivity here, and despite his pagan origins, God told him one night in a dream "soon your ship will draw near, and you will go home". Sure enough, he stowed away on a ship back to his native land; but, rather than turn his back on the people of Ireland and the land of his enslavement, he decided to become a holy man and returned to Ireland to spread the ‘word of God’.

How do we know so much about Saint Patrick?

Patrick was by no means the first Christian missionary to come to Ireland, but he is the one we know the most about, due to his autobiography 'The Confessio', kind of like a diary in which he chronicled his life. In the confession, he claims that he baptized thousands of people including the sons of kings and claims that he convinced wealthy women to convert to the Lord and become nuns, often against the wishes of their families.

What is St. Patrick famous for?

Saint Patrick is famed for bringing Christianity to Ireland and using the now emblematic shamrock to explain the concept of the holy trinity, each of the shamrock’s leaves representing one of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – three entities in one. Therefore, the Shamrock has become synonymous with Irish identity, with people wearing clumps of shamrock on St. Patrick’s day around the world, and the traditional visit of the Irish prime minister to the White House in America, gifting the president with a bowl of Shamrock. However, Patrick never mentioned such use of shamrock anywhere in the Confessio, and it only first appears in writing in 1726 – so, it’s quite likely that this idea is a result of continuous revisionism and embellishment.

Stain glass depiction of Saint Patrick with shamrock

How did St. Patrick get rid of the snakes from Ireland?

He didn’t; well, not literally at least. There have never been indigenous snakes in Ireland. The myth that St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland is most likely a metaphor for paganism – owing to the great job he did in converting the natives of the time to Christianity and banishing the island of paganism.

Is there a statue of Saint Patrick in Dublin City?

 Funnily enough, no there isn’t a statue of St. Patrick in Dublin city. There is an entire street named after him, Patrick street, on which there stands an impressive cathedral named in his honor, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where there is a plaque claiming to mark the site where Patrick baptized people in the river Poddle (prior to the construction of the Cathedral), but no statues.

There is, however, a small but intriguing bust of Saint Patrick on the right side of the door as you enter into Dublin Castle's 19th century Chapel Royal.

The head of Saint patrick depicted in stone on the door of the chapel Royal in the grounds of Dublin castle

You can see both and learn much more about St. Patrick on our excellent fables & folklore free tour in Dublin which offers unrivaled insight to Ireland’s and Dublin’s mythology and legends, along with the incredible stories and history of some of our best-loved local characters throughout the centuries, including Patrick.

Now that you have a little more insight into the man we celebrate, here are some tips for celebrating the weekend of Saint Patrick’s Day in Dublin like a local.

St. Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin 2019

The celebrations are not confined to March 17th, the days leading up to Saint Patrick’s day in Dublin see lots of official activities taking place across the city, including tours, exhibitions, concerts, shows, theatre, parties and fringe events. Of course, the culmination of all the festivities is the world-famous St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin city center.

The annual parade snakes through the heart of Dublin city and draws hundreds of thousands of spectators to line the three Kilometer parade route. Each year, the parade has a central theme and this year’s theme is storytelling – something with which Irish people have a deep-rooted affinity. The parade will include fantastic marching bands, both Irish and international, and incredibly imaginative and creative floats, displays, pageants, and performances. It really is a unique spectacle and one that shouldn’t be missed when in Dublin for Saint Patrick’s Day.

A Large Rhino in a wheelchair on the street in Dublin, Ireland during Saint Patrick's day parade festival

The parade begins at 12 noon from Parnell Square North on Sunday, March 17th, and makes its way down the East side of O’Connell street (though you can line both sides). If you would like to view the parade on O’ Connell Street or O’ Connell bridge you need to get there very early to grab a spot, we recommend getting there as early as 9 AM.

Google maps will be of little use to you on the day as there will be streets closed off and pedestrian diversions, so follow the directional signage and ask any of the stewards or police for help with any directions you might need.

The best chance of getting a good viewing spot of the St. Patricks day parade in Dublin, if you miss out on O’Connell Street, is near the latter end of the route, on Patrick Street or Kevin Street, though you will still need to arrive early; we recommend no later than 10:30 AM.

You can get more information about the Saint Patrick’s day parade route and the events, activities, and festivities which are taking place in the city from March 14th-18th as part of the Saint Patrick’s Festival 2019 in Dublin on https://www.stpatricksfestival.ie/

Partying on Saint Patrick’s Day in Dublin 2019

This year, Saint Patrick’s day is on a Sunday, and the following day is a public holiday Monday. This means a long three-day weekend, baby! Expect an epic party atmosphere in Dublin pubs.

Also, on Saturday the 16th, Ireland faces Wales in the final rugby match of this year’s six nations competition, and it may well be the deciding game in who is crowned champion. Ireland frickin loves rugby (it’s one of the few sports we are great in) so a showdown between the place of St. Patrick’s birth and his adopted nation is a fitting fixture for the weekend that’s in it. Pubs will be extremely busy from early on Saturday (the match begins at 14:45) so, if you want to soak up the atmosphere, we recommend setting up camp early in a decent pub that serves food and has big screens. The Mercantile bar or Trinity bar on Dame Street are just two you might like to check out.

3 girls having fun and drinking in Dublin pub

It’s no secret that we Irish like a drink and Saint Paddy’s Day is as good a reason as any for getting our drink on; but, with great fun comes great responsibility, so here’s a few quick-fire tips for partying on Saint Patrick’s day like a local:

  1. Breakfast, very important for soakage and lining the stomach – the traditional St. Patrick’s Day breakfast is a full Irish. There’s plenty of pubs, cafes, and restaurants serving this calorie-loaded delicacy, but one of our favorites is Café Sofia on Wexford street where you’ll get a cracking Irish breakfast for the bargain price of €8.50, or a smaller version for a fiver. They even do a substantial vegetarian Irish breakfast too!

  2. Pace yourself. It’s a long day, and if you go full force into garglin’ (the local word for drinking) early on, you’ll be shit-faced before the parade has even begun and puking up your breakfast before lunchtime. Take it easy, there’s plenty of time for it.

  3. Once the parade finishes, the pubs fill up – proper jam-packed. So, it might be a good idea to sacrifice the last twenty minutes or so of the parade and get to the closest pub to get a pint in and nab a few square inches of personal space before the place gets mobbed with locals, tourists, leprechauns, unicorns and everything in between.

Pub crawl group in fancy dress

4. If you’re on a budget and planning some pre-drinks or sneaky pocket beers, best to get your shopping done before the day itself. Alcohol laws in Ireland permit the selling of alcohol in shops and off-licenses (liquor stores) between 10:00 and 22:00, and 12:30 to 22:00 on Sundays, on which March 17th falls this year.

5. Drinking on the street and in public in Ireland is usually not permitted, but this is generally let slide on St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin, owing to the sheer volume of revelers in the city. If the weather is on our side, the best atmosphere is often outside the pubs. Temple Bar will be crazy busy and, while popular with tourists, is not the most budget-friendly area for an entire night’s drinking, so we recommend the Dame Lane area for a good local atmosphere flanked by a few great pubs, or venture further from Temple Bar to pubs like the Celt on Talbot street, or O’ Donoghue's on Merrion row for fantastic atmosphere and traditional Irish music.

6. Drinking Guinness is a long-standing tradition in Ireland and among Irish people scattered the world over, so it isn’t strictly a traditional St. Patrick’s Day drink. You don’t have to drink Guinness on Saint Patrick’s Day to do it ‘the local way’, but it is the most popular tipple on March 17th around the world – likely because it is an iconic Irish brand, so readily linked with the Irish stereotype and the Irish diaspora abroad.

Drinks in Dublin, Guinness

7. If you do opt for your first Guinness in Ireland on Saint Patrick’s Day, note that it is a two-part pour; the bar-staff haven’t just forgotten about it three quarters the way through. And, when you do get your pint, let it settle a minute before you start gulping – there should be a clearly defined black body with a creamy white head. A shamrock shape on the head of your pint, like some fanciful latte-art embellishment, might be par for the course in the ‘Irish pubs’ of foreign lands, but it’s never okay here, not on Paddy’s day nor any day. It’s akin to blasphemy!

8. Wear green. You can have your face painted and shamrock sticking out of every orifice if you wish, but the bare minimum that’s expected is to don something green.

9. And lastly, mainly for our American friends, it’s Patrick’s day or Paddy’s day, never Patty’s day. Never! Paddy comes from Pádraig, the Irish spelling of Patrick. A Patty is the meat between the two buns of a burger.

If you’re planning to join us for any of our free walking tours in Dublin around Saint Patrick’s Day, please note that we do not have any tours on the day itself, march 17th, due to the parade route and street closures. We do run our Dublin city tours as normal on all other days, but we highly recommend booking your spot to avoid disappointment as the city is incredible busy for the days around St. Patrick’s day.

Likewise, we don’t run our pub crawl in Dublin on the 17th as it isn’t really needed - everywhere you go will be a great party and you’ll have a blast, and the crowds would make a pub crawl an uncomfortable experience for all involved - but you are most welcome to join us for the best pub crawl in Dublin on all other nights, just make sure to book it in advance as we will be extremely busy.

There you have it, dear travellers. If you are lucky enough to be spending this Saint Patrick’s Day in Dublin we do hope you’ll have an amazing experience and that you’ve now got a better understanding of who Paddy was, and how to celebrate him like us locals do. See you in Dublin soon!
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