(For my top 5 tips & list of places I went, skip to the bottom of the post!)
Visiting Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day was another “I never expected to be here” moment, a bizarre feeling with which I have become well-acquainted over the past two years. I still can’t remember quite what inspired me and Nick to pop over to the Irish capital for the weekend, but I’m so glad we did. A $20 round trip ticket from Manchester and the opportunity to celebrate the holiday in the place where it all began certainly made for a trip to remember (and hopefully to repeat).
If you fancy the idea of spending St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, the first piece of advice I’ll give is to book early. Every other tourist in Europe will have the same idea on March 17; the Customs line at the airport could have easily stretched to the moon and back.
Some people get lucky and find an affordable hotel, Airbnb, or hostel just a few weeks in advance; most people are not those people, and Nick and I definitely were not. We waited to book until February and spent extra on a last-minute Airbnb just outside of the city center in Dublin 8. Neither of us regretted our decision—Dublin’s easy-to-understand bus system got us where we needed to go, our host treated us like royalty, and the apartment sat adjacent to Phoenix Park where we made some unexpected new friends (see photo). But nights out would have been much simpler to plan had we stayed within walking distance of downtown.
The St. Paddy’s Day Parade was not what we expected. That isn’t to say it wasn’t enjoyable. It was just…unusual.
Marching bands from around the world played renditions of modern and classic songs and the audience happily sang along from the aisles. Performers danced enthusiastically through the streets, and thousands of parade-goers wearing costumes and shamrock green face paint cheered and took photos as they went by.
It was all rather orthodox until the floats arrived. We expected them to be orange, green, and white like the Irish flag or to display four-leaf clovers and leprechauns and gold and all those symbols we’ve come to associate with Ireland and St.
Yes: giant insects.
A float adorned with bumblebee costume-clad paraders rolled down the street, followed by a woman dressed in a particularly extravagant dragonfly costume complete with colorful leggings and enormous flapping wings, soaring through the street on strings. A Titanic-sized flying carpet also participated, with actors sailing along atop it and waving to the crowds. I laughed out loud when Nick described the display as “art deco.” The whole affair was certainly a sight to see. I still wonder if there was cultural context I simply lacked; if anybody knows, I would love to better understand!
We spent the afternoon at Trinity College, where we toured the famous Long Room of the Old Library. It was beautiful and worth the visit, but much smaller than expected! In photos, the high ceilings make the room appear as if it goes on forever. In reality, it isn’t as overwhelming as you might think. It does have a cave-like quality that makes you want to yell, just to hear the echo, though; I imagine whoever closes up shop has to have done it at least once or twice.
After the tour, my hunger began to take over, so we trudged closer to the city center to grab food before heading home for a much-needed afternoon nap. The windy streets were completely empty; it was just past 2 p.m., but all of Dublin was holed up in pubs, already well-inebriated.
By the time we arrived at a fish-and-chips place—a local chain called Beshoff Bros—I was freezing cold and famished. The frostbite and exhaustion may have enhanced the meal, but from what I recall it was, to this day, the best fish-and-chips I have ever eaten. Everything came out piping hot and perfectly crispy, cutting like butter and pleasantly stinging my throat as it went down. Cold and tired, I devoured it; I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to eat a meal.
As for going out, there’s no shortage of places to drink and dance in Dublin—and especially not during St. Patrick’s Day weekend when the tourists come out to play. The main advice most people will give is to steer away from Temple Bar if possible, and they’re correct. A lot of bars in the area seemed fun, but the prices often got absurdly high. One club, Fitzsimons, fronted a twenty Euro cover charge, to which the group of us kindly said “Er, no, thank you” and went to a better spot just down the road.
No matter where you pop in, though, you’ll find a place packed to the brim with people who just want to drink and be merry and then drink some more. You’re bound to witness some bold drunken shenanigans and romantic advances (one particularly cheeky lad
Until the clock hits 4 a.m. and everybody is ready to go home.
All fun considered, thoughts of my six a.m. flight back to England lingered in the back of my mind all night. I knew that once I went out, I would need to stay out all night and head straight to the airport once the festivities came to a close.
The number of drunken Irishmen I argued with while attempting to catch a cab, I won’t say; I will say that it took a decent amount of Dutch courage to do so. Luckily, one tired (and visibly annoyed) driver took pity on me and got me home in time to grab my suitcase and catch my plane.
I like to think we made the most of the three days we had in Dublin. The only major attraction we missed out on seemed to be the Guinness Storehouse, but considering I’m not a big fan of beer
The next time I’m in Ireland, I think I’ll focus on getting out of Dublin to explore the country beyond. From cities like Cork and Galway to natural sites like the Giant’s Causeway and the famous Blarney Stone, there’s plenty to see and do. But as for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and excitement, I imagine that the Irish capital has few comparable competitors.
Top 5 tips:
- Book far in advance. Accommodations fill up fast. We made the mistake of waiting until a month out and ended up spending a lot more and staying further out of the city than we expected. If you’re interested in doing Dublin for March 17, book as far in advance as possible for the best deals.
- Purchase a city card. They’ll give you free access to attractions and will allow you to ride buses all across the city. We got the
DoDublinpass, which you can buy at the airport. For €35.00, you get free transport to and from the airport, 72 hours of unlimited bus use, and more.
- Prepare your wallet. Thousands of drunk tourists = $$$$$. The hotels and bars love your affinity for tequila shots just as much as the friends (and friendly strangers) you’re probably buying them for.
- Expect a fun night out and chaos getting home. You will have an amazing time, and after that amazing time, getting a big snack and snuggling into bed will be the only thing you want to do. And then, there will not be an available taxi or Uber in sight. Prepare to either walk home or to wait a
- Drink water, keep an eye on your
friends,and don’t try to outdrink the Irish. Enough said.
Places we went