Every March 17 on St Patrick’s Day, Irish people around the world prepare corned beef and hash, drink pint after pint of Guinness, and perform Irish jigs to revel in their shared heritage. Cities as distant as Boston, Massachusetts and Auckland, New Zealand go all-out for the celebration, painting the streets green and watching their steps for leprechauns and their pots of gold.
Meanwhile, on the Emerald Isle where it all originates, St Patrick’s Day festivities generally march to a different tune. A true St Patrick’s Day in Ireland is one experience any proud ethnic Irishman or -woman shouldn’t miss, but travelers shouldn’t book flights anticipating rowdy parties seen in other parts of the world. Here are a handful of breathtakingly beautiful Irish spots to celebrate your Irish heritage — and some words of advice on what to expect.
St Patrick’s Day in Ireland
St Patrick is so highly esteemed by the Irish because of his noble, good deeds on the Emerald Isle. Though some legends attribute the lack of snakes in Ireland to St Patrick, the real-life figure brought Christianity and Western culture to the pagan Celts and Druids. For this act of enlightenment, generations of Irish folk paid solemn tribute to their patron saint with religious feasts and devout prayer every March 17. In fact, the holiday was so revered by the Irish that until the late 20th century, pubs were legally forced to close for the duration.
Today, a few big cities in Ireland have adopted more global attitudes toward the holiday, leading long, loud parades and encouraging copious drinking. However, much of the country still believes in humble celebrations. Thus, the pleasure you divine from a truly Irish St Patrick’s Day will depend on what you expect to find and where you go.
If you want an American St Patrick’s Day experience, your best bet is to book a quick flight to Dublin on Flights.com. The proud revelers in Ireland’s largest city are loud and proud of their heritage, and they show it with a four-day festival leading up to March 17. There are all sorts of events to keep the party going, including:
- Funfairs. This fairground boasts rides like the carousel and Ferris wheel as well as booth games to keep merrymakers of any age entertained.
- Irish Beer and Whisky Festival. The Irish are known for their drinking habits, and there is no better place to see them blossom than in this huge hall filled with all the beer, cider, and whisky you could hope for.
- Irish Boat Races. Rowing is a fiercely competitive sport, and Dublin’s rivalries come to a head every year on St Patrick’s Day.
- Ceili House Live. The ceili is a traditional Irish dance that is much, much harder than it looks.
Still, Dublin’s activities are merely on par with many of the festivities in other countries’ cities that boast high Irish populations. You might as well fly to Boston or Chicago if senseless partying is what you’re after.
Wexford, in the east of the Republic of Ireland, may be a quaint town, but it has the longest history of St Patrick’s Day festivities on the island. Going strong since 1917, the Wexford St Patrick’s Day Parade may not be the biggest or longest-running in the world — or even the country — but the people here have a strong sense of tradition and community, which make a St Patrick’s Day spent in Wexford truly unique.
Armagh is known as Ireland’s Ancient Cathedral City, and it feels particularly connected to St Patrick celebrations because the saint chose this location to establish one of his precious few churches. This city’s festivities last the entire week leading up to March 17; you can enjoy all sorts of concerts and storytelling events, as well as a spectacular carnival on the special day.
If you prefer a more subdued St Patrick’s Day — one that truly encompasses traditional Irish views of the holiday — you might do well to explore the countryside’s natural beauty instead of participating in any of the cities’ raucous affairs. Places such as the Burren and the Giant’s Causeway are stunning and generally provide quiet places to reflect on the religious meaning of the day. Ireland is absolutely bursting with sublime natural spaces, so surely you can take your pick as you prepare for a wonderfully Irish St Patrick’s Day.
Where would you go for St Patrick’s Day?