St Patrick’s Day, or Lá Fhéile Pádraig in Irish Gaelic, is a much-loved tradition celebrated around the world on 17 March to commemorate Ireland’s most well-known patron saint. For those with Irish heritage, as well as millions without the honour, it’s a day marked by festivity, friendship, laughter and national pride.
What better way to celebrate St Patrick’s Day this year than heading to Ireland to see where it all began? And if you’re already planning a trip to the Europe this spring, don’t leave Ireland off your itinerary. Once you get to the Emerald Isle, the way we see it you’ve got two choices:
1. Join the party
If you’re not one to shy away from the stereotype of the rowdy and fun-loving Aussie backpacker, then go for it! Head to the Temple Bar area in Dublin to enjoy the day with fellow revellers. Grab your ‘kiss me I’m Irish’ T-shirt or one of the many hilarious or downright filthy variations on this theme, pop on your oversized novelty leprechaun hat, plaster yourself in temporary shamrock tattoos and order a pint of Guinness – sláinte! That’s cheers in Irish Gaelic.
Where to go:
Dublin hosts the country’s largest St Patrick’s Day Festival, with street parades, comedy, concerts, outdoor theatre performances and fireworks.
2. Or take the road less travelled
Heading off the beaten track is a great way to get a feel for the more traditional aspects of Irish culture. Visit a smaller town or village to experience a truly authentic St Patrick’s Day and really get to know the locals. While you’re in the countryside, find a good whiskey distillery nearby and book a tour and tasting.
Where to go:
Make the pilgrimage to Downpatrick in County Down, Northern Ireland, said to be the final resting place of St Patrick himself. Rumour has it he was buried here in 461 on Cathedral Hill, where the town’s cathedral now stands. Pay a visit to the St Patrick Visitor Centre to discover the saint’s life story.
Cork, Belfast, Derry, Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick and Waterford all hold their own festivals and parades too.
Religious roots and history: a snapshot
- St Patrick’s Day was declared an official Christian day of feasting in the early 17th century.
- It’s observed by the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Lutheran Church.
- In 1903, 17 March became an official public holiday in Ireland.
On the menu
Of course for many people it’s all about the drinks menu on St Patrick’s Day, but do the sensible thing and line your stomach if you plan on indulging.
Luckily, Irish food is up to the task – try colcannon made with mashed potato, cabbage and sometimes bacon, or a steaming, hearty stew made with lamb, potatoes, onions, carrots and parsley.
In our opinion Guinness doesn’t taste better than straight from the source in Ireland. Die-hard fans of the black stuff swear that the drink’s quality steadily declines the further away it’s served from the Guinness brewery in Dublin. But don’t take our word for it, book your flights and judge for yourself.
To mix things up, may we suggest a different Irish stout like Murphy’s or Beamish, Irish cider like Magners or Bulmers, or a nip of single malt Irish whiskey like Bushmills or Connemara.
If you’re not a big drinker or prefer not to drink at all, there’s still plenty to keep you entertained.
Track down some traditional Irish music being played live in pubs, like ballads with soulful a capella vocals and tin whistle, and faster numbers with cheery fiddles and rousing foot-stomping. It won’t take you long to find an impromptu performance since many Irish pubs host these regularly and have been doing so for hundreds of years.
Indulge in some local cuisine, whether it’s traditional and hearty or fine dining with high-end modern Irish.
Soak up the festival atmosphere and watch the street theatre and parades, fireworks, comedy and music acts on show.
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