The Complete Guide to St. Patrick's Day in Dublin

The ins and outs of St. Patrick's Day in Dublin, Ireland.

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There are certain annual holidays and festivals that are celebrated all over the world – but to truly experience the magic of them, revelers should go where the legends began. And nowhere is this truer than with St. Patrick's Day in Dublin, Ireland.

St. Patrick's Day (Lá Fhéile Pádraig), marks the death of Ireland's fifth-century patron saint, who, according to folklore, introduced Christianity to the Irish and banished snakes from the island. Historically, this holiday was celebrated at church and a day off from work – until the 1980's when beer companies used it for promotional purposes. The age of marketing spun the local holiday into an international bacchanalian phenomenon, complete with green beer and bizarre leprechaun outfits. Today St. Patrick's Day is no longer staid and the center of the holiday's universe is Dublin, which, while it joins the world in partying, still retains some of the family-friendly atmosphere of the original.

The first rule of St. Patrick's Day is – never arrive on St. Patrick's Day.

Tom Sykes, a journalist and Dublin local said, "It's a great time to visit Dublin, but the entire city center is closed off for the whole day to traffic, so make sure you get into the town early. Even if you can find a place to stay, you won't be able to get to it."

And be sure to dress appropriately. "Typical weather in Dublin is best described as unpredictable, throw a pair of sunglasses, a scarf and an umbrella in your bag, regardless of the forecast," Sykes suggests.

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Dublin at night. Getty

The best plan is to start a few days early – as celebrations take place the entire week leading up to the actual day.

Catherine Reilly, Managing Director of Brendan Vacations, the Scotland and Ireland vacation expert, says, "If you're coming to Ireland for St. Patrick's Day, make the most of it. The festival runs from the 14th to 18th of March – beyond the parade on the 17th, visitors can learn about Dublin's hidden secrets following the footsteps of Pat Liddy; sip and savor local tastes at the annual Craft Brew and Food Fair ; and enjoy dinner at the Guinness Supper Club, offered annually only during the St. Patrick's Festival."

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The famed Guinness Museum holds a supper club one week a year. Getty

And yes – be sure to wear green this week.

"St. Patrick's Day is a celebration of being Irish and every community in every city, town, and village is out and about proudly participating in the 'wearing of the green' and enjoying our national holiday," Reilly said.

But it's not all about drinking green beer all the time.

"One of my favorite St. Patrick's Day traditions in Dublin – and maybe one of the best-kept secrets – is the Celtic culinary scene," Reilly said. "There's so many passionate producers and traditions handed down through generations merging a diversity of ingredients and flavors. A must do over St. Patrick's Day, is to eat colcannon, coddle, and champ- and the seafood chowder with brown bread and lashings (Irish butter) at Matt The Thresher and boxty traditional potato pancakes from Gallagher's Boxty House."

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St. Patrick's Day parade. Getty

On the actual day, make sure you have booked ahead to secure your spot in the Grandstand for optimal parade viewing.

Reilly adds, "There is no better way to experience the parade than from one of the Grandstands dotted along the route. Tickets are affordable, and Grandstands are located at four key locations along the parade route with the most optimal views."

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Skip the Temple Bar. Getty

If the Grandstand isn't your thing and you want to savor the parade with the locals at a bar, our experts advise skipping the famed Temple Bar and head elsewhere.

"The parade winds its way through town, and rather than going to the Temple Bar area with the rest of the crowds, head to Wexford Street and St. Stephen's Green," Sykes said. "From Wexford Street, it's a short walk to Aungier (pronounced Aynjer) Street, which has two of Dublin's best old-school pubs; The Long Hall and The Swan. These two legendary dens are opposite each other and both have a good view of the parade, so you can choose whichever one is least crowded. A short walk will take you to another legendary pub, The Castle, on South William Street, which is known to all and sundry as 'Grogan's' after the family that owns it."

Reilly's favorites are The Hairy Lemon, a quirky pub set in a 19th-century house with a sitting room suspended in mid-air; The Brazen Head, Ireland's oldest pub dating back to 1198.

If the city crowds aren't your thing, Reilly advises going full local outside of town. "St. Patrick's Day celebrations go beyond Dublin parties," she said. "I like to take my clients to the home of the Fulvio family at the Ballyknocken Farmhouse in Glenealy for a Celtic dinner."

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A bedroom at The Davenport. The Davenport

Meanwhile, hotels are crammed the gills during this week, so Sykes says try Airbnb.

" Airbnb's are way better value than Dublin's pricey hotels, but expect Irish rather than American standards," Sykes warns. "Water pressure and lack of air conditioning are consistent gripes among transatlantic visitors but there are so many interesting places to book. One fun place is Dublin's Skinniest House, a 6ft wide Airbnb bang in the center that sleeps, amazingly a maximum of five. For a larger group of up to 16 with a bigger budget, try Dublin's biggest Airbnb."

Reilly Also likes Airbnb but for those who want a little luxury, suggests staying at the luxe hotels The Merrion, the Brooks Hotel or the Davenport. As for those who want to not party all night long, book a room at the stunning Ashford Castle in County Mayo or Dromoland Castle in New Market in County Claire. If a castle is too much, try the quaint B&B's Cahergal Farmhouse in Shannon or the Ardfield Farmhouse in Cork."

As for Post Paddy day, Sykes laughed and said, "The principal local tradition (of the holiday) is getting blind drunk, which means that the day after Paddy's Day is a great moment to see Dublin at its worse. Hit the road, Pat."

The Complete Guide to St. Patrick's Day in Dublin | Culture