When people ask me what the best time of the year to go to Ireland is, I invariably tell them it has got be Saint Patrick’s Day weekend. There is nothing more Irish and there is no time when people are more proud of being Irish and their heritage than this day. It’s a day that often turns into a full weekend but has something for every member of the family to enjoy. It caters to everyone and no matter what your tastes are, you’ll find something to please every member of the family, young or old.
Each year Dublin regularly attracts well over 100 thousand visitors, often not just from all over Ireland, but indeed from all over the world. It is the day when everyone wants to be Irish and everyone qualifies.
You’ll hear people who once had an uncle who had a sister who’s friend had a dog who fell into a pile of shamrocks, claim that is enough to say they have Irish descendants and are thus 100% Irish. Thankfully us Irish are an easy going bunch and don’t mind anyone wanting to join in the fun. The more the merrier as we do often say.
This year Saint Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday and as it’s a national holiday, that can only mean one thing. Long weekend! (Or very long weekend if you decide to take off the Monday as well or if you’re so hungover that you NEED to take it off 🙂 ) I’m sure there will be more than a few people swearing off the drink forever (or at least for a few days anyways).
It isn’t just the famous parade though. and it isn’t even just he city centre that gets to have all the fun. There are loads of great events being held, scattered all throughout the city and into the county.
The parade itself is certainly the most popular event. It regularly attracts upwards of 500,000 people (a staggering number) and this year it is expected to be even higher (weather permitting of course). As always it starts in Parnell Square at midday. Of course if you want to get a prime viewing spot you’ll need to be in place at 10AM at the very latest. Any later than that and you’ll be better off to get over to where the parade customarily ends, in St Patrick’s Cathedral.
As you’d expect its a monster parade lasting a long time. If you’ve never seen it before then you may be surprised that it’s not all about celebrating Ireland and everything Irish. In fact there is always a very eclectic mix of floats from all of the country and the world. Some of the floats seem like something that would be at home in Carnivale!
Friday nights and Saturday is typically a time for the adults, but the fun picks up again on Sunday for all the little ones. Merrion Square, besides being a beautiful part of the city in its own right, will be hosting a family oriented afternoon full of performances, singing, dancing, magic shows and more.
If you are eager for a pint then you’ll be at home in any part of the city to be honest. But if you really want to get caught in the city’s biggest tourist trap then hit Temple Bar. Its where you’ll find a lot more tourists than locals. Locals tend not to drink there as it is much more expensive and often very crowded. But its nice to have a pint or two there for the experience. Especially on Saint Patrick’s Day of all days. I believe that it is also one of the best places in the city to listen to some excellent traditional music being played for free.
If a pint isn’t really your thing and you are more into health, fitness and sport then you need to be in Croke Park. an incredible 80,000 seater stadium that rivals some of the very biggest in the world. Here is where the two finals of the All-Ireland Club Championships in both hurling and Gaelic football. It’s the culmination of many, many months of blood, sweat and tears (and that’s just the fans!).
Both are fantastic sports to watch and if you are a tourist you’ll likely have never seen them being played before either. Hurling is in fact the fastest (non motorsport) sport in the world so it is very heavy on the action and excitement.
Also incredibly, these athletes are all amateur. They do it not for fame, money or glory but purely for the love of the game and the love of their club. You can see the fighting spirit in every man as they battle for supremacy on the field. It truly is different when a man s fighting for something inexplicable deep inside of him.
After the mayhem of Friday night you may want to spread your wings a bit and get out of the city for the day. Dublin, being one side of the sea, has numerous places along the coast which offer breathtaking views. So breathtaking in fact that his is where many of Ireland’s wealthiest people live. One of the prime locations is Howth. Many people have holiday homes here and if the day is sunny (a big IF mind you) , then this is where you want to be.