The U.S. isn’t lacking when it comes to St. Patrick’s Day celebrations – but if you want to truly experience this quintessentially Irish holiday, you have to go to the source. Ireland throws a countrywide party every March, and the craic (Irish for good times) is incomparable wherever you go. While you can’t spend St. Patrick’s Day in all of the locales highlighted here, St. Patrick’s Day isn’t really just a day in Ireland. The week leading up to the holiday is filled with fun. So hit the road and discover the real St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland.
Start your trip with a little history. The small town of Downpatrick in northern Ireland is where St. Patrick built his first church, and it’s said that his final resting place is here as well. The town’s Saint Patrick Visitor Centre is the perfect place to learn all about the man behind the myth. Of course, during the week leading up to St. Patrick’s Day, Downpatrick hosts a fun, festive festival. Game of Thrones fans take note: Castle Ward and Inch Abbey Ruins are regular filming locations for the smash HBO series.
County Armagh is also deeply linked to the legend of St. Patrick. It was in this northern Ireland area that St. Patrick chose to build his principal church – and today, Armagh remains the seat of the Catholic and Protestant churches in Ireland. As a result, there are two (count ‘em) St. Patrick’s Cathedrals here, one for the Church of Ireland (which dates back to the 13th century) and one for the Roman Catholic Church (which was built in the 1800s). Accordingly, the county pulls out all the stops for St. Patrick’s Day with a 17-day festival, featuring family-friendly activities, concerts, and more.
Northern Ireland’s biggest city goes green(er than usual) for St. Patrick’s Day, with a spectacular carnival parade that leaves Belfast City Hall at 11:30am. You’ll enjoy professional and amateur performers, musicians and dancers, all in honor of Ireland’s patron saint. You can also enjoy a free concert at Custom Square House, as well as a celebration at the city’s famed St. George’s Market. And of course, Belfast’s world famous pubs will be filled with good cheer all day (and all night) long.
Of course when it comes to St. Patrick’s Day blowouts, Dublin can’t be beat. The streets are awash in vibrant color, as the entire city (plus many thousands more) turn out for a party like no other. The epicenter is the Temple Bar neighborhood, where there are pubs-a-plenty, street performers and a raucous parade. Want to escape the crowds, but still get a little luck of the Irish? Head to the National Museum of the Leprechaun, an amazing Dublin attraction dedicated to the myths and legends of the Emerald Isle.
A charming town in Ireland’s midlands, Tullamore celebrates the week of St. Patrick’s Day with a family friendly traditional parade packed with Irish dancing, brass, pipe and accordion bands, and much more. While you’re visiting, you may want to pay a visit to Tullamore’s most famous attraction – the Tullamore Dew Heritage Centre, where you can learn about the town’s most famous export: delicious Tullamore Dew Whiskey.
Home of the famed Blarney Stone, Cork City is yet another extremely fun place to spend St. Patrick’s Day, as the streets come alive with pageantry. A parade winds its way through the heart of this picture-perfect Irish city and there’s a Pop-Up Patrick’s Festival Market, as well. Cork is well known as a foodie destination, so if that’s your thing, you’re in luck. You’ll be able to sample local delicacies such as Clonakility blackpudding, spiced beef or crubeens.