Every year on March 17th, Dublin's inner city experiences a period of unusual quiet (when the gardai have closed all streets for traffic) before being taken over by parades and revelers who flock to Irish capital to join in the annual celebrations for St. Patrick's Day.
The St. Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin is one of the most exciting annual events that take place on the Emerald Isle, and its unmissable route travels right through the heart of the city.
Here are some helpful hints for visitors to make the most of this parade:
The St. Patrick's Day parade is the central event in the 4 (or 5) day St. Patrick's Day Festival which takes places in Dublin every year. The parade is always held on March 17th in the center of Dublin, regardless of the day of the week that the holiday falls upon.
The parade usually starts at Parnell Square and the route moves down O'Connell Street; crosses the O'Connell Bridge; continues down Westmoreland Street; turns down Dame Street; moves down Nicolas Street and Patrick Street; then follows Kevin Street and ends at Wexford Street right before St. Stephen's Green.
The parade is free to view if you can find space on the street. However, you can also book seats in the grandstands at the start of the parade route (on Parnell Square).
The Dublin St. Patrick's Day parade begins at noon. Get ready for marching bands, floats, costumes and lots of fun entertainment over the course of 2-3 hours as the parade winds its way through the city.
Tips for Attending
- Arrive early. The Irish tend to be late risers on days off — but not so on St. Patrick's Day. Dublin's streets start to fill up around 9 a.m. in anticipation of the parade. Around 11 a.m. all the best places are taken, an hour before the parade starts. So rise and shine. And secure yourself a moderately good place by being in place no later than 11:30 a.m.!
- Don't drive. Unless you really know what you are doing, where you are going to park, and which roads the gardai are (not) closing down: just don't drive. Take public transportation (which will run to a Sunday timetable due to the holiday) or walk. To be honest, driving in Dublin is difficult on any day, but on Saint Patrick's Day, it is sheer craziness.
- Stay alert in the crowd. There is a certain correlation between large crowds and petty crime — like pick-pocketing and purse-snatching. Dublin is no exception to this rule. So think about safety before you head into Dublin. Just take what you need, leave those diamond necklaces at home and wear your purse close to your body.
- Make a plan about where to meet. Around 750,000 people flood the Dublin streets on St. Patrick's Day, all of them trying to get somewhere fast once the parade has passed. You'll be body-surfing a sea of humanity and running the risk of losing contact with the rest of your party. So just make sure everybody knows to when and where to regroup.
- Make your reservations for after the parade. St. Patrick's Day is one of the busiest days of the year in Dublin. The pubs will be packed with partiers, which can certainly add to the fun. However, if you want a quieter space to rest after the parade, be sure to book your Dublin hotel and restaurant tables well in advance.
- Keep a close eye on kids. There will be music, eye-catching performers, and lots of excitement. Make sure that kids don't stray too far because they can quickly become lost in a crowd, and even a few minutes of separation can become traumatic for both child and parent. Avoid the stress, keep an eye on them. Have them sit on your shoulders if you feel up to it.
- Familiarize yourself with the route. Do you need to head southwards after the parade? Watch it on a Southside street, from the southern side of the street. Would you rather see the celebrities arrive and the freshest performers? Head for the first half-mile of the route to find the best spot. A bit of planning will pay off — the route is well-publicized weeks before March 17th. If you plan to be near the VIP areas, try to be on the same side of the road as those very important people, or you risk seeing only the backs of performers.
- Plan where to stand. Remember that the most colorful costumes are actually only full of color in sunshine (which is rare enough). And when the sun comes out you do not really want to watch the parade in a shadowy gloom of taller buildings. Again: look at the route and predict the likely "darkness" along it. Especially if you want to take photos.
- Bring your camera. This is one of the events of the year in Dublin and you will want to share the experience. Bring your camera for great details shots, or at the very least, have your phone ready to take a few shots and videos of the best performers.
- Don't run out of film or storage or power. Even with some modesty employed you'll manage to take about 200 pictures of the Dublin parades in no time. Think (roughly) two to three pictures every minute. You'll start filling up memory cards fast. Expect to shoot more frames than you think. And yes, you'll also go through camera batteries like a hot knife through butter bring spares!
- Join in on the fun. A Paddy's Day parade is not about constructive criticism, it is about having fun. Yes, the whole thing is silly and about as "genuinely Irish" as Johnny Cash's "Forty Shades of Green." But join in or opt out — there is no compromise.
- On the other hand — don’t become careless. St. Patrick's Day is also a day of massive alcohol consumption and you’d be wise to keep your wits, and keep moving if anything seems to be getting too rowdy.