A Context Expert's Guide to St. Patrick's Day in Dublin

A group of friends walking by Quay's bar

Saint Patrick's Day visitors strolling through Dublin

By Catherine Norris

Ireland’s spirits are rising in anticipation of its great National Day of celebration of all things Irish, Saint Patrick’s Day. This year, Dublin the Capital City has outdone itself with cultural offerings that bring the people together under the theme ‘Spréach’ (pronounced in English as sprayc’) meaning ‘Spark’. Sparks will be flying as this year has the most ambitious program of traditional and modern cultural offerings to date.

Practicalities First

Hundreds of thousands of people will take to the streets and many of the streets will be blocked off on Saint Patrick’s Day. Visitors will do a lot of walking around outdoors, so come prepared with warm clothes, a scarf and hat, gloves, and comfortable walking shoes. 

Cat’s Insider Tip: Pick up a genuine aran sweater for the week in Cleo on Kildare Street. Cleo’s has been a family business for over a hundred years. The shop has an old half door and stocks the best Irish knits from all over Ireland. An aran sweater will both keep you warm and you’ll look the part.

Irish Bites and Blarney

Ireland is going through a Golden Age in world class quality food production and fusion cooking and today is winning Gold and Silver at the World Cheese Awards. Don’t leave without trying Irish artisanal cheeses, beef, lamb, oysters and soda bread. 

Vegetarian or vegan? Not to worry. You will be equally delighted with the burst in flavours from Irish veggies and other creative culinary choices. You can get some of the best lunches in Irish gastro pubs — get yourself to Davy Byrnes for an Irish stew, fish and chips, a black pudding or oysters with a guinness. (There’s a first edition of Ulysses down the back of the restaurant.)

Other great stops include: 

Raise a Glass 

Dublin pubs are places you go to engage in ’conversating’ and ‘having the craic’ (from the Irish language which means having fun). You will need to know the word ‘craic’ and ‘sláinte’ (cheers, or to your health) to fit in with the celebrations at the very least! 

Top pubs for a Guinness include: 

Speaking of Guinness... 

Guinness is taken very seriously in the city that brews it. There is a skill in pouring the pint that was first brewed in this city in 1759. The Irish ferociously discuss where to get the best pint in the city and if the ‘head’ or the ‘body’ are not in the right proportion, that’s a very serious matter! Guinness is a dry stout that has a mix of both CO2 and nitrogen bubbles which gives it that smooth, creamy texture.

Cat's Insider Tip: If you want to sweeten the Guinness ask for a dash of blackcurrant. This is absolute blasphemy to serious Guinness drinkers but Irish women are known to ask for it and the bar staff will do it for you, although some will throw their eyes up to heaven as they hand it to you.

St. Patrick's Day Events

St. Patrick’s Day is not only a celebration of Irish culture but a commemoration of Irish history, ancient and modern. There will be many tourists as well as Irish people visiting historical sites that week. I recommend booking tickets to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, the Book of Kells, Kilmainham Gaol (Jail) or Glasnevin Cemetery in advance of your trip as well as the Guinness Storehouse, the Jameson Whiskey Distillery, or the Teelings Whiskey Distillery.

Free Offerings

There are no tickets or bookings required for the National Museums or the National art gallery. 

Cat’s Insider Tip: Visit ‘Marsh’s Library’ a preserved 18th century library nestled right beside Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and a more bespoke distillery tour at the Pearse Lyons Distillery; Ireland’s triple distilled whiskey trade is roaring again.


On March 14th, our own Context Guide Jack Walsh will be presenting for one night only the true story of the ‘Murder Gang’, Ireland’s former squad of assassins who threatened a coup d’etat against the new Irish Free State Government in 1924. This event is free, but donations are gladly accepted. In the company of Liz Gillis (author of Revolution in Dublin) and Brian Hanley (host of the podcast Dirty War in Dublin), this will be a riveting evening.

The Festival Quarter 

This year has an even bigger Festival Quarter at the National Museum of Ireland. There will be a main outdoor stage, a Story Tent and an Irish Food and Craft Village. Tickets are not required during the day, but entry is given on a first come, first served basis, so arrive early. The Quarter will be hosting events the 16th through the 18th.

During the evening, tickets are required. You are spoilt for choice with both traditional and modern Irish performers of many genres of music and dance, not just traditionally Irish.

Highlights for me include Cultúr Club, offering an exciting mix of live music, queer performance and art in celebration of the rapidly rising Irish LGBTQ+ club culture in the city. I'd also recommend Céilí Mór with Irish dancer Dearbhla Lennon and the Pipers Cross Céií Band. A céilí is a large group dance. For this, you will be taught the steps and some instructions in gaelic so that you can join in.

Experience the Gaelic Language and Irish Theatre

A new Irish-language production of the Greek drama The Persians by renowned Irish poet and writer Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill is being performed all week in the Abbey Theatre. One of my Dublin Context colleagues, Jennifer, also recommends this experience. Subtitled in English, it is a unique opportunity to hear Irish singing ‘in the ancient style’ as well as hearing the minority language spoken aloud proudly.

Another highlight is Wake, being performed daily at the National Stadium. It’s a theatre performance that combines live music, dance, circus, aerial, drag, Irish traditional music and the spoken word.

For Fiddles, Flutes, and Folk

Searching for a toe-tapping great time? Add these bars to your list for live music and a livelier atmosphere.

The St. Patrick's Day Parade

The parade is the pièce de résistance of Saint Patrick’s Day for Irish people. Get your spot along the route well in advance of the parade starting at 12pm on the 17th of March. Half a million people will show up for the parade which will be an eclectic celebration of all that is Irish as well as marching bands that fly in for the occasion from all over the world. 

Cat’s Insider Tip: Find a spot on O’Connell Street, at the start of the route. All the floats will go by O’Connell street first and this will free up the afternoon for you to get to the Festival Quarter ahead of the crowds.

The last insider tip but not the least: If you don’t book anything in advance, you will be in the same boat as most Irish people. A great talent of the Irish is spontaneous fun. We call it ‘the craic.’ If you just follow the fun, you will be doing exactly as the Irish do. 

About Catherine:

As one of only six people to graduate in six hundred years from the island with a degree in Law and the Irish (Gaelic) language, Catherine's education and life experiences are steeped in Irish food culture, history and the arts. 

She translated the Children’s Act into the Irish language, has been acknowledged in several books on the Irish language version of the constitution, and is also a social entrepreneur, having founded a dance organization at university level that is now in its 23rd year. It has given thousands of people the opportunity to take up or to continue dancing at a high level. Catherine enjoys sharing what lies in the hearts and minds of the Irish people and connecting with visitors from around the world.