This year, ditch your sloppy ‘Paddy’s Day’ party and head to Ireland, home of St. Patrick himself, where all of the tradition started and the fun never stops. There will be plenty of spots to drink green beer, party in the streets, wake up, and do it all again, but surprisingly, most cities in Ireland prefer to focus on community with family-friendly parades, amazing pop-up food markets, free open air concerts, and historic pub tours. In some of these small towns, there won’t be even a single tourist in sight.
Sound good but not sure where to start? Here are the 10 best cities in Ireland to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day 2020:
Dublin St. Patrick’s Day 2020
March 13th-17th, 2020.
By a landslide, Dublin has the most tourist traffic on St. Patrick’s Day. Each year, more than half of Ireland’s entire population travels to Dublin for the country’s largest parade and street festival. If you dig day drinking and feeling perfectly lost in a sea of cheerful people (we’re talking like, so so many people), then Dublin is a must-add to your St. Patrick’s Day bucket list.
Highlights: Watching the parade on the 17th, soaking up the good vibes at the infamous Temple Bar (or just standing outside, because goooood luck!), and drinking a Guinness, because, well, when in
Pro tip: Book everything in advance. Festival events, restaurants and hotels will be swamped with both locals and tourists. Traveling last minute? Hit the parade, but then head outside of city-center for drinks and sleep.
Cork St. Patrick’s Day 2020
March 13th-17th, 2020
As Ireland’s second largest city by population, Cork brings a big game for St. Patrick’s Day. Cork’s signature parade is electric and community-oriented, featuring nearly 3,000 dancers, musicians, street performers, and special guests from across the city. Compared to Dublin, Cork’s festivities are a bit more palatable for the low-key traveler, so head to Cork for an enthusiastic, but family-friendly, St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
Highlights: Stuffing your face with epic street food at Cork’s pop-up festival market and then watching 11,000 multi-colored balls roll down St. Patrick’s hill to help raise money for the Cork Lion’s Club City Centre Defibrillator Project.
Pro tip: Cork is home to both Jameson and Murphy’s, so this is a great spot if you’re into tastings.
Galway St. Patrick’s Day 2020
March 14th-17th, 2020
Okay, you may just know of Galway from its famous namesake songs, “Galway Girl”, but this seaside city in Ireland is seriously cool and definitely deserves recognition outside of Steve Earle and Ed Sheeran. The theme of this Galway’s festivities is ‘Diversity,’ so get ready to feel all kinds of warm and fuzzy. Galway’s parade will feature an array of community, cultural, sporting and international groups, including Ireland’s pioneering spectacle theatre company, Macnas.
Highlights: Cheering as Galway’s iconic fountain in Eyre Square turns green, enjoying a special outdoor classic Irish movie screening at the famous Spanish Arch, and hitting the pub scene on Quay Street.
Pro tip: Galway is located right on the water. The morning after your night on the town, soothe that headache with a stroll along Galaway Bay. Everyone knows that the best cure for a hangover is a good coffee and some fresh ocean breeze.
Armagh St. Patrick’s Day 2020
March 6th-17th, 2020
When we get down to it, St. Patrick’s day is a religious holiday, so why not celebrate in the heart of it all? When St. Patrick first visited the city in Ireland, Armagh, he called it his “sweet hill”, and founded his first church in 445AD. Today, Armagh celebrates with a whole week of festivities, including historical tours, a vigil the night before, and two parades. But don’t be fooled, just because Armagh emphasizes the religious part of the holiday doesn’t mean there is a shortage of pubs where you can score a cold drink (or three).
Pro tip: You totally don’t have to be religious to enjoy the beauty of Armagh. If services aren’t your thing, take a walk through Gosford Forest Park or head to a local pub for a traditional Irish feast.
Killarney St. Patrick’s Day 2020
March 12th-17th, 2020
Upping the fun-level by a zillion is Killarny, the sweet city in Ireland that picks a new theme for its parade each year (psssst: 2019’s theme was ‘Circus’, so get excited for an equally thrilling theme in 2020). Killarney will give you all the Irish spirit you want, but with significantly less crowds. Get ready for street dancing, themed lake cruises, treasure hunts, and castles that turn bright green.
Pro tip: Have some extra time and want to explore? See all of Killarney by way of bus, horse & carriage, and boat on the Killarney Day tour.
Dingle St. Patrick’s Day 2020
March 17th, 2020
Each year, Dingle is the very first city in Ireland to ring in St. Patrick’s Day as the Dingle Fife and Drum Band takes to the street at 6am. Now that’s commitment. Located in the Dingle Peninsula and absolutely stunning, Dingle is a small and charming town where local community takes precedent over huge celebrations. If you’re seeking a quiet, family-oriented St. Patrick’s Day escape, Dingle is your place.
Pro Tip: Dingle isn’t too far from Skellig Michael (about a 3 hour journey) if you like ruins. Or Star Wars. Just saying…
Belfast St. Patrick’s Day 2020
March 17th, 2020
Belfast celebrates St. Patrick’s day with a colorful carnival parade that fills the city with vibrant energy and music. You can literally feel the good vibes as music runs through your body and enormous floats, street performers in magnificent costumes, and global musicians parade on by.
Pro tip: The St. Patrick’s Day concert at Custom House Square is free, but entry is on a first-come, first-served basis. Guarantee that you’ll get your groove on by showing up a little early (there will be a line at the gates).
Waterford St. Patrick’s Day 2020
March 17th, 2020
The oldest city in Ireland, Waterford City, was the first spot to declare St. Patrick’s Day a national holiday. In 1903, Waterford Corporation decided that the 17th should be a city-wide holiday, and they suspended business for the entire day. And this was before St Patrick’s Day was a national holiday in Ireland. That’s right. They go hard. These days, Waterford celebrates with a traditional parade, music, concerts and street performances.
Pro tip: Want to drink beer while someone else drives you around? Sign up for the Waterford Beer Tour: a seriously cool way to learn about Irish history while stopping in 6 of Waterford’s best local pubs for snacks and drinks.
Kilkenny St. Patrick’s Day 2020
With a theme so sweet that it’ll melt your heart (“Bring back the bees”), Kilkenny’s 2019 St. Patrick’s Day festivities can’t be beat. This cute city in Ireland’s long, celebratory day is filled with colorful parades, hands-on music workshops, live music, street food and carnival rides that will leave you buzzing.
Highlights: Spinning with excitement, literally, at the vintage funfair (an old school carnival with carousel, helter-skelter and chair-o-planes), exploring the James Stephens Barracks museum free open day, and rocking out to a free show by The Joshua Tree (Ireland’s very own U2 cover band. Yes, you heard me).
Pro tip: Go for St. Patrick’s day, stay for Kilkenny Tradfest: a spectacular music festival that showcases the very best in Irish trad and folk music in stunning venues all around the city, like Kilkenny Castle.
Limerick St. Patrick’s Day 2020
March 15th-17th, 2020
Limerick’s parade on March 17th features thousands of participants and one out-of-this-world theme: One Giant Leap, in honor of the 50th Anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s Moon Landing. “The concept of One Giant Leap reflects the unprecedented, transformative and dynamic revitalisation that Limerick is undergoing, made possible by ambitious plans, self-belief and a collection of small and giant leaps by communities, organisations and individuals.”
Highlights: Listening to over 1,300 talented marching band musicians compete at the Limerick International Band Championship, cozying up for the fireworks at the Sarsfield Bridge, and touring the Museum of Moon: a pop-up art installation that fuses lunar imagery, moonlight and surround sound.
Pro tip: Want to see the rest of the city but tired of walking? Hop on Limerick’s 40-meter panoramic ferris wheel (giving you 360 degree views across Limerick’s skyline).